Soviet forces penetrate the siege of Leningrad

Soviet forces penetrate the siege of Leningrad

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On January 12, 1943, Soviet troops create a breach in the German siege of Leningrad, which had lasted for a year and a half. The Soviet forces punched a hole in the siege, which ruptured the German encirclement and allowed for more supplies to come in along Lake Ladoga.

Upon invading the Soviet Union in June 1941, German troops made a beeline for Leningrad, the second-largest city in the USSR. In August, German forces, approaching from the west and south, surrounded the city and rendered the Leningrad-Moscow railway useless. A German offensive attempted to occupy the city but failed; in light of this, Hitler decided to impose a siege, allowing nothing to enter or leave the former capital of Old Russia. Hitler intended to wait the Soviets out, then raze the city to the ground and hand the territory over to Germany’s Finnish allies, who were advancing on the city from the north. (Finland would stop short of Leningrad, though, happy with regaining territory lost to the USSR in 1939.)

The siege began officially on September 8, 1941. The people of Leningrad began building antitank fortifications and succeeded in creating a stable defense of the city, but they were also cut off from all access to vital resources in the Soviet interior. In 1942, 650,000 Leningrad citizens died from starvation, disease, exposure, and injuries suffered from the siege and the continual German bombardment with artillery. Barges offered occasional relief in the summer and ice-borne sleds were able to do the same in the winter. A million sick, elderly, or especially young residents of Leningrad were slowly and stealthily evacuated, leaving about 2 million people to ration available food and use all open ground to plant vegetables.

A Soviet counteroffensive pushed the Germans westward on January 27, 1944, bringing the siege to an end. It had lasted for 872 days.

70 years since the breakthrough of the Siege of Leningrad (PHOTOS)

The siege of Leningrad started in early autumn 1941. // The sign on the house reads, "This side of the street is most dangerous during bombings".

During 1942 several attempts were made to breach the blockade but all failed. // Leningrad townsfolk at the ruins of a destroyed residential house during the siege.

The last such attempt was the Sinyavino Offensive. After the defeat of the Sinyavino Offensive, the front line returned to what it was before the offensive and again 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) separated Leonid Govorov's Leningrad Front in the city and Kirill Meretskov's Volkhov Front. // Besieged Leningrad townsfolk leave the bomb shelter after attack over.

Despite the failures of earlier operations, lifting the siege of Leningrad was a very high priority, so new offensive preparations began in November 1942. // A monument to the emperor Nicholas I in the Isaak Square, concealed during the Leningrad blockade.

The Germans were well aware that breaking the blockade was very important for the Soviet side. However due to the reverse at Stalingrad and the Soviet offensive at Velikiye Luki to the south of Leningrad, Army Group North was ordered to go on the defensive and was stripped of many troops. The 11th Army, which was to lead the assault on Leningrad in September 1942, and which had thwarted the last Soviet offensive, was transferred to Army Group Center in October. Nine other divisions were also reassigned to other sectors. // A woman and a girl dragging a dead body along Nevsky avenue.

Despite these tragic losses and the inhuman conditions the city's war industries still continued to work and the city did not surrender. // Two Soviet soldiers and a woman gathering cabbage near St. Isaac's cathedral in besieged Leningrad.

In December 1942 in the depths of an unusually cold winter, the city's food rations reached an all time low of only 125 grams (about 1/4 of a pound) of bread per person per day. In just two months, January and February of 1942, 200,000 people died in Leningrad of cold and starvation. // A nurse rushing to a wounded man. Leningrad's siege.

The only way for supplies to reach the city was the Road of Life, ice transport route across the frozen surface of Lake Ladoga. // Nurses helping an old woman in a ruined house. The siege of Leningrad.

In December, the operation plan was approved by the Stavka and received the codename "Iskra" (Spark). The breakthrough of the Siege was undertaken January 18 after more than a yearlong blockade. It let the Soviet army create a land corridor to Leningrad which allowed more supplies to reach the city. // Girls on duty on the roof in besieged Leningrad. Air defense.

By January 1943, the situation looked very good for the Soviet side. The German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad had weakened the German front. // Soviet sailors talking to children on the embankment of the Neva River in besieged Leningrad.

The Soviet forces were planning or conducting offensive operations across the entire front, especially in southern Russia. Amidst these conditions, Operation Iskra was to become the first of several offensive operations aimed at inflicting a decisive defeat on the German Army Group North. // Soviet soldiers fighting in Pushkin. The breakthrough of Leningrad's siege.

Operation Iskra was a strategic victory for the Soviet forces. From a military perspective, the operation eliminated the possibility of the capture of the city and a German-Finnish link up, as the Leningrad Front was now very well supplied. // Tanks drive toward front line out of besieged Leningrad.

For the civilian population, the operation meant that more food was able to reach the city, as well as improved conditions and the possibility of evacuating more civilians from the city. // Three nurses ready for service.

In January 1943 the Siege was broken and a year later, on January 27 1944 it was fully lifted. At least 641,000 people had died in Leningrad during the Siege (some estimates put this figure closer to 800,000). Most of them were buried in mass graves in different cemeteries, with the majority in the Piskariovskoye Memorial Cemetery, resting place to over 500,000 people and a timeless reminder of the heroic deeds of the city.

Siege of Leningrad - WW2 Timeline (September 8th, 1941 - January 27th, 1944)

From the beginning of the German invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), Hitler wanted to take the all-important port city of Leningrad - the revolutionary heart of the Soviet nation itself. Soviet offensives along other fronts forces a delay in the German advance so much so that the city and its citizens could enact lines of defense.

The German allies in Finland took control of the Karelian isthmus to ensure the north was covered. The German Army arrived in the south and the stranglehold was in place. Volleying of control along various major fronts around the city saw supply routes closed and reopened and then closed again. During this time, the rations appropriated to the citizens of Leningrad had all but run out, effectively forcing the mass starvation of civilians.

The frozen surface of Lake Ladoga was a prime route for Soviet forces and proved vital in supplying the dying city. The brutally cold north winters here made the lake passable for some time. The siege of Leningrad lasted until the spring 1943 to which thousands of Leningrad citizens died.

Despite the hardship, the city was still beating with a determined heart. As an industrial city, Leningrad continued to produce tanks and automatic weapons that were quickly sent to the frontlines for use against Germans. The Germans held fast for a time, ordering artillery barrages and aerial bombardments of the city in an attempt to break the will of the people and utterly burn Leningrad to the ground.

A major Soviet offensive finally linked the city to the rest of the Soviet Union. The German Army, weary of constant combat and the brutal winters, was finally in retreat. Like other major Soviet campaigns in the war, success was ultimately theirs, however this coming at an extremely high cost in lives.

There are a total of (22) Siege of Leningrad - WW2 Timeline (September 8th, 1941 - January 27th, 1944) events in the Second World War timeline database. Entries are listed below by date-of-occurrence ascending (first-to-last). Other leading and trailing events may also be included for perspective.

Monday, September 1st, 1941

German Army elements begin the shelling of Leningrad.

Monday, September 15th, 1941

The Soviet fortress at Shlusselburg southeast of Leningrad falls to the Germans.

Monday, September 15th, 1941

The Germans now control the southern end of Leningrad, cutting its citizens off from the rest of the Soviet Union.

Monday, September 15th, 1941

Finnish forces, siding with the Germans, now control the Karelian isthmus, covering Leningrad from both sides.

The Germans take the supply line route of Tikhvin, located east of Schlusselburg.

Wednesday, October 1st - December 31st, 1941

As rations begin to run out in the encircled city of Leningrad, its citizens begin to starve.

Wednesday, December 10th, 1941

The Soviets retake the town of Tikhvin.

Wednesday, December 10th, 1941

The Soviet supply route is restarted across frozen Lake Lagoda.

Thursday, January 1st - July 31st, 1942

Some 800,000 of Leningrad's citizens are evacuated through the frozen passage above Lake Lagoda.

Wednesday, January 7th, 1942

Along the Volkhov Front to the south of Novgorod, the Soviets launch a major offensive.

Sunday, March 1st - March 30th, 1942

The Soviet offensive near Novgorod is stopped by German ground and air elements.

Sunday, March 1st - March 30th, 1942

The whole Soviet 2nd Shock Army is lost near Novgorod.

Wednesday, July 1st - July 31st, 1942

Hitler orders two directives in the operation against Leningrad. The first calls for its immediate encirclement and the second for its immediate destruction from land and air.

Wednesday, August 19th - September 30th, 1942

A Soviet offensive aimed at smashing through the German lines fails.

Friday, September 25th, 1942

With winter upon the German Army once more, Hitler orders a halt to any major offensives around Leningrad.

Thursday, October 1st - October 31st, 1942

With a lull in the fighting, Soviet forces near Leningrad are able to receive much needed supplies and reinforcements.

Tuesday, January 12th, 1943

The Soviets enact Operation Spark and cut a path through the German lines clearing a path to Leningrad. This offers the citizens of the city some much needed foot rations.

Tuesday, January 19th, 1943

The Soviets retake the city of Shlusselburg.

Soviet armies from the 2nd Baltic, Volkov and Leningrad fronts overtake German Army Group North in a massive two-week offensive.


The Siege of Leningrad, the Soviet Union’s second largest city, was one of the longest and most destructive sieges in the history of warfare. This lengthy blockade was undertaken by Army Group North, the Spanish Blue Division and the Finnish Army between 1941 and 1944, and resulted in the deaths of an estimated 700,000 civilians.

Leningrad was a vital city in the Soviet Union. By 1940, it had a population of 2.54 million, making it the fourth largest city in Europe. Its factories produced about 10 per cent of the Soviet Union’s entire industrial output, including much of its high-quality steel and the new KV-1 heavy tank.

As war in Europe approached, Stalin resolved to safeguard Leningrad by pushing the Soviet Union’s vulnerable border areas back as far as possible from the city. After Finland refused to sell part of the Karelian Isthmus adjoining the Leningrad Military District, the Red Army seized the land by force between November 1939 and March 1940. Next, Stalin moved against the pro-German Baltic republics, and in June 1940, Soviet troops marched into Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. After this, Stalin moved three armies with 440,000 troops into the former Baltic States in an effort to secure Leningrad against any threats from the west.

Leningrad was not identified as a major target in the planning for Operation Barbarossa. However, Hitler was adamant that it should receive equal priority with Moscow and Kiev on the axes of advance. It lay in the path of Army Group North, led by Field Marshal Ritter von Leeb, which consisted of the Sixteenth and Eighteenth Armies and General Erich Hoepner’s 4th Panzer Group, totalling 475,000 troops in 28 divisions.

In the opening days of Barbarossa, Leningrad’s ability to defend itself was seriously compromised. The Soviet forces in the Baltic States were badly defeated in the first 18 days, with most of their tanks and aircraft lost. Some 30,000 civilian volunteers in Leningrad were employed to help build defensive fieldwork on the approaches to the city, and 160,000 recruits were organized into eight people’s militia divisions in July. These divisions fought a successful delay on the Luga River that stopped Army Group North’s headlong advance towards Leningrad for nearly a month. By the time the Germans finally overwhelmed the Luga Line on 16 August, Leningrad’s defenders had built a series of dense fortified lines on the south-west approaches to the city.

However, the German advance shifted eastwards, severing the Leningrad–Moscow rail line at Chudovo on 20 August. With Soviet forces in retreat, von Leeb dispatched XXXIX Army Corps to encircle Leningrad from the south-east while massing the rest of Army Group North for a direct assault on the city.

By 2 September 1941, Finnish forces had advanced to the 1939 borders between Finland and the Soviet Union. On 4 September, German artillery began shelling Leningrad, and four days later the city was entirely surrounded by Army Group North. The German encirclement trapped four armies – the 8th, 23rd, 42nd and 55th – inside the city and the nearby Oranienbaum salient, with a total of 20 divisions and over 300,000 troops. There were about 30 days’ food reserves on hand in the city, but this was further reduced when the Luftwaffe bombed the Badaev food warehouses on 8 September.

General Georgy Zhukov, newly appointed commander of the Leningrad Front, arrived on 9 September as General Georg-Hans Reinhardt’s XXXXI Army Corps began to assault the outer defences of the city. On 16 September, the German XXXVIII Army Corps reached the Gulf of Finland, and the following day, the German 1st Panzer Division managed to approach to within 12km of the city. Zhukov launched a 16-day counter-offensive westward towards Siniavino beginning on 10 September, but this failed to take its objective and casualties were heavy.

On 8 November 1941, in an effort to eliminate the final Soviet links to the encircled city by severing the rail lines that supported the Lake Ladoga barge traffic, the Germans captured Tikhvin. Without this rail junction, the food situation in the city became critical. However, 11 days later a Soviet counter-attack led by 4th Army was launched and it was retaken on 9 December the Germans, threatened by encirclement, withdrew west.

Meanwhile, on 22 November 1941, the first major Soviet truck convoy managed to cross Lake Ladoga on an ice road and bring some relief to Leningrad. The civilian death toll continued to rise: during the last four months of 1941, German artillery fired over 30,000 rounds into Leningrad, which, in addition to air raids, killed about 4,000 civilians.

On 6 January 1942, the newly established Soviet Volkhov Front launched the Lyuban winter counter-offensive aimed at breaking the blockade. In March, the Soviet 2nd Shock Army was cut off in the Volkhov swamps by German forces.

The Soviets launched a series of failed offensives against the Siniavino Heights over the summer of 1942, but it was not until 18 January 1943 that the Soviet 2nd Shock Army and 67th Army linked up north of Siniavino, establishing a small land corridor into Leningrad. On 15 September 1943, the XXX Guards Rifle Corps finally captured the Heights.

Army Group North watched anxiously. Occupying a relatively inactive front, it had been neglected during most of 1942, had not fully replaced its losses of the previous winter, and was committed to a static defense that might be attacked at any of a number of critical points. Around Leningrad, particularly at the “bottleneck”—the narrow tie-in to Lake Ladoga—Army Group North functioned as the main support of German strategy in northern Europe. If the hold on Leningrad were broken, Germany would, in the long run, lose control of the Baltic Sea. Finland would then be isolated the iron ore shipping from Sweden would be in danger and the all-important submarine training program would be seriously handicapped.

In the 16 months they had held the “bottleneck” the Germans had built a tight network of defenses in the swampy terrain and had converted Schlüsselburg, several small settlements, and scattered patches of woods into fortified strongpoints. But, with only six to eight miles between fronts, one facing west and the other east, the defenders had little room to maneuver. The Russians had found highly instructive their experience in the summer, and in the intervening months had rehearsed every tactic and maneuver for taking each individual German position. This method the Germans themselves had used in 1940 to train for the assaults on the Belgian forts.

The attack on the “bottleneck” began on 12 January. Sixty-seventh Army, its troops wearing spiked shoes to help them climb the frozen river bank, struck across the ice on the Neva River while Second Shock Army, on the east, threw five divisions against a 4-mile stretch of the German line. Methodically, the Russians chopped their way through, and by the end of the first week had taken Schlüsselburg and opened a corridor to Leningrad along the lake shore. Thereafter, in fighting that lasted until the first week of April, the two Soviet fronts made little headway. When the fighting ended, they held a strip 6 miles wide, all of it within range of German artillery. When the battle ended, Army Group North claimed a defensive victory, but its hold on the second city of the Soviet Union was not as tight as before.

In the summer of 1943 the Army Group North zone, by comparison with the other army group zones, was quiet. In a battle that flared up toward the end of July around Mga, Leningrad Front’s performance fell far below that of the commands operating against Army Groups Center and South. The front-line strengths of the opposing forces in the Army Group North zone were almost equal. The army group had 710,000 men. Leningrad, Volkhov, Northwest, and Kalinin Fronts, the latter straddling the Army Group North-Army Group Center boundary, had 734,000 men. For the future, however, Army Group North also had to reckon with some half a million reserves echeloned in depth behind the northern fronts. In artillery the two sides were about equal, but again the Russians were known to have substantial reserves. In mid-July Army Group North had 49 tanks, 40 fit for combat. The Russians had 209 tanks at the front and an estimated 843 in reserve. By 15 September Army Group North had 7 tanks still serviceable. In the last six months of 1943, First Air Force, which was responsible for air operations in the army group zone, flew just half as many sorties as its Russian opponents.

During August air reconnaissance detected increasing enemy activity off both Army Group North flanks. A rise in the number of boats making the short but extremely hazardous trip in the Gulf of Finland between Leningrad and the Oranienbaum pocket indicated that the Russians might soon attempt to break out and unite the pocket with the front around Leningrad. In the south Kalinin Front, under Yeremenko, began a build-up opposite the Army Group North-Army Group Center boundary. To meet those and other possible threats, the army group created a ready reserve by drawing five infantry divisions out of the front. In the first and second weeks of September the OKH ordered two of the reserve divisions transferred to Army Group South.

On 19 September, in conjunction with the Army Group Center withdrawal to the PANTHER position, Army Group North took over XXXXIII Corps, the northernmost corps of Army Group Center. That transfer brought the army group three divisions, forty-eight more miles of front, and responsibility for defending two important railroad and road centers, Nevel and Novosokol’niki. By late September no one doubted that the Russians were preparing for an offensive in the vicinity of the North-Center boundary. That area of forests, lakes, and swamps, and of poor roads even by Russian standards, heavily infested by strong partisan bands, had long been one of the weakest links in the Eastern Front. During the 1941 winter offensive the Russians had there carved out the giant Toropets salient, and in the 1942-43 winter campaign they had encircled and captured Velikiye Luki and nearly taken Novosokol’niki. Compared with the losses elsewhere, particularly after Stalingrad, these were mere pinpricks but there always was a chance that the Stavka might one day try the big solution, a thrust between the flanks of the two army groups to the Gulf of Riga.

In the second week of September 1943 Army Group North had begun work on the PANTHER position, its share of the East Wall. The north half of the PANTHER position was laid behind natural obstacles, the Narva River, Lake Peipus, and Lake Pskov. The south half was not so favorably situated. It had to be stretched east somewhat to cover two major road and rail centers, Pskov and Ostrov, and the tie-in to Army Group Center had to be moved west after the Nevel breakthrough. Nevertheless, when it was occupied it would reduce the army group frontage by 25 percent, and, unlike most of the East Wall, it had by late 1943 actually begun to take on the appearance of a fortified line. A 50,000-man construction force had improved the communications lines back to Riga and Dvinsk and had built 6,000 bunkers, 800 of them concrete, laid 125 miles of barbed wire entanglements, and dug 25 miles each of trenches and tank traps. During November and December building material rolled in at a rate of over 100 carloads a day.

In September the army group staff had begun detailed planning for Operation BLAU, the withdrawal to the PANTHER position. The staff estimated that the million tons of grain and potatoes, half a million cattle and sheep, and military supplies and other material, including telephone wire and railroad track to be moved behind the PANTHER line, would amount to 4,000 trainloads. The withdrawal itself would be facilitated by the network of alternate positions that in the preceding two years had been built as far back as the Luga River. The 900,000 civilians living in the evacuation zone, particularly the men who could, if they were left behind, be drafted into the Soviet Army, raised problems. The first attempts, in early October, to march the civilians out in the customary treks produced so much confusion, misery, and hostility that Küchler ordered the rear area commands to adopt less onerous methods. Thereafter they singled out the adults who would be useful to the Soviet Union as workers or soldiers and evacuated most of them by train. During the last three months of the year the shipments of goods and people went ahead while the armies worked at getting their artillery and heavy equipment, much of which was sited in permanent emplacements, ready to be moved. At the end of the year, having transported 250,000 civilians into Latvia and Lithuania, the army group could not find quarters for any more and called a halt to that part of the evacuation.

The army group staff believed that logically BLAU should begin in mid-January and be completed shortly before the spring thaw, in about the same fashion as Army Group Center had executed BÜFFEL the year before, but on 22 December the chief of staff told the armies that Hitler would probably not order BLAU unless another Soviet offensive forced him to. At the moment, Hitler’s opinion was that the Russians had lost so many men in the fighting in the Ukraine that they might not try another big offensive anywhere before the spring of 1944.

Toward the end of the month it appeared, in fact, that Hitler might be right. The bulge on the Army Group North right flank was worrisome, but the Stavka had shifted the weight of the offensive to Vitebsk, for the time being at least. In the Oranienbaum pocket and around Leningrad the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts had been ready to attack since November, but with the trouble at Nevel out of the way the army group was less concerned than it had been. Intelligence reports from Eighteenth Army indicated that the units in the Oranienbaum pocket, in particular, had been strengthened and boat traffic between Leningrad and Oranienbaum had been usually heavy during the fall, continuing until some boats were trapped in ice. On the other hand, almost no new units had appeared, and Leningrad Front seemed to be depending for its reinforcements on the Leningrad population. While an offensive sometime in January appeared a near certainty, the longer Eighteenth Army’s intelligence officers looked the closer they came to convincing themselves it would be cut in the modest pattern of the three earlier offensives around Leningrad.

On 29 December the OKH ordered Küchler to transfer to Army Group South one of his best divisions, the 1st Infantry Division which Eighteenth Army was depending on to backstop some of its less reliable units in the Oranienbaum-Leningrad sector. When Küchler called to protest, Zeitzler told him he would not need the division Hitler intended to execute Operation BLAU after all and would tell him so personally the next day. During the noon conference in the Führer headquarters on 30 December, Küchler, expecting to receive his orders, reported on the state of the PANTHER position and the time he would need to complete BLAU. In passing, he remarked that he had talked to Generaloberst Georg Lindemann, Commanding General, Eighteenth Army, who “naturally” had asked for his army to stay where it was even though he lost 1st Infantry Division. To a question from Hitler, Küchler replied that the Eighteenth Army front was well fortified, almost too well, in fact, since the army did not have enough troops to man it completely. Hitler then terminated the conference without mentioning Operation BLAU.

Küchler did not fully realize what had happened until the next day, after an order had come in to transfer another good division to Army Group South. Zeitzler told the army group chief of staff that Hitler had begun to falter in his decision as soon as Küchler made the remark about Lindemann’s wanting to keep his army where it was. He thought it would take at least a week to talk Hitler around again. By day’s end the chief of staff had a memorandum marshaling the arguments for BLAU ready for Küchler to sign, but that was scarcely enough. Lindemann would have to be persuaded to reverse himself, since in such instances if in almost no others Hitler always took the word of the man on the spot.

On 4 January—by then a third division was on its way to Army Group South—Küchler went to Eighteenth Army headquarters and, citing the necessity to husband the army group’s forces, almost pleaded with Lindemann to reconsider. Lindemann replied that his corps, division, and troop commanders in the most threatened sectors were confident they could weather the attack. After that, none of the army group’s arguments counted for much. Hitler told Zeitzler he was only doing what Küchler wanted. Nor could Küchler and his staff draw any comfort from the knowledge that Lindemann was probably motivated mainly by a desire to draw attention to himself—as a senior army commander he had never had so good an opportunity to show what he could do directly under the eyes of the Führer. No less disquieting for the army group was the knowledge that it was committed to repeating an error which had already been made too often in the Ukraine. To the operations chief at OKH the chief of staff said the army group was marching to disaster with its eyes open, putting forces into positions which in the long run could not be held.


The siege of Leningrad started in early autumn 1941. By September 8, 1941, German and Finnish forces had surrounded the city, cutting off all supply routes to Leningrad and its suburbs. However the original drive on the city failed and the city was subjected to a siege. During the winter 1941–42, the city was partially supplied via the Road of Life over the frozen Lake Ladoga, which allowed the defenders to continue holding out. However, after the siege of Sevastopol ended on July 4, 1942, with the German capture of the city, the German 11th Army was free to be used elsewhere, and Hitler decided that the 11th Army would be used in the assault on Leningrad. [6]

Soviet forces tried to lift the siege, which was causing severe damage to the city and losses in civilian population. The Road of Life was frequently disabled by regular German airstrikes. Several smaller offensives were launched in 1942 in the region, but failed. The last offensive near Lyuban resulted in the encirclement and destruction of most of the Soviet 2nd Shock Army. [7] Nevertheless, the opening of a supply route to Leningrad was so important that preparations for the new operation began almost immediately after the defeat at Lyuban. [8]

The area south of Ladoga is heavily forested with many wetlands (notably peat deposits) close to the lake. This terrain hindered the mobility of artillery and vehicles. In addition the forest shielded both sides from visual observation. One of the key locations were the Sinyavino heights, which were approximately 150 metres higher than the surrounding flat terrain. The heights were one of the few dry and clear areas and provided a good spot for observation. The front line changed very little after the blockade was established, allowing the German forces to build a dense defensive network of strong points in the area, interconnected by trenches, protected by extensive obstacles and interlocking artillery and mortar fire. [9]

German plans Edit

The plan to capture Leningrad in summer-autumn 1942 was first outlined in the OKW (German supreme command) directive 41 of April 5, 1942. The directive stressed that the capture of Leningrad and the drive to the Caucasus in the east were the main objectives in the summer campaign on the Eastern Front. [10]

While Army Group Center conducts holding operations, capture Leningrad and link up with the Finns in the north and, on the southern flank, penetrate into the Caucasus region, adhering to the original aim in the march to the east. [11]

During discussions with Hitler on June 30, the commander of Army Group North, Field Marshal Georg von Küchler, presented him with several operations that would help to carry out this directive. Following these discussions the OKH (German high command) started redeploying heavy artillery from Sevastopol, including the siege artillery batteries Gustav, Dora and Karl, to assist in destroying Soviet defenses and the Kronshtadt fortress. The redeployment was complete by July 23. On the same day, Fuehrer Directive No. 45 included orders for an operation by Army Group North to capture Leningrad by early September. This operation was named "Feuerzauber" (Fire Magic). The attack was to be carried out by the forces of the 11th Army, which were free to be used elsewhere after the capture of Sevastopol. [12] In addition, the OKH sent the 8th Air Corps to provide air support for land forces. On July 30, the operation was renamed Operation Northern Light (German: Nordlicht). [6]

The formulated operation required three army corps to penetrate the Soviet defenses south of Leningrad. One corps would then cut off Leningrad from the troops to the south and west, while the other two would turn east and destroy the Soviet forces between the Neva River and Lake Ladoga. Then the three corps could capture Leningrad without heavy street fighting. [13]

This would in turn free up the troops involved in the siege for use elsewhere and would make victory on the Eastern Front more likely. Meanwhile, the Germans were also preparing for the Battle of Stalingrad. The 11th Army had a total of 12 divisions under command in the Leningrad area. [6]

Soviet plans Edit

The Soviet Union had tried throughout 1942 to lift the siege. While both the winter and Lyuban offensives operation failed to break the siege of the city, there was now a part of the front where only 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) separated the Leningrad Front in the city and the Volkhov Front. [14] The offensive was to link up the forces of the two fronts and establish a supply route to Leningrad. Because the Leningrad Front was at this time weaker, the Volkhov was to carry out the offensive, while the Leningrad Front would only carry out local attacks and capture bridgeheads across the River Neva. The Volkhov Front's 8th Army was to spearhead the attack, with the 4th Guards Rifle Corps in second and the reforming 2nd Shock Army in third echelon. [15]

Taking into account the difficult and heavily fortified terrain of the upcoming battle, the Soviet troops were, in contrast to their earlier operations, very well equipped. The 8th army was significantly reinforced with artillery and tanks. On average, each first echelon division was reinforced by a tank battalion, a few artillery regiments and one or two batteries of Katyusha rocket launchers. This allowed the Soviets to deploy 60-100 guns and 5-9 tanks per kilometer of frontage of their main offensive. The troops were equipped with large numbers of PPD-40 and PPSh-41 sub-machine guns. Engineering units were attached to individual artillery batteries, increasing the overall mobility of the army. [16] [17]

    (Initial forces on August 27)
  • Luftwaffenkommando Ost
    • Luftflotte 1
      • Jagdgeschwader 54
      • Jagdgeschwader 77
          • 128th Rifle Division
          • 24th Guards Rifle Division
          • 191st Rifle Division
          • 122nd Tank Brigade
          • 259th Rifle Division
          • 22nd Rifle Brigade
          • 23rd Rifle Brigade
          • 32nd Rifle Brigade
          • 33rd Rifle Brigade
          • 53rd Rifle Brigade
          • 137th Rifle Brigade
          • 140th Rifle Brigade
          • 98th Tank Brigade [21]
          • 6th Rifle Brigade
          • 4th Tank Brigade

          Neither side was aware that the other was building up forces and planning to launch an offensive in the region. The Germans only realized that the Soviet action was a major offensive in the following days after the start of the attack by the 8th Army on August 27. This resulted in the 11th Army and the 8th Air Corps being reassigned to deal with a major Soviet offensive and abandon preparations for the offensive on Leningrad. [21] Likewise the Soviet forces were unaware of the redeployment of the 11th Army to Leningrad and only expected to face ten divisions of the 18th Army. The redeployment of forces from the Crimea was not detected. This meant that the Soviet forces were launching an offensive when at a numerical disadvantage even before the battle started. [8]

          Soviet offensive, Leningrad Front, August 19–26 Edit

          Ultimately the Soviet operation started before the German one, on August 19, although German sources give later dates. [22] This is because the offensive by the Volkhov Front did not begin until August 27. The German operation was due to begin on September 14. [23] The Leningrad Front launched its offensive on August 19, however due to the limited supplies and manpower, the front was only to capture and expand bridgeheads across the Neva River, that would help it to link up with the Volkhov Front. [16] The German side did not see this as a major offensive, because the Leningrad Front had already mounted several local offensives in July and early August. On August 19, Franz Halder noted in his diary only "local attacks as usual" in the Region. Therefore, no additional defensive measures were taken. [24]

          Soviet main offensive, Volkhov Front, August 27 – September 9 Edit

          The Volkhov Front offensive started on the morning of August 27. The hidden buildup of forces allowed the Soviet forces to enjoy a significant superiority on the first day of the offensive in manpower, tanks and artillery and caught the German by surprise. The 8th Army had initial success advancing and scattering the first line of German defenses such as the 223rd Infantry Division, advancing 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) on the first day at the location of the main attack. However initial attempts to expand on the flanks failed due to heavy German resistance. [25] The German command reacted by redeploying the 5th Mountain and 28th Light Infantry (Jager) divisions from staging areas for Operation Nordlicht to meet the Soviet offensive. Lead elements from the 170th infantry Division, which had only arrived in Mga, have also joined the offensive. In addition Hitler diverted the 3rd Mountain division, which was being redeployed by sea to Finland, to Estonia instead. [21]

          On August 29, the breach in the German defenses was up to 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) deep. To sustain their advance towards Sinyavino, the Soviet forces started committing their second echelon divisions into combat. The German forces were further reinforced by the 12th Panzer and part of the 96th Infantry Divisions. Notably, this day saw the first combat deployment of the Tiger tank, as part of the 502nd Tank Battalion, which on August 29 had four Tigers. The attempt to counterattack with them failed as two of the tanks broke down almost immediately, and the third tank's engine overheated. [20] [21]

          During this first phase, aerial reinforcements were dispatched to Luftwaffenkommando Ost (Air Command East's) Luftflotte 1 (Air Fleet 1). The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (High Command of the Air Force) sent several Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Wings) to assist German defences against intense Soviet air attacks. Elements of JG 54 and JG 77 were rushed to provide air superiority operations over the battle front. Despite being opposed by the Soviet 14th Air Army and outnumbered two to one, the Luftwaffe maintained air superiority. Luftflotte 1 destroyed 42 Soviet aircraft in large-scale air battles on the 1 and 2 September and relieved pressure on German ground forces. The German aerial activity was so effective, there was evidence some Soviet airmen's morale had broken down and they were not giving their best in combat. This prompted Joseph Stalin to threaten any pilot refusing to engage with the enemy a court-martial. [19] However Soviet soldiers had to fight “without artillery support. The shells sent for the battalion guns did not fit our 76 mm guns. There were no hand grenades.” [26]

          On September 5 Volkhov Front's penetration increased to 9 kilometres (5.6 mi), at the furthest point, thus leaving only 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) to the Neva River. Attempts to capture Sinyavino and the adjacent heights met very heavy resistance and failed. On the flanks, the Soviet forces captured the German strong points at Workers Settlement 8 and Mishino on September 3, and Voronovo on September 7. However no more ground was gained after this day in the penetration sector. To try to break the stalemate, the third echelon troops (2nd Strike Army) were used, but German flanking counterattacks forced a halt to the offensive. On September 7, the Volkhov front pulled back two divisions from the 8th Army and replaced them with a fresh division and a tank brigade to achieve further advance. [27]

          Stalemate, September 10–20 Edit

          The battle turned into a stalemate with neither side gaining any ground despite several attempts to renew the offensive. Between September 10–19 there was no major change in the front line. The Soviet side was waiting for reinforcements and air support, hoping to advance the 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) that separated it from the Leningrad Front in the next few weeks, but reinforcements took time. [28]

          Having halted the Soviet advance, the German forces now aimed to defeat it. Manstein, who was appointed by Hitler to be in charge of all German forces in the sector, aimed to cut off the bulge formed by the Soviet advance. However, the initial counterattack on September 10 failed with heavy losses, encountering extensive minefields and artillery and mortar fire. Manstein decided to build up forces for a two-pronged attack, while local German counterattacks checked the Soviet attempts to advance. [29]

          German counter-offensive, September 21 – October 15 Edit

          The main German counter offensive began on September 21. Six divisions participated in the attack, with 121st Infantry Division attacking from the north, 30th Army Corps' 24th, 132nd and 170th Infantry Divisions from the south and 3rd Mountain and 28th Light Infantry Divisions mounting holding attacks. The 5th Mountain Division suffered heavy casualties in the last ten days and did not play a big role in the counteroffensive. [29]

          The counterattacking German were facing the same problems as the Soviet forces had faced in the previous month. Advance in difficult terrain overcoming the defensive positions was very slow and casualties were high. [22] Only on September 25, after five days of very heavy fighting, German forces linked up near Gaitolovo, and part of the Soviet 8th (the 6th Guards Rifle Corps) [19] and 2nd Shock Armies were encircled. After defeating Soviet attempts to relieve or break out of the pocket, it was bombarded by heavy artillery and air strikes. At the same time the 28th Light Infantry and the 12th Panzer divisions defeated the attempts of the Leningrad Front to expand their bridgeheads. [4]

          In the heavy fighting from the end of September to October 15, the German forces reduced the encirclement and recaptured all previously lost strong points, except a small bridgehead held by forces of the Leningrad Front near Moskovkaya Dubrovka. [1]

          For the Soviet Union this operation was a costly failure, although with less effect compared to the Soviet defeat near Miasnoy Bor in June and July, where the 2nd Shock Army was almost destroyed and the German forces reported capturing 33,000 prisoners. [30] After only three months the Soviet forces would launch a new offensive, Operation Iskra. That offensive would open a corridor to Leningrad in January 1943. [31]

          For the Germans, the effects were bigger. Although the Soviet threat was eliminated and the position of the 18th Army re-established, the 11th Army had suffered serious losses in men, equipment and ammunition. The 18th Army also suffered losses, especially the 223rd Infantry Division, which was opposing the 8th Army on the first day of its offensive. [22] Heavy casualties led to the OKH Operations Order No. 1, which ordered Army Group North to defense during the winter. In November, the German reinforcements and other units were stripped from Army Group North to deal with a major Soviet offensive at Stalingrad and Operation Northern Light was aborted. [5]

          This Day In History: The Soviets Break The Nazi Siege of Leningrad (1944)

          On this day in 1944, the Red Army permanently broke the siege of the Soviet Union&rsquos second larges city. The siege began in 1941, not long after the German invasion of the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. The siege began on September 8, 1941 when the Germans failed to take the city in a surprise attack. The citizens of Leningrad (now known as St. Petersburg) had built massive anti-tank fortifications and a network of trenches that frustrated the Nazis as they attempted to seize their city. Another factor in the Nazis&rsquo failure to seize the city was that the Finns, who were allies with the Nazis, did not fully participate in the initial attack on the city. Hitler then ordered that Leningrad was to be starved into submission.

          The German Army Group North cut the city off from the rest of the Soviet Union and blockaded the city. The Germans also bombarded the city almost continuously. The Nazi high command was reluctant to attack the city directly because they knew that would result in intense street fighting. Leningrad was able to withstand the German siege because of the bravery of its citizens and defenders. This prevented Leningrad falling to the Nazis, like so many other Soviet cities. In the first full year of the siege, it is believed at least half a million people died in the city the majority of these died from disease, exposure, and starvation.

          German forces outside Leningrad in 1944. Wikimedia Commons

          Leningrad might have fallen to the Germans but the city was helped by occasional supply deliveries. In the summer, the Soviets used barges to transport supplies across Lake Ladoga. In the winter, motorized sleds traveled across the frozen lake to supply the city. The citizens of Leningrad adapted very successfully, and any open space in the city was turned into a vegetable plot to grow food.

          However, by the winter of 1942-43, it seemed that the city was on the verge of collapse. Fortunately, the Soviets attacked the German lines and were able to open up a narrow corridor to the city in January 1943. This corridor became the city&rsquos lifeline.

          In early January 1944, the Soviets launched an attack, called the Leningrad-Novgorod Strategic Offensive, that aimed to lift the siege. It took the Soviets almost two weeks of fighting to break through the German lines that were encircling the city. The Germans were forced to retreated to the west into the Baltic states and Finland.


          Leningrad's capture was one of three strategic goals in the German Operation Barbarossa and the main target of Army Group North. The strategy was motivated by Leningrad's political status as the former capital of Russia and the symbolic capital of the Russian Revolution, its military importance as a main base of the Soviet Baltic Fleet, and its industrial strength, housing numerous arms factories. [18] By 1939, the city was responsible for 11% of all Soviet industrial output. [19]

          It has been reported that Adolf Hitler was so confident of capturing Leningrad that he had invitations printed to the victory celebrations to be held in the city's Hotel Astoria. [20]

          Although various theories have been put forward about Germany's plans for Leningrad, including renaming the city Adolfsburg (as claimed by Soviet journalist Lev Bezymenski) [21] and making it the capital of the new Ingermanland province of the Reich in Generalplan Ost, it is clear Hitler's intention was to utterly destroy the city and its population. According to a directive sent to Army Group North on 29 September, "After the defeat of Soviet Russia there can be no interest in the continued existence of this large urban centre. [. ] Following the city's encirclement, requests for surrender negotiations shall be denied, since the problem of relocating and feeding the population cannot and should not be solved by us. In this war for our very existence, we can have no interest in maintaining even a part of this very large urban population." [22]

          Hitler's ultimate plan was to raze Leningrad to the ground and give areas north of the River Neva to the Finns. [23] [24]

          German plans Edit

          Army Group North under Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb advanced to Leningrad, its primary objective. Von Leeb's plan called for capturing the city on the move, but due to Hitler's recall of 4th Panzer Group (persuaded by his Chief of General Staff, Franz Halder, to transfer this south to participate in Fedor von Bock's push for Moscow), [25] von Leeb had to lay the city under siege indefinitely after reaching the shores of Lake Ladoga, while trying to complete the encirclement and reaching the Finnish Army under Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim waiting at the Svir River, east of Lake Ladoga. [26]

          Finnish military forces were north of Leningrad, while German forces occupied territories to the south. [27] Both German and Finnish forces had the goal of encircling Leningrad and maintaining the blockade perimeter, thus cutting off all communication with the city and preventing the defenders from receiving any supplies – although Finnish participation in the blockade mainly consisted of recapture of lands lost in the Winter War. Thus, it is argued that much of the Finns participation was merely defensive. The Germans planned on lack of food being their chief weapon against the citizens German scientists had calculated the city would reach starvation after only a few weeks. [1] [2] [26] [28] [29]

          Leningrad fortified region Edit

          On Friday, 27 June 1941, the Council of Deputies of the Leningrad administration organised "First response groups" of civilians. In the next days, Leningrad's civilian population was informed of the danger and over a million citizens were mobilised for the construction of fortifications. Several lines of defences were built along the city's perimeter to repulse hostile forces approaching from north and south by means of civilian resistance. [2] [4]

          In the south, the fortified line ran from the mouth of the Luga River to Chudovo, Gatchina, Uritsk, Pulkovo and then through the Neva River. Another line of defence passed through Peterhof to Gatchina, Pulkovo, Kolpino and Koltushy. In the north the defensive line against the Finns, the Karelian Fortified Region, had been maintained in Leningrad's northern suburbs since the 1930s, and was now returned to service. A total of 306 km (190 mi) of timber barricades, 635 km (395 mi) of wire entanglements, 700 km (430 mi) of anti-tank ditches, 5,000 earth-and-timber emplacements and reinforced concrete weapon emplacements and 25,000 km (16,000 mi) [30] of open trenches were constructed or excavated by civilians. Even the guns from the cruiser Aurora were removed from the ship to be used to defend Leningrad. [31]

          The 4th Panzer Group from East Prussia took Pskov following a swift advance and managed to reach Novgorod by 16 August. The Soviet defenders fought to the death, despite the German discovery of the Soviet defence plans on an officer's corpse. After the capture of Novgorod, General Hoepner's 4th Panzer Group continued its progress towards Leningrad. [32] However, the 18th Army – despite some 350,000 men lagging behind – forced its way to Ostrov and Pskov after the Soviet troops of the Northwestern Front retreated towards Leningrad. On 10 July, both Ostrov and Pskov were captured and the 18th Army reached Narva and Kingisepp, from where advance toward Leningrad continued from the Luga River line. This had the effect of creating siege positions from the Gulf of Finland to Lake Ladoga, with the eventual aim of isolating Leningrad from all directions. The Finnish Army was then expected to advance along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga. [33]

          Orders of battle Edit

          Germany Edit

            (Feldmarschallvon Leeb) [34]
              (von Küchler)
                (2 infantry divisions) (3 infantry divisions)
      • (von Wiktorin) (2 infantry, 1 armoured divisions) (2 infantry divisions) (3 infantry divisions) (3 infantry divisions)
  • (L Corps – Under 9th Army) (2 infantry divisions)
    • (von Chappuis) (1 infantry division) (Reinhardt) (1 infantry, 1 motorised, 1 armoured divisions) (von Manstein) (1 infantry, 1 motorised, 1 armoured, 1 panzergrenadier divisions)

    Finland Edit

      HQ (Finnish Marshal Mannerheim) [35]
      • I Corps (2 infantry divisions)
      • II Corps (2 infantry divisions)
      • IV Corps (3 infantry divisions)

      Italy Edit

      Spain Edit

        , officially designated as 250. Infanterie-Division by the German Army and as the División Española de Voluntarios by the Spanish Army General Esteban Infantes took command of this unit of Spanish volunteers at the Eastern Front during World War II. [36]

      Soviet Union Edit

        (Lieutenant General Popov) [37]
          (2 rifle, 1 militia divisions, 1 naval infantry brigade, 3 motorised rifle and 1 armoured regiments)
            (2 rifle divisions) (3 rifle divisions)
          • Separate Units (3 rifle divisions)
            (2 rifle divisions)
          • Separate Units (2 rifle divisions, 1 Fortified area, 1 motorised rifle regiment)
            (3 rifle divisions)
          • Separate Units (2 rifle, 1 motorised divisions, 2 Fortified areas, 1 rifle regiment)
          • 41st Rifle Corps (3 rifle divisions)
          • Separate Units (1 armoured brigade, 1 rifle regiment)
          • Separate Units (2 rifle, 2 militia, 1 armoured divisions, 1 Fortified area)

          The 14th Army of the Soviet Red Army defended Murmansk and the 7th Army defended Ladoga Karelia thus they did not participate in the initial stages of the siege. The 8th Army was initially part of the Northwestern Front and retreated through the Baltics. It was transferred to the Northern Front on 14 July when the Soviets evacuated Tallinn.

          On 23 August, the Northern Front was divided into the Leningrad Front and the Karelian Front, as it became impossible for front headquarters to control everything between Murmansk and Leningrad.

          Zhukov states, "Ten volunteer opolcheniye divisions were formed in Leningrad in the first three months of the war, as well as 16 separate artillery and machine-gun opolcheniye battalions." [38] : 421,438

          Severing lines of communication Edit

          On 6 August, Hitler repeated his order: "Leningrad first, Donetsk Basin second, Moscow third." [39] From August 1941 until January 1944, anything that happened between the Arctic Ocean and Lake Ilmen concerned the Wehrmacht ' s Leningrad siege operations. [4] Arctic convoys using the Northern Sea Route delivered American Lend-Lease and British food and war materiel supplies to the Murmansk railhead (although the rail link to Leningrad was cut off by Finnish armies just north of the city), as well as several other locations in Lapland. [ citation needed ]

          Encirclement of Leningrad Edit

          Finnish intelligence had broken some of the Soviet military codes and read their low-level communications. This was particularly helpful for Hitler, who constantly requested intelligence information about Leningrad. [4] [40] Finland's role in Operation Barbarossa was laid out in Hitler's Directive 21, "The mass of the Finnish army will have the task, in accordance with the advance made by the northern wing of the German armies, of tying up maximum Russian (sic – Soviet) strength by attacking to the west, or on both sides, of Lake Ladoga". [41] The last rail connection to Leningrad was severed on 30 August, when the Germans reached the Neva River. On 8 September, the road to the besieged city was severed when the Germans reached Lake Ladoga at Shlisselburg, leaving just a corridor of land between Lake Ladoga and Leningrad which remained unoccupied by Axis forces. Bombing on 8 September caused 178 fires. [42]

          On 21 September, German High Command considered how to destroy Leningrad. Occupying the city was ruled out "because it would make us responsible for food supply". [43] The resolution was to lay the city under siege and bombardment, starving its population. "Early next year, we [will] enter the city (if the Finns do it first we do not object), lead those still alive into inner Russia or into captivity, wipe Leningrad from the face of the earth through demolitions, and hand the area north of the Neva to the Finns." [44] On 7 October, Hitler sent a further directive signed by Alfred Jodl reminding Army Group North not to accept capitulation. [45]

          Finnish participation Edit

          By August 1941, the Finns advanced to within 20 km of the northern suburbs of Leningrad at the 1939 Finnish-Soviet border, threatening the city from the north they were also advancing through East Karelia, east of Lake Ladoga, and threatening the city from the east. The Finnish forces crossed the pre-Winter War border on the Karelian Isthmus by eliminating Soviet salients at Beloostrov and Kirjasalo, thus straightening the frontline so that it ran along the old border near the shores of Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga, and those positions closest to Leningrad still lying on the pre-Winter War border.

          According to Soviet claims, the Finnish advance was stopped in September through resistance by the Karelian Fortified Region [46] however, Finnish troops had already earlier in August 1941 received orders to halt the advance after reaching their goals, some of which lay beyond the pre-Winter War border. After reaching their respective goals, the Finns halted their advance and started moving troops to East Karelia. [47] [48]

          For the next three years, the Finns did little to contribute to the battle for Leningrad, maintaining their lines. [49] Their headquarters rejected German pleas for aerial attacks against Leningrad [50] and did not advance farther south from the Svir River in occupied East Karelia (160 kilometres northeast of Leningrad), which they had reached on 7 September. In the southeast, the Germans captured Tikhvin on 8 November, but failed to complete their encirclement of Leningrad by advancing further north to join with the Finns at the Svir River. On 9 December, a counter-attack of the Volkhov Front forced the Wehrmacht to retreat from their Tikhvin positions in the River Volkhov line. [2] [4]

          On 6 September 1941, Germany's Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl visited Helsinki. His main goal was to persuade Mannerheim to continue the offensive. In 1941, President Ryti declared to the Finnish Parliament that the aim of the war was to restore the territories lost during the Winter War and gain more territories in the east to create a "Greater Finland". [51] [52] [53] After the war, Ryti stated: "On August 24, 1941 I visited the headquarters of Marshal Mannerheim. The Germans aimed us at crossing the old border and continuing the offensive to Leningrad. I said that the capture of Leningrad was not our goal and that we should not take part in it. Mannerheim and Minister of Defense Walden agreed with me and refused the offers of the Germans. The result was a paradoxical situation: the Germans could not approach Leningrad from the north. " There was little or no systematic shelling or bombing from the Finnish positions. [27]

          The proximity of the Finnish border – 33–35 km (21–22 mi) from downtown Leningrad – and the threat of a Finnish attack complicated the defence of the city. At one point, the defending Front Commander, Popov, could not release reserves opposing the Finnish forces to be deployed against the Wehrmacht because they were needed to bolster the 23rd Army's defences on the Karelian Isthmus. [54] Mannerheim terminated the offensive on 31 August 1941, when the army had reached the 1939 border. Popov felt relieved, and redeployed two divisions to the German sector on 5 September. [55]

          Subsequently, the Finnish forces reduced the salients of Beloostrov and Kirjasalo, [56] which had threatened their positions at the sea coast and south of the River Vuoksi. [56] Lieutenant General Paavo Talvela and Colonel Järvinen, the commander of the Finnish Coastal Brigade responsible for Ladoga, proposed to the German headquarters the blocking of Soviet convoys on Lake Ladoga. The idea was proposed to the Germans on their own behalf going past both Finnish Navy HQ and General HQ. Germans responded positively to the proposition and informed the slightly surprised Finns—who apart from Talvela and Järvinen had very little knowledge of the proposition—that transport of the equipment for the Ladoga operation was already arranged. The German command formed the 'international' naval detachment (which also included the Italian XII Squadriglia MAS) under Finnish command and the Einsatzstab Fähre Ost under German command. These naval units operated against the supply route in the summer and autumn of 1942, the only period the units were able to operate as freezing waters then forced the lightly equipped units to be moved away, and changes in front lines made it impractical to reestablish these units later in the war. [27] [40] [57] [58]

          Defensive operations Edit

          The Leningrad Front (initially the Leningrad Military District) was commanded by Marshal Kliment Voroshilov. It included the 23rd Army in the northern sector between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga, and the 48th Army in the western sector between the Gulf of Finland and the Slutsk–Mga position. The Leningrad Fortified Region, the Leningrad garrison, the Baltic Fleet forces, and Koporye, Pulkovo, and Slutsk–Kolpino operational groups were also present. [ citation needed ]

          According to Zhukov, "Before the war Leningrad had a population of 3,103,000 and 3,385,000 counting the suburbs. As many as 1,743,129, including 414,148 children were evacuated" between 29 June 1941 and 31 March 1943. They were moved to the Volga area, the Urals, Siberia and Kazakhstan. [38] : 439

          By September 1941, the link with the Volkhov Front (commanded by Kirill Meretskov) was severed and the defensive sectors were held by four armies: 23rd Army in the northern sector, 42nd Army on the western sector, 55th Army on the southern sector, and the 67th Army on the eastern sector. The 8th Army of the Volkhov Front had the responsibility of maintaining the logistic route to the city in coordination with the Ladoga Flotilla. Air cover for the city was provided by the Leningrad military district PVO Corps and Baltic Fleet naval aviation units. [59] [60]

          The defensive operation to protect the 1,400,000 civilian evacuees was part of the Leningrad counter-siege operations under the command of Andrei Zhdanov, Kliment Voroshilov, and Aleksei Kuznetsov. Additional military operations were carried out in coordination with Baltic Fleet naval forces under the general command of Admiral Vladimir Tributs. The Ladoga Flotilla under the command of V. Baranovsky, S.V. Zemlyanichenko, P.A. Traynin, and B.V. Khoroshikhin also played a major military role in helping with evacuation of the civilians. [61]

          Bombardment Edit

          The first success of the Leningrad air defense took place on the night of 23 June. The Ju-88A bomber from the 1st air corps KGr.806 was damaged by the AA guns fire of the 15th battery of the 192nd anti-aircraft artillery regiment, and made an emergency landing. All crew members, including commander, Lieutenant Hans Turmeyer, were captured on the ground. The commander of the 15th battery, lieutenant, Alexey Pimchenkov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. [62]

          By Monday, 8 September, German forces had largely surrounded the city, cutting off all supply routes to Leningrad and its suburbs. Unable to press home their offensive, and facing defences of the city organised by Marshal Zhukov, the Axis armies laid siege to the city for "900 days and nights". [38]

          The air attack of Friday, 19 September was particularly brutal. It was the heaviest air raid Leningrad would suffer during the war, as 276 German bombers hit the city killing 1,000 civilians. Many of those killed were recuperating from battle wounds in hospitals that were hit by German bombs. Six air raids occurred that day. Five hospitals were damaged in the bombing, as well as the city's largest shopping bazaar. Hundreds of people had run from the street into the store to take shelter from the air raid. [63]

          Artillery bombardment of Leningrad began in August, increasing in intensity during 1942 with the arrival of new equipment. It was stepped up further during 1943, when several times as many shells and bombs were used as in the year before. Against this, the Soviet Baltic Fleet Navy aviation made over 100,000 air missions to support their military operations during the siege. [64] German shelling and bombing killed 5,723 and wounded 20,507 civilians in Leningrad during the siege. [65]

          Supplying the defenders Edit

          To sustain the defence of the city, it was vitally important for the Red Army to establish a route for bringing a constant flow of supplies into Leningrad. This route, which became known as the Road of Life (Russian: Дорога жизни ), was effected over the southern part of Lake Ladoga and the corridor of land which remained unoccupied by Axis forces between Lake Ladoga and Leningrad. Transport across Lake Ladoga was achieved by means of watercraft during the warmer months and land vehicles driven over thick ice in winter (hence the route becoming known as "The Ice Road"). The security of the supply route was ensured by the Ladoga Flotilla, the Leningrad PVO Corps, and route security troops. Vital food supplies were thus transported to the village of Osinovets, from where they were transferred and transported over 45 km via a small suburban railway to Leningrad. [66] The route had to be used also to evacuate civilians, since no evacuation plans had been executed in the chaos of the first winter of the war, and the city was completely isolated until 20 November, when the ice road over Lake Ladoga became operational. Vehicles risked becoming stuck in the snow or sinking through broken ice caused by constant German bombardments, but the road brought necessary military and food supplies in and took civilians and wounded soldiers out, allowing the city to continue resisting the enemy. [67] [68] [69]

          The two-and-a-half-year siege caused the greatest destruction and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city. [27] [70] On Hitler's direct orders the Wehrmacht looted and then destroyed most of the imperial palaces, such as the Catherine Palace, Peterhof Palace, Ropsha, Strelna, Gatchina, and other historic landmarks located outside the city's defensive perimeter, with many art collections transported to Germany. [71] A number of factories, schools, hospitals and other civil infrastructure were destroyed by air raids and long range artillery bombardment. [72]

          The 872 days of the siege caused extreme famine in the Leningrad region through disruption of utilities, water, energy and food supplies. This resulted in the deaths of up to 1,500,000 [74] soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of 1,400,000 more (mainly women and children), many of whom died during evacuation due to starvation and bombardment. [1] [2] [4] Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in Leningrad holds half a million civilian victims of the siege alone. Economic destruction and human losses in Leningrad on both sides exceeded those of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, or the bombing of Tokyo. The siege of Leningrad ranks as the most lethal siege in world history, and some historians speak of the siege operations in terms of genocide, as a "racially motivated starvation policy" that became an integral part of the unprecedented German war of extermination against populations of the Soviet Union generally. [75] [76]

          Civilians in the city suffered from extreme starvation, especially in the winter of 1941–42. From November 1941 to February 1942 the only food available to the citizen was 125 grams of bread per day, of which 50–60% consisted of sawdust and other inedible admixtures. In conditions of extreme temperatures (down to −30 °C (−22 °F)), and with city transport out of service, even a distance of a few kilometres to a food distribution kiosk created an insurmountable obstacle for many citizens. Deaths peaked in January–February 1942 at 100,000 per month, mostly from starvation. [77] People often died on the streets, and citizens soon became accustomed to the sight of death. [78]

          Cannibalism Edit

          While reports of cannibalism appeared in the winter of 1941–42, NKVD records on the subject were not published until 2004. Most evidence for cannibalism that surfaced before this time was anecdotal. Anna Reid points out that "for most people at the time, cannibalism was a matter of second-hand horror stories rather than direct personal experience". [79] Indicative of Leningraders' fears at the time, police would often threaten uncooperative suspects with imprisonment in a cell with cannibals. [80] Dimitri Lazarev, a diarist during the worst moments in the Leningrad siege, recalls his daughter and niece reciting a terrifying nursery rhyme adapted from a pre-war song:

          A dystrophic walked along
          With a dull look
          In a basket he carried a corpse's arse.
          I'm having human flesh for lunch,
          This piece will do!
          Ugh, hungry sorrow!
          And for supper, clearly
          I'll need a little baby.
          I'll take the neighbours',
          Steal him out of his cradle. [81]

          NKVD files report the first use of human meat as food on 13 December 1941. [82] The report outlines thirteen cases, which range from a mother smothering her eighteen-month-old to feed her three older children to a plumber killing his wife to feed his sons and nieces. [82]

          By December 1942 the NKVD had arrested 2,105 cannibals – dividing them into two legal categories: corpse-eating (trupoyedstvo) and person-eating (lyudoyedstvo). The latter were usually shot while the former were sent to prison. The Soviet Criminal Code had no provision for cannibalism, so all convictions were carried out under Code Article 59–3, "special category banditry". [83] Instances of person-eating were significantly lower than that of corpse-eating of the 300 people arrested in April 1942 for cannibalism, only 44 were murderers. [84] 64% of cannibals were female, 44% were unemployed, 90% were illiterate, 15% were rooted inhabitants, and only 2% had any criminal records. More cases occurred in the outlying districts than in the city itself. Cannibals were often unsupported women with dependent children and no previous convictions, which allowed for a certain level of clemency in legal proceedings. [85]

          Given the scope of mass starvation, cannibalism was relatively rare. [86] Far more common was murder for ration cards. In the first six months of 1942, Leningrad witnessed 1,216 such murders. At the same time, Leningrad was experiencing its highest mortality rate, as high as 100,000 people per month. Lisa Kirschenbaum notes that rates "of cannibalism provided an opportunity for emphasizing that the majority of Leningraders managed to maintain their cultural norms in the most unimaginable circumstances." [86]

          On 9 August 1942, the Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" by Dmitri Shostakovich was performed by the Leningrad Radio Orchestra. The concert was broadcast on loudspeakers placed throughout the city and also aimed towards the enemy lines. The same day had been previously designated by Hitler to celebrate the fall of the city with a lavish banquet at Leningrad's Astoria Hotel, [87] and was a few days before the Sinyavino Offensive. [ citation needed ]

          Sinyavino Offensive Edit

          The Sinyavino Offensive was a Soviet attempt to break the blockade of the city in early autumn 1942. The 2nd Shock and the 8th armies were to link up with the forces of the Leningrad Front. At the same time the German side was preparing an offensive to capture the city, Operation Nordlicht (Northern Light), using the troops made available by the capture of Sevastopol. [88] Neither side was aware of the other's intentions until the battle started. [ citation needed ]

          The offensive began on 27 August 1942 with some small-scale attacks by the Leningrad front, pre-empting "Nordlicht" by a few weeks. The successful start of the operation forced the Germans to redirect troops from the planned "Nordlicht" to counterattack the Soviet armies. [ citation needed ] The counteroffensive saw the first deployment of the Tiger tank, though with limited success. After parts of the 2nd Shock Army were encircled and destroyed, the Soviet offensive was halted. However, the German forces also had to abandon their offensive. [ citation needed ]

          Operation Iskra Edit

          The encirclement was broken in the wake of Operation Iskra (Spark), a full-scale offensive conducted by the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts. This offensive started in the morning of 12 January 1943. After fierce battles the Red Army units overcame the powerful German fortifications to the south of Lake Ladoga, and on 18 January 1943, the Volkhov Front's 372nd Rifle Division met troops of the 123rd Rifle Brigade of the Leningrad Front, opening a 10–12 km (6.2–7.5 mi) [ verification needed ] wide land corridor, which could provide some relief to the besieged population of Leningrad. [ citation needed ]

          The Spanish Blue Division faced a major Soviet attempt to break the siege of Leningrad in February 1943, when the 55th Army of the Soviet forces, reinvigorated after the victory at Stalingrad, attacked the Spanish positions at the Battle of Krasny Bor, near the main Moscow-Leningrad road. Despite very heavy casualties, the Spaniards were able to hold their ground against a Soviet force seven times larger and supported by tanks. The Soviet assault was contained by the Blue Division and the siege of Leningrad continued for another year. [12] [11]

          Lifting the siege Edit

          The siege continued until 27 January 1944, when the Soviet Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive expelled German forces from the southern outskirts of the city. This was a combined effort by the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts, along with the 1st and 2nd Baltic Fronts. The Baltic Fleet provided 30% of aviation power for the final strike against the Wehrmacht. [64] In the summer of 1944, the Finnish Defence Forces were pushed back to the other side of the Bay of Vyborg and the Vuoksi River. [89]

          The siege was also known as the Leningrad Blockade and the 900-Day Siege.

          1941 Edit

          • April: Hitler intends to occupy and then destroy Leningrad, according to plan Barbarossa and Generalplan Ost.
          • 22 June: The Axis powers' invasion of Soviet Union begins with Operation Barbarossa.
          • 23 June: Leningrad commander M. Popov, sends his second in command to reconnoitre defensive positions south of Leningrad.
          • 29 June: Construction of the Luga defence fortifications (Russian: Лужский оборонительный рубеж ) begins together with evacuation of children and women.
          • June–July: Over 300,000 civilian refugees from Pskov and Novgorod escaping from the advancing Germans come to Leningrad for shelter. The armies of the North-Western Front join the front lines at Leningrad. Total military strength with reserves and volunteers reaches 2 million men involved on all sides of the emerging battle.
          • 19–23 July: First attack on Leningrad by Army Group North is stopped 100 km (62 mi) south of the city.
          • 27 July: Hitler visits Army Group North, angry at the delay. He orders Field Marshal von Leeb to take Leningrad by December.
          • 31 July: Finns attack the Soviet 23rd Army at the Karelian Isthmus, eventually reaching northern pre-Winter War Finnish-Soviet border.
          • 20 August – 8 September: Artillery bombardments of Leningrad hit industries, schools, hospitals and civilian houses.
          • 21 August: Hitler's Directive No.34 orders "Encirclement of Leningrad in conjunction with the Finns."
          • 20–27 August: Evacuation of civilians is blocked by attacks on railways and other exits from Leningrad.
          • 31 August: Finnish forces go on the defensive and straighten their front line. [48] This involves crossing the 1939 pre-Winter War border and occupation of municipalities of Kirjasalo and Beloostrov. [48]
          • 6 September:German High Command's Alfred Jodl fails to persuade Finns to continue offensive against Leningrad.
          • 2–9 September: Finns capture the Beloostrov and Kirjasalo salients and conduct defensive preparations.
          • 8 September: Land encirclement of Leningrad is completed when the German forces reach the shores of Lake Ladoga.
          • 10 September:Joseph Stalin appoints General Zhukov to replace Marshal Voroshilov as Leningrad Front and Baltic Fleet commander.
          • 12 September: The largest food depot in Leningrad, the Badajevski General Store, is destroyed by a German bomb.
          • 15 September:von Leeb has to remove the 4th Panzer Group from the front lines and transfer it to Army Group Center for the Moscow offensive.
          • 19 September: German troops are stopped 10 km (6.2 mi) from Leningrad. Citizens join the fighting at the defence line
          • 22 September: Hitler directs that "Saint Petersburg must be erased from the face of the Earth".
          • 22 September: Hitler declares, ". we have no interest in saving lives of the civilian population."
          • 8 November: Hitler states in a speech at Munich: "Leningrad must die of starvation."
          • 10 November: Soviet counter-attack begins, and lasts until 30 December.
          • December:Winston Churchill wrote in his diary "Leningrad is encircled, but not taken."
          • 6 December: The United Kingdom declared war on Finland. This was followed by declaration of war from Canada, Australia, India and New Zealand.
          • 30 December: Soviet counter-attack, which began at 10 November, forced Germans to retreat from Tikhvin back to the Volkhov River, preventing them from joining Finnish forces stationed at the Svir River on the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga.

          1942 Edit

          • 7 January: Soviet Lyuban Offensive Operation is launched it lasts 16 weeks and is unsuccessful, resulting in the loss of the 2nd Shock Army.
          • January: Soviets launch battle for the Nevsky Pyatachok bridgehead in an attempt to break the siege. This battle lasts until May 1943, but is only partially successful. Very heavy casualties are experienced by both sides.
          • 4–30 April:Luftwaffe Operation Eis Stoß (ice impact) fails to sink Baltic Fleet ships iced in at Leningrad.
          • June–September:New German railway-mounted artillery bombards Leningrad with 800 kg (1,800 lb) shells.
          • August: The Spanish Blue Division (División Azul) transferred to Leningrad.
          • 9 August 1942: The Symphony No. 7 "Leningrad" by Dmitri Shostakovich was performed in the city.
          • 14 August – 27 October:Naval Detachment K clashes with Leningrad supply route on Lake Ladoga.
          • 19 August: Soviets begin an eight-week-long Sinyavino Offensive, which fails to lift the siege, but thwarts German offensive plans (Operation Nordlicht).

          1943 Edit

          • January–December: Increased artillery bombardments of Leningrad.
          • 12–30 January:Operation Iskra penetrates the siege by opening a land corridor along the coast of Lake Ladoga into the city. The blockade is broken.
          • 10 February – 1 April: The unsuccessful Operation Polyarnaya Zvezda attempts to lift the siege.

          1944 Edit

          • 14 January – 1 March: Several Soviet offensive operations begin, aimed at ending the siege.
          • 27 January: Siege of Leningrad ends. German forces pushed 60–100 km away from the city.
          • January: Before retreating, the German armies loot and destroy the historical Palaces of the Tsars, such as the Catherine Palace, the Peterhof Palace, the Gatchina Palace and the Strelna Palace. Many other historic landmarks and homes in the suburbs of St. Petersburg are looted and then destroyed, and a large number of valuable art collections are moved to Nazi Germany.

          During the siege some 3,200 residential buildings, 9,000 wooden houses were burned, and 840 factories and plants were destroyed in Leningrad and suburbs. [109]

          American evaluation Edit

          Historian Michael Walzer summarized that "The Siege of Leningrad killed more civilians than bombing of Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined." [110] The US Military Academy evaluated that Russian casualties during the siege were bigger than combined American and British casualties during the entire war. [111] [112] [110]

          Genocide Edit

          Some 21st century historians, including Timo Vihavainen and Nikita Lomagin, have classified the siege of Leningrad as genocide due to the systematic starvation and intentional destruction of the city's civilian population. [13] [113] [ page needed ] [15] [16] [17]

          Controversial issues Edit

          Controversy over Finnish participation Edit

          Almost all Finnish historians regard the siege as a German operation and do not consider that the Finns effectively participated in the siege. Russian historian Nikolai Baryshnikov argues that active Finnish participation did occur, but other historians have been mostly silent about it, most likely due to the friendly nature of post-war Soviet–Finnish relations. [114]

          The main issues which count in favour of the former view are: (a) the Finns mostly stayed at the pre-Winter War border at the Karelian Isthmus (with small exceptions to straighten the frontline), despite German wishes and requests, and (b) they did not bombard the city from planes or with artillery and did not allow the Germans to bring their own land forces to Finnish lines. Baryshnikov explains that the Finnish military in the region was strategically dependent on the Germans, and lacked the required means and will to press the attack against Leningrad any further. [115] Although the Finnish Army had no other intentions besides regaining their own land lost in the Winter War, the advances made contributed greatly to the war efforts of Germany. [ citation needed ]

          Soviet deportation of civilians with enemy nations ethnic origin – Germans and Finns Edit

          Deportations of Finns and Germans from the Leningrad area to inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union began in March 1942 using the Road of Life many of their descendants still remain in those areas today. [116] However, the situation in Leningrad during the blockade was worse in comparison with the eastern areas where most of the city residents were evacuated. Inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union hosted millions of the evacuees many factories, universities, and theatres were also evacuated there. [117]

          Commemoration, monuments Edit

          Leningrad Siege and Defence Museum Edit

          Even during the siege itself, war artifacts were collected and shown to the public by city authorities, such as the German aeroplane that was shot down and fell to the ground in Tauricheskiy Garden (ru: Таврический сад). Such objects were displayed as a sign of the people's courage, and gathered in a specially allocated building of the former 19th century Salt Warehouses (Соляной городок). The exhibition was soon turned into a full-scale Museum of Leningrad Defence (now Государственный мемориальный музей обороны и блокады Ленинграда).

          Several years after World War II, in the late 1940s – early 1950s, Stalin's supposed jealousy of Leningrad city leaders caused their destruction in the course of politically motivated show trials forming the post-WWII Leningrad Affair (the pre-war purge followed the 1934 assassination of the popular city ruler Sergey Kirov). Now another generation of state and Communist Party functionaries of the city was wiped out, supposedly for publicly overestimating the importance of the city as an independent fighting unit and their own roles in defeating the enemy. Their brainchild, the Leningrad Defence Museum, was also destroyed, and many valuable exhibits were destroyed. [118]

          The museum was revived in the late 1980s with the then wave of glasnost, when new shocking facts were published, showing both heroism of the wartime city and hardships and even cruelties of the period. The exhibition opened in its originally allocated building, but has not yet regained its original size and area, most of its former premises having been given before its revival over to the military and other governmental offices. Plans for a new modern building of the museum have been suspended due to the financial crisis, but, under the present Defence Secretary Sergey Shoigu, promises have been made to expand the museum at its present location. [119]

          Monuments: The Green Belt of Glory and memorial cemeteries Edit

          Commemoration of the siege got a second wind during the 1960s. Local artists dedicated their achievements to the Victory and memory of the war they saw. A leading local poet and war participant Mikhail Dudin suggested erecting a ring of monuments on the places of heaviest siege-time fighting and linking them into a belt of gardens around the city showing where the advancing enemy armies were stopped forever. That was the beginning of the Green Belt of Glory (ru: Зелёный пояс Славы). [ citation needed ]

          On 29 October 1966, a monument entitled Broken Ring (of the Siege, ru:Разорванное кольцо) was erected at the 40th km of the Road of Life, on the shore of Lake Ladoga near the village of Kokkorevo. Designed and created by Konstantin Simun, the monument pays tribute not only to the lives saved via the frozen Ladoga, but also the many lives broken by the blockade. [ citation needed ]

          The Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad (ru:Монумент героическим защитникам Ленинграда) was erected on 9 May 1975 in Victory Square, Saint Petersburg. [120]

          The monument is a huge bronze ring with a gap in it, pointing towards the site that the Soviets eventually broke through the encircling German forces. In the centre a Russian mother cradles her dying soldier son. The monument has an inscription saying "900 days 900 nights". An exhibit underneath the monument contains artifacts from this period, such as journals. [121] [122]

          In later years, smaller-scale objects were added, such as memorial plaques to sources of water – a Siege-time Water-well and a river Ice-hole (Rus. polynya). [ citation needed ]

          Memorial cemeteries Edit

          During the siege, numerous deaths of civilians and soldiers led to considerable expansion of burial places later memorialised, of which the best known is Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. [123]

          Military parade on Palace Square Edit

          Every year, on 27 January, as part of the celebrations of the lifting of the siege, a military parade of the troops of the Western Military District and the St. Petersburg Garrison on Palace Square takes place. Close to 3,000 soldiers and cadets take part in the parade, which includes historical reenactors in Red Army uniforms, wartime tanks such as the T-34 and color guards carrying wartime flags such as the Banner of Victory and the standards of the different military fronts. Musical support is provided by the Massed Military Bands of the St. Petersburg Garrison under the direction of the Senior Director of Music of the Military Band of the Western Military District. [124] [125]

          The parade, which is usually led by the Chief of Staff of ZVO riding on a GAZ Tigr (a parade variant used since 9 May 2009), begins to the tune of March "Parad" by Semyon Tchernetsky. At this point, the ground column begins, starting with the corps of drums of the Kronstadt Sea Cadet Corps, followed by the following units: [ citation needed ]

          How many died soldiers of the red Army in attempts of breaking the siege of Leningrad

          After September 8, 1941 German and Finnish forces had blocked all land routes to Leningrad, the Soviet command has repeatedly attempted to break through the ring and to supply the besieged city.

          Even before the German closed the encirclement around Leningrad, the Soviet Stavka had set the goal of 54-th separate army to take the offensive South of lake Ladoga in the direction of the station mga and restore railway communication of Leningrad with the mainland. While the army concentrated, the Germans managed to seize the town. The task of the army now was to break the blockade of Leningrad. On 10 September began the offensive. In the first two days part of the 54th army has achieved some tactical successes, but on 12 September the Germans delivered a heavy counter-attacks and pushed her back almost to their original positions.
          In the following days, 54 army, impelled by the Bet and commander of the Leningrad front G. K. Zhukov, repeatedly renewed the attack. Several times changed the direction of the main attack (in Shlisselburg, Sinyavino then). But significant progress was not. 24 September, the Rate laid on the commander of the 54th army of Marshal G. I. Kulik personally responsible for the success of the operation. But on 26 September, the operation had to stop. Kulik was dismissed from office.
          the Commander of the Leningrad front, Zhukov believed that may not be sufficient forces to meet Kulik, as he feared to weaken the force of the front, directly defended Leningrad. However, he tried limited forces to break through the German defense. Part of the troops of the Neva operational group (NOG) failed with heavy losses to capture and hold a small bridgehead on the Bank of the Neva river in the Moscow district of Dubrovka, known later as “Nevsky Pyatachok”.
          In October 1941, was a new attempt to break the blockade of Leningrad. It was conducted in essentially the same compounds in the same directions. Despite the fact that 16 October, the Germans East of the Volkhov river went on the offensive at Tikhvin, October 20, Soviet troops began the Second Sinyavinskaya operation in 1941. Persistent attack, not led to notable successes, continued here: on the site of the 54th army – until November 9, on a plot of 55-th army of the Leningrad front until the end of November, in the area of LEGS – until the end of December. Particularly heavy attacks were made with the “Nevsky patch”, where for 43 days was held on 79 attacks.
          Total losses of Soviet troops in all these battles amounted to about 100 thousand people, including about 40 thousand killed. All the 18th the German army had lost during that time killed about 13 thousand, counting the Tikhvin operation and the fighting on the approaches to Leningrad (that is in the area of MGI and Sinyavino – hardly more than half that number).

          In December 1941, the troops of the Volkhov front eliminated the herniation of the Germans at Tikhvin, and drove the enemy back over the river Volkhov. In January 1942, Soviet troops launched a General offensive on many fronts. The task at Leningrad has been supplied by the environment and defeat the 18-th German army South of Leningrad. Troops of the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts were to strike in converging directions toward each other.
          on 7 January the army of the Volkhov front under the command of General of the army K. A. Meretskov launched an offensive, but only on 13 January, after repeated attempts, they managed to cross the Volkhov river North of Novgorod, near the Meat Bora. The breakthrough was introduced by the 2nd shock army, which in January and February drove in the enemy’s defenses, the wedge depth of 60 km. the Advanced part of the army came to Lyuban’. They had to pass to the junction with the troops of the Leningrad front the same distance.
          But the success of the Soviet troops was localized actions of the Germans. The neighbors of the 2nd shock army have achieved success in their fields. Also unable to move in a counter-offensive of the Leningrad front. The Germans held the road junctions. The corridor linking the 2nd shock army from other parts of the front, remained very narrow. At the end of March the Germans managed to cut. All attempts by Soviet troops to restore the land connection with the 2nd shock army did not bring success. In July 1942, she died surrounded by.
          in the Summer of 1942, the Soviet command made in the area of MHI and Sinjajevina, where the onset of the autumn of 1941, operation with limited purpose – to break through the corridor to link with Leningrad. The offensive of the Leningrad front commanded by General of the army L. A. Govorov began on August 19, but did not lead to success. However, it had a distracting character. August 27, went on the offensive the troops of the Volkhov front. They managed to pass half the distance separating them from Leningrad, but at the end of September, the Germans counterattacked in the base projection wedged Soviet troops and by October 10 the restored original position.
          Soviet troops in the course of the operation lost from 130 to 160 thousand soldiers and officers, the Germans – to 35 thousand. It is believed, however, that sinyavinskaya operation 1942 thwarted the German operation with the aim of mastering Leningrad.

          a Joint operation by the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts “spark” (12-30 January 1943), coordinated by G. K. Zhukov (received in the course of it the title of Marshal), led January 18, to break the narrow (8 km) of the corridor connecting Leningrad with the mainland. All attempts to expand were not successful. This operation is discussed in detail in the literature.
          From 22 July to 22 August 1943, Soviet troops launched an offensive Mginskaya, the purpose of which was to expand the corridor to communicate with the Leningrad and restore communication with him by rail. Lasted a month of the attack only led to a slight skleneny Soviet troops in the enemy’s defenses. Our total losses in this operation amounted to 80 thousand, German – 49 thousand.

          initiated on 14 January 1944 in Leningrad-Novgorod offensive in the Leningrad and Volkhov fronts led to the defeat of the 18-th German army and the final lifting of the siege of Leningrad. The enemy was driven back 200-250 km 27 January 1944 is the day of liberation of Leningrad lasted 900 days of the siege.
          Thus, during 1941-1944, Soviet troops launched a total of seven offensive operations on the scale of the front and associations fronts (of which only two were successful) with the aim to lift the siege of Leningrad. This indicates that the liberation of the city on the Neva has consistently been one of the main strategic tasks of the Soviet command, and everything was done that was in his power.

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          How a Soviet Attempt To End the Siege of Leningrad Ended in Disaster

          The offensive led to staggering losses for the Red Army.

          The Luban offensive was scheduled to start at the end of December, but harsh winter weather impeded the concentration of troops and supplies. Stavka was forced to postpone the operation until January 6. Even this extra week could not remedy the numerous problems, but this time Stalin was adamant and refused any further delays. He ordered four armies to start their attack on January 6, without waiting for the 2nd Shock Army to get ready.

          Despite its numerical superiority, the Volkhov Front was clearly unable to mount a successful offensive. It was short of ammunition, fuel, and food. Its attacking troops were not properly concentrated. Its rear and reserve units were not in position to efficiently support advancing front-line troops. To add to the list of problems, the Germans were fully aware of the coming attack and were well prepared to meet it.

          After four days of continuous bloody attacks, the Soviet troops gained no ground and suffered heavy losses. The attack was called off on January 10. The troops received a few days of respite to prepare for a new assault. The simultaneous attack, this time by all five Soviet armies, was resumed on January 13.

          After a few days of heavy fighting, the 2nd Shock Army under its new commander, Lt. Gen. Nikolay Klykov, finally succeeded on January 17 in crossing the Volkhov under enemy fire and penetrating the German defensive line, pushing aside the enemy’s 215th and 126th Infantry Divisions. After two more days of bitter fighting, the 2nd Shock Army broke through and captured the station and settlement of Miasnoy Bor on the Novgorod-Chudovo railroad. This promising news was immediately reported to Moscow. The response was not long in coming: “When the 2nd Shock Army consolidates this success, commit to the battle the 13th Cavalry Corps of General Gusev. I rely on you, comrade Meretskov. Stalin.” A cavalry corps consisting of three divisions, supported by the 111th Infantry Division, was thrown into the breach early in the morning of January 24. In five days, while brushing aside light covering detachments of the enemy, this force managed to advance 30 miles to the northwest. Its task was to reach the Moscow-Leningrad railroad between the Luban and Chudovo stations, thus cutting off the main supply line of the German XXVIII Corps.

          In the beginning of the offensive, the 2nd Shock Army concentrated its forces and delivered a blow on a relatively narrow 15-mile front. Unsupported by either the 52nd or 59th Army on its flanks, the 2nd Shock Army was eventually forced to widen the front of its advance. Originally ordered to head west-northwest with the goal of cutting off the Luga-Leningrad railroad and blocking the retreat of the German 18th Army, the 2nd Shock Army was forced to advance northeast toward Luban and meet the 54th Army of the Leningrad Front, thus encircling the XXVIII Corps in the Luban-Chudovo area. Moreover, the army’s failure to widen and secure the six-mile gap between the villages of Spasskaya Polist’ and Lubtsy, the umbilical cord through which all supplies and communications of the army were flowing, was to haunt the advancing army and eventually seal its fate.

          The attempt of the Leningrad Front’s 55th Army to break the German encirclement from inside was repulsed. Though starved and exhausted, the army managed to tie down the German forces, thus preventing them from reinforcing the troops facing the attack of the 2nd Shock Army in the south.

          There Were Fully Clothed Corpses All Around, but it was Impossible to Remove the Boots From Frozen Bodies.

          The 54th Army of the Leningrad Front was originally aimed west toward Tosno on the Leningrad-Moscow railroad. After one and a half months of unsuccessful and bloody attempts to break through, Stalin expressed dissatisfaction with its commander, Maj. Gen. Ivan Feduninsky. Stavka ordered the army reorganized. The operational direction was changed, and the army was ordered to strike southwest no later than March 1 to exploit the success of the 2nd Shock Army and join it at Luban no later than March 5. All these Stavka orders turned out to be too optimistic.

          The 54th Army managed to start the new assault on February 28, but it achieved meager results after several days of heavy fighting against well entrenched Germans. Regrouped and reinforced, the army resumed its offensive on March 5, again unsuccessfully. Only on March 15, after five days of bitter fighting, did it finally manage to penetrate the German defenses and advance 14 miles to Luban. There were only 10 miles left between Soviet front-line units and Luban, but covering these 10 miles was beyond the army’s capacity. The road to Luban turned out to be two years long.

          In March, the 2nd Shock Army continued its advance northwest toward the Leningrad-Novgorod railroad, which it managed to sever, and northeast toward Luban and the Leningrad-Moscow railroad. Originally planned as a blow by a tightly clenched fist, the operation turned into a two-fingered poke. In mid-March, the 80th Cavalry Division of the 13th Cavalry Corps broke through enemy defenses near the village of Krasnaya Gorka, less than 10 miles from its objective. It appeared that one more desperate effort would tip the balance, cutting off the XXVIII Corps. A couple of days later, German infantry and artillery hurled the Soviets back from Krasnaya Gorka. Still, some considered this only a local setback. It could possibly be reversed by a renewed effort from the 2nd Shock Army.

          Then, the weather turned brutally cold. The winter of 1941-1942 was unusually severe, with temperatures dropping to -35 degrees Fahrenheit on a daily basis. Tired and half frozen men would frequently fall asleep around campfires. Heavily padded jackets and pants would catch fire like powder, often causing serious or even life-threatening burns. The most vulnerable of the soldiers’ winter clothing was their felt boots. When burned through, they would become useless, forcing the soldiers to look for new ones. There were fully clothed corpses all around, but it was impossible to remove the boots from frozen bodies. There were reports of some soldiers obtaining axes and hacking off the booted legs of the dead. Others reportedly broke off a leg at the knee and then dragged the limb to the campfire, warming it sufficiently to remove the coveted item.

          The terrible cold thickened the ice on rivers and streams to five feet or more, enough to support not only wheeled transport but also armor. Despite such cold, some marshes were left unfrozen, and many trucks, artillery pieces, and men sank to their deaths, betrayed by treacherous snow cover, which was hiding the danger. From the beginning, the Soviet command knew about the terrain and was racing against time. At the end of March it became clear that spring had arrived ahead of Soviet military success.

          Another factor intervened on March 19. The six-mile-wide corridor at Miasnoy Bor was the only passage connecting the advancing army with its supply base. It was the most vulnerable place in the whole disposition of the 2nd Shock Army entrenched German units on both sides of the corridor were poised like two daggers aimed at a jugular vein. It had never been easy for reinforcements and supply columns to cross this narrow valley of death under the enemy’s artillery fire. However, columns were going in both directions, into the cauldron with ammunition, food, and medicine, and out of it with wounded and sick. On March 19, this flow stopped the Germans closed the corridor. The implications were felt immediately. The 2nd Shock Army had already been short of ammunition. During the advance the army was not able to build up adequate depots, and as soon as the flow of supplies stopped the shortage was immediately and painfully felt. The main casualty of this interruption was food, which on the list of priorities was allocated to the second or even third position, after ammunition and medical supplies. Hunger became part of daily life.

          It took the Russians two weeks of fierce fighting to restore the corridor, but the situation improved only marginally. The restored supply line was substantially narrower, and German artillery was able to completely shut down the flow of supplies during daytime. The April thaw finally arrived, and frozen roadways became seas of impassable mud, pockmarked with shell craters. The response to this new, though expected problem, was to build corduroy roads. Thankfully, there were abundant trees for these tasks. The work itself was backbreaking and time consuming. Units were mobilized to cut down the trees, drag them through the melting snow and mud, and put them into place.

          In March the first cases of scurvy and night blindness appeared, unmistakable signs of malnutrition. In the middle of the month, when these cases were growing at an alarming rate, the decision was made to employ a remedy used in gulag camps and in besieged Leningrad. This involved drinking a concoction of fir tree needles steeped in hot water. It was an effective, yet repulsive and bitter, liquid.

          Mission To Moscow

          Soviet forces, in comparison, were of a much poorer quality. Political commissars were attached to every unit and they had a mandate to execute on the spot any soldier who they deemed as failing in their duty, including commanders. Soviet tanks were old and slow and their small guns couldn’t penetrate the armour of the Germans’ much better Panzers. The Red Air Force was practically wiped out.

          So when the German Northern Army Group struck through the Baltics and drove towards Leningrad, 800 miles away, the Soviet defenders could do nothing to stop them. As the Wermacht drove through Latvia and Lithuania there was hardly any Soviet resistance: the Russians just ran away.

          It wasn’t until August when the Germans reached Russian territory that Soviet defences stiffened. It wasn’t enough to hold the Panzers back, however, especially with complete German supremacy of the air.

          Following the disasters at Minsk and Smolensk further south, the Red Army decided not to waste away its northern forces in one-sided battles against the Wermacht and instead pulled them back to Leningrad. There the soldiers and citizens, side by side, prepared the city for a battle bydigging trenches, barricading roads and buildings and setting up anti-aircraft guns on the roofs of tall buildings.

          In a pre-arranged move Finland declared war on Russia and, using German equipment, attacked from the north. They were looking to avenge the Winter War and “teach the Russkis a lesson”.

          A massive German army approached Leningrad from the south-west while the Finnish army approached from the north. By early November Leningrad was completely surrounded and cut-off from the rest of Russia.

          After the Battle of Kiev, where the Germans had had to fight house-to-house for three months, Hitler decided that Leningrad wasn’t worth such a costly battle. So long as this strategic location was isolated it couldn’t pose a threat to the drive on Moscow, so he decided to besiege the city and “starve them out”. German and Finnish artillery ringed the historic city and Army Group North settled down in their trenches to stop anything from coming in or out.

          Inside Leningrad the power and water was cut. The only supply route the city had was across Lake Ladoga. The Russians still held the far banks of this enormous inland sea, so every boat that could be found on the lake was requisitioned and food, medicine and ammunition were ferried across while civilians were ferried out of the city. As the boats made the journey day and night, they were under constant attack from German aircraft. Thousands died trying to keep Leningrad alive.

          There was never enough food, however, and rationing was instituted in the city of 4 million. At the start of the siege adults were rationed to 100 grams of food per week, but as winter set in and there was no end in sight, that was reduced to 60 grams and then to 30 grams. Children were given less than 10 grams of food per week.

          Coal, too, was rationed and by mid-November there was only enough coal to keep some key factories running. The average citizen had to shiver in their apartment without heat.

          German artillery shelled the city constantly, and bombers raided it every day. Walking down the street became dangerous but Leningraders soon developed a dark sense of humour about it. “How was your run to work this morning?" people would ask each other.

          As the worst winter in 40 years set in, people started dying. They starved to death, they froze to death, they were killed by bombs and shells, and disease spread throughout the city.

          Lake Ladoga frozeover and Red Army engineers, under constant attack by the Luftwaffe, built an ice-road. Army trucks took over from the boats but it was still never enough. Leningrad required a bare minimum of 10,000 tons of food a day to survive, but the Army was only able to bring in 4,000 tons. They could only evacuate 2,000 civilians a week, starting with the elderly, children and mothers. Men and women without children could not be evacuated and had to endure the siege.

          Many of the ice-truckers fell through bomb craters in the ice. Many of the trucks broke down in the harsh conditions. The ice-road was the only lifeline to Leningrad and the Russians were determined to keep it open. Red Army truckers were willing to sacrifice their lives if they could bring even one load of food to the people of the city.

          By January the Germans were being pushed back from the gates of Moscow, but in Leningrad there was no relief in sight. 1,000 people a day were dying in Leningrad by February 1942.

          In March the weather warmed and the snow thawed. The ice road was kept open as long as possible but eventually the Russians had to abandon it. Due to large ice flows boats could not cross it. In the city scenes of horror met the people as the snow melted and thousands of bodies were revealed. The people organized themselves into brigades and a massive cleanup was undertaken before disease spread. German guns shelled the city the entire time.

          Almost as a miracle the city council was able to get a power connection to the Russian side of the lines and, for the first time since the siege began, the electric trams started working. Although they served no purpose militarily, they buoyed the spirits of the people. The standard fare of 10 kopyecka per passenger (free for children) was even maintained!

          In April of 1942 the Red Army launched a limited offensive to the east of Leningrad. They were able to force open a corridor to the city in the German lines and rails were quickly laid by army engineers. By May, trains were bringing food and coal into the city. By this time the German drive onto the Caucasus’ was under way and most of the Luftwaffe planes were needed in the south, so the trains passed through relatively unharmed. 100,000 civilians were evacuated by August, when the Germans managed to pinch off the corridor and resume the siege.

          Another autumn and another winter set in for Leningrad, still surrounded and under siege. This time, however, the city was prepared. Throughout the spring and summer every open piece of land was turned into a vegetable garden. Every piece of wood that could be torn off a doorframe or park bench was stockpiled for fuel. The trains had brought warm clothing and medicine and food, and most of the young, old and weak had been evacuated. An additional 100,000 Red Army soldiers had also been brought into the city to help out over the winter. The Germans still shelled and bombed the city but the winter of 1942-1943 was much better in comparison to the previous year. The death rate in Leningrad fell to under 100 per day.

          Leningrad rode out the siege for the rest of the winter, and the Red Army garrison was even able to infiltrate behind German lines and wreak havoc with their supplies. In the spring of 1943, following the massive Soviet victory at Stalingrad, far to the south, the Red Army forced open the corridor to Leningrad again. This time the Germans weren’t able to close it. After the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad and the huge battle at Kursk they didn’t have the resources left to maintain all three army groups. Supplies poured into Leningrad, although the city was still in range of German artillery. By late 1943 the Soviets had regained control of the skies over northern Russia and German bombers could no longer roam freely over the city without being shot down.

          In the winter of 1943-1944 the Soviets turned their attention to the German Army Group North. 1 million Soviet soldiers with 20,000 tanks, 8,500 artillery pieces and 1,500 aircraft attacked the forces surrounding Leningrad. By this point the Red Army was a different beast than it had been two years earlier. The fearsome T-34 tank could match the German Panzers in a head to head fight, their soldiers were not the down-trodden conscripts of 1941 but were a motivated and avenging citizen’s army defending their homeland. Most of the corrupt commissars had been replaced with driven professionals, and a string of impressive Soviet victories had lifted the spirits of the troops.

          The German defences broke apart in the face of such a large offensive and entire divisions were overrun. Army Group North retreated west and the Finns quickly did an about face and pulled back to their own borders. The siege of Leningrad was over.

          The siege had lasted 900 days and 1.1 million people died, the vast majority of them civilians, but Leningraders were proud that they had endured and that the “Venice of the North”, although scarred and battered, was still alive and still fighting.

          Putin's Tribute To The Survivors Of The Siege Of Leningrad

          Sovfoto/UIG/Getty Images A Soviet soldier buys a ticket to the Symphony Concert in Leningrad.

          Born in Leningrad after the war ended, Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly touched by the war's ravages. His older brother died as a child during the devastation and is buried at Piskaryovskoye where some half a million Leningraders were laid to rest in the cemetery's 186 mass graves.

          Furthermore, Putin's mother almost died of starvation during the siege while his father fought and was wounded at the front lines of Leningrad.

          "According to the enemy's plans, Leningrad should have disappeared from the face of the earth," Putin said during a memorial concert in honor of the Leningrad victims. "This is what is called a crime against humanity."

          Today this is an annual parade to commemorate the siege of Leningrad, but it has drawn both criticism and praise from modern-day Russians. Some think that the military parade is "beautiful" while others think that the money for it would be better spent on funding the survivors.

          A little over 100,000 military veterans and survivors of the siege of Leningrad still live in the former capital today.

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