This Day In History: The Soviets Breach the German Lines Around Leningrad (1943)

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On this day, in 1943 there was a major Soviet advance in the area around Leningrad.  The offensive managed to punch a hole in the German lines around the city. The Soviets were, as a result, able to secure a corridor for supplies to reach the population of the city.  The supplies that were able to get through possibly saved countless lives and possibly allowed the Soviet city to continue to continue to defy the Nazis.

The Soviet city of Leningrad, named after Lenin and the birthplace of the Revolution had been besieged for almost 18 months. The Germans had made the city one of its prime objectives in the early days of Operation Barbarossa, they had advanced to the outskirts of the city was ease. However, they met great resistance when they attempt to take the city. The Germans had expected to take the city with ease just as they had done with the cities of Warsaw and Kiev. Unable to take the city with a headlong assault they decided to embark on a siege. Hitler decided to besiege the city and to starve the city into submission. He wanted to burn the city to the ground after his army had captured it. Hitler hated Leningrad as he saw it was the birthplace of Communism.  Soviet troops created 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.

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Monument commemorating the victims of the Nazi siege

The siege began officially on September 8, 1941.  The citizens of Leningrad began to build rudimentary fortifications and they dug many anti-tank trenches. Soon they had established a formidable defense network in and around their city.  However, the city was totally cut-off from the rest of the Soviet Union and they could not receive any supplies. This led to at first hunger and later to famine in the city. In 1942, 650,000 Leningrad citizens died from starvation and disease. Many people also died from exposure and more were killed during German shelling. There was some food supplied by barges on Lake Lagoda and ice-born sleds were used to carry food and other supplies to the city, during the winter when the Lake froze over.  The Soviet authorities managed to evacuate many of the weak, sick and elderly and this relieved the pressure on the city. The citizens were very resilient and they began to grow food in their gardens and on any available piece of land.  The siege of the city was not fully broken until January 1944 and ended the siege that lasted 872 days in total.

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