The Cannibals Of Leningrad

by Daniel Russ on October 17, 2017

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A steel ring was tightening around Leningrad beginning in September 1941 and it continued horribly, painfully until January 1944. Fedor Von Bock , the overall commander of Army Group North directed Field Marshall Wilhelm Von Leeb to lead Army Group North first to encircle the town tucked in at the Eastern end of the Gulf of Finland. He placed 725,000 Wehrmacht around the industrial and historic town of just over a million people.

Of course when the siege ended the Germans suffered 580,00 casualties. Over 800,000 Leningradians were casualties in the siege. Some say millions more. That all said, once the means of entering and egress were cut off by the Germans, they simply planned to starve out the residents.

The Soviet Secret Police was still at the tip of the sword facing the Nazis and as such they were eager to go after criminals even though everyone was suffering under the Nazis. Germans there noticed that dogs were not just starving, they were disappearing. Soon enough the remains of cooked dogs showed that families were often forced to consume their own pets to survive. Popular horror stories include a woman who killed her own toddler to feed three older children.

Over 2000 Russians were arrested for eating human flesh. One class were people who ate the flesh of recently killed people. Another more serious crime was killing someone to eat them.

The NKVD had those who murdered to eat shot. The others were sent to prison.

You can imagine that more people were killed just to steal their ration cards than consumed. One diarist name Perwrites:

“What comes over most of all is the way that starvation is this particularly tormenting form of dying, that not only forces the body to feed on itself and destroy itself, but wreaks havoc on the mind and destabilizes all kinds of assumptions, relationships and fundamental beliefs,” Peri said.

“There are many scenes with a diarist confronting themselves in the mirror and being unable to recognise themselves … It’s the type of death that really creates that type of internal destabilisation, as opposed to diaries that I’ve read from battle sites – the battles of Moscow and Stalingrad, where there’s a very clear enemy and that enemy is an external one. With starvation, the enemy becomes internalised.”

More diarists:

PETERSBURG, Russia — First they burned the kitchen shelves, then the kitchen table. They burned the wardrobe, and it kept them warm for 22 days. Finally Alexandra Dyen and her son, Vladimir, had nothing left but the family library.

“I burned the German classics, and after that it was Shakespeare,” Vladimir remembered. “I also burned Pushkin. I don’t remember whose edition it was, I think the Marks edition in blue and gold. And into the fire went that well-known multivolume edition of Tolstoy’s works–the books with the gray-green covers and metal medallions in the corner.”

Paintings, drawings and diaries, some released only this month, show that cannibalism was so much a fact of everyday life that parents feared their children would be eaten if allowed out after dark. New documents show that the city police created an entire division to fight cannibals.

“The official daily ration was 125 grams of bread, about the weight of a bar of soap. Leningraders supplemented it with anything they could: as historians Ales Adamovich and Daniil Granin wrote in their account of the siege–“with everything from the birdseed to the canary itself.”

They scraped wallpaper down and ate the paste, which was supposedly made from potatoes. They extracted the same paste from bookbindings, or drank it straight from the glue jar. They boiled leather belts and briefcases to make an edible jelly, and plucked and pickled grasses and weeds.

They ate cats and dogs, petroleum jelly and lipstick, spices and medicines, fur coats and leather caps. Some made face-powder pancakes; others munched grimy crystallized sugar, dug out from under the sugar warehouses leveled by German firebombs.”


Women Fossick Through The Remains of a Dead Horse



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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Royvia September 13, 2019 at 8:17 am

Great post.

Fredro September 20, 2019 at 4:04 am

Nice post!

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