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Leningrad : state of siege /

Describes life in the Russian city of Leningrad during World War II. Full description

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Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Basic Books, 2008
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"All offers of surrender from Leningrad must be rejected," wrote Adolph Hitler on September 29, 1941, at the outset of Operation Barbarossa. "In this struggle for survival, we have no interest in keeping even a proportion of the city's population alive."

During the famed 900-day siege of Leningrad, the German High Command deliberately planned to eradicate the city's population through starvation. Viewing the Slavs as sub-human, Hitler embarked on a vicious program of ethnic cleansing. By the time the siege ended in January 1944, almost a million people had died. Those who survived would be marked permanently by what they endured as the city descended into chaos.

In Leningrad , military historian Michael Jones chronicles the human story of this epic siege. Drawing on newly available eyewitness accounts and diaries, he reveals the true horrors of the ordeal--including stories long-suppressed by the Soviets of looting, criminal gangs, and cannibalism. But he also shows the immense psychological resources on which the citizens of Leningrad drew to survive against desperate odds. At the height of the siege, for instance, an extraordinary live performance of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony profoundly strengthened the city's will to resist.

A riveting account of one of the most harrowing sieges of world history, Leningrad also portrays the astonishing power of the human will in the face of even the direst catastrophe.


List of Illustrationsp. ix
List of Mapsp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Timelinep. xviii
Bread Rationsp. xxi
Introductionp. 1
1'An Almost Scientific Method': The German Advancep. 11
2'The Biggest Bag of Shit in the Army': Attempts to Defendp. 46
3The Butcher's Hook: Ordinary Civilians' Experiencep. 81
4The Noose: The Blockade Is Not Brokenp. 109
5Elena's Sketchbook: The Emerging Horrorp. 142
6The Abortionist: The Onset of Mass Starvationp. 173
7One Black Beret: The Authorities Lose Controlp. 203
8The Road of Life: Keeping Hope Alivep. 220
9The Symphony: Finding the Will to Survivep. 238
10Operation Spark: The Military Breakthroughp. 262
11Something Necessary: The Siege is Liftedp. 277
Epiloguep. 293
Notesp. 297
Bibliographyp. 306
Indexp. 311

Review by Choice Review

By once more retelling the story of the siege of Leningrad (1941-43), the author strives for readability, not originality. In large part, Jones constructs the text from a string of anecdotes culled from diaries and memoirs. The author's stated goal is to tell the story from the viewpoint of the people of Leningrad, and by a heavy use of quotations, his arrow meets the target. Stalin's recalcitrance and indifference toward the starving population was part of the problem, but the major onus of responsibility, Jones documents, rests with Hitler, who used the dying of the besieged as a military tactic, thinking that starvation would lead to the city's surrender. This book is not likely to antiquate any of the longer or more academic accounts of the siege, but as an introduction to the history of Stalinist Russia or WW II, it is an excellent choice for beginning students or general readers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Public libraries, general collections, and undergraduate libraries. A. Ezergailis Ithaca College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

In the annals of World War II, the German siege of Leningrad was a ghastly episode, consigning an uncertain number of victims perhaps a million or more to the grave. Jones' chronicle of the siege supersedes the previously best-known account in English, Harrison Salisbury's 900 Days (1969), with sources unavailable to Salisbury, such as Leningraders' diaries and drawings that contemporaneously recorded the city's ordeal. Reading selections included in Jones' narrative, one sees why, from the Soviet regime's perspective, such embarrassingly truthful records were suppressed. Not only do they reflect depravities like cannibalism, they also evidence widespread anti-Soviet sentiment. Within the political-military vise in which the city's population was trapped, bombarded by the Nazis from without and vulnerable to arrest and execution by state security from within, diarists' struggles to survive on declining rations receive Jones' unblinking rendering of death by starvation. Completing the picture with defiant cultural events, such as the premier performance of the Seventh Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich, Jones' realism conveys the horrors and the occasional hopes endured by the besieged of Leningrad.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

British military historian Jones (Stalingrad) explores the physical and psychological depths of the 872-day siege of Leningrad during WWII--"one of the most horrific sieges in history"--in this sobering chronicle. Leningrad, a city of 2.5 million, was a major objective of Hitler because of its economic, military and symbolic significance (as the "birthplace of the Bolshevik Revolution"). Besieged and poorly served by the corrupt and incompetent city administration, Leningrad descended into starvation, "widespread looting and cannibalism" and deadly epidemics. Despite the appalling conditions, says Jones, "a remarkable humanity still survived," and Leningrad miraculously managed to hold out until the Soviet Army liberated the city in January 1944. It's likely that more than one million civilians perished during the siege. Following in the footsteps of Harrison Salisbury's classic 1969 account, The 900 Days, Jones draws extensively from the diaries of siege victims and interviews with survivors for a harrowing portrait of life reduced to a single pursuit: "the hunt for food." Readers interested in military history, the Soviet Union or the psychology of survival will appreciate this unforgettable saga. 35 b&w illus., 5 maps. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Michael Jones has a Ph.D. in history from Bristol University and has taught at Glasgow University and Winchester College. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he has previously written books on Agincourt and Stalingrad. He lives in Croyden, England.

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