Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944

Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944

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by Anna Reid
     
 

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On 8 September 1941, eleven weeks after Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, his brutal surprise attack on the Soviet Union, Leningrad was surrounded. The siege was not lifted for 2 1/2 years and during the 872 days of blockade and bombardment some two million Soviet lives were lost. Had the city fallen, the history of the World War II - and of the twentieth

Overview

On 8 September 1941, eleven weeks after Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, his brutal surprise attack on the Soviet Union, Leningrad was surrounded. The siege was not lifted for 2 1/2 years and during the 872 days of blockade and bombardment some two million Soviet lives were lost. Had the city fallen, the history of the World War II - and of the twentieth century - would have been very different.

Anna Reid's Leningrad is a gripping, authoritative narrative history of this dramatic moment in the 20th century, interwoven with indelible personal accounts of daily siege life drawn from diarists and memoirists on both sides. They reveal the horrific experience of being on the Russian and German front lines; the disorganization among the Soviet leadership and messianic miscalculation of Hitler; and, above all, the terrible details of life in the blockaded city: the all-consuming daily search for food; a woman who has just buried her father noticing a frozen corpse with outstretched arm and cigarette between its teeth used as a signpost to a mass grave; another using a dried pea to make a rattle for her evacuated grandson's first birthday, only to hear, six months later, that he has died of meningitis.

Placing it in full historical context, Anna Reid answers many of the previously unanswered questions about the siege. How good a job did Leningrad's leadership do - would many lives have been saved if it had been better organised? How much was Stalin's wariness of western-leaning Leningrad (formerly the Tsars' capital, St Petersburg) a contributing factor? How close did Leningrad come to falling into German hands? And, above all, how did those who lived through it survive? Impressive in its originality and literary style, Leningrad will rival Anthony Beevor's classic Stalingrad in its impact.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Former Ukraine correspondent for the Economist and Daily Telegraph, Reid brings to this narrative a comprehensive background in Russian affairs, an eye for the telling anecdote, and an approach that integrates the everyday horrors of the three-year Nazi siege of Leningrad into wider contexts of operations and policy. Reid uses recently available material to, in another historian's words, "wip off the syrup" of Communist mythology. Stalin's government barely held the city and sustained it. It also bungled military operations, imprisoned and executed thousands for no reason, and took care of Party bigwigs while ordinary men and women died in misery. Leningrad's citizens showed courage and endurance. "Svyazi... string-pulling, exchange of favors, and bribery" made the difference between life and death. By June 1943 almost 2,000 cases of cannibalism had been processed by military tribunals. The Soviet system displayed stupidity, corruption, and callousness as the Nazis waged a war of annihilation, in which starving Leningrad was an end in itself. Leningrad's citizens endured, rebuilt, hoped for a communism with freedom and true civic life. What they received was a series of crackdowns and continued repression. Reid (The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia) makes a major contribution to lifting the curtain on that terrible siege. 16 pages of b&w photos; 6 maps. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Some 750,000 people of Leningrad died, primarily of starvation, during Hitler's two and a half year siege of the city, the deadliest siege in history. For the core of her book, Reid (The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia) accesses diaries of and interviews (many previously unavailable) with those who suffered. She focuses on the coldest and deadliest months of the winter of 1941–42 and also includes select German accounts for a view from the other side. Reid shows how human willpower triumphed in a desperate situation. Leningrad did not collapse, despite Hitler's desire to erase it and cruel Soviet mismanagement and oppression. The mental strain among the survivors was perhaps greater than the physical toll. VERDICT Especially well researched in Russian sources, this is an agonizing tale that belongs alongside Harrison Salisbury's classic The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad. (Maps, photos, and index not seen.)
Kirkus Reviews

An illuminating chronicle of the greatest siege of World War II.

Historian and journalist Reid (The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia, 2003, etc.) turns her considerable investigative powers to Germany's 872-day siege on Russia's important Baltic port, "the deadliest blockade of a city in human history." The author recounts a woefully unprepared defense that would cost upwards of 800,000 lives inside Leningrad. The history of the siege has suffered from many revisions, with misinformation beginning as soon as the German army moved against Russia, when Stalinist propaganda was substituted for news. Even after Germany's defeat, the narrative of Leningrad's siege was rewritten by a victorious Stalin, declared one of the greatest victories of the Russian people, the atrocities of starvation, cold and war effectively whitewashed. Since the fall of Stalinism, different political factions have claimed the story as their own. Reid corrects this by allowing the people of Leningrad to tell the story in their own words, pulling information from a wide range of sources: the bleak diaries left by those who died inside the city, journals kept by members of the advancing German army and interviews with the remaining survivors. The political intricacies of Russia can often be overwhelming, and the shifting alliances inside and outside the city are easily confused. However, the personal histories Reid brings to life make the insufferable conditions in the city all too clear and correct the great injustice of the siege: the silencing of its many voices. They are all here, unearthed and brought back to life to tell the story of citizens caught inside the siege ring, reduced to the most desperate means of survival as they waited for spring.

A pleasing combination of assured prose and firsthand accounts from inside the city's walls.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802715944
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Publication date:
08/30/2011
Pages:
512
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range:
3 Months to 5 Years

Meet the Author

Anna Reid is the author of The Shaman's Coat: A Native History of Siberia and Borderland: A Journey Through the History of the Ukraine. She holds a master degree in Russian history and reform economics from the University of London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies. She was Ukraine correspondent for The Economist and the Daily Telegraph from 1993-1995, and from 2003-2007 she ran the foreign affairs program at the think-tank Policy Exchange

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Leningrad 3.6 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 28 reviews.
djbeyers75 More than 1 year ago
History books so often articulate the dates, the events that form the narrative of an event - often with an almost scientific precision. Yet few capture the story of an event. Anna Reid's book, "Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944" does exactly that. Remaining true to historical account, Reid goes beyond simple retelling of the dates and particularities of the siege of Leningrad and shares the story of those who lived through one of the 20th centuries most horrific and lesser-known events.  It is absolutely apparent that Reid analyzed this event from every perspective available to her. The interweaving of journal accounts, survivor interviews with the contextualization of the siege within the larger Russian experience of the Nazi siege provides a seemingly complete narrative. Yet Reid recognizes, or so it seems from her final chapter, that her retelling of the stories of those who experienced the atrocities of the Leningrad siege are not entirely complete - rather, a glimpse into a dark chapter of history. Simply put, I found this to be the most engaging and captivating historical book that I have read in recent years. I highly recommend this book to not only those interested in great historical narrative, but all readers who enjoy good writing.
lawrenceofalaska More than 1 year ago
Excellent book-Well researched and very readable I have also read 900 days
Suomi54 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. Very well researched, very well documented. References are clearly cited and plentiful. Ms. Reid has done an outstanding job of bringing this tragedy and travesty to light. Current and future generations, as in the past, begin to lose the memory and horror of bygone atrocities. It is ever more important that we not forget lest we relive them time and time again. Ms. Reid has done a commendable job of documenting the Leningrad Siege without being heavy-handed or preachy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A slow start, with lengthy and dull descriptions of battles, but absolutely rivering once it gets going. Reads like a novel, but definitely not for the squeamish. Heart-breaking and absolutely fascinating. Also, the print is very large, about twice the size of other books I've read on the Nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read for russian historical buffs. Paints a real life picture of the trials and tribulations of a nation in turmoil.
bikerman More than 1 year ago
This is a great story of the people of Leningrad and how they starved off {literally} the German Siege. Very graphic in telling the story of Starvation, illiness inhumanity of man to man during the siege. Not for the squeamish. Well written and riveting.
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Zor-El More than 1 year ago
This was a good book. I found it interesting and it definitely provided the indepth view on this often forgotten aspect of WW2. It does drag in parts but overall is a solid read which I recommend.
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