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Operation Barbarossa   >   Battles   >   Siege of Leningrad

   
 

Siege of Leningrad during Operation Barbarossa


T-34 tanks defending Leningrad
The capture of Leningrad (today known as "Saint Petersburg") was one of the three main strategic goals of Operation Barbarossa.

After victory in the frontier battles, German forces of Army Group North soon closed in on the city. Additionally, Finland had attacked Russia as well (as part of the Continuation War, in order to regain lands lost to the Soviet Union in the previous Winter War of 1939-1939-1940), and were approaching Leningrad from the North. Thus, for a while, the capture of Leningrad, seemed to be just a matter of time.

However, Army Group North was weakened by the withdrawal of the 4th Panzer Group (Panzergruppe 4), which was given to Army Group Center for the attack on Moscow, and thus could not complete a quick conquest of the city. Meanwhile, the Finns reached their old frontier, and refused to press forward with further attacks against Leningrad.

The Soviets were also busy, and fortified the city, mobilizing more than one million civilians to build defensive lines to the North and South of Leningrad. Slowly and surely, the city was turned into a heavily defended fortress.

The Germans cut off the last rail line to the city on August 30th, and reached Lake Ladoga, and cutting off the last land connection to the city on September 8th, and the battle turned into a siege.

The Germans were however unable to round Lake Ladoga and link up with the Finns, and so the Soviets did manage to get a trickle of supplies into the city across the Lake, particularly when it froze over in the Winter. Nevertheless, the suffering in the city was terrible, which underwent prolonged air and artillery bombardment, and eventually famine.

It was only in January 1943 that the Soviet counterattack allowed them to open a narrow land corridor to the city, and it was not until January 1944 that the siege was finally lifted.

In total, Leningrad was under siege for 872 days. More than 1,400,000 people, mostly women and children, were evacuated from the city, and perhaps around 1,500,000 Soviet citizens died during the siege.


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