In reality, they gave science a bad name. The calculations made by German scientists before the invasion of Leningrad was launched in September of 1941, estimated that as many as 30 million Russian civilians would succumb to starvation. Hitler’s plan was to annihilate the Russian population and establish new German colonies in Eastern Europe. Hitler had a very specific idea of “the perfect race” and he would stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
The people of Leningrad would experience Hitler’s cold German indifference to suffering firsthand. I suppose “German indifference” isn’t totally fair, because many of the German people were against the cruelty Hitler was so comfortable with. When the city was surrounded by September 1941, the Axis forces chose not to close in and engage in costly urban fighting, but to pound Leningrad from a safe distance and let hunger do the rest. They planned to block all transportation of vehicles in and out of the city, until all food ran out, and the people died from starvation.
Hitler’s plan left out one thing…a Surrender Option. The people could not surrender and live. They wanted then to die, and that was going to be their only option. Hitler’s direct order was to ignore the offer to surrender, saying “Requests for surrender resulting from the city’s encirclement will be denied, since the problem of relocating and feeding the population cannot and should not be solved by us.”
Hitler was ruthless. The city’s water and food supplies were cut off, and extreme famine soon set in. The siege of Leningrad began on September 8, 1941, and ended after a grueling two-year period on January 27, 1944. Yes, the siege produced starvation and disease, but Hitler took it a step further…to psychological torment. On Hitler’s orders, Leningrad suffered a daily barrage of artillery attacks from the German and Finnish forces that encircled it. The people were already starving, and lack of food or drink for long periods of time, can make something like an artillery attack, be that much more unsettling…even to the point of more than terror. They are dealing with gnawing hunger, and the terror of wondering if the artillery will hit them, and they should be, because Hitler would not care if he hit a civilian, accidently or on purpose. The people had no recourse, and no way out. After 872 days of starvation, disease, and the artillery attacks, the citizens of Leningrad…the ones who were left anyway, were freed, but to what. Their city had been overtaken, many had family members who had died, their businesses were gone, their homes were gone…they had lost it all. In total, roughly 1.5 million people were killed during the siege of Leningrad while some 1.4 million were evacuated. I’m sure Hitler was still disappointed with the outcome, because he wanted them all dead.