Bibliotheca: Leningrad by Michael K. Jones

For those of you who enjoyed the historical-drama film Enemy at the Gates, (film about the siege of Stalingrad) this book is about the incredible siege of the Russian city of Leningrad under the brutal assault of Hitler’s armies.
Leningrad: State of Siege, written by Michael K. Jones, begins in August 1941, when the Nazi armies blocked the last roads leading to the besieged Soviet city of Leningrad (today renamed to original name of Saint Petersburg). What follows has to be one of the most horrific episodes in human history – a siege that lasted 872 days from September 1941 to January 1944, and a people who would not (some could not) give up and the alternative was death – either self administered or by the officer leadership that was crumbling as well. Considered by historians to be the greatest (at least biggest and longest) battle of World War II, the siege of Leningrad is unique and played a major role in the development of Operation Barbarossa – the sheer cost of human life in the war of the Eastern Front was phenomenal. 

Leningrad_Siege_03 In the book, military historian, Michael K. Jones, who is also the author of Stalingrad, tells the story of this great human epic from the point of view of those who survived. Michael obtains his background from the recent availability of eyewitness accounts and diaries, and reveals the horror of the ordeal – including stories that have been suppressed by the former Soviet Union government – describing the looting, criminal gangs, mass starvation, and even cannibalism. But he also reveals the resources of human effort and determination, courage, and human kindness of which the citizens of Leningrad needed to survive the odds of winning. At the height of the siege, a live performance of Shostakovichs Seventh Symphony encouraged citizens to continue their stand against the Nazi invasion. When German troops heard it in their trenches, one remarked: 

We began to understand we would never take Leningrad.

Stories go beyond individual participants as Michael Jones charts military strategies and tactics of the battle, and puts them in context with the rest of the war. The capture of the city was one of three strategic goals in Hitler’s initial plans for Operation Barbarossa. Leningrad was the birthplace of Bolshevism, so psychologically it was a symbolic defeat.
For those who enjoy books and films about history – this is a must read.