It was horrific. The siege of Leningrad (the modern-day St. Petersburg) lasted almost two and one-half years and cost the lives of an estimated 1,000,000 city residents. It began on September 8, 1941 when German troops completed their encirclement of the city. As his blitzkrieg rushed towards Moscow, Hitler made the strategic decision to bypass Leningrad and strangle the city into submission rather than commit valuable resources to attacking it directly.Source: Eyewitnesstohistory
Food supplies were cut. By November, individual rations were lowered to 1/3 of the daily amount needed by an adult. The city's population of dogs, cats, horses, rats and crows disappeared as they became the main course on many dinner tables. Reports of cannibalism began to appear. Thousands died - an estimated 11,000 in November increasing to 53,000 in December. The frozen earth meant their bodies could not be buried. Corpses accumulated in the city's streets, parks and other open areas.
Anna Andreievna - manager Astoria Hotel:
"The Astoria looks like a hotel now, but you should have seen it during the famine! It was turned into a hospital - just hell. They used to bring here all sorts of people, mostly intellectuals, who were dying of hunger. You just stepped over corpses in the street and on the stairs. You simply stopped taking any. It was no use worrying. Terrible things used to happen. Some people went quite insane with hunger. And the practice of hiding the dead somewhere in the house and using their ration cards was very common indeed. There were so many people dying all over the place authorities couldn't keep track of all the deaths..."
Members of the staff of the Architects Institute:
A lot of our people stopped shaving - the first sign man going to pieces. . . Most of these people pulled themselves together when they were given work. But on the whole men collapsed more easily than women, and at first the death-rate was highest among men. The famine had peculiar physical effects on people. Women were so run down that they stopped menstruating... So many people died we had to bury them without coffins. People had their feelings blunted and never seemed to weep at the burials...It was all done in complete silence, without any display of emotion. When things began to improve the first signs were that women began to put rouge and lipstick on pale, skinny faces.
Major Lozak a staff officer in the Soviet Army:
"In those days there was something in a man's face which told you that he would die within the next twenty-four hours...I shall always remember how I'd walk every day from my house near the Tauris Garden to my work in the centre of the city, a matter of two or three kilometres. I'd walk for a-while, and then sit down for a rest. Many a time I saw a man suddenly collapse on the snow. There was nothing I could do. One just walked on. And, on the way back, I would see a vague human form covered with snow on the spot where, in the morning, I had seen a man fall down. One didn't worry; what was the good? People didn't wash for weeks; there were no bath houses and no fuel. But at least people were urged to shave. And during that winter I don't think I ever saw a person smile. It was frightful. And yet there was a kind of inner discipline that made people carry on. A new code of manners was evolved by the hungry people. They carefully avoided talking about food. The Battle of Moscow gave us complete confidence that it would be all right in the end.
"The Siege of Leningrad, 1941 - 1944" EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2006).
Carting off the snow. March 1942
Putting the dead onto the trucks