The Siege of Leningrad: A Matter of Life or Death

Through 8 September 1941 to 27 January 1944, Leningrad was completely surrounded by Nazi Germany. For 3 years, the citizens of Leningrad had to go through freezing temperatures up to -30°C during winter and did everything they can to stay alive. Birds, rats and pets became a rare sight as citizens began to eat them. People burned furniture to keep warm during the long winter. They resorted to boiling shoes and wallpaper for soup. Every day, 700-1000 citizens die, most commonly from hunger. One of the last things that helped keep the remaining citizens alive was rations. Although the rations that were given to the citizens are often mixed with inedible materials such as sawdust, the citizens of Leningrad relied on this to survive. They travel long distances in weak conditions and hungry stomachs, with thieves constantly aiming to steal their ration tickets. During those times, ration tickets were very limited and for people who had a job to hand out ration tickets like Dmitri Pavlov, it was a very hard decision. They had to consider the person’s condition, background, their use society, and their own family as well.

If I were to be Dmitri Pavlov for a day, I may divide the ration tickets differently. In a situation like the Siege of Leningrad, one of the goals was to keep as many citizens alive. In order to do that, I would have to be strict and logical to the number of ration tickets I will have to give to others, depending on different factors. One obvious factor was the person’s condition in terms of health. It will be no use to give ration tickets someone who is already on death’s doorstep as they cannot do anything in their condition. However, by giving ration tickets to someone who is in a much better condition still assures a better chance of survival and additionally, depending on their age, they can still work and provide for Leningrad. Another factor to consider when dividing rations is their occupation. Personally, I will still divide it evenly, even if they say that they work harder than the others to support Leningrad. There’s no proof that they are actually working hard and although this may result to lesser people working, if they really want to support Leningrad, then they should support regardless of their condition and other personal matter.

Especially for hospital workers, during those time, they are thought to steal human parts in order to eat them. Although it is inhumane, it is still reasonable during that time of an extreme situation as it was a matter of ‘eat or be eaten.’ To put it in a straightforward manner, although it is inhumane and somewhat disrespectful, the limbs (human parts) are not needed anymore. Rather than dumping and throwing it away, in that situation of extremity, it made sense for hospital workers to resort to eating them. Since they work in a hospital, they have more access to it, providing. As for policemen, I think that it is harder to decide; policemen can use their position into threatening others into giving them rations. If I were to act rashly, I may end up giving them the rations to stop them from abusing their positions. However, if the policemen are that greedy to still abuse their position even after receiving extra rations, then it’s a different case. However, because the chances of policemen abusing their position after being given extra rations are quite rare, I may end up giving policemen extra rations.

Finally, a factor that I will agree on is letting children receive extra rations; not because that they are innocent, but because they have no other ways to survive. Children are too young to support themselves and there may be chances that they are orphans. However, with mothers, I will not give them extra rations as they can still find a way to survive. This is different for nursing mothers who rely on food to support their infant. Consequently, for children and nursing mothers, I will give them extra rations.

During the Siege of Leningrad, many people, 700-1000, died each day. It was hard to know for sure Leningrad’s population every day due to the number of deaths that was happening. Moreover, people may have gone missing as during those times, many people, especially children, were kidnapped to be eaten. So considering the number of deaths and missing people each day, it was hard to know exactly the population of Leningrad at that time.

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2 responses

  1. I enjoyed reading this post even though the ideas are challenging. The background sets the scene well, and then you give various perspectives on who ‘deserves’ the rations the most. I was interested in your views about whether it is OK to eat human body parts. Logically it makes sense, but the reality of sitting down to consume another human (even if they died of unrelated causes) may be very different.

  2. Ello Yeon So,
    So Looking at the post. The Background is clearly stated and gives great context about the adverse and extreme condition the people of Leningrad were in. The Points are clearly stated and the reasoning behind them is sound. However, in a few points, the evidence for them were lacking and had a few holes in it (Eg: Policemen). Overall a great and insightful post. GG

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