Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After 50 Years, the Taste of Flesh Lingers Nazi Onslaught Spelled Agony in Leningrad

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

After 50 Years, the Taste of Flesh Lingers Nazi Onslaught Spelled Agony in Leningrad

Article excerpt

OF ALL the horrors of the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad, Tatyana Sukhanova remembers best the day her mother sold her wedding ring to buy meat. It came from the black market and tasted strangely sweet.

"Mother turned deadly pale and forbid me to eat it. I couldn't stop crying," said Sukhanova, now 64.

It wasn't until after the war that she learned it was human flesh.

"Mother went to the police, and they arrested the man who sold her the meat. I don't know who he was or what happened to him, but that sweet taste is still in my mouth."

This week the city, which took back its czarist name of St. Petersburg in 1991, marked the 50th anniversary of the end of the siege.

A $5 million celebration of concerts, fireworks and parades was held Thursday, attended by President Boris Yeltsin.

Yeltsin, calling the day "a holiday with tears," brushed away his own tears as soldiers laid a wreath at Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery.

German troops first encircled Leningrad in August 1941. After failing to take it with bombing raids and heavy shelling, the Nazis decided to starve the city into submission.

They thought it would take a couple of weeks; it lasted nearly three years.

Historians say at least half of Leningrad's prewar population of 3 million died, mainly of hunger and cold.

"They haven't yet released the real death toll," said Dmitry Likhachev, 88, a prominent historian and survivor of the siege. A colleague who worked for the city told him 1.2 million people starved, but that figure only included official residents of the city, which was packed with refugees from the Nazi invasion in nearby regions, Likhachev said.

Likhachev believes more than 3 million people died.

Stories of cannibalism and other atrocities were suppressed for decades, coming to light only after Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost let the matter be discussed.

Official Soviet history emphasized the glorious aspects of the blockade, such as composer Dmitry Shostakovich writing his 7th Symphony in the besieged city. The work was first performed on Aug. 9, 1942, in Leningrad and was broadcast live to infuriated Nazi troops on the front line. …

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