“Nobody had the energy to bury the dead. Gravediggers were to weak
to hack holes in the frozen ground. When someone died, the corpse
was wrapped in a sheet and taken on a child’s sled to the gates
of the cemetery. Army engineers, summoned from the front,
dynamited pits for mass burials. And sometimes the authorities
discovered that the bodies had pieces of flesh carved from them.
This is the one aspect of the siege not described in Soviet histories
or memoirs. But there were numerous reports from Russian sources
indicating that hunger finally drove some Leningraders to cannibalism.
According to the reports, it was practiced on the dead at first.
Then there were cases of murder for food by starvation-crazed people.
Finally, there were reports of human flesh being sold. Soldiers, the
best fed people in the city, reportedly were killed on their way home
from the front. They started going about armed and in groups.
One rumor had it that children were beginning to disappear, and
parents kept their youngsters off the streets. Other stories spread
that gangs of well-fed cannibals roamed the city; the stories added
terror to all the other anxieties. Anyone who looked healthy was
under suspicion–as were the little meat cakes that could still
be bought for enormous prices in the black market.”
“Nobody knows how many people perished that winter in Leningrad.
The official total is 264,ooo. But this figure was laid down during the
Stalinist years, when Leningrad’s sufferings were minimized.
Most Western scholars believe that the number of deaths from
starvation during the entire siege exceeded one million, and that
several hundred thousand more were killed by bombs, shells or gunfire.
By contrast, the United States and Britain together suffered fewer
than 800,00 deaths during all of World War II.”
Excerpts from “Russia Besieged WWII.” Author Nicholas Bethell,
Publishers, Time-Life Books Inc.
The population of Leningrad at that time was around 3 million.