An Anniversary the West Would Rather Forget

M.K. Bhadrakumar raises the contemporary relevance of the Nazi effort to exterminate Russians by enforced starvation during the Siege of Leningrad.

The fire of anti-aircraft guns near St. Isaac’s cathedral during the Defense of Leningrad in 1941. (Boris Kudoyarov in The Eastern Front in Photographs by John Erickson, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

By  M.K. Bhadrakumar
Indian Punchline

An epochal anniversary from the annals of modern history on Saturday remains a living memory for the Russian people. The Siege of Leningrad, arguably the most gruesome episode of the Second World War, which lasted for 900 days, was finally broken by the Soviet Red Army on Jan. 27, 1944, 80 years ago. 

The siege endured by more than 3 million people, of whom nearly one half died, most of them in the first six months when the temperature fell to 30° below zero. 

It was an apocalyptic event. Civilians died from starvation, disease and cold. Yet it was a heroic victory. Leningraders never tried to surrender even though food rations were reduced to a few slices of bread mixed with sawdust, and the inhabitants ate glue, rats — and even each other — while the city went without water, electricity, fuel or transportation and was being shelled daily. 

It was on June 22, 1941, that the German armies crossed the Russian frontiers. Within six weeks, the Army Group North of the Wehrmacht, armed forces of the Third Reich, was within 50 kilometers of Leningrad in a fantastic blitzkrieg and had advanced  650 kms deep into Soviet territory.

A month later, the Germans had all but completed the city’s encirclement, only a perilous route across Lake Ladoga to the east connected Leningrad with the rest of Russia. But the Germans got no farther. And 900 days later their retreat began. 

The epic siege of Leningrad was the longest endured by any city since Biblical times, and, equally, citizens became heroes — artists, musicians, writers, soldiers and sailors who stubbornly resisted the iron from entering their souls.

The siege of Leningrad, 1942. (Av Boris Kudojarov/RIA Novosti arkiv.
Lisens: CC BY SA 3.0)

Petrified by the prospect of surrender to the Soviet Union, the Nazis preferred to lay down arms before the western allied forces, but Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, ordered that the honour of victory should go to the Red Army. 

Herein lies one of the greatest paradoxes of war and peace in modern times. Today, the anniversary of the siege of Leningrad has become,  most certainly, an occasion that the U.S. and many of its European allies would rather not remember. Yet, its contemporary relevance is not to be glossed over.

Death by Starvation

The Nazi leadership aimed to exterminate Leningrad’s entire population by enforced starvation. Death by starvation was a deliberate act on the part of the German Reich.

In the words of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler “intended to have cities like Moscow and St Petersburg wiped out.” This was “necessary,” he wrote in July 1941, “because if we want to divide Russia into its individual parts,” it should “no longer have a spiritual, political or economic centre.” 

Hitler himself declared in September 1941, “We have no interest in maintaining even a part of the metropolitan population in this existential war.” Any talk of the city surrendering had to be “rejected, as the problem of keeping and feeding the population cannot be solved by us.”

Hitler with Finland’s Marshal Carl Gustav Mannerheim and President Risto Ryti in Imatra, near the border with Russia, in 1942. (Kalle Sjöblom, digitized by Finnish Heritage Agency, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Simply put, the population of Leningrad was left to starve to death — much like the millions of Soviet prisoners of war held by the Wehrmacht. The historian Jörg Ganzenmüller later wrote that this form of mass murder was cost-effective for Berlin, for, it was “genocide by simply doing nothing.” 

“Genocide by doing nothing.” Those chilling words are as well applicable today to the West’s “sanctions from hell” with an ulterior agenda to “erase” Russia and carve out five new states from its vast landmass with fabulous resources that can be subjugated by the industrial world. 

The mother of all ironies is that Germany is even today at the forefront of the “genocide by doing nothing” strategy to weaken and bring down the Russian Federation to its knees.

The Biden administration depended on a troika of three German politicians to do the heavy lifting in that failed effort to erase Russia — the E.U,’s top bureaucrat in Brussels Ursula von der Layen, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. 

George Santayana, the Spanish-American philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is how the far-right thrives.

Israeli General Staff meeting on Oct. 8, 2023. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In Germany and elsewhere, younger generations are becoming indifferent to the history of fascism. The idea of a Fourth Reich has entered an unprecedented heyday and is currently experiencing a new phase of normalisation in Europe. The tumultuous political upheaval throughout the Western world provides the backdrop today.

The author of  The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present, historian and professor of history and Judaic studies Gavriel Rosenfeld has written that “The only way to mute the siren call of the Fourth Reich is to know its full history. Although it is increasingly difficult in our present-day world of fake ‘facts’ and deliberate disinformation to forge a consensus about historical truth, we have no alternative but to pursue it.” 

The justification of political violence is classically fascist. Last week, we saw a breathtaking spectacle at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague reminding us that we are now in fascism’s legal phase. 

If the Nazis used Judeo-Bolshevism as their constructed enemy, Israel is doing the same thing by raising the bogeyman of Hamas. Fascism feeds off a narrative of supposed national humiliation by internal enemies. 

Meanwhile, what gets forgotten is that there has been a growing fascist social and political movement in Israel for decades. Like other fascist movements, it is riddled with internal contradictions, but this movement now has a classically authoritarian leader in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has shaped and exacerbated it, and is determined that in his time in politics it will be normalised. 

The probability is high that in a matter of a few days, the ICJ will give some sort of interim order/injunction to Israel to end the violence against the hapless Palestinians in Gaza. But the fascist movement Netanyahu now leads preceded him, and will outlive him.

These are forces that feed off ideologies with deep roots in Jewish history. They may be defending a fictional glorious and virtuous national past, but it would be a grave error to think they cannot ultimately win.

The Russians are learning this home truth the hard way in Ukraine where “denazification” is turning out to be the weakest link in their special military operation, given its geopolitical moorings traceable to Germany’s dalliance with the Ukrainian Neo-Nazi groups in Kiev in the run-up to the 2014 coup, which the U.S. inherited gleefully and wouldn’t let go. 

M.K. Bhadrakumar is a former diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan and Turkey. Views are personal.

This article originally appeared on Indian Punchline.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

14 comments for “An Anniversary the West Would Rather Forget

  1. January 27, 2024 at 19:05

    Not only German Nazis are responsible for the Leningrad blockade, but the Spaniards, Italians, Dutch, Belgians, and Scandinavians took part in this atrocity as well.

  2. Lois Gagnon
    January 27, 2024 at 17:37

    We can thank Allen Dulles for keeping fascism alive in the West by secretly allowing Nazis into the US to wage the Cold War against the Soviets. Read “The Devil’s Chessboard” by David Talbot.

    None of this is any accident. The Western banking cartel aligns with fascism. Even though Russia is not socialist, it has always been a target for Western capitalism. Washington and its vassals know full well that the Russians are particularly sensitive about fascists threatening their border. So of course, arming and training Nazis in Ukraine to do regime change, inviting Ukraine into NATO and waging war on the majority Russian population of Donbas was cooked up to force Putin’s hand. Typical slimy dirty provocation against the country that defeated the Nazis.

    Anyone who is confused by current events both in Ukraine and Gaza has not been paying attention. Now would be a good time to start.

  3. Susan Siens
    January 27, 2024 at 15:55

    I appreciate a writer who not only brings us history, but isn’t afraid to use the word FASCISM. One wonders sometimes what it takes to make liberals see what is in front of their noses, as the liberal point of view seems to believe that “if I can sit in my comfy chair writing screeds against the government, then fascism doesn’t exist.” My suggestion is to do something that actually threatens the corporate state, then see if it seems so benign.

  4. vinnieoh
    January 26, 2024 at 17:41

    I don’t understand the meaning of, or possibly reference to – “resisted the iron from entering their souls.”

    Thought-provoking piece, as usual.

    • Susan Siens
      January 27, 2024 at 16:00

      I can only guess, vinnieoh, but my interpretation is that when the “iron enters your soul,” you have now become an unfeeling being, you know, like those who rule us. You no longer sympathize and identify with your fellow humans, you become an automaton who does what he is told and kills with utter indifference. I like the indigenous concept of Windigo, people who grab everything for themselves and become cannibals, and consequently were set outside human society. They were held up as warnings within tribal society.

  5. Drew Hunkins
    January 26, 2024 at 17:28

    Gee, I wonder what’s a contemporary parallel? Just can’t put my finger on it…

    A powerful invasion force starving and brutalizing an enclosed and occupied population, just can’t quite figure this one out…fascist proclivities, exclusivist ideology. It’ll come to me, it’ll come.

  6. January 26, 2024 at 16:11

    This is when Americans and Russians joined forces to fight and defeat Nazi Germany. Presently, Americans and Germans are fighting Russians using Ukrainians as cheap cannon fodder. So much for the Judeo-Christian values of the Western civilization

    • January 26, 2024 at 18:24

      @Edward Lozansky
      Would you mind ? elaborating on your allusion to the “Americans and Germans using Ukrainians as cheap cannon fodder” in the factual context of the article you portend to be responding to?
      Do you not believe that the Ukrainian people have an inalienable right to life, liberty, the pursuit of freedom and the willing protection from criminal violence by its nations alliances?

      • Muralidhar Rao
        January 28, 2024 at 21:52

        EA as a matter of fact every nation has an inalienable right to freedom and liberty. There were near agreements in Istanbul with Russian Federation willing to pull back its troops and Ukraine accepting NO NATO provisions as an agreement. Then Lo and Behold errand boy Boris appeared in Kiev and Ukraine was twisted not to go for the agreement. Now tell me do you think Cuba has an inherent right to base Russian missiles in its land? According to your opinion you seem to think so. Now the question is will UNCLE SAM allow it? My friend what is good for goose is good for gander.
        Also there were two MINSK agreements which the western leaders plainly claimed was a ploy to arm Ukraine. But the Minsk agreements were for your much bollyhooed right to life, liberty and so on. Don’t Ukranians in the East have no right to speak their language and follow their own traditions? In light of this your argument just like the arguments of the western overlords sounds hollow. Thanks

    • LottaHubrisGoingOn
      January 27, 2024 at 07:56

      “This is when Americans and Russians joined forces to fight and defeat Nazi Germany.”

      “Today, the anniversary of the siege of Leningrad has become, most certainly, an occasion that the U.S. and many of its European allies would rather not remember.”

      Thank you for corroborating M.K. Bhadrakumar’s sentence quoted above and the occurence of the 27th of January 1945 when soldiers of The Red Army liberated Auschwitz.

      “”This is when Americans and Russians joined forces to fight and defeat Nazi Germany.”

      This was when “The United States of America” were availing themselves of sales opportunities to both The Soviet Union and The Third Reich simultaneously.

    • David Otness
      January 28, 2024 at 02:43

      Amen, good sir, amen.
      Said ‘values’ are a thing requiring reconstituting in this case. For they have been so distorted, so propagandized into meaninglessness by these usurping neocons and their ready nihilism of others, especially when it comes to inducing the sacrificing of the Slavic people by turning them on themselves. Most certainly not Christian values at work here.
      Allow me to applaud your own enduring efforts of these many decades for Russian-Western comity nonetheless; sorely tested by these present events, but hope remains for a future fraternal fruition. Once we rid ourselves of these present interlopers.

  7. January 26, 2024 at 16:11

    This clarion call to commend an informed awareness of the actual history of the political philosophy underlying the current “neonazi” iteration of its previous fascist incarnations, rather than continuing to portend/pretend that the current revisionist fakery is anything but a collection of psuedo-intellectual propaganda constructed in the name of moral victory. If such a feckless use of “alternative facts” and distortions were not so pervasive, it may well be that public sentiment and support may actually understand the underlying murderous fascistic motives of the ongoing Palestinian invaders.

    • Dfnslblty
      January 27, 2024 at 09:29

      Alternative fact and distortions [ not named in your comment ] are not needed to callout the illegal and immoral actions of israel which has consistently invaded Palestine.

  8. January 26, 2024 at 14:48

    The Russian Federation’s current president lost a brother in the siege of Leningrad.


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