This was a German plan devised by Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb’s Heeresgruppe ‘Nord’ for the reduction of Leningrad (25 September/25 December 1941).
The plan was thus a precursor of ‘Feuerzauber’ (iii) and thus ‘Nordlicht’ (ii), and reflected the great importance attached by the Germans to the total elimination rather than just the capture of Leningrad, which had been the cradle of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and was now one of the country’s primary industrial and population centres.
The planners appreciated that Heeresgruppe ‘Nord’ was too weak to undertake the task by purely military means, and therefore planned to keep Leningrad under artillery bombardment from 1 September 1941, while the rest of the city was invested for a siege which was expected to starve it out within a few weeks.
By 25 September the city had been isolated from the rest of the USSR when the Germans reached the Gulf of Finland to the west of the city and Petrokrepost (Schlüsselburg in German) on the southern shore of Lake Ladoga to the east of the city, while Kenraaliluutnantti Karl Lennart Oesch’s IV Corps of Kenraaliluutnantti Erik Heinrichs’s Finnish Karelian Army held the Karelian isthmus to the north of Leningrad, which was defended by the 23rd Army (Karelian sector) and the 42nd and 55th Armies (southern sector) of General Leytenant Markian M. Popov’s Leningrad Front.
The city had food for about one month, and widespread starvation was apparent by October, some 11,000 citizens dying of it in November despite the use of barges to ferry in supplies from Lednevo to Osinovets across Lake Ladoga. By 9 November the Germans had taken Tikhvin to the east of Leningrad and thus cut the road and railway links to Lednevo, forcing the Soviets to use small ships to deliver food from Novaya Ladoga until thin ice closed the lake from the middle of the month. Matters for the Soviets improved on 6 December with the opening of the ‘Lifeline Road’ from a railhead at Zaborie to Novaya Ladoga via Karpino, and on 9 December, when Soviet forces retook Tikhvin and pushed the Germans back to the line of the Volkhov river, allowing the original railway line to Lednevo to be used once more, increasing the flow of supplies that could be carried across the now-thick ice in lorries from Lednevo to Osinovets for further movement to Leningrad by railway.
It was a desperate time for the people of Leningrad (3,700 people died of starvation on 25 December 1941, the day on which bread rations were increased for the first time in the siege), but the worst had been weathered and Germans could not starve out the city.