“Only Tanya is left.”
Tatiana Savicheva (January 25, 1930 – July 1, 1944) was a Russian child diarist who died during the Siege of Leningrad in the World War II. Her diary is one of the most tragic symbols of the Siege of 1941-1945.
Twelve-year old Tanya Savicheva started her diary just before Anne Frank. They were of almost the same age and wrote about the same things – about the horrors of fascism. And, again, both these girls died without seeing victory day – Tanya died in July of 1944 and Anne in March of 1945. “The Diary of Anne Frank” (which was a carefully kept journal over a period of two years) was published all over the world and she has become one of the most renowned and most discussed victims of the Holocaust. “The Diary of Tanya Savicheva” was not published at all – it contains only seven scary notes about the deaths of her family members in Leningrad at the time of the blockade.
Leningrad (modern-day St Petersburg) was in the midst of a devastating 900-day blockade that lasted from September 1941 until January 1944. The German army had laid siege to the city, bombarded it and cut off all supplies in its attempt to ‘wipe it off the map’, as Hitler had ordered.
The Savicheva family had all answered the call to help bolster the city’s defences. Tanya, only 11 years old, helped dig anti-tank trenches. On 12 September 1941, the largest food warehouse, the Badayev, was destroyed, bombed with German incendiaries. Three thousand tonnes of flour burned, thousands of tons of grain went up in smoke, meat frazzled, butter melted, sugar turned molten and seeped into the cellars. ‘The streets that night ran with melted chocolate,’ said one witness, ‘and the air was rich and sticky with the smell of burning sugar.’ The situation, already severe, became critical.
Road of Life
As winter approached, Lake Ladoga, to the east of the city, froze. From December 1941, supplies of foodstuffs, fuel and medicine came through by convoys of trucks, a hazardous journey over thin ice and through enemy bombardment. What was brought in on this ‘Road of Life’, although vital, was only ever a fraction of what was needed.
Within the city, as that first winter progressed, whatever could be eaten had been consumed – pets, livestock, birds, vermin. And whatever could be burnt had been used for firewood. Tanya had kept a thick diary but this, as with every other book in the household, had been used for fuel – except for a slim notebook.
The youngest of five children, Tanya Savicheva’s father had died when she was six. Tanya, her mother and her five siblings, in common with every citizen of Leningrad, suffered terribly from hunger and cold. One winter’s day, Tanya’s sister Nina, 12 years older, failed to return. The family assumed that like so many hundreds of others, she had succumbed and died. In fact, Nina had been evacuated out of the city across Lake Ladoga at a moment’s notice. She returned to the city only after the war.
One by one, the remaining members of Tanya’s family died, and it was recording of each death that constituted the notebook.
The first entry recorded the death of her sister, Zhenya, who died at midday on 28 December 1941. Others were to follow until the sixth and final death, that of Tanya’s mother, on 13 May 1942. A neighbour described the tragic figure of this young girl:
‘When Tanya lost everyone, she became deranged with grief. She would clutch at a small house plant, which had only a few withered leaves left, and was virtually dead. Somehow, it seemed to remind Tanya of her family. She would stand by her stove, swaying from side to side, holding it close to her, in a terrible trance. She was trying to bring it back to life.’
Tanya herself was eventually evacuated out of the city in August 1942, along with about 150 other children, to a village called Shatki. But whilst most of the others recovered and lived, Tanya, already too ill, died of tuberculosis on 1 July 1944.
Her notebook was presented as evidence of Nazi terror at the post-war Nuremberg Trials, and today is on display at the History Museum in St Petersburg.
The text of Tanya’s notebook reads as follows:
Zhenya died on Dec. 28th at 12:00 P.M. 1941
Grandma died on Jan. 25th 3:00 P.M. 1942
Leka died on March 5th at 5:00 A.M. 1942
Uncle Vasya died on Apr. 13th at 2:00 after midnight 1942
Uncle Lesha on May 10th at 4:00 P.M. 1942
Mother on May 13th at 7:30 A.M. 1942
Everyone died.Only Tanya is left.
December 18, 2013 | Categories: History, Nightmares of World War II, Pursuit of Happiness, The Drama Of It All, The Politics of Cultural Destruction, World War Two | Tags: Adolf Hitler, Adolh Hitler, Anne Frank, Bombings, Cannibalism, city, civilians, cultural destruction, Death, destruction, Diary, Eastern Front, endurance, Europe, experience of civilians, Female empowerment, Females, Feminism, Feminist, feminist movement, Fight, Frozen, German, German Army, Germany, Girl, Girls, Government, historian, historians, History, Hitler, Interview, interviews, knowledge, Leningrad, Leningrad Blockade, Leningrader, masculinity, Military, modern city, Modern day St. Petersburg, murder of civilians, National Socialism, Nazi, Nazi war crimes, nightmares of World War II, normalized violence, Nuremberg, Nuremberg Trials, patriarchy, Photo, Photography, Politics, Power, relentless chronicle of suffering, Russia, Russians, sacrifice, siege, Siege of Leningrad, Soviet, Soviet Russia, Soviet Union, soviet-era Leningrad, Soviets, St. Petersburg, Stalin, starvation, Tanya, Tanya Savicheva, the deadliest blockade of a city in human history, The Diary of Tanya Savicheva, The politics of cultural destruction, The siege of Leningrad, USA, USSR, violence against women, Volgograd, War, War Crimes, war rape, Warfare, wartime, Women, Women's experience, women’s lives, womens issues, Womens movement, Womens Rights, World War II, World War two, Writer, Writings, WW2 | Leave a comment
The Kroll Opera House in Berlin on April 28, 1939. Hitler makes keynote address answering Roosevelt’s appeal to avoid war.
Hitler’s speech that day was a response to a letter sent by Roosevelt to get Hitler’s assurances that it would not attack other countries. You can read it here.
Roosevelt asked for Hitler to give assurances that he would not invade a number of specific countries, mostly British possessions and European neighbors, most of which became involved in the war anyway. Hitler’s view of peace seemed to be between the major powers, and that Germany should be entitled to expand into Poland and Czechoslovakia if it wanted to. He was telling Britain, France, the US and Russia to stay out of Germany’s area so that he could continue his ambitions. This is not at all what those other countries, especially Poland wanted.
In my understanding this letter came at a time when the world had already geared up for war. Although it hadn’t been declared yet, all the major powers were building up their stockpiles and constructing more and more weapons, like bombers. Even the US, which wouldn’t join the war for another 2 years was already preparing for it.
There were a few warning signs that that just got ignored. One that I think should not be forgotten is that most Western countries did not raise their immigration quotas and allow more Jewish refugees to enter their countries until late in the war. Anti-semitism and fear over immigration in general led to refugees being rejected until public opinion turned around 1944. Even though their was ample evidence of violence and discrimination, the US and Britain still refused to increase their quotas. It saddens me to think about the lives that could have been spared by a bit of bureaucratic empathy.
It is possibly the greatest tragedy of human history that the Second World War happened with so much warning, yet nothing was done to truly stop it.
(Here’s some of the speech, with subtitles.)
December 17, 2013 | Categories: History, Nightmares of World War II, Photography, Pursuit of Happiness, The Politics of Cultural Destruction, U.S. Politics, World War Two | Tags: Adolf Hitler, AMERICA, Americans, Anti-semitism, Berlin, British, Czechoslovakia, Death, delusional, Eastern Europe, Europe, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Germans, Germany, Government, Government Shutdown, Great Britian, History, Hitler, Holocaust, human history, Jewish, Kroll Opera House, Military, National Socialism, National Socialists, Nazi, Photo, Photography, Poland, Policy, Politics, Roosevelt, Russia, Russians, Second World War, Society, Stalin, US Politics, USA, War, War Crimes, Warfare, World War two, WW2 | Leave a comment
A woman hitting a Neo-Nazi with her handbag, Sweden, 1985. The woman was reportedly a concentration camp survivor.
The photo was taken at a provocative demonstration by ten Neo-Nazis at the corner of Norrgatan-Kronobergsgatan in Växjö (very close to another demonstration by the communist party). The Nazis were attacked by the public and chased to the Växjö train station where they locked themselves in the bathroom – and had to be rescued by police.
his is a news segment on Swedish television of the event. (Skip to 0:37)
December 17, 2013 | Categories: History, Nightmares of World War II, Photography, Pursuit of Happiness, The Drama Of It All, The Politics of Cultural Destruction, World War Two | Tags: Adolf Hitler, Communist, communist party, concentration camp, concentration camp survivor, Death, demonstration, Europe, Fight, Germany, History, Hitler, Holocaust, Jew, Jewish, Military, National Socialism, Nazi, Nazis, Neo-Nazis, Norrgatan-Kronobergsgatan, Photo, Photography, Politics, skinhead, Society, Survivor, Sweden, Swedish, US Politics, Växjö, War, Warfare, World War One, World War two, WW2 | 1 Comment