How Well Do You Know the Major Sieges of WWII?

By: John Miller
Image: Tommy Gildseth

About This Quiz

From D-Day to Operation Barbarossa, many of the biggest battles the Second World War swept through the countryside and cities in a matter of days or weeks. But in a few cases, cities were fortified with troops and supplies to thwart an enemy’s advance. The result? Sieges – truly terrible sieges, the likes of which the world may never see again. Do you think you can withstand our WWII siege quiz and conduct a breakout?

In the early stages of the war, Germany used its blitzkrieg (“lightning war”) tactics to quickly crush enemy resistance. With their powerful Luftwaffe (air force) and Wehrmacht (army), the Nazis often simply overran the opposition and then occupied their territories. As the war dragged on, though, bigger cities steeled themselves against Germany's aggression, and the ensuing sieges often lasted for months … or even years. Do you know the longest sieges of WWII?

During sieges, life for troops on both sides was difficult. For the civilians stuck in these cities, though, the battles were an unending nightmare. Trapped on all sides by bullets and bombs, families struggled to find food to eat. Many times, they failed, dying of starvation and disease. Do you know how awful the conditions were for innocents hemmed in by sieges?

Both sides committed unspeakable atrocities during sieges, sometimes in frustration, sometimes out of hatred. No one wanted to be a part of these campaigns, but during World War II, few had a choice. Let’s see if you can survive our WWII siege quiz, or whether you will perish in your urban grave.

Why was Hitler obsessed with capturing Stalingrad during the war?

Stalingrad bore the name of the country's leader, Joseph Stalin. Hitler knew that capturing the city would be a major blow to the country's morale … so he set out to bring Stalingrad to heel.

True or false, did the Battle of Stalingrad become one of the biggest fights of the war?

At Stalingrad, the Soviets decided to make a stand against the Nazis ... and the Germans were determined to take the city. Millions of soldiers collided, and the siege became what is often called the biggest battle of the war.

Which WWII siege is called one of the longest in history?

In September 1941, the Germans surrounded the Soviet city of Leningrad. The resulting siege lasted 872 days, making it one of the longest in recorded history.

Including suburbs, how many people lived in Leningrad before the siege began?

Leningrad was a huge city, particularly by 1940s standards. Well over 3 million people lived there, all agonizing about the approaching German army.

In late summer 1944, Hitler had orders for the city of Breslau. What were his commands?

Hitler sent his own civilians running for their lives, and he turned the city of Breslau into a fortress. But this "fortress" was manned by many very young and very old soldiers incapable of withstanding Allied forces.

How long did the Siege of Breslau last?

Soviet troops surrounded Breslau and began a siege that lasted for 82 days. About 80,000 German civilians died during the siege.

Which army besieged Budapest at the end of the war?

As the Soviets moved toward Berlin, the Germans rushed to defend Budapest, even though the Hungarians wanted nothing to do with more fighting. Sadly, things were about to get much worse for the locals.

What did Hitler plan to do with the people of Leningrad after he captured the city?

Hitler wanted no part of dealing with the civilians of Leningrad. He figured it would just be easier to kill of them once the siege was over or push them into captivity in the countryside.

After beginning the attack on Leningrad, how long did it take the Germans to surround the city?

It didn't take long for the Nazis to surround Leningrad. After only a week, the city was completely cut off from the outside world … and would continue to be isolated for nearly two and a half years.

The Siege of Budapest only lasted about 50 days, but it was incredibly deadly. How many civilians died during the siege?

Every day, hundreds of civilians were killed. In just 50 days, about 40,000 residents of Budapest died, either from bullets or lack of nutrition.

The Siege of Bastogne was part of which larger battle?

In late 1944, the Germans made one last, desperate offensive, creating a "bulge" in the front lines. The Battle of the Bulge resulted in the Siege of Bastogne, a town that was stubbornly held by American troops.

As the Soviets began their siege of Breslau, German civilians frantically tried to escape. How many died in the panic?

Panic gripped the innocents of Breslau during an ill-fated evacuation of the city. About 100,000 died just trying to get away, many freezing to death in the winter's extreme cold.

Before the siege, what was Leningrad's importance to the Soviets?

Leningrad was a sprawling city filled with factories. More than 10% of the USSR's industrial output was based in Leningrad.

In late June 1941, city officials in Leningrad informed locals that a German attack was imminent. One million of the city's residents _____.

The Soviets knew the Germans were coming, so they sounded the alarm. Soon, 1 million city residents were working to fortify the city in an effort to make it harder for the Germans to invade.

The Siege of Bastogne lasted for a about a week. How many tanks did the Germans lose during their ill-fated siege of the Americans?

The Germans desperately pressed the Americans, but to no avail. They suffered incredible numbers of casualties and lost 450 tanks in just a week.

At Stalingrad, German forces were stifled and short of supplies. What were Hitler's orders?

It would have been easy for the Germans to back up a few miles and gather themselves. Instead, Hitler told his men to fight to the death, a decision that would ultimately cost him an army.

How many total casualties did the Soviets suffer at Stalingrad?

The Soviets never gave up at Stalingrad, but by the end of the siege they were decimated. They suffered about 2 million total casualties, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history

During the Siege of Leningrad, the Soviets managed to find one route to and from the city. It was nicknamed _____.

The Soviets began ferrying people and supplies across Lake Lagoda, using boats in the summer and trucks in the winter. They called this route the Road of Life … and in darker days, the Road of Death.

True or false, during the Siege of Leningrad, did the Soviets eventually manage to open one small route to the city?

In early 1943, the Soviets finally managed to push through one narrow area near Leningrad, allowing them to move a few things in and out of the city. But the siege was by no means over, and in the meantime both troops and civilians were starving to death.

At the Siege of Bastogne, the American 101st was surrounded by Nazi troops for a week. Then what happened?

As the 101st languished under siege, General Patton and his Third Army rode in to the rescue. The siege was broken, and the men of the 101st sighed with relief … until they received their orders to chase the Germans down.

True or false, was Breslau the last German city to surrender during WWII?

The "fortress" of Breslau withstood Soviet assaults but finally fell after an 82-day siege. It was the final major German city to surrender, and it did so just two days before the end of the war.

The Siege of Tobruk lasted for nearly a year. Where is Tobruk, anyway?

Axis forces invaded North Africa and set siege to Tobruk, Libya in 1941. For nearly a year, Australian forces desperately clung to the city to deny the Nazis the use of the city's strategic port.

The Australian troops defending Tobruk earned a special nickname during the siege. What was that nickname?

German propaganda radio labeled the Australian defenders the "Rats of Tobruk." The men there took the insult as a badge of honor and began calling themselves "rats."

The Germans began their siege of Leningrad in late 1941. What was the weather like that winter?

As the siege settled into place, the temperatures plummeted, eventually turning into one of the worst winters in memory. Starving Soviets burned books and other belongings just to stay alive. And just when things couldn't much worse ... they did.

The residents of Leningrad ate all of the city's food in just a few months, but the siege dragged on for years. How did they survive the rest of the siege?

In Leningrad, the desperation of starvation turned into a nightmare, and cannibalism took hold. The police department formed special groups that patrolled specifically to stop humans from eating other humans.

During the Siege of Breslau, Nazi troops executed one of their own -- the city's deputy minister. Why?

Breslau's deputy minister, Wolfgang Spielhagen, was shot by Nazi troops. Why? Because he knew the city was going to fall to the Soviets, and he tried to flee with his family. He was branded a coward and executed by firing squad.

Why did the Axis really want to capture the Soviet city of Sevastopol?

Sevastopol had a major sea port, and the Nazis wanted to control it. The Soviets were equally determined to keep the port and its vital waterways out of German hands.

True or false, did the Soviets beat back the German siege at Sevastopol?

For more than eight months, the Soviets kept the Germans out of Sevastopol. But relentless Nazi assaults finally won the day, and the Soviets were defeated after suffering more than 300,000 casualties.

How many civilians were evacuated during the Siege of Leningrad?

In the fog of war, Soviet officials didn't really develop a plan to evacuate civilians from Leningrad. About 1 million innocents eventually fled the city … but many of them were killed by the Germans as they tried to escape.

How many civilians died during the Siege of Leningrad?

By the time the Germans fled the scene, the damage had been done. Leningrad was a wasteland where more than 1 million civilians had perished. It was perhaps the worst siege the world had ever seen.

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