Dmitri Shostakovich: Teaching WWII through Emotion

Dmitri Shostakovich

Russian composer, Dimitri Shostakovich, is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the Twentieth century. His avant-guard work juxtaposed neo-classical music and post-romanticism. During World War 2, Shostakovich worked as a volunteer fireman, however, his greatest contribution to fighting the war was his widely-acclaimed Symphony No. 7.

900 Day Seige of Leningrad

The 900 Day Seige of Leningrad occured between September 8, 1941 until January 27, 1944, lasting for a total 900 days. The Red Army was outflanked and on September 8th, 1941 the Germans surrounded Leningrad. Although there was a limited food supply (only 1-2 months!), no public transit, practically no heat, water supply or electricity – the civilians refused to surrender.

Before playing this for the class use facts about the 900 day siege on Leningrad. Bring in a piece of bread weighing 120 grams to show the class how little were the daily rations that people ate for over two years. Explain how the city had no power, heat, or running water during some unusually cold winters. Tell them about the constant bombings and how Dmitri Shostakovich worked as a fireman. Stress how strong the human spirit is by telling them how college students continued to go to school and took finals. Make it as real as possible to the students. Tell them how citizens of Leningrad smuggled this symphony out on microfilm in order for it to be played across the world.

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