The Holocaust in Belarus

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The Holocaust in Belarus in general terms refers to the Nazi crimes committed during World War II on the territory of Belarus against Jews. The borders of Belarus however, changed dramatically following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, which has been the source of confusion especially in the Soviet era as far as the scope of the Holocaust in Belarus is concerned. [1] [2]

Nazi crime legal category in some jurisdictions

Nazi crime or Hitlerite crime is a legal concept used in some legal systems.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Jews Ancient nation and ethnoreligious group from the Levant

Jews or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and a nation, originating from the Israelites and Hebrews of historical Israel and Judah. Jewish ethnicity, nationhood, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the ethnic religion of the Jewish people, while its observance varies from strict observance to complete nonobservance.


When World War II began, with the September 1, 1939 attack on Poland by Nazi Germany, the sovereign Belarus of today did not exist. The Nazi-Soviet Pact signed in secrecy led to the parallel Soviet invasion of Poland from the east on September 17, 1939. The eastern half of prewar Poland was annexed by the USSR to the two republics of Soviet Belarus and Soviet Ukraine. [3] [4]

Invasion of Poland invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent

The invasion of Poland, known in Poland as the September campaign or the 1939 defensive war, and in Germany as the Poland campaign (Polenfeldzug), was an invasion of Poland by Germany that marked the beginning of World War II. The German invasion began on 1 September 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September. The campaign ended on 6 October with Germany and the Soviet Union dividing and annexing the whole of Poland under the terms of the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Soviet invasion of Poland

The Soviet invasion of Poland was a military operation by the Soviet Union without a formal declaration of war. On 17 September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east, sixteen days after Germany invaded Poland from the west. Subsequent military operations lasted for the following 20 days and ended on 6 October 1939 with the two-way division and annexation of the entire territory of the Second Polish Republic by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The Soviet invasion of Poland was indirectly indicated in the "secret additional protocol" of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed on 23 August 1939, which approximately divided Poland into "spheres of influence" of the two powers and questioned future existence of the Polish state.

The entire territory of modern-day Belarus was occupied by Nazi Germany by the end of August 1941. [5] American historian Lucy Dawidowicz, author of The War Against the Jews estimated that 66% of the Jews residing in Belarusian SSR died in the Holocaust, out of 375,000 Jews in Belarus prior to World War II according to Soviet data. By comparison, in the Baltics about 90% of Jews were killed in the same period. [6]

German occupation of Byelorussia during World War II Come And See was inspired By this conflict

The occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany started with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and ended in August 1944 with the Soviet Operation Bagration. The western parts of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland in 1941, but in 1943 the German authorities allowed local collaborators to set up a client state, the Belarusian Central Rada, that lasted until the Soviets liberated the region.

Lucy Dawidowicz

Lucy Schildkret Dawidowicz was an American historian and writer. She wrote books on modern Jewish history, in particular books on the Holocaust.

<i>The War Against the Jews</i> book by Lucy Dawidowicz

The War Against the Jews is a 1975 book by Lucy Dawidowicz. The book researches the Holocaust of the European Jewry during World War II.


Masza Bruskina and two other resistance members before hanging, Minsk, October 26, 1941. Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1972-026-43, Minsk, Widerstandskampfer vor Hinrichtung.jpg
Masza Bruskina and two other resistance members before hanging, Minsk, October 26, 1941.

Resulting from the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, the territory of Belarusian SSR was almost doubled in size through the annexation of Kresy. The act of aggression against the Second Polish Republic was followed by the mock elections conducted in the atmosphere of terror. [3] [7] Polish cities were renamed in Russian, and the new Oblasts created. [8] Millions of Polish citizens were turned by force into the new Soviet subjects. [9] Within two years, the Jewish population of Minsk, the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, had swelled to 90,000 due to an influx of Polish Jews escaping German occupation. [10]

Territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union after the German invasion of Poland in 1939 the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of the Second Polish Republic

Seventeen days after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, which marked the beginning of the Second World War, the Soviet Union invaded the eastern regions of Poland, which Poland re-established during the Polish–Soviet War, and annexed territories totaling 201,015 square kilometres (77,612 sq mi) with a population of 13,299,000. Inhabitants besides ethnic Poles included Czech, Lithuanian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Jewish, and other minority groups.


Kresy Wschodnie or simply Kresy was a term coined for the eastern part of the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period (1918–1939). Largely agricultural and extensively multi-ethnic, it amounted to nearly half of the territory of pre-war Poland. Historically situated in the eastern Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, following the 18th-century foreign partitions it was annexed by Russia and ceded back to Poland in 1921 after the Peace of Riga. As a result of the post-World War II border changes, none of the Kresy lands remain in Poland today.

Second Polish Republic 1918-1939 republic in Eastern Europe

The Second Polish Republic, commonly known as interwar Poland, refers to the country of Poland in the period between the First and Second World Wars (1918–1939). Officially known as the Republic of Poland, the state was re-established in 1918, in the aftermath of World War I. The Second Republic ceased to exist in 1939, when Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and the Slovak Republic, marking the beginning of the European theatre of World War II.

The Holocaust perpetrated by the Third Reich in the territory of Soviet Belarus began in the summer of 1941, during Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. [11] [12] Minsk was bombed and taken over by the Wehrmacht on 28 June 1941. [10] In Hitler's view, Operation Barbarossa was Germany's war against "Jewish Bolshevism". [13] On 3 July 1941 during the first "selection" in Minsk 2,000 Jewish members of the intelligentsia were marched off to a forest and massacred. [10] The atrocities committed beyond the German–Soviet frontier were summarized by Einsatzgruppen for both sides of the prewar border between BSSR and Poland. [7] The Nazis made Minsk the administrative centre of Reichskomissariat Ostland . As of 15 July 1941 all Jews were ordered to wear a yellow badge on their outer garments under penalty of death, and on 20 July 1941 the creation of the Minsk Ghetto was pronounced. [10] Within two years, it became the largest ghetto in German-occupied Soviet Union, [14] with over 100,000 Jews. [10]

Operation Barbarossa 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aim of conquering the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), and to also use some Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort and to annihilate the rest according to Generalplan Ost, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.

<i>Wehrmacht</i> unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945

The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.

Jewish Bolshevism, also Judeo–Bolshevism, is an anti-communist and antisemitic canard, which alleges that the Jews were the originators of the Russian Revolution in 1917, and that they held primary power among the Bolsheviks who led the revolution. Similarly, the conspiracy theory of Jewish Communism alleges that Jews have dominated the Communist movements in the world, and is related to The Zionist Occupation Government conspiracy theory (ZOG), which alleges that Jews control world politics.

A fair percentage of ethnic Belarusians supported Nazi Germany, [15] especially in the early years. Some nationalists out of Minsk including sworn Germanophile Ivan Yermachenka hoped for the formation of a Belarusian national state under protectorate of the Reich. By the end of 1942 the Yermachenka's group known as BNS had 30,000 members in a dozen different Soviet cities. [16] The Belarusian Auxiliary Police was established by the Nazi authorities in the summer of 1941. [17] High-ranking positions in the police were also kept by BNS. [16] "Known to the Germans as the Schutzmannschaft – wrote Martin Dean – the local police were recruited from volunteers at the start of the occupation. These men played an indispensable role in the killing process." [18] Eventually, the number of local auxiliary police in German-occupied Soviet Union reached 300,000 men. [19]

Ivan Yermachenka was a Belarusian politician, diplomat and writer.

A protectorate, in its inception adopted by modern international law, is a dependent territory that has been granted local autonomy and some independence while still retaining the suzerainty of a greater sovereign state. In exchange for this, the protectorate usually accepts specified obligations, which may vary greatly, depending on the real nature of their relationship. Therefore, a protectorate remains an autonomous part of a sovereign state. They are different from colonies as they have local rulers and people ruling over the territory and experience rare cases of immigration of settlers from the country it has suzerainty of. However, a state which remains under the protection of another state but still retains independence is known as a protected state and is different from protectorates.

<i>Schutzmannschaft</i> 1941-1945 auxiliary police organization

The Schutzmannschaft or Auxiliary Police was the collaborationist auxiliary police of native policemen serving in those areas of the Soviet Union and the Baltic states occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler established the Schutzmannschaft on July 25, 1941, and subordinated it to the Order Police. By the end of 1941, some 45,000 men served in Schutzmannschaft units, about half of them in the battalions. During 1942, Schutzmannschaften expanded to an estimated 300,000 men, with battalions accounting for about a third, or less than one half of the local force. Everywhere, local police far outnumbered the equivalent German personnel several times.

Jewish prisoners of the Minsk Ghetto clearing snow at the station, February 1942 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B07892, Minsk, Juden beim Schneeraumen auf Bahnhof.jpg
Jewish prisoners of the Minsk Ghetto clearing snow at the station, February 1942

The southern part of the modern-day Belarus was annexed to the newly formed Reichskommissariat Ukraine on 17 July 1941 including the easternmost Gomel Region of the Russian SFSR, and several others. [20] They became part of the Shitomir Generalbezirk centred around Zhytomyr. The Germans determined the identities of the Jews either through registration, or by issuing decrees. The Jews were separated from the general population and confined to makeshift ghettos. Because the Soviet leadership fled from Minsk without ordering evacuation, most Jewish inhabitants have been captured. [20] [21] There were 100,000 prisoners held in the Minsk Ghetto, in Bobruisk 25,000, in Vitebsk 20,000, in Mogilev 12,000, in Gomel over 10,000, in Slutsk 10,000, in Borisov 8,000, and in Polotsk 8,000. [22] In the Gomel Region alone, twenty ghettos were established in which no less than 21,000 people were imprisoned. [20]

Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ostland, which included Soviet Belarus WW2-Holocaust-ROstland big legend.PNG
Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ostland , which included Soviet Belarus

In November 1941 the Nazis rounded up 12,000 Jews in the Minsk Ghetto to make room for the 25,000 foreign Jews slated for expulsion from Germany, Austria and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. [10] On the morning of 7 November 1941 the first group of prisoners were formed into columns and ordered to march singing revolutionary songs. People were forced to smile for the cameras. Once beyond Minsk, 6,624 Jews were taken by lorries to the nearby village of Tuchinka (Tuchinki) and shot by members of Einsatzgruppe A. [23] The next group of over 5,000 Jews followed them to Tuchinka on 20 November 1941. [24]

Holocaust by bullet

Resulting from the Soviet 1939 annexation of Polish territory comprising the Soviet Western Belorussia, [25] the Jewish population of BSSR nearly tripled. [26] In June 1941, at the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, there were 670,000 Jews on the Polish side and 405,000 Jews on the Soviet side of present-day Belarus. [26] On 8 July 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Main Office, gave the order for all male Jews in the occupied territory – between the ages of 15 and 45 – to be shot on sight as Soviet partisans. By August, the victims targeted in the shootings included women, children, and the elderly. [27] The German Order Police battalions as well as the Einsatzgruppen carried out the first wave of killings. [28]

Map Stahlecker's Report 1941-1943.jpg
Original map from Franz Walter Stahlecker's Report, summarizing murders committed by Einsatzgruppen in Reichskommissariat Ostland until January 1942 [7]
Belorussian SSR in 1940 after annexation of eastern Poland.jpg
Notably, the Stahlecker's map (top) had shown the Soviet Byelorussia – not from before, but after the Soviet annexation of Polish Kresy in 1939 following the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland. The Byelorussian SSR in 1939 is marked in pink. Territory of prewar Poland inhabited by Polish Jews is marked in yellow.

The role of the Belarusian Auxiliary Police, established on 7 July 1941, was crucial in the totality of procedures, as only they – wrote Martin Dean – knew the identity of the Jews. [28] The pacification actions were conducted using local Schutzmannschaft during roundups (as in Homel, Mozyrz, Kalinkowicze, Korma). The local police took on a secondary role. The ghettoised Jews were controlled by them and brutalized before mass executions (as in Dobrusz, Czeczersk, Żytkowicze). [20] [29] After a while the already-trained auxiliary police not only led the Jews out of the ghettos to places of massacres but also took active part in the shootings. Such tactic was successful (without much exertion of force) in places where the killings of Jews were carried out in early September, and throughout October and November 1941. In winter 1942, a different tactic was introduced - the pacification raids, conducted in Żłobin, Petryków, Streszyn, Czeczersk. [20] The role of the Belarusian police in the killings became particularly noticeable during the second wave of the ghetto liquidations, [30] starting in February–March 1942. [17] [20]

In the Holocaust by bullet, no less than 800,000 Jews perished in the territory of modern-day Belarus. [26] Most of them were shot by Einsatzgruppen , Sicherheitsdienst and Order Police battalions aided by Schutzmannschaften . [26] Notably, when the bulk of the Jewish communities were annihilated in first major killing spree, the number of Belarusian collaborators was still considerably small, therefore the Eastern European destruction battalions consisted in most part of Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Latvian volunteers. [31] Historian Martin Gilbert wrote that the General-Commissar for Generalbezirk Weißruthenien , Wilhelm Kube, personally participated in the March 2, 1942 killings in the Minsk Ghetto. During the search of the ghetto area by the Nazi police, a group of children were seized and thrown into deep pit of sand covered with snow. "At that moment, several SS officers, among them Wilhelm Kube, arrived, whereupon Kube, immaculate in his uniform, threw handfuls of sweets to the shrieking children. All the children perished in the sand." [32]

Mass murders in Nawahrudak

On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. The city of Navahrudak (Nowogródek), capital of the Nowogródek Voivodship in the interwar Poland), was occupied on 4 July during the Battle of Białystok–Minsk when two armies of the Red Army were surrounded in the Navahrudak pocket. The city became part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland and Immediately Nazi occupiers staged their racial persecution and segregation policies, in particular against Jews, who were forced into a newly established Nazi ghetto.

According to the Polish census of 1931, the Nowogródek Voivodeship was home to about 616,000 ethnic Belorussians, or ~39% of the total population of the province, exceeding the number of ethnic Poles by eight percentage points. [33] Prior to the war, the town had a population of 20,000, about half of which were Polish Jews.

During winter 1941-42 the German occupiers killed all but 550 of the approximately 10,000 Jews in a series of actions by bullet,. Those not killed were forced into slave labour and worked to death. Thus partisan resistance immediately began; local Jews volunteers, who later were known as the Bielski partisans, fled into nearby forests engaging in combat activity and in the same time providing shelter to Jewish families, many of whom were able to survive the war.

Ethnic Poles and Belorussians were not spared by Nazi terrorism either, in particular during 1943 when more civilians were imprisoned and subject to harsh retaliatory actions and forced labour. On 31 July 1943 11 Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were imprisoned, and on the next day loaded into a van, driven out of town, in the woods 5 km (3.1 mi) beyond Navahrudak, killed by bullet, and buried in a mass grave. [34]

The Red Army liberated the city almost exactly three years after its occupation, on July 8, 1944. During the war more than 45,000 people were killed in town and in surrounding areas. Over 60% of buildings was destroyed.

Saving Jews

As of 1 January 2017, the Yad Vashem in Israel recognized 641 Belarusians as Righteous Among the Nations. [35] All of the awards were granted after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many of the distinguished individuals came from Minsk, and are already deceased. [36]

Anti-partisan operations

Kampfgruppe Schimana of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Galicia (1st Ukrainian), summer 1943. Bundesarchiv Bild 121-1847, Russland-Mitte, Kampfgruppe Schimana.jpg
Kampfgruppe Schimana of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Galicia (1st Ukrainian), summer 1943.

On 22 September 1943, Wilhelm Kube was assassinated in Minsk by his Belarusian mistress. [37] His death was caused by a bomb hidden in a hot water bottle, which was placed in his bed by Jelena Mazanik, coerced by the Soviet agents who knew where her son was. [37] The SS executed more than 1,000 male citizens of Minsk in retaliation, though SS leader Heinrich Himmler reportedly said the assassination was a "blessing" since Kube did not support some of the harsh measures mandated by the SS. [38] Mazanik escaped and joined the partisans.

SS and Police Leader Curt von Gottberg was appointed Generalkommissar for Belarus on October 27, 1943 after Kube was killed by a bomb in Minsk on October 23.[ clarification needed ] Gottberg developed a new "strategy" in the "fight against bands" on the occupied territory of the Soviet Union, mounting aggressive operations against suspected "partisan bases" (generally ordinary villages; Gottberg's strategy seems to have largely involved terrorising the civilian population). Whole regions were classified as "bandit territory" (German : Bandengebiet): residents were expelled or murdered and dwellings destroyed. Gottberg said in an order "In the evacuated areas all people are in future fair game". Another order of Gottberg's of December 7, 1942, stated: "Each bandit, Jew, gypsy, is to be regarded as an enemy". After his first operation, Nürnberg, Gottberg reported on December 5, 1942: "Enemy dead: 799 bandits, over 300 suspected gangsters and over 1800 Jews [...] Our losses: 2 dead and 10 wounded. One must have luck".[ citation needed ]

The cruelty during the so-called anti-partisan operations, especially in Belarus, has been pointed out in the past, indicating a high degree of identification with their deeds rather than an unwilling execution. The meanness of their actions is evidenced by the means of mass killings employed by the Germans in their fight against partisans. Most of the victims were women and children, as the male population of the villages had been evacuated or drafted into the Red Army, or joined the partisans. They were also used as a labor force. Similar aspects also apply to the murder of Jews, prisoners of war, political opponents, and the ill.

The 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS on July 21, 1943, during "Operation Hermann", chased the inhabitants of the village of Dory together with the priest into a church and burned them alive there. Only men able to work were let out of the church, women only if they left their children behind. At another place hundreds of selected children, two to ten years old, were locked in freight cars and left to their fate until half of them had died. While Max von Schenckendorff in 1942 called for measures against the soldiers, the generally organized sequence of the destruction of villages shows how little was left to chance.

Bronislav Kaminski and 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS RONA (1st Russian), spring 1944. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-280-1075-10A, Russland, Borislaw Kaminski.jpg
Bronislav Kaminski and 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS RONA (1st Russian), spring 1944.

Photo albums were prepared for higher SS commanders after anti-partisan actions. Thus, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski readily admitted to have possessed thousands of color photographs of the fight against partisans, photos which were confiscated after the war. After "Operation Hermann" in the summer of 1943, Curt von Gottberg requested appropriate pictures for an album on partisan fighting, to be handed to Himmler. Some months later, he was sent an album featuring photos from Operation Heinrich, which Bach-Zelewski had dedicated to Himmler by naming it after him. The rank and file behaved in a similar manner. Many German participants had a camera in their backpack during the operations. The respective pictures mostly show rather uncompromising scenes, but often also the burning of villages. [39]

Another aspect was the fact that inhabitants of the countryside were forced to remove mines from the roads and other pathways to partisan camps, a dangerous task that killed several thousand Belarusians. Such cases already occurred in Wehrmacht-controlled areas 1942, at the remote village of Uchwała, Krupki, where a total of 360 people perished. In the area of the 286th Security Division, the civilian population had to walk, plough and harrow the roads on the orders of Major General Richert from the autumn of 1942. At Artiszewo near Orsza, 28 people, 18 of which were children, perished during this operation. The LIX Army Corps had issued a corresponding order already on March 2, 1942.

Later, they also used herds of sheep. But in most cases people were used, on an ever-larger scale. During Operation Cottbus, between 2,000 and 3,000 Belarusians whom the Germans drove before them into the swamps were torn apart by mines, according to Bach-Zelewski. After preparation by artillery and flak, entering the swamp area was only possible by chasing inhabitants of the region across the heavily mined paths through the swamp. Oskar Dirlewanger's corresponding order of May 25, 1943 had read:

Roadblocks and artificial obstacles are almost always mined. So far we have suffered 1 dead and 4 wounded during removal. Thus the order is: Never remove obstacles yourselves, but always let natives do it. The blood thus saved justifies the loss of time.

For "Operation Hermann" conducted in July–August 1943 partly by Einsatzgruppe Dirlewanger the same directive applied right from the beginning. The commanders carried out the instructions. The same occurred during Operation Frühlingsfest (April 16 till May 10, 1944), which was carried out in equal parts by Wehrmacht and SS units. A corresponding suggestion is said to have come from the already mentioned Richert. But in the meantime, this method had become routine also outside the scope of major actions. It was also applied by Wehrmacht frontline troops in their direct rear area. All Belarusians had become hostages of the Germans. The 78th Infantry division ordered the whole civilian population in its area to de-mine the roads area every morning for six hours:

I thus order that all roads that must be driven on by German troops are to be walked first by all inhabitants of the location (including women and children) with cows, horses and vehicles up to the next command post, or that marching columns must be preceded at a distance of at least 150 meters by such inhabitants. The civilians must close up tightly and walk the whole width of the road.

Rear area command 532 proceeded in a similar manner, and an officer in the high command of Army Group Center wanted to recommend this procedure as exemplary to other units. As of February 18, 1944, General Commissar v. Gottberg issued a Directive for the Securing of Traffic Roads in White Ruthenia against Bandits and Mines. Therein the whole population of villages in White Ruthenia was obliged to de-mine streets and roads every day at the regional police commanders instructions. Whoever refused the de-mining and road supervision service was to be punished by death. [39]


Minsk Memorial "Yama" Belarus-Minsk-Memorial Pit-2.jpg
Minsk Memorial "Yama"

The pacifications, and the ghetto liquidation actions in the territories occupied by the Germans since June 1941, were conducted in a number of notable locations in present-day Belarus. The victims, including Polish Jews from the territories annexed into the Soviet Belarus from the Polish Kresy, were also transported by rail to the Bronna Góra extermination site whenever deemed necessary by the executioners. The towns (in alphabetical order) included Antopol, [40] Berazino, Novogrudok (see Martyrs of Nowogródek), Bobruisk, Chavusy, Davyd-Haradok, Dzyatlava (see Dzyatlava massacre), Grodno (see Grodno Ghetto), Iwye, Khatyn (see Khatyn massacre), Lakhva (see Łachwa Ghetto), Lida, Luniniec, Lyubavichi, Trostenets (see Maly Trostenets extermination camp), Minsk (see Minsk Ghetto), Motal, Obech, Pinsk (see Pińsk Ghetto), Polotsk, Ponary (see Ponary massacre), Shkloŭ, Slonim (see Słonim Ghetto), Slutsk (see Slutsk Affair), Vitebsk (see Vitebsk Ghetto), and Zhetel (see Zdzięcioł Ghetto).

According to State Memorial Complex "Khatyn" created by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus, the Nazi regime deported some 380,000 Belarusians to Germany for slave labour and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. At least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were destroyed and their inhabitants murdered (out of 9,200 settlements that were burned or otherwise destroyed in Belarus during World War II). According to SMC "Khatyn", 243 Belarusian villages were burned twice, 83 villages three times, and 22 villages were burned four or more times in the Vitebsk region. In the Mińsk region 92 villages were burned twice, 40 villages three times, nine villages four times, and six villages five or more times. [41] More than 600 villages like Khatyn (see: the Khatyn massacre) were annihilated with their entire population. More than 209 cities and towns (out of 270 total) were destroyed. [41] [42]

Postwar research

The communist Soviet-era sources estimated that Belarus lost a quarter of its prewar population in World War II, including most of its intellectual elite. It is a myth believed to have been concocted by the local 1st Secretary Pyotr Masherov in a speech of 8 May 1965 according to western historians who point out to evidence of manipulation by the Extraordinary State Commission inflating the figure considerably by including victims who were not citizens of the republic. [43] [44] [45] The official memorial narrative of Belarus allows only a "pro-Soviet version of the resistance to the German invaders." [46] [47] The Constitution of the Republic under Article 28 denies access to information about Belarusians who served with the Nazis. [48]

In the 1970s and 1980s historian and Soviet refusenik Daniel Romanovsky who later emigrated to Israel, interviewed over 100 witnesses, including Jews, Russians, and Belarusians from the vicinity, recording their accounts of the Holocaust by bullet. [49] [50] [51] [52] Research on the topic was difficult in the Soviet Union because of government restrictions. Nevertheless, based on his interviews Romanovsky concluded that the open-type ghettos in Belarusian towns were the result of prior concentration of the entire Jewish communities in prescribed areas. No walls were required. [49] The collaboration with the Germans by most non-Jews was in part a result of attitudes developed under the Soviet rule; namely, the practice of conforming to a totalitarian state. Sometimes called Homo Sovieticus. [53] [54] [55]

See also

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Slutsk affair

The Slutsk affair refers to the massacre of thousands of Jews and others that occurred in Slutsk, Belarus in the Soviet Union, in October 1941, near the city of Minsk while under German occupation during World War II. The perpetrators were a combination of Gestapo special forces and Lithuanian allies of the Third Reich. Nearly 4,000 Jews were murdered over a two-day period along with thousands of non-Jews.

Belarusian resistance during World War II

The Belarusian Resistance during World War II opposed Nazi Germany from 1941 until 1944. Belarus was one of the Soviet republics occupied during Operation Barbarossa.

Jewish partisans Anti-Nazi and anti-German fighting groups of Jews in World War II

Jewish partisans were fighters in irregular military groups participating in the Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.

Dzyatlava massacre

The Dzyatlava massacres were two consecutive mass shooting actions carried out three months apart during the Holocaust. The town of Zdzięcioł was located in the Nowogródek Voivodeship of the Second Republic prior to World War II.

Wilhelm Kube German politician

Wilhelm Kube was a German politician and Nazi official. He was an important figure in the German Christian movement during the early years of Nazi rule. During the war he became a senior official in the occupying government of the Soviet Union, achieving the rank of Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien (Belarus). He was assassinated in Minsk in 1943, triggering brutal reprisals against the citizens of Minsk.

Dzyatlava Ghetto

The Dzyatlava Ghetto, Zdzięcioł Ghetto, or Zhetel Ghetto was a Nazi ghetto in the town of Dziatłava, Western Belarus during World War II. After several months of Nazi ad-hoc persecution that began after the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the invastion of the Soviet Union, the new German authorities officially created a ghetto for all local Jews on 22 February 1942. Prior to 1939, the town (Zdzięcioł) was part of Nowogródek Voivodeship of the Second Polish Republic.

The anti-Jewish violence in Central and Eastern Europe following the retreat of Nazi German occupational forces and the arrival of the Soviet Red Army – during the latter stages of World War II – was linked in part to postwar anarchy and economic chaos exacerbated by the Stalinist policies imposed across the territories of expanded Soviet republics and new satellite countries. The anti-semitic attacks have become frequent in Soviet towns ravaged by war; at the marketplaces, in depleted stores, in schools, and even at state enterprises. Protest letters were sent to Moscow from numerous Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian towns by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee involved in documenting the Holocaust.

Byelorussian Auxiliary Police

The Byelorussian Auxiliary Police was a collaborationist paramilitary force established in July 1941. Staffed by local inhabitants from German-occupied Byelorussia, it had similar functions to those of the German Ordnungspolizei in other occupied territories. The activities of the formation were supervised by defense police departments, local commandants' offices, and garrison commandants. The units consisted of one police officer for every 100 rural inhabitants and one police officer for every 300 urban inhabitants. The OD was in charge of guard duty, and included both stationary and mobile posts plus groups of orderlies. It was subordinate to the defense police leadership.

Minsk Ghetto ghetto

The Minsk Ghetto was created soon after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It was one of the largest in Belorussian SSR, and the largest in the German-occupied territory of the Soviet Union. It housed close to 100,000 Jews, most of whom perished in The Holocaust.

Dzyatlava Place

Dziatlava is a town in Belarus in the Hrodna voblast, about 165 km southeast of Hrodna. The population was 7,700 in 2016.

Byelorussian collaboration with Nazi Germany

During World War II, some Belarusians collaborated with the invading Axis powers. Until the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the territory of Belarus was under control of the Soviet Union, as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, memories of the Soviet repressions in Belarus and collectivization, as well as of the polonization and discrimination of Belarusians in the Second Polish Republic were still fresh, and many people in Belarus wanted an independent Belarus. Many Belarusians chose to cooperate with the invaders in order to achieve that goal, assuming that Nazi Germany might allow them to have their own independent state after the war ended.

Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 military unit

Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 was a Schutzmannschaft auxiliary police battalion (Schuma) formed by the Nazis in the spring of 1942 in Kiev in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine. The battalion was split away from the Schuma Battalion 115, formed from the some members of paramilitary "Bukovinian Battalion". 100 members of the third company of the Battalion 115 formed the first company of Battalion 118; it was considered the elite of the battalion. Additional two new companies were composed of Soviet prisoner-of-war and local volunteers from Kiev region. Other nationalities of the Soviet Union were represented as well including even from the Caucasus. The German commander of the battalion was Sturmbannführer Erich Körner, who had his own staff of Germans, commanded by Emil Zass.

Słonim Ghetto

The Słonim Ghetto was a Nazi ghetto established in 1941 by the SS in Slonim, Western Belarus during World War II. The town was captured by the Wehrmacht in the early stages of Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. The killings of Jews by mobile extermination squads began almost immediately. Prior to 1939, the town (Słonim) was part of the Second Polish Republic.

Hryhoriy Vasiura war criminal

Hryhoriy Mykytovych Vasiura was a Soviet war criminal who played a role in the Khatyn massacre.


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  8. Northeastern territories of Poland were attached to Belastok Voblast, Hrodna Voblast, Navahrudak Voblast (soon renamed to Baranavichy Voblast), Pinsk Voblast and Vileyka (later Maladzyechna) Voblast of Byelorussian SSR
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  16. 1 2 Leonid Rein (2013). The Kings And The Pawns. pp. 144–145. ISBN   1782380485.
  17. 1 2 Alexey Litvin (Алексей Лiтвiн), Participation of the local police in the extermination of Jews (Участие местной полиции в уничтожении евреев, в акциях против партизан и местного населения.); (in) Местная вспомогательная полиция на территории Беларуси, июль 1941 — июль 1944 гг. (The auxiliary police in Belarus, July 1941 - July 1944).
  18. Martin Dean (2003). Collaboration in the Holocaust: Crimes of the Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941-44. Palgrave Macmillan. p. viii. ISBN   1403963711.
  19. Andrea Simon (2002). Bashert: A Granddaughter's Holocaust Quest. Atonement. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 225. ISBN   1578064813.
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  22. "Gosudarstvenny arkhiv Rossiiskoy Federatsii (GARF): F. 8114, Op. 1, D. 965, L. 99" Государственный архив Российской Федерации (ГАРФ): Ф. 8114. Оп. 1. Д. 965. Л. 99 [State Archive of the Russian Federation](PDF). 110, 119 / 448 in PDF via direct download, 3.55 MB from Iz istorii evreiskoi kultury. Геннадий Винница (Нагария), »Нацистская политика изоляции евреев и создание системы гетто на территории Восточной Белоруссии«
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  27. Longerich, Peter (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. p. 198. ISBN   978-0-19-280436-5.
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  33. Tadeusz Piotrowski (1998). Poland's Holocaust. McFarland. ISBN   978-078640371-4. The number of Belorussians in the Republic, according to Tomaszewski, were distributed as follows: Polesie, 654,000; Nowogrodek, 616,000; Wilno, 409,000; and Bialystok, 269,100.
  34. Lapomarda, Vincent A. (S.J.) (2000). "The Eleven Nuns of Navahrudak". College of the Holy Cross . Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  35. Yad Vashem (2017). "Names and Numbers of Righteous Among the Nations - per Country & Ethnic Origin, as of January 1, 2017". The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
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  37. 1 2 Andrew Wilson (2011). "The Traumatic Twentieth Century" (PDF). Belarus: the last European dictatorship. Yale University Press. pp. 109–110. Archived from the original (PDF file, direct download 16.4 MB) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  38. Reidlinger 1960, p. 157, as quoted in Turonek 1989, p. 118.
  39. 1 2 Gerlach, Christian (2000). Kalkulierte Morde. Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrußland 1941 bis 1944 (in German). Hamburger Edition. Studienausgabe. p. 955 and following. ISBN   978-3930908639.
  40. Stephen P. Morse (1942-10-15). "Antipolia History". Archived from the original on 2011-07-09 via Internet Archive.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  41. 1 2 "Genocide policy". SMC "Khatyn". 2005. Retrieved 1 August 2006.
  42. "Khatyn WWII Memorial in Belarus". 1943-03-22. Retrieved 2012-03-28.
  43. Prof. David Marples, University of Alberta (2014). 'Our Glorious Past': Lukashenka's Belarus and the Great Patriotic War. Columbia University Press. p. 2. ISBN   3838266749.
  44. Andrej Kotljarchuk (2013). "World War II Memory Politics: Jewish, Polish, and Roma Minorities of Belarus" (PDF). 7 (1). Journal of Belarusian Studies: 10, 7–37. On the basis of the claimed figures, a myth about 'every fourth inhabitant of the republic' who perished was created, which did not fit even the broadest mathematical calculations. The myth's author was Piotr Mašeraŭ, the leader of Soviet Belarus in the years 1965 to 1980.
  45. Oleg Litskevich (2009). "Liudskie poteri Belarusi v voine". "Ničoha nie zabudziem (1943)" : Extraordinary State Commission for Ascertaining and Investigating Crimes Perpetrated by the German Fascist Invaders and their Collaborators. Bielaruskaja Dumka (5 May): 92–97. The grossly inflated figure included 800,000 prisoners of war and 1.4 million civilians most of whom were not citizens of the republic.
  46. Alexandra Goujon (28 August 2008). "Memorial Narratives of WWII Partisans and Genocide in Belarus". France: University of Bourgogne: 4. Archived from the original on 5 August 2016 via DOC file, direct download.
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  48. Meredith M. Meehan (2010). "Auxiliary Police Units in the Occupied Soviet Union, 1941-43: A Case Study of the Holocaust in Gomel, Belarus" (PDF). United States Naval Academy: 44 via PDF file, direct download 2.13 MB.
  49. 1 2 Martin Dean (2005). Jonathan Petropoulos, John Roth (eds.). Gray Zones: Ambiguity and Compromise in the Holocaust and its Aftermath. Life and Death in the Ghettos. Berghahn Books. p. 209.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  50. Rudling (2013). The Invisible Genocide. [in:] Bringing the Dark Past to Light. pp. 74, 78. Between 1941 and 1945, Belarusians in the various German collaborationist formations numbered between 50,000 and 70,000 men.
  51. Interview
  52. The Kings And The Pawns: Collaboration in Byelorussia during World War II, Leonid Rein, Berghahn Books, Oct 15, 2013, pages 264-265, 285
  53. Leonid Rein (2013). The Kings And The Pawns. pp. 264–265, 285.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  54. Barbara Epstein (2008). The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943: Jewish Resistance and Soviet Internationalism. University of California Press. p. 295. Notes.