Minsk

Historical Background

Women and children dragging their belongings during the move to the ghetto Women and children dragging their belongings during the move to the ghetto

The Wehrmacht occupied Minsk shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Following in the army’s footsteps, the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) moved in and began to kill the Jews by shooting. In late July 1941, the Germans established a ghetto where 100,000 Jews, including Jews from nearby towns, were incarcerated. Murder operations took place throughout the ghetto's existence. Jews were shot or gassed in special gas vans in Maly Trostinets, a small village about eight miles outside Minsk. When the deportation of the German Jews began, several transports were sent to Minsk. The German Jews were housed in a second, separate ghetto. The inhabitants of both ghettos were forced to work on labor projects in factories inside and outside the two ghettos. In the fall of 1943, the Germans liquidated the Minsk ghetto. Some Jews were deported to the Sobibor extermination camp. The remaining 4,000 Jews were killed at Maly Trostinets. When Minsk was liberated in July 1944, only a few Jews had survived.