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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the ghetto in Minsk. For a ghetto in Mińsk Mazowiecki during the German Nazi occupation of Poland, see Mińsk Ghetto.

Minsk Ghetto was created soon after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It was one of the largest ghettos in Eastern Europe, and the largest in the German-occupied territory of the Soviet Union.[1] It housed close to 100,000 Jews, most of whom perished in The Holocaust.



The Soviet census of 1926 showed 53,700 Jews living in Minsk (constituting close to 41% of the city's inhabitants).[2]

Minsk Ghetto was created soon after the German invasion of the Soviet Union and capture of the city of Minsk, capital of the Belorussian SSR, on 28 June 1941.[2] On the fifth day after the occupation, 2,000 Jewish intelligentsia were massacred by the Germans; from then on, murders of Jews became a common occurrence.[2] About 20,000 Jews were murdered within the first few months of German occupation, mostly by the Einsatsgruppen squads.[1]

On 17 July 1941 the German occupational authority, the Reichskommissariat Ostland, was created, and soon afterwards, on 20 July, the Minsk Ghetto was established.[3] A Jewish Council (Judenrat) was established as well.[2] The total population of the ghetto was about 80,000 or more (over 100,000 according to some sources), out of which, about 50,000 were Minsk pre-war inhabitants, and the remaining number (30,000 or more), refugees and Jews forcibly resettled by the Germans from nearby settlements.[1][2][3]

In November 1941 a second ghetto was established in Minsk, for Jews deported from the West, mostly from Germany and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; at its height it had about 35,000 inhabitants.[1][1][2][3] Little contact was permitted between the inhabitants of the two ghettos.[1][1][2][3]

As in many other ghettos, Jews were forced to work in factories or other German-run operations.[3] Ghetto inhabitants lived in extremely poor conditions, with insufficient stocks of food and medical supplies.[2]

By August 1942, less than 9,000 Jews were left in the ghetto according to German official documents.[2] The ghetto was liquidated in the fall of 1943, on 21 October 1943.[2] Many Minsk Jews perished in the Sobibor extermination camp.[3] Several thousands were massacred at Maly Trostenets extermination camp (before the war, Maly Trostenets was a village a few miles to the east of Minsk).[3] By the time the Red Army retook the city on 3 July 1944, there were only a few Jewish survivors.[2]


Minsk Ghetto is notable for its large scale resistance organization, which cooperated closely with the Soviet partisans outside the ghetto. About 10,000 Jews were able to escape the ghetto and join the partisan groups in the nearby forests.[1][2][3] Barbara Epstein estimates that perhaps a half of them survived, and notes that all together, perhaps as many as 30,000 people tried to escape the Minsk Ghetto to join the partisans (but 20,000 of them could have died along the way).


The story of the Minsk ghetto was not well researched till the late 20th century. The officials of the Communist Party of Byelorussia did not organize any evacuation of the towns inhabitants before fleeing the German advance, and later collaborated in creating a false story that such an evacuation did in fact happen, and tried to discredit the Minsk resistance as having ties with the Nazis.[4] In the United States, research into communist resistance was not a priority during the Cold War, and the Jewish historiography as well did not wish to concentrate on the issue of communist Jewish partisans (see also Red scare)[citation needed].

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Donald L. Niewyk, Francis R. Nicosia, The Columbia Guide to the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, 2003, ISBN 0231112017, Google Print, p.205
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Minsk Ghetto
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h MINSK at Holocaust Encyclopedia
  4. ^ Caught Between Hitler & Stalin film review by Timothy Snyder from The New York Review of Books

External links

Further reading

  • Barbara Epstein, The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943: Jewish Resistance and Soviet Internationalism, University of California Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-520-24242-5 ([1])
  • Hersh Smolar, The Minsk ghetto: Soviet-Jewish partisans against the Nazis, Holocaust Library, 1989, ISBN 0896040682



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