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Occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany
Part of World War II
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-138-1083-26, Russland, Mogilew, Zwangsarbeit von Juden.jpg
Mogilev Jews kidnapped for forced labour, July 1941
Location

The occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany occurred as part of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 (Operation Barbarossa) and ended in August 1944 with the Soviet Operation Bagration.

Contents

Background

The Soviet and Belarussian historiographies study this subject in context of Belarus, regarded as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR, a constituent republic of the Soviet Union or USSR) in the 1941 borders as a whole. Polish historiography, or possibly part of it, insists on special, even separate treatment for the East Lands of the Poland in the 1921 borders (alias "Kresy Wschodnie" alias West Belarus), which were incorporated into the BSSR after the Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17, 1939. More than 100,000 people in West Belarus were imprisoned, executed or transported to the eastern USSR by Soviet authorities before the German invasion. The NKVD (Soviet secret police) probably killed more than 1,000 prisoners in June/July 1941, for example, in Chervyen, Hlybokaye, Hrodna and Vileyka. These crimes stoked anti-Communist feelings in the Belarusian population and were used by Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda.

Invasion

After twenty months of Soviet rule in Western Belarus and Western Ukraine, Nazi Germany and its Axis allies invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Eastern Belarus suffered particularly heavily during the fighting and German occupation. Following bloody encirclement battles, all of the present-day Belarus territory was occupied by the Germans by the end of August 1941.

Poland regarding the Soviet annexation as illegal, the majority of Polish citizens didn't ask for Soviet citizenship 1939-1941, so they were Polish citizens under Soviet and later Nazi occupation.

At the same time Belarusian nationalists and much population did not considered Polish, Soviet, or German authorities as 'legal'. That led to the creation of various patriotic groups, which tried to establish an independent Belarusian state.

Occupation

Since the early days of the occupation, a powerful and increasingly well-coordinated Soviet partisan movement emerged. Hiding in the woods and swamps, the partisans inflicted heavy damage to German supply lines and communications, disrupting railway tracks, bridges, telegraph wires, attacking supply depots, fuel dumps and transports, and ambushing Axis soldiers. But the main activity of partisans was terrorising local population and killing local anti-Soviet and nationalist activists including teachers, civil workers and priests. Not all of the anti-German partisans were pro-Soviet. In the largest partisan sabotage action of the entire Second World War, the so-called Asipovichy diversion of July 30, 1943, four German trains with supplies and Tiger tanks were destroyed. To fight partisan activity, the Germans had to withdraw considerable forces behind their front line. On June 22, 1944, the huge Soviet offensive Operation Bagration was launched, finally regaining all of Belarus by the end of August.

Military crimes

Germany imposed a brutal regime, deporting some 380,000 people for slave labour, and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians more.

As Soviet authorities claimed after the war, at least 5,295 Belarusian settlements were destroyed by the Nazis and some or all their inhabitants killed (out of 9200 settlements that were burned or otherwise destroyed in Belarus during World War II).[1] More than 600 villages like Khatyn were annihilated with their entire population.[1] Altogether, 2,230,000 people were killed in Belarus during the three years of German occupation.[1]

Belarusian nationalist historians after the war and post-Soviet Belarusian historical science after the fall of USSR also began to uncover a number of crimes of Soviet partisans in Belarus.

Soviet partisan fighters behind German front lines in Belarus in 1943

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Holocaust

Almost the whole, previously very numerous, Jewish population of Belarus which did not evacuate was killed. One of the first uprisings of a Jewish ghetto against the Nazis occurred in 1942 in Belarus, in the small town of Lakhva (see Lakhva Ghetto). The largest Jewish ghetto in Belarus was the Minsk Ghetto

Post-occupation

Later in 1944, 30 German-trained Belarusians were airdropped behind the Soviet front line to spark disarray. These were known as "Čorny Kot" ("Black Cat") led by Michał Vituška. They had some initial success due to disorganization in the rear guard of Red Army. Other Belarusian units slipped through Białowieża Forest and full scale guerilla war erupted in 1945. But the NKVD infiltrated these units and neutralized them until 1957.

In total, Belarus lost a quarter of its pre-war population in the Second World War, including practically all its intellectual elite. About 9,200 villages and 1,200,000 houses were destroyed. The major towns of Minsk and Vitebsk lost over 80% of their buildings and city infrastructure. For the defence against the Germans, and the tenacity during the German occupation, the capital Minsk was awarded the title Hero City after the war. The fortress of Brest was awarded the title Hero-Fortress.

See also

People

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c (English) "Genocide policy". Khatyn.by. SMC "Khatyn". 2005. http://www.khatyn.by/en/genocide/expeditions/. Retrieved 2006-08-26.  

External links








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