Maly Trostenets extermination camp
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The Trostinets extermination camp, or Maly Trostinets, also Maly Trastsianiets (see alternate spellings), was a Nazi German death camp located near the village of Maly Trostinets (meaning small Trostinets) on the outskirts of Minsk in Reichskommissariat Ostland during World War II. It operated between July 1942 and October 1943, when the last Jews of Minsk (now the capital of Belarus) were murdered and buried there.
Originally built in the summer of 1941, on the site of a Soviet kolkhoz, as a concentration camp, to house Soviet prisoners of war who had been captured following the German attack on the Soviet Union which commenced on 22 June of that year; (it was known as Operation Barbarossa).
The camp became a Vernichtungslager, or extermination camp, on 10 May 1942 when the first consignment of Jews arrived. "Trainloads of Jews from Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic arrived and were exterminated. Transports were organized in [Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Münster, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Kassel, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Munich, Breslau, Königsberg, Vienna, Prague, Brünn, and Theresienstadt]." In most cases this was almost immediately upon their arrival, by being trucked to the nearby Blagovshchina (Благовщина) and Shashkovka (Шашковка) forests killing grounds and shot in the back of the neck).
The primary purpose of the camp however was the extermination of the substantial Jewish community of Minsk and the surrounding area. Mobile gas chambers deployed here performed a subsidiary if not insignificant function in the genocidal process. These were called, 'gas vans.' Baltic German SS Unterscharführer Heinrich Eiche was the administrator.
On 28 June 1944, as the Red Army approached the region, the Germans blew up the camp as part of Sonderaktion 1005, an operation to destroy evidence of genocide. But the Soviets are said to have discovered 34 grave-pits, some (not all) measuring as much as 50 meters in length and three to four meters in depth, located in the Blagovshchina Forest some 500 meters from the Minsk–Mogilev highway (according to the special report prepared by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission in the 1940s). Only a few Jewish prisoners managed to survive Maly Trostenets. They were liberated by the Red Army and gave first witness testimonies about its existence on July 7, 1944. Original estimates of the number of people killed there ranged from 200,000 to more than half a million. Yad Vashem currently estimates the number as 65,000 Jews. Signs at the site indicate that 206,000 were murdered there.
Few of the perpetrators of the genocide committed at the camp, were actually brought to justice after the war. Among them, Eduard Strauch, who died in Belgian prison in 1955. In 1968 the Court in Hamburg sentenced to life imprisonment three SS-men: Otto Erich Drews, Otto Hugo Goldapp and Max Hermann Richard Krahner – overseers of the Jewish Sonderkommando 1005 who were recognized as guilty of murder in 1943 of the laborers forced to cover up traces of the crimes. Several people were also convicted during trials in West Germany and the USSR, although they were not at Maly Trostenets, but for the crimes committed in the wider area of Minsk.
Heinrich Seetzen committed suicide in a British POW camp. Heinrich Eiche fled to Argentina after the war and all trace of him was lost. Gerhard Maywald settled after the war in West Germany. In 1970, the public prosecutor's Office in Koblenz ended an investigation against him "because of the absence of sufficient evidence of guilt". On August 4, 1977 Maywald sentenced to 4 years inprisionment for murder and complicy involving 8,000 Jews to Latavia
The site is scheduled for reconstruction and development. Currently nothing remains of the camp other than a row of poplars planted by the inmates as part of the border of the camp.
A memorial, built at the site of the camp, attracts thousands of visitors annually, especially since the dissolution of the Soviet Union has eased travel restrictions.
Known victims of the camp
- Vincent Hadleŭski [Wincenty Gadlewski], Roman Catholic priest and Belarusian nationalist resistance fighter (b. 1888), arrested in Minsk on December 24, 1942 and shot at Trascianiec the same day.
- Norbert Jokl (debated)
- Margarete Hilferding (in transit to the camp from Terezín)
- Grete Forst
- Cora Berliner (most likely)
In Belarusian the name is Малы Трасцянец (pronounced [maˈlɨ trasʲtsʲaˈnʲets]), transliterated as Maly Tras’tsyanyets; in Russian it is Малый Тростенец. Alternative romanizations and the place-name’s German variants include Maly Trostinets, Maly Trostinez, Maly Trostenez, Maly Trostinec and Klein Trostenez – literally, ‘Small’ Tras’tsyanyets) in contradistinction to the neighboring locality named Вялікі Трасьцянец or ‘Large’ Tras’tsyanyets)
- List of Nazi-German concentration camps
- Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics
- Research Materials: Max Planck Society Archive
- Shark Island Extermination Camp
- Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky (Summer–Winter 1999). "Ilya Ehrenburg on the Holocaust in Belarus: Unknown Testimony". Vol. 29, No. 1–2. East European Jewish Affairs. pp. 61–74. Retrieved 1 September 2013. "Ilya Ehrenburg's Black Book cites the official data that in all, 206,500 people were murdered at Trostenets, of whom 150,000 were killed at the Blagovshchina Forest between September 1941 and October 1943, and another 50,000 at the Shashkovka Forest between October 1943 and June 1944."
- Yad Vashem (2013). "Maly Trostinets" (PDF file, direct download 19.5 KB). Shoah Resource Center, The International School for Holocaust Studies. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Maly Trostinec ARC 2005.
- Maly Trostenez, by Letzter Gruss [dead link]
- Syargyey Yorsh (b. 1972), Rytsar Svabody... [Рыцар Свабоды: Ксёндз Вінцэнт Гадлеўскі як ідэоляг і арганізатар беларускага нацыянальнага антынацыскага Супраціву; =Champion of Liberty: The Reverend Vincent Hadleŭski as the Ideologue and Organizer of Belarusian National Anti‑Fascist Resistance], Minsk, Belaruski Rėzystans, 2004 – a monograph on his life; Library of Congress control No. 2004454542: call No. not available
- Ernst Klee and Willi Dressen, with Volker Riess, “Gott mit uns”: Der deutsche Vernichtungskrieg im Osten, 1939–1945 (Frankfurt am Main, S. Fischer, 1989).
- Shmuel Spector, ‘Aktion 1005 – Effacing the Murder of Millions’, Holocaust Genocide Studies (Oxford), vol. 5 (1990), pp. 157–173 [on the Nazi attempts to obliterate the evidence of mass murder at Maly-Trostinets (the spelling of the place-name adopted by Spector)]
- Paul Kohl, Der Krieg der deutschen Wehrmacht und der Polizei, 1941–1944: sowjetische Überlebende berichten, with an essay by Wolfram Wette (Frankfurt am Main, Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, 1995) [includes a photo of the camp].
- Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrußland 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg, Hamburger Edition, 1999).
- Hans Safrian, ‘Expediting Expropriation and Expulsion: The Impact of the “Vienna Model” on Anti-Jewish Policies in Nazi Germany, 1938’, Holocaust Genocide Studies (Oxford), vol. 14 (2000), pp. 390–414 [mentions deportations from Austria to Maly Trostinets (the spelling adopted by Safrian)].
- [Ė.G. Ioffe, G.D. Knat’ko, V.D. Selemenev, comps.], Kholokost v Belarusi, 1941–1944: dokumenty i materially [Holocaust in Belarus, 1941–1944: Documents and Materials] (Minsk, NARB [National Archives of the Republic of Belarus], 2002).
- [V.I. Adamushko, et al., comps.], Лагерь смерти “Тростенец”: Документы и материалы [The Trostenets Death Camp: Documents and Materials] (Minsk, NARB [National Archives of the Republic of Belarus], 2003) [includes some 25 pages of photographic evidence; ISBN 985-6372-30-5].
- [K.I. Kozak, et al., eds.], Henatsyd u druhoĭ susvetnaĭ vaĭne: Prablemy dasledavanniya u pamiyats akhviyar Trastsiyantsa... (Minsk, Vydavetski tsentr BDU, 2003) [proceedings of the international conference on the subject of the ‘Todeslager Trostenez’ (so spelt in the book) held in Minsk between April 25 and 27, 2002].
- S.V. Zhumar’ & R.A. Chernoglazova, comps., Trostenets (Minsk, GK ‘Poligrafoformlenie’, 2003) [published under the auspices of the Belarus government; includes summaries in English and German; Library of Congress call No. D805.5.M358 T76 2003].
- Igor’ Kuznyetsov, ‘В поисках правды, или Трагедия Тростенца: до и после’ [In Search of Truth; or, The Tragedy of Trostenets: Before and After], Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta [Belarus Business News] (Minsk), No. 1416 (April 2, 2004) [makes the interesting claim, supported in part by references to published sources (e.g., A.I. Zalesskiĭ, I.V. Stalin i kovarstvo ego politicheskikh protivnikov, 2 vols., Minsk, 1999–2002), that the Blagovshchina Forest had previously been the execution ground of choice for the local branches of the Soviet NKVD].
- [Petr Krymsky], ‘Тростенец – белорусский “Oсвенцим”’ [Trostenets – Belarusian ‘Auschwitz’], Rossiĭskie vesti [Russian News] (Moscow), No. 16 (1771), May 11–18, 2005 [seems to take issue with the claims made in the preceding article; includes two contemporary photographs of Soviet excavations].
- [Z.R. Iofe, et al., eds.], Laher smertsi Tras’tsyanyets, 1941–1944 hh.: pamiyatsi akhviyar natsyzma ŭ Belarusi [The Tras’tsyanyets Death Camp, 1941–1944: In Memory of the Victims of Nazism in Belarus] (Minsk, Histarychnaiya maĭstėrniya, 2005).
- The Invasion of the Soviet Union and the Beginnings of Mass Murder on the Yad Vashem website
- Marking 70 Years to Operation Barbarossa on the Yad Vashem website