Maly Trostenets extermination camp
The Trostinets extermination camp, also known as Maly Trostinets, Maly Trastsianiets and Trascianec (see alternate spellings), was a World War II Nazi German death camp located near the village of Maly Trostinets ("Little Trostinets") on the outskirts of Minsk in Reichskommissariat Ostland. It operated between July 1942 and October 1943, by which time, virtually all Jews remaining in Minsk had been murdered and buried there.
Originally built in the summer of 1941 on the site of a Soviet kolkhoz, a collective farm 200 hectares (490 acres) in size, possibly used as the NKVD execution ground, Trostinets was set up by Nazi Germany as a concentration camp with no fixed killing facilities, for the Soviet prisoners of war who had been captured during Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union after 22 June 1941.
The camp became a Vernichtungslager (extermination camp) on 10 May 1942 when the first consignment of Jews was brought in for "resettlement". Trainloads of Jews from Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic were exterminated. The Holocaust 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, the Jews were killed immediately upon arrival. They were trucked from the trains to the nearby killing grounds at Blagovshchina (Благовщина) and Shashkovka (Шашковка) forests and shot in the back of the neck.
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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 at Trostinets performed a subsidiary if not insignificant function in the killing 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 of them measuring as much as 50 meters (160 ft) in length and three to four meters (9.8–13 ft) in depth, located in the Blagovshchina Forest some 500 meters (1,600 ft) 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 ranged from 200,000 to more than half a million according to Stalinist authorities. These numbers are now considered greatly exaggerated. Yad Vashem and other historians currently estimate the number of victims at 60,000–65,000 Jews.
Few of the perpetrators of the genocide committed at the camp were actually brought to justice after the war. Among them was Eduard Strauch, who died in Belgian prison in 1955. In 1968 the Court in Hamburg sentenced to life imprisonment three SS-men: Rottenführer Otto Erich Drews, Revieroberleutnant Otto Hugo Goldapp, and Hauptsturmführer Max Hermann Richard Krahner, German overseers of the Jewish Sonderkommando 1005 who were recognized as guilty of murdering the laborers forced to cover up the traces of the crimes in 1943. 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 was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for murder and complicity involving 8,000 Jews to Latvia.
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.
Currently nothing remains of the actual camp other than a row of poplars planted by the inmates as part of the natural border of the camp. The site is scheduled for reconstruction and development.
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 Трасцянец or ‘Large’ Tras’tsyanyets).
- Vincent Hadleŭski [Wincenty Godlewski], 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)
The plate of the planned memorial complex with the text in English: "The Trascianiec camp is a Nazi center for the extermination of Minsk residents and residents of other Belarusian towns and villages, members of ant-fascist underground struggle, the partisan movement, the Red Army prisoners of war, civilians deported from Europe. Over 206 500 people were murdered in the Trascianec death camp, in the Blahaŭščyna and Šaškoŭka forests in 1941—1944"
- List of Nazi concentration camps
- Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics
- Max Planck Society Archive
- The number of casualties is disputed (see History above).
- Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky (1999). "Ilya Ehrenburg on the Holocaust in Belarus: Unknown Testimony". Vol. 29, No. 1–2, Summer–Winter. 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.
- ARC (28 May 2006). "Maly Trostinec" (Internet Archive). DeathCamps.org. Retrieved 29 January 2015. Cite error: Invalid
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- Der Spiegel (30 September 1968). "Wolkenhöhe". Prozesse / Sonderkommando 1005. Der Spiegel 40/1968. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
- Einsatzgruppen Trials Axis History Forum.
- 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
- 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.
- 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).