German soldiers parade three young people through Minsk before their execution. The placard reads: "We are partisans who shot at Germans soldiers." Minsk, Soviet Union, October 26, 1941.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
German forces occupied Minsk, capital of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in the Soviet Union, shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. During the German occupation, the Belorussian SSR became part of the Reich Commissariat Ostland (Reichskommissariat Ostland). Within this German civilian administration, Minsk became a district capital. Wilhelm Kube, the German general commissioner of Belorussia, governed from Minsk.
In late July 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in the northwestern part of Minsk. About 80,000 people, including Jews from nearby towns, were crowded into the Minsk ghetto.
Between November 1941 and October 1942, over 20,000 Jews from Germany and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia were deported to Minsk. Many were shot or gassed in special gas vans upon arrival in Maly Trostinets, a small village about eight miles to the east. Others were housed in a separate ghetto in Minsk that segregated German Jews from local Belorussian Jews. Little contact was permitted between residents of the two ghettos.
Jews were forced to work on labor projects in factories inside the two ghettos. Jews were also forced to perform forced labor outside the ghettos, especially in the Shiroka Street labor camp and the opera house (where confiscated Jewish private property was sorted and stored).
RESISTANCE IN MINSK
In August 1941, Jews established an anti-German underground in the Minsk ghetto. Members organized escapes from the ghetto and formed partisan units in the forests to the southeast and northwest of Minsk. Jews from Minsk established seven different partisan units. In all, about 10,000 Jews fled to the forests; most of them were killed by German forces during the war.
In the fall of 1943, the Germans destroyed the Minsk ghetto. Some Jews were deported to the Sobibor extermination camp. About 4,000 remaining Jews were killed at Maly Trostinets.