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Minsk Ghetto is Established, 1941

On This Day in Jewish History: July 28th, 1941.

On July 28, 1941, one month after the Germans captured Minsk, the Minsk Ghetto was officially established. At the time of occupation, ⅓ of the total population in Minsk was Jewish and 80,000 people were immediately crowded into the ghetto, many of whom were refugees from Western Poland who fled to Minsk following the German occupation of Poland.

In August of 1941, German authorities began conducting mass killing operations against residents of the ghetto. At the same time, an anti-German underground was established in the ghetto, where members organized escapes and formed partisan units in the forests. Though 10,000 Jews fled to the forests throughout the war, many were killed by German forces.

August 1941 also brought upon the mass murder of 5000-15,000 men aged 15-45. The residents of the ghetto were told the men had been taken for ‘labour’ and only several months later did they find out that the men had been shot to death. A similar action occurred on November 7 and November 20 when Germans surrounded an area of the ghetto, forced out its inhabitants and shot them into pits. Between 17,000-23,000 Jews were murdered in these 2 events so as to make space in the ghetto for new deportees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Only 10 German Jews who were deported to Minsk survived the Holocaust.

Horrific events occurred monthly in Minsk. On July 28 1942, 9000 Jews were suffocated in gas vans after being told they were getting a drive to work. Most ghetto inhabitants were murdered between August-October 1943 when the liquidation began. By that September, only 2000 Jews remained in the ghetto before it was destroyed. The SS deported some Jews to the Sobibor extermination center, while the majority were sent to Maly Trostenets, a village near Minsk.

Throughout the horrors of the Minsk ghetto, acts of resistance were born. In Spring 1943, a family camp of 650 Jews was set up in a forest, and groups of children returned to the ghetto numerous times to save as many lives as they could, even after the liquidation. In total, 10,000 Jews escaped to the forests and nearly half survived to the end of the war.

When Minsk was liberated by the Red Army on July 3, 1944, only 13 Jews emerged who had survived in hiding. May the memories of the Minsk residents be a blessing.





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