Maly Trascianiec extermination camp (see alternate spellings), a small village on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus, was the site of a Nazi extermination camp.
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 Soviet Union which commenced on June 22 of that year (known as Operation Barbarossa), the camp became a Vernichtungslager, or extermination camp, on May 10, 1942 when the first transport of Jews arrived there. While many Jews from Germany, Austria and the present-day Czech Republic met their deaths there (in most cases 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 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.
On June 28, 1944, as the Red Army approached the region, the Nazis bombed the camp in an attempt to obliterate evidence of its existence, in conformity with the aims of the so‑called Aktion 1005. But the Soviets are said to have discovered 34 grave‑pits, some (not all) measuring as much as 50 meters in length and 3 to 4 meters in depth, located in the Blagovshchina Forest some 500 meters from the Minsk–Mogilev highway, at about the 11th‑kilometer mark (according to the special report prepared by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission in the 1940s). No survivors of the camp are known to exist, and 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 while German historian Christian Gerlach estimates the number to be in the range of 40,000–60,000.Signage on the site indicates 206,000 were murdered there. The site is scheduled for a 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 has been built at the site of the camp, and attracts thousands of visitors annually, especially since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which has eased travel restrictions.
Maly Trostenets in fiction:
The Forest of Souls by Carla Banks is partly about World War 2 (or the Great Patriotic War) and contains some references to Maly Trostenets.
Victims of the camp
- Vincent Hadleŭski [Wincenty Gadlewski], Roman-Catholic priest and resistance fighter (b. 1888), arrested in Minsk on December 24, 1942 and shot at Trascianiec the same day.
the name is Малы Трасьцянец 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
, and Klein Trostenez
— literally, ‘Small’ Tras’tsyanyets) in contradistinction to the neighboring locality named Вялікі Трасьцянец or ‘Large’ Tras’tsyanyets)
- 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).
- Leonid Smilovitsky, ‘Ilya Ehrenburg on the Holocaust of the Jews in Belorussia: Unknown Evidence’, East European Jewish Affairs, vol. 29, No. 1–2 (Summer–Winter 1999), pp. 61–74 [cites the statistic 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].
- 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 materialy [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 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).