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March 2: The Minsk Ghetto

March 2, 2013

Six thousand Jews were murdered in the ghetto of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on this date, Purim, in 1942, as the Nazis and their auxiliaries conducted their third major pogrom in the city since conquering it on June 28, 1941. With rumors of an impending pogrom sweeping the ghetto, the local Jewish Council had refused the Nazis' demand for 5,000 laborers, and many Jews had gone into hiding. In the aktion that followed, thousands were marched to a ravine at the end of Ratokmskaya Street and shot, and children from the ghetto's nursery/orphanage were buried alive in sand pits. The Gestapo then hanged all the members of the Jewish Council in the street with signs saying, "Stalin's Bandits." The twelve blocks of the Minsk Ghetto were home to between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews. It was notable for its large resistance organization, which enabled some 10,000 Jews to escape and join Soviet partisan groups in the nearby forests. The rate of killing was much higher, however, and by August, 1942, fewer than 9,000 Jews were left in Minsk.

"Not a single day passed in the ghetto without Nazi gangs breaking into Jewish homes and pilfering everything they could lay their hands on. Infuriated often because they found nothing of value in many of the houses of the impoverished population, the Nazi gangsters took their revenge by torturing and murdering their victims."--Sophia Ozerskaya, JTA Archive from August 14, 1942