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The Minsk Ghetto
"You couldn't go.... you were bound to stay waiting for your execution" -- Yala Korwin
On June 28, 1941, German tanks entered the capital of Minsk, Belarus. Approximately 75,000 Jews resided within the city. The first order required all men from 15 to 45 years of age to appear at the registration point. A failure to obey the order was punishable by death. Thousands of men obeyed and when they arrived at the checkpoint, they were sent to Drozdy camp. The Gestapo seized ten men on the street and created the Jewish Committee. Unwillingness to obey would result in punishment by gunshot. By July 15, 1941, the registration of the Jews was completed. On that day the Jews were ordered to wear yellow stars on their chests and on their backs. There were specific strict rules about the yellow stars. They had to be ten centimeters wide. The Jews were instructed not to walk down the main streets. Soon after this, there were postings in German and Byelorussian: Within three days of the posting of this Order, all Jewish inhabitants of the City of Minsk must move into the Jewish Quarter. After that time, any Jew found in the non-Jewish area of the city will be arrested and severely punished.
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July 20: Minsk Ghetto established
The order to establish the ghetto in Minsk streets and alleys plus the Jewish cemetery was given on July 20, 1941. Jews were brought to the ghetto from Slutzk, Dzerzhinsk, Cherven, and other localities in the vicinity of Minsk. Jewish men and women who had married non-Jews were also taken to the ghetto, as were their children. In all, the ghetto population climbed to 100,000.

The Minsk Ghetto : Authority and Rule While the rest of Europe was struggling with the war against Germany, many of the inhabitants of the Ghettos were struggling with German rule. The Minsk Ghetto was among those that were constantly terrorized by the German police. The chief of the German police, Gattenbach, was looking for Jews to terrorize in the Ghetto. He frequently visited in order to torture and beat women and children who did not hide in time. As time progressed, things only seemed to have turned for the worse. Richter, a Prussian police official who "relieved" Gattenbach in the Ghetto, proved to be a more experienced murder in his time. (Smolar 45) His cruelty exceeded to the borders of depravation, as he constantly looted the Ghetto off from many needs the Jews possessed. Eventually, Richter was replaced by Benetzke, who was later replaced by S.S. Scharfuhrer. Each of the new Chiefs surpassed the previous in cruelty. The superior of these police chiefs was Commandant Redder. All decrees against the Minsk settlement were issued by him. He would constantly demand funds and goods from the head of the Jewish settlement. The Judenrat members were responsible with delivering these goodsIn addition to the constant terrors faced by the German police, the Ghetto also faced another band of brigands. The murder squad of the Shiroka concentration camp, headed by Deputy Commandant Gorodietski, constantly raided the village to look for workers, and for Jews to burn at Trostynietz. The Shiroka camp was supervised by the security service, the Sicherheitsdienst. All acts of terrorism upon the Minsk population was headed by the S.S. and police General Zenner. But after February of 1942, Zenner was replaced by Obersturmbannffuhrer Edouard Strauch, who was head of the Security service in Byelorussia, who was sent from Berlin. With so many different officials in various ranks, it was always difficult to keep track of orders that were supposedly carried out by the demand of Generals over Commandant Redder. This, of course, would open room for many possible acts of atrocities. The Jews, however weak they were by the attacks of the Germans, still managed to have a certain degree of authority. In Minsk, the Jews responsible for answering to German authority were the Judenrat. Their chief head was Ilya Mushkin, who was held responsible for fulfilling the wishes of the German police. The civil administration of occupied Byelorussia, which carried out Hitler's policies toward the Jew, was headed by General Kommissar Kube. The Judenrat felt tensions between him and Obersturmbannfuhrer. Kommissar represented the civil authority, while Obersturmbannfuhrer was the police authority. These tensions were a direct result of contradicting attitudes toward the Ghetto. Jews who were brought from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia after the November pogroms had different perspectives than the rest of the Jews. These were occupying the houses that were previously taken by Soviet Jews, who were murdered to make space for the new wave of Jews. This new wave of Jews became known as the Hamburg Jews, since the first to arrive came from Hamburg.
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On November 28, 1941, a deportation train left Vienna Aspang Station with 999 Jewish men, women and children on board. The train's destination was the White Russian capital Minsk, which had been part of the "Reichkommissariat Ostland" since the invasion by German troups. Before the war broke out Minsk was host to a large Jewish community numbering about 70,000, for whom as soon as June 1941 a quarter of the city of about 2 square kilometres was turned into a ghetto.
The ghetto was controlled by the command of the Security police and the SD in Minsk, a unit of Einsatzgruppe B, which had also a company of Lettish "volunteers" at its disposal. These troops were responsible for continual maltreatment and killings in the ghetto and the labour camps.
Mass shootings began as early as autumn 1941 and at first concerned sick people incapable of work, old people and children. Thus on November 7 and 20, 1941, 17,000 Jews were taken from the ghetto and shot in Tuchinka. Because of these murder programmes, and also because of illness and hunger the number of people in the ghetto dropped to about 25,000 persons by the beginning of January 1942. The attempt to build up a resistance organisation in the ghetto was followed at the end of March 1942 by a "punishment programme" with the murder of 5,000 people. A further murder programme carried out on July 18, 1942, cost another 10,000 lives. By the spring of 1943 only about 2,000 were still alive, a number which was again halved by the autumn. At this time the deportations of "working Jews" to occupied areas further west of Minsk was intensified. The final extinction of the ghetto and the labour camps in Minsk was carried out before the liberation by the Red Army in September 1944.
Of the 999 Austrian Jews deported to Minsk ghetto three are known to have survived
The Jewish population of Minsk, roughly 80,000 at the beginning of the war, dwindled to only 9,000 by the end of 1942. The Germans had murdered most of the others and had converted the ghetto into a labor camp. In August 1943, a transport of Jews was sent from Minsk to the Sobibor extermination camp. Another 2,000 Jews were sent to the Budzyn labor camp in September, and in a final Aktion, on October 21, the last 4,000 Jews in Minsk were transported to the killing site, Maly Trostinets. When Minsk was liberated on July 3, 1944, only a few Jews of those who had gone into hiding during the final Aktion remained alive.