The Minsk Ghetto


Jewish Minsk

Minsk, capital of the Belorussian SSR, in 1926 the Jewish population of Minsk was 53,686, by June 1941 the number had grown to 80,000, constituting one- third of the city’s population.


Only a small fraction of the Jews managed to escape from the city in the six days between the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the conquest of Minsk on 28 June 1941.


German parachutists who had been dropped east of the city intercepted thousands of Jews who were trying to flee and forced them to return. When the civil administration was set up Minsk became the headquarters of the Generalkommissar for Belorussian Wilhelm Kube.


Kube was murdered on 22 September 1943 was killed by a bomb planted under his bed, by his maid, a Soviet partisan.


On 8 July 1941, the Germans killed 100 Jews and thereafter the murder of Jews by the Germans singly or in groups, became a daily event. On 20 July 1941, an order was issued on the establishment of the ghetto.


Its area comprised thirty-four streets and alleys, as well as the Jewish cemetery, some of the streets included:

  • Kollektornaia

  • Kolkhoznaia

  • Nemiga

  • Obuvnaia

  • Perekopskaia

  • Respublikanskaia

  • Shornaia

  • Zaslavskaia

Some of the lanes included: 

  • Kolkhoznyi

  • Mebel’nyi

  • Vtoroi Opanskii

  • Yubileiny Square

The ghetto was surrounded by thick rows of barbed wire, watchtowers were erected and round the clock surveillance was established. A living space of 1.5 square meters was allotted for each person, with no space allotted for children. Thousands of the ghetto inhabitants lived among the ruins of destroyed or gutted houses without floors or windows. A curfew was in force from 2200 to 0500 hours.


Entrance to the Minsk Ghetto

Jews from Slutsk, Dzerzhinsk, Cherven, Uzda and other nearby places were brought into the ghetto. Married couples with one non-Jewish partner were also put into the ghetto as were their children. Altogether, 100,000 persons were rounded up and put behind the ghetto walls.


In August 1941 5,000 Jews were seized and murdered, the surviving Jews were forced to pay a ransom, to report every Sunday for roll call, and to wear a yellow badge on their back and chest, as well as white patch on their chest with their house number.


News of the killings in Minsk and other places in the East was sent to the chief of the Gestapo in Berlin, Heinrich Muller, who asked Adolf Eichmann to see him, Eichmann being the SS officer in charge of the department IV-D-4, responsible for deportations and emigrations.


Twenty years later, in a court in Jerusalem, on trial for his life, Eichmann recalled that Muller had said to him; “In Minsk they’re shooting Jews. I want you to report how it’s going.”




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