250 ghettos were created on the territory of Belarus. In the largest – the Minsk ghetto – more than 100 thousand people died. It was created in August 1941 and became one of the largest in Europe, ranking second in terms of the number of prisoners after the Lvov ghetto. On several streets wrapped with barbed wire, there were at first 80 thousand, and then more than 100 thousand prisoners.
Image credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D. / Global Photo Archive / Flickr
In 1941, 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. Jews from Slutsk, Dzerzhinsk, Cherven, Uzda and other nearby places were brought into the ghetto. Married couples, even where one partner was not Jewish, were also put into the ghetto along with their children. Altogether over, 100,000 people were rounded up and imprisoned in the ghetto. Random killings took place constantly, but there were a series of aktions or pogroms, which took place on; the 7th November 1941, 20th November 1941, 2-3 March 1942, 28 - 31 July 1942, 21 Oct 1943. Apart from those desperate, foolhardy and courageous enough to reach the partisans in the forests, and a few others who escaped in other ways, estimates of survivors of The Minsk Ghetto after the final pogrom, range from 20 to 1. To read testimonies of child survivors, click here.
Currently there is no public signage to show the site of the ghetto. It is highly recommended to have a walking tour with a ghetto survivor while this is an available option, which can be arranged through The Together Plan.
The Minsk Ghetto was located within Melnikayte, Sukhaya and Kollektornaya Streets. On the periphery of the ghetto was a large pit where 5000 ghetto Jews were brutally murdered. At that time, the area was a large grassy ditch. Today it is an urbanised memorial site, aptly named ‘Yama’ (meaning ‘Pit’ in Russian).
At the site, visitors will find an obelisk memorial which was installed in 1947. It is the first monument in the USSR with an inscription in Yiddish.