Massacre of 72,000 Jews in Minsk Described by Escaping Eye-witness
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Massacre of 72,000 Jews in Minsk Described by Escaping Eye-witness

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An eye-witness account of the massacre of 72,000 Jews by the Nazis in the city of Minsk – 35,000 of them in one day in 1941 and the remainder at three other times in 1942 – was given here today in the form of a sworn affidavit to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee by Sophia Ozerskaya, a Russian teacher who succeeded in escaping from Minsk after being under the Nazi occupation for about a year’s time.

The witness, who is half-Jewish, owes her life to the fact that the Nazis took her for non-Jewish since her documents listed her father as a Belorussian. The mother of Miss Ozerskaya, being Jewish, was among the 35,000 Jewish victims massacred by the Nazis on November 7, 1941.

“Immediately after the occupation of Minsk by the Nazis,” the testimony of Miss Ozerskaya reads, “the occupational authorities set aside twelve small and narrow streets into a ghetto for the Jewish population. Tens of thousands of Jews from Minsk and its suburbs were driven into this ghetto to languish in starvation amid the debris of burned down houses, and lived themselves in wrecked houses with fallen roofs.

“At first the Nazis planned to completely isolate the ghetto from the outside world with brick walls. Later, they changed their plan and contented themselves with erecting barbed wire fences. No Jew was allowed to leave the ghetto without special permit. When this permission was granted, the Jew had to don a large yellow badge that his race might be apparent to the Germans outside the ghetto.


“To appear in the street outside the ghetto without a yellow badge meant to be instantly killed,” the testimony of Miss Ozerskaya continues. “Any Nazi has the right to shoot at any passerby who might appear to him to be a Jew and who does not wear a yellow badge. Many Russians, Poles and Belorussians who were mistaken in the street for Jews were shot on the spot by Hitlerites. At the same time the wearing of the yellow badge by Jews exposed them to the Nazis as targets in the event they were disposed of their free will to take a shot.

“Soon after establishing the ghetto, the Nazi administration in Minsk had also organized a so-called Judenrat there whose function was limited to registering the Jewish dead which was growing from day to day, and to see to it that the Jews delivered the various contributions imposed upon them by the Nazi authorities. After having deprived the Jews of all their valuables, the Nazis ordered them to deliver, under death penalty, all the knives, forks and spoons in their possession, as well as underwear, clothing and kitchen utensils.

“Not a single day passed in the ghetto without Nazi gangs breaking into Jewish homes and pilfering everything they could lay their hands on,” Miss Ozerskaya’s affidavit reads. “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.”


“On November 7, 1941, the anniversary day of the Soviet Revolution, detachments of armed Nazis entered the Jewish ghetto at five o’clock in the morning and surrounded five Jewish streets. All Jews living in these streets – men, women and children – were driven by the Nazis to the nearest square where they were lined up. Cries of horror mingled with the screams of babies and mothers and reverberated all over the city. The victims were all packed into trucks and driven to the outskirts of the city. There, near the former German cemetery at Calvaria, large deep graves had been prepared by the Nazis several days before, making their excavations with the aid of explosives.

“Anticipating the terrible designs of the Nazis, many Russians and Belorussians who had friends and acquaintances among the Jews, dragged from the ghetto, followed the Nazi trucks. I, Sophia Ozerskaya, was one of them. I followed the trucks to the very place of massacre. What I saw there, will never be erased from my mind. As the mass of Jews arrived at the ditches, German soldiers began first to hurl the children and suckling infants torn from their mothers’ arms into the graves. Women were pushed in on top of the children. Next came the men. The German soldiers then opened fire from machine guns at this helpless human mass which continued to sway and sigh in the agonies of death.

“About 35,000 Jews of Minsk perished on that day in the ditches under Nazi machine guns. Among them ware my mother with nine other relatives. The sun was already setting when the shooting ceased. The Nazis covered the collective grave with a thin layer of sand which moved and palpitated for some hours over the bodies of the suffocated and wounded but apparently not yet dead victims.


“The massacres of Jews were repeated by the Nazis on February 23, 1942, the anniversary day of the Red Army. 18,000 Jews were lined up in Minsk on that day and driven on foot to the Jewish cemetery where they were machine-gunned. On March 8, 1942 another massacre took place in which 8,000 Jewish women were placed on trucks and carried away to their death outside of the city limits. On April 29, preceding the May Day holiday, another 11,000 Minsk Jews were massacred by the same Nazi methods.

“The inhuman and savage murdering carried out by the Nazis has intensified the hatred against them among the entire non-Jewish population in Minsk. The Nazis have also killed thousands of Poles, Russians and Belorussians in Minsk, but the Jews there have suffered most from the brutality of the Nazis,” Miss Ozerskaya’s testimony states.

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