Several monuments close to the village of Maly Trostenets, about 12 kilometres south-east of Minsk, commemorate those who perished here. Between 1942 and 1944, Maly Trostenets was the site of the largest extermination camp in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union.
The Belarusian capital of Minsk was occupied by the German Wehrmacht on June 28, 1941. Three weeks later, on July 19, 1941, the German military administration set up a ghetto for the approximately 80,000 Jews living in Minsk. In Maly Trostenets, a village 12 kilometres outside of Minsk, the SS took control of the »Karl Marx« kolkhoz - a 250 hectare-large former agricultural estate - to accommodate the SS, the police and Wehrmacht stationed in Minsk. Prisoners of war and Jews from the ghetto had to conduct forced labour on the estate. From November 1941 on, transports of Jews from the German Reich arrived in Minsk. In order to make room for them in the ghetto, the chief of security police in Minsk, Erich Ehrlinger, ordered the shooting of several thousand Jews from the ghetto. Many of the shootings took place in the forest of Blagovshchina near Maly Trostenets. Later, between May and October 1942, transports of Jews from the German Reich, including Austria and Bohemia and Moravia, continued to arrive and were sent via Minsk to Maly Trostenets, where they were immediately shot by members of security police in the forest of Blagovshchina. Beginning June 1942, the SS also began using »gas vans« to murder Jews. In October 1943, Sonderkommando 1005 arrived in Maly Trostenets. This special unit, which for the most part consisted of Jewish forced labourers, had been created in order to eliminate traces of the mass murders. The men had to open mass graves and then burn the rotting corpses. Before fleeing from the advancing Red Army, the SS committed its last mass murder: between June 28 and 30, 1944, members of the SS shot the last forced labourers at Maly Trostenets in a barn. Only when the barn had filled up with 6,500 bodies did they set fire to the building. Three days later, Soviet troops arrived in Maly Trostenets.
First and foremost, the SS murdered Jews and Soviet prisoners of war at Maly Trostenets. The Jews came from the Minsk ghetto or had been deported from the German Reich. The exact number of people murdered at Maly Trostenets is not known: it is estimated that at least 60,000 perished, while Soviet records speak of over 200,000 victims.
In 1963, a monument was erected close to the former camp premises. In the 1980s, the last remnants of the camp buildings were removed. A further monument was set up close to where the barn stood, in which the last shootings took place. Otherwise, there is little that would serve as a reminder of one of the central sites of the National Socialist genocide against European Jews.