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Maly Trastsianets is one of the lesser known killing sites used during the Second World War, mainly because there were very few survivors. It consisted of three parts; the forced labour camp on the site of a former collective farm, the murder site in Blahauschyna and the cremation site in the forest Shashkouka.
Originally used as a labor camp after the invasion by Nazi Germany, mass shootings began in the spring of 1942 in the Blahauschyna Forest, about 13 kilometers from Minsk and not far from the village of Maly Trastsianets. The territory was quickly turned into a killing site, operating between May 1942 and June 1944, before the Red Army arrived.
Official numbers of victims killed at Maly Trastsianets differ. The highest estimate was given by the Extraordinary State Comission that first investigated mass murder here in 1944, with 206,500 victims. Although this number is prevalent in Belarusian memory culture, it is thought to be exaggerated. Modern historians such as Christan Gerlach estimate the number of victims killed by the Nazis and their collaborators to be closer to 60,000 individuals.
The victims killed here were mainly Jews of the Minsk ghetto, but also Jews deported from Germany and Austria, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (former Czechoslovakia) as well as local civilians, prisoners of war, and members of the resistance.
Today, there are a number of memorials on the large memorial complex of Maly Trastsianets that commemorate the victims. For example, a sculpture entitled “Gate of Memory” can be reached by following the “Route of Memory”. Here, names and locations of the main places of mass killings in Belarus, as well as the number of victims, are recorded in Belarusian, Russian and English. Jews are not mentioned as a specific victim group, nor is there a Hebrew or Yiddish inscription. At the end of this road, a panel gives general information on the site and close to the Gate of Memory there is another monument – “the Array of Names” – dedicated to the Austrian Jewish victims. It was opened in 2019 and is dedicated to the memory of more than ten thousand Austrian Jews who were killed here between 1941 and 1942. The memorial site at the former shooting place in Blahauschyna consists of two parts – the project of Leonid Levin, which shows the last way of the victims through the “Squares of Life” as well as the Paradoxes and Death and memorial cemetery with the molded outlines of the former mass graves. It was opened in 2018. In the “Forest of names”, yellow nameplates were hung up by relatives of Austrian Jews in memory of their family members.