Berezino | Minsk

/ The center of Berezino © Aleksey Kasyanov/ Yahad-In Unum The remaining gravestone of the former Jewish cemetery © Aleksey Kasyanov/ Yahad-In Unum A ghetto was established here in the summer of 1941, Berezino. © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Nina Zh., born in 1933: “The Jews were taken to a house close to the pit, where they were forced to undress. Then, escorted by the police, they walked in their underwear towards the pit.”.   © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Kazimir V., born in 1923, saw the column of Jews taken to the shooting in the direction of the village of Pohost. © Aleksey Kasyanov/ Yahad-In Unum During the interview © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The execution site of 940 Jews in Berezino © Aleksey Kasyanov/ Yahad-In Unum

Executions of Jews in Berezino

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Meadow
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
940

Witness interview

Kazimir V., born in 1923, remembered: “The whole town was burned at the beginning of the war because of bombardments. The Germans established a military Kommandantur. It was located in the building that is currently the recruitment office for the army. The burgomaster was appointed. I don’t know who he was prior to the war. They also created a police unit with volunteers. Little by little they installed their power. Once it was done, the posters reading that all partisans and Jews would be punished to death were posted throughout the town.” (Testimony n° 675, interviewed in Berezino, on July 14, 2013).

Soviet archives

“We the undersigned the members of the commission […] opened the mass grave located in the town of Berezino, 150m away of the Internatsionalnaya Street. It was established that the pit was dug at the end of 1941. It measured 22m long, 15m wide and 2m deep. 1,000 Soviet civilians were buried there”. [Act drawn up in November 1944 by the State Extraordinary Commission; RG 22.002M. 7021-87-2]

German archives

“Approximatively in January 1942 the Jews from the surrounding area of Berezino were confined to one street, not far away from the headquarters. The street was surrounded by barbed wire. Later, this area, composed of several houses fenced in with barbed wire with the Jews inside, was transformed into a camp. The Jews went in and out of the camp to go work inside the military administration. The women were employed in the kitchen or did other types of work, for instance, transport logs, clean streets from snow. The men and children were subject to work as well. I don’t know if the inmates were given food inside the camp, but those women who worked inside the base of our battalion were given some food by us.” [Deposition of a soldier of the battalion 452, Josef C., given on April 20, 1964; B162-3287 p.43]

Historical note

Berezino is located about 100 km east of Minsk. The first records about the Jewish population dates back to the 17th century. Throughout history, the Jews suffered from different waves of pogroms (in 1649 and in 1920). In 1847, the community numbered 1,289 and by 1897 it increased to 3,377 comprising, 70% of the total population. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trading and handcrafting. There were several artisan cooperatives and a kolkhoz. According to the census, on the eve of the war, 1,536 Jews lived in the town.  The Germans occupied the town on July 3, 1941.  A small number of Jews managed to evacuate before the occupation.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Shortly after the Germans arrived, all Jews were registered and marked with yellow distinguishing badges. They were subjected to perform different kinds of forced labor.

The ghetto was established in the late summer or early fall on the Internatsionalnaya street.  It was fenced in with barbed wire and it was forbidden to leave its territory. The first execution was conducted in August-September against 150 Jews who were shot by German security police in order to prevent the resistance.  The ghetto was liquidated on January 31 or February 1, 1942. As the ground was frozen, the Germans used grenades to makes pits. On this day 940 (962 according to Martin Dean) Jews were shot by Einsatzkommando 8, assisted by German Security police, SD, and  local police.  Before being killed, the Jews were taken to two huts located close to the site where they were forced to disrobe and then in small groups they walked towards the pit where they were shot by two SS soldiers who fired in turns. Most probably, the babies were not killed but thrown alive in the pit.

The executions in Berezino were not the only ones. The extermination was conducted in the entire district. Thus, about 200 Jews from Berezino were moved to Pohost where they were shot in early 1942.

 For more information about the execution of Jews in Novosyolki and Pohost, please, refer to the corresponding profile.  

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