The Trostinets extermination camp, also known as Maly Trostinets, Maly Trastsianiets and Trascianec (see alternative spellings), was a World War II Nazi German death camp located near the village of Maly Trostinets (Малы Трасцянец, "Little Trostinets") on the outskirts of Minsk in Reichskommissariat Ostland. It operated between July 1942 and October 1943, by which time, virtually all Jews remaining in Minsk had been murdered and buried there.
Originally built in the summer of 1941 on the site of a Soviet kolkhoz, a collective farm 200 hectares (490 acres) in size, Trostinets was set up by Nazi Germany as a concentration camp with no fixed killing facilities, for the Soviet prisoners of war who had been captured during Operation Barbarossa launched against the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941.
The camp became a Vernichtungslager (extermination camp) on 10 May 1942 when the first consignment of Jews was brought in under the guise of "resettlement". Jews from Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic were murdered there. The Holocaust transports organized by the SS were sent from Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Münster, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Kassel, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, Munich, Breslau, Königsberg, Vienna, Prague, Brünn, and Theresienstadt. In most cases, the Jews were killed immediately upon arrival. They were trucked from the train stop to the nearby killing grounds at Blagovshchina (Благовщина) and Shashkovka (Шашковка) forests and shot in the back of the neck.
The primary purpose of the camp was the killing of Jewish prisoners of the Minsk Ghetto and the surrounding area. Firing squad was the chief execution method. Mobile gas chambers deployed at Trostinets performed a subsidiary if not insignificant function in the killing process. These were called "gas vans". Baltic German SS-Scharführer Heinrich Eiche was the camp administrator.
On 28 June 1944, as the Red Army approached the region, the Germans blew up the camp as part of Sonderaktion 1005, an operation to destroy evidence of genocide. But the Soviets are said to have discovered 34 grave-pits, some of them measuring as much as 50 meters (160 ft) in length and three to four meters (9.8–13 ft) in depth, located in the Blagovshchina Forest some 500 meters (1,600 ft) from the Minsk–Mogilev highway according to the special report prepared by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission in the 1940s. Only a few Jewish prisoners survived Maly Trostenets. They were liberated by the Red Army and gave first witness testimonies about its existence on 7 July 1944.
According to modern historians of the Holocaust, original estimates of the number of people killed at Trostinets were greatly exaggerated by functionaries of the Soviet State Commission; ranging from 200,000 to more than half a million. Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and other researchers estimate the true number of victims at 60,000–65,000 Jews.
Only a few perpetrators of the Holocaust from Trostinets were brought to justice after the war. Among them was Eduard Strauch, who died in a Belgian prison in 1955. In 1968 a court in Hamburg sentenced to life imprisonment, three low-ranking SS men – Rottenführer Otto Erich Drews, Revieroberleutnant Otto Hugo Goldapp, and Hauptsturmführer Max Hermann Richard Krahner – German overseers of the Jewish Sonderkommando 1005 who were recognized as guilty of murdering the laborers forced to cover up the traces of the crimes in 1943. Several people were also convicted during trials in West Germany and the USSR, although they were not at Maly Trostenets, but for the crimes committed in the wider area of Minsk.
Heinrich Seetzen committed suicide in a British POW camp. Heinrich Eiche fled to Argentina after the war and all trace of him was lost. Gerhard Maywald settled after the war in West Germany. In 1970, the public prosecutor's office in Koblenz ended an investigation against him "because of the absence of sufficient evidence of guilt". On 4 August 1977 Maywald was sentenced to four years' imprisonment for murder and complicity involving 8,000 Jews in Latvia.
In Belarusian the name is Малы Трасцянец (pronounced [maˈlɨ trasʲtsʲaˈnʲets]), transliterated as Maly Tras’tsyanyets; in Russian it is Малый Тростенец. Alternative romanizations and the placename’s German variants include Maly Trostinets, Maly Trostinez, Maly Trostenez, Maly Trostinec and Klein Trostenez – literally, "Little" Tras’tsyanyets) as opposed to the neighboring locality named Вялікі Трасцянец or "Large" Tras’tsyanyets).
Meanwhile "Trostenets" or "Trastsyanets" itself has root derived from "Trostnik" (Тростник), Russian name for reed or some similar (but not necessarily botanically related) wetland grass. Suffix "-ets" is just typical way of forming place name from certain natural feature (compare with Kremenets, Yelets, Konevets etc). Thus "Trostenets" sounds like "place overgrown by reed".
The names of 10,000 Austrian Jews murdered in Maly Trostinec are gathered in a book "Maly Trostinec - Das Totenbuch - Den Toten ihre Namen geben". Compiled and edited by Waltraud Barton (Hrsg.) Vienna. Edition Ausblick.
A memorial built at the site of the camp attracts thousands of visitors annually, especially after travel restrictions eased with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Ilya Ehrenburg's Black Book cites the official data that in all, 206,500 people were murdered at Trostenets, of whom 150,000 were killed at the Blagovshchina Forest between September 1941 and October 1943, and another 50,000 at the Shashkovka Forest between October 1943 and June 1944.
Cora Berliner (born 23 January 1890 in Hannover, murdered 1942 most likely in Maly Trostenets) was an economist and social scientist and a victim of the Nazi regime. She was a pioneer of social work.Freud family
The family of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psychoanalysis, lived in Austria and Germany until the 1930s before emigrating to England, Canada and the United States. Several of Freud's descendants have become well known in different fields.Holocaust trains
Holocaust trains were railway transports run by the Deutsche Reichsbahn national railway system under the strict supervision of the German Nazis and their allies, for the purpose of forcible deportation of the Jews, as well as other victims of the Holocaust, to the German Nazi concentration, forced labour, and extermination camps.Modern historians suggest that without the mass transportation of the railways, the scale of the "Final Solution" would not have been possible. The extermination of people targeted in the "Final Solution" was dependent on two factors: the capacity of the death camps to gas the victims and "process" their bodies quickly enough and the capacity of the railways to transport the victims from the ghettos to extermination camps. The most modern accurate numbers on the scale of the "Final Solution" still rely partly on shipping records of the German railways.