Maly Trostenets (also spelled Trostinets) was a village in the suburbs of Belorussia’s capital Minsk. Near it is located the so-called Blagovshchina Forest of roughly 2.5 square kilometers in size (one square mile). According to Russian sources of the 2000s, this forest was the execution site of choice for the local branches of the Soviet secret service NKVD in the Minsk region prior to World War II. Up to 270,000 people fell victim to the NKVD terror, many of which were buried in the Blagovshchina Forest.
The estate of a state-run farm near that same village is also the location of the so-called Maly Trostenets Camp. It was run by the commander of the German Security Police Minsk. A series of documents exists showing that, between May and October 1942, 16 trains arrived either at Minsk or directly near Maly Trostenets. These trains came mostly from Vienna and the Theresienstadt Ghetto, but one each came from Cologne and Königsberg. Each of them brought roughly 1,000 deported Jews (two of them only some 500). That is where the certainty about what unfolded there ends.
After the reconquest of Minsk by the Soviets in July 1944, they established their usual commission to investigate alleged German crimes. Nikolai N. Burdenko headed the commission. This was the same man who had overseen the commission which, only a short while earlier, had written the fake report that blamed the Soviet massacre of thousands of Polish officers near Katyn on the Germans. Now it was Burdenko’s task to redeclare the tens if not hundreds of thousands of NKVD victims buried in the Blagovshchina Forest as victims of German terror. Witnesses were interrogated, who told terrible tales of massacres on hundreds of thousands of innocent Soviet citizens. Those murders were said to have been committed by mass shootings and with “murder vans.” Here, Burdenko followed the script developed during the Krasnodar and Kharkov show trials held in 1943. (See those entries for details.)
Thirty-four mass graves with a total volume of some 25,000 m³ were allegedly found by the Soviet commission in the forest, but merely five of them were only “partly opened.” The claimed death toll of this German atrocity was said to be between 200,000 and 546,000. The victims were all Soviet citizens. Jews were not mentioned, let alone victims from other countries.
In 1963, the West-German judiciary staged a trial against eleven former members of the Security Police Minsk, where the alleged events at Maly Trostenets played a major role. Basing itself on the above-mentioned 16 railroad transports to Maly Trostenets, the court ruled that most of the deportees were killed on arrival. The same fate is said to have befallen the majority of the 25,000 Jews of the Minsk Ghetto, with an initial focus on those unfit for labor, hence the very young, very old and the sick and fragile. No one at this trial requested to look for any physical evidence for that massacre.
Documents show, however, that many children and elderly people still lived in the Minsk Ghetto in 1943, and that thousands of Jews were still alive in the ghetto in late 1943. Furthermore, there is anecdotal evidence showing that, starting in September 1943, numerous railway transports with Jews were sent from Minsk westward via the Sobibór Camp, which indeed served as a transit camp. Hence, many if not most of the Jews presumed shot or gassed were very much alive.
Other documents proffered by historians to support the claimed massacre are highly dubious. For instance, there are four documents by a certain Arlt, a Waffen SS sergeant who headed a squad of nine riflemen. None of the documents have an address. Each has an “Arlt” signature with a distinctly different handwriting. The writer of these documents could not even get basic German military terms right. And last but not least, the documents were “discovered” around 1964 in an archive of the Communist eastern bloc. All these documents say is that Jews deported from Germany were “led to the pits” or “handed over to the soil.” The reports described in rich detail the fight against partisans, but how a unit of ten men managed to kill a thousand Jews is not explained.
Another absurd “document” claims that the three gas vans used near Minsk are not enough to process the Jews, so another one is needed. However, around the same time, the three alleged gas vans at the Chełmno Camp, presumably of the same type as those deployed near Minsk, are said to have had no problem at all to process many more victims in a much shorter period of time.
This entire scenario becomes even more absurd when considering that the Jews deported from Vienna and Theresienstadt travelled huge distances to reach Minsk, passing by places such as Treblinka, Sobibór and/or Auschwitz along the way without stopping to get “processed” there. If the intention had been to murder them, and if these camps located along the way had indeed been extermination camps, then the journey of these Jews would have been much shorter. Sending them to Minsk made sense only if the intention was not to kill them but to keep them alive, for whatever purpose.
In the larger orthodox picture of the Holocaust, the events said to have transpired at Maly Trostenets can be seen as part of the mass murders by shooting or gas vans that were presumably perpetrated by the Einsatzgruppen and associated units. Because this alleged mass-murder site had some rudimentary features giving it a temporary presence, such as a provisional railway station, an assembly square and several barracks, orthodox historians tend to call it an extermination or death camp. This sets it apart from mere execution sites such as Babi Yar. In several respects, Maly Trostenets resembled the Chełmno Camp.
Witnesses, Soviet “experts” and orthodox historians have mentioned death-toll figures ranging from 40,000 up to 546,000, thus repeating the pattern found elsewhere of basing these claims more on wild guesses than thorough research.
|Soviet Report of 25 July 1944
|Soviet Report of 22 Sept. 1944
40,000 to 60,000
As with all other mass-extermination scenes of the Holocaust, here the victims are said to have been buried at first, but then, in the context of the so-called “Aktion 1005,” it is said that they were all exhumed and without a trace remaining, burned on huge pyres. This operation is said to have lasted only some seven weeks, from end of October until mid-December 1943.
However, when assessing the various witness testimonies about this alleged operation to remove criminal traces, they turn out to contradict one another, and some of their claims are technically untenable. Furthermore, most of them describe utterly unworkable, even ridiculous scenarios bordering on the absurd, as to how these pyres were built and burned. This clearly leaves the impression of a badly orchestrated atrocity propaganda campaign.