Little-Known Death Factory - Poem by Paul Hartal
The German invasion of the Soviet Union
commenced on June 22,1941.
Behind the rapidly advancing Wehrmacht forces
mobile SS death squads, the Einsatzgruppen,
went into action. They killed Jews,
Soviet prisoners of war and political commissars.
The historian Raul Hilberg estimated
the number of Jewish men, women and children
murdered by the Einsatzgruppen
in the ravines of Babi Yar, in the forests of Riga
and many other places at 1.3 million.
On the outspread yards of a former kolkhoz,
a dusty Soviet collective farm,
the SS task forces set up a secret death factory.
Its horrible assembly lines creaked and cried
in the outskirts of Minsk of Byelorussia,
near the village of Maly Trostenets.
Here the Nazis murdered thousands of Jews,
Soviet prisoners of war, partisans, Gypsies
and other Byelorussian civilians.
And then, on May 19,1942,
the first transport of Jews from Germany,
Austria and Czechoslovakia arrived.
Maly Trostenets became
a Vernichtungslager, an extermination camp.
Men, women and children
Were shot daily in the forests.
Others, thousands of them,
were killed in mobile gas chamber vans,
on the way from Minsk to Maly Trostenets.
Special groups of prisoners threw the corpses
Of the murdered into deep pits of mass graves.
The 'final solution',
the euphemistic code used in Hitler's Reich
for the extermination of the Jews,
was conducted in great secrecy.
The guards were ordered under oath
to shut their mouth.
The perpetrators of the massacres tried
to obliterate the evidence
that the camp ever existed.
As the Red Army advanced
the inmates were forced to exhume the bodies
from the mass graves and to cremate the corpses.
After they completed their terrible task
the guards killed them as well.
Finally, on June 28,1944,
the SS guards blew up the camp.
One of the victims who was shot by the Nazis
at Maly Trostenets was Vincent Hadleuski,
a Catholic priest and Byelorussian patriot.
Another victim who died here was Cora Berliner,
a German Jewess born in 1942 in Hannover,
She was known in her homeland
as a pioneer of social work and as an economist.
The Austrian-born soprano Grete Forst
was murdered in Maly Trostenets, too.
History has recorded the date: June 1,1942.
The psychologist Margarete Hilferding,
her compatriot, also lost her life here,
on September 23 of the same year.
No survivors of the lager are known
to be alive today.
Since the Nazis did not keep camp records
the exact number of people who perished here
in the genocide is unknown.
Estimates range from 200,000
to half million murdered men, women
and children. At least 65,000 of them
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