Maly Trastsianiets extermination camp (see alternate spellings), located near a small village on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus, was the site of a Nazi extermination camp.
Originally built in the summer of 1941, on the site of a Soviet kolkhoz, as a concentration camp, to house Soviet prisoners of war who had been captured following the German attack on the Soviet Union which commenced on June 22 of that year; (it was known as Operation Barbarossa).
The camp became a Vernichtungslager, or extermination camp, on May 10, 1942 when the first consignment of Jews arrived.
While many Jews from Germany, Austria and the present-day Czech Republic met their deaths there, (in most cases almost immediately upon their arrival, by being trucked to the nearby Blagovshchina (Благовщина) and Shashkovka (Шашковка) forests killing grounds and shot in the back of the neck), the primary purpose of the camp was the extermination of the substantial Jewish community of Minsk and the surrounding area.
Mobile gas chambers deployed here performed a subsidiary if not insignificant function in the genocidal process.
On June 28, 1944, as the Red Army approached the region, the Nazis 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 (not all) measuring as much as 50 meters in length and three to four meters in depth, located in the Blagovshchina Forest some 500 meters from the Minsk–Mogilev highway (according to the special report prepared by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission in the 1940s).
Only two Jewish prisoners managed to survive Maly Trostenets, and only one of them survived the war, but his identity is unknown and he never gave testimony.
Original estimates of the number of people killed there ranged from 200,000 to more than half a million. Yad Vashem currently estimates the number as 65,000 Jews. Signs at the site indicate that 206,000 were murdered there.