1922-1939 1945-1991

Belarus 1939-1945

On August 23rd 1939, Soviet foreign minister Molotov and Germany's foreign minister Ribbentrop signed the German-Russian NON-AGGRESSION PACT. In a secret memorandum added to it, both governments partitioned the cordon of independent countries in eastern Europe amongst themselves. World War II began on September 1st with the German invasion of Poland; on September 17th the Soviet Red Army invaded eastern Poland, while Lithuanian forces in October - after Poland already had been defeated militarily - occupied and annexed VILNIUS, called Vilnia in Belarusian and claimed by the Belarusians as the historical center of Belarusian culture.
The Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union were split into Western Ukraine (the southern parts) and WESTERN BELARUS and were annexed into the respective Soviet republics. As these areas previously had not been under communist (Stalinist) administration, the population underwent a brutal treatment; the number of those who were exiled to Siberia is estimated at half a million, the list of victims included 'exploiters' (owners of estates), 'reactionaries' (priests), intellectuals, 'petit-bourgeois' and, of course, KULAKS. The area's Polish minority suffered extraordinarily.

From 1939 to 1941 the Soviet Union, with the exception of the brief WINTER WAR, stayed out of the war. Then on June 22nd 1941 the German invasion began. Within a matter of weeks, all of Belarus was occupied by German forces; several of the decisive KESSELSCHLACHTEN (encirclement battles) were fought on Belarusian soil. The soldiers were followed by SS units who systematically massacred the Jewish population. The remaining Belarusian population was treated with extraordinary harshness; the Germans are held responsible for 2.5 million dead in Belarus alone, a quarter of the entire population.
The area, under the name GENERALBEZIRK WEISSRUTHENIEN (General district White Ruthenia) was included in the REICHSKOMMISSARIAT OSTLAND, which also extended over the three Baltic republics.
In response to the harsh treatment by the German occupation, in summer 1942 communist PARTISAN activity increased. By late 1943 the partisans controlled about 60 % of the countryside. Minsk was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944, all of Belarus by the end of 1944.

Dismembered and Oppressed, from Notes from the History of Belarus by Jauhen Reshatau; scroll down
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : Belarus, by Ben Cahoon
Newspapers and Periodicals of the German Occupation of Belarus (1941-1944; in Belorussian, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, German), published by ProQuest
REFERENCE Article : Soviet Union : White Russia, in : Statesman's Year Book 1943 pp.1248-1249 Article : White Russian SSR, in : Americana Annual 1943 p.789 (on events of 1942) [G]
Article : Byelorussian SSR, or White Russia, in : Americana Annual 1944 pp.114-115 (on events of 1943) [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on April 28th 2002, last revised on August 24th 2007

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