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1941: Masha Bruskina, Kiril Trus, and Volodia Shcherbatsevich, partisans

October 26th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1941, the German occupiers of Minsk conducted an infamous public hanging of partisans — perhaps the first such salutary public execution of resistance members of the war.

Jewish* 17-year-old Maria (Masha) Bruskina was the central figure of the grim tableau, and wore the placard announcing “We are partisans and have shot at German soldiers.” Evidently, she also attracted the most attention** from the onlookers to whom the scene was addressed.

Before noon, I saw the armed German and Lithuanian soldiers appear on the street. From over the bridge they escorted three people with their arms tied behind their backs. In the middle there was a girl with a sign-board on her chest. They were led up to the yeast factory gate. I noticed how calmly these people walked. The girl did not look around … The first one led to the gallows was the girl.

She was hanged with bewhiskered World War I vet Kiril Trus and the 16-year-old Volodia Shcherbatsevich. The men were members of a partisan cell organizing anti-fascist resistance; Masha Bruskina was a nurse who had been caught aiding the partisans by providing civilian clothes and papers for wounded Red Army soldiers under her care to smuggle them back to the resistance.

The scene of their deaths was captured in a series of powerful photographs taken by one of the Lithuanian Wehrmacht collaborators.

(More images here and here.)

* Phototextualities: Intersections of Photography and Narrative claims that Bruskina lightened her hair and changed her name to prevent her Jewishness affecting her resistance work; even though she was a Minsk native, her initial identification didn’t happen until 1968. The men who suffered with her were named almost immediately after the war.

** Despite the eye-catching place of the girl, she was officially unidentified for decades even after the name Masha Bruskina surfaced. In “A Historical Injustice: The Case of Masha Bruskina,” (Holocaust Genocide Studies 1997, 11:3) Nechama Tec and Daniel Weiss argued that Soviet authorities, and later Belarusian ones, found her Jewishness problematic and resisted identifying her because of it — while an ethnically Russian female partisan like Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya could be more conveniently accepted as a heroine. Maybe, but bureaucratic inertia and simple precedence (since Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was known immediately while Masha Bruskina was not) are also plausible contributing factors.

A plaque unveiled at the Minsk yeast factory in 2009 finally called her Maria Bruskina.

Also on this date

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Belarus,Capital Punishment,Children,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Germany,Guerrillas,Hanged,History,Jews,Martyrs,Mature Content,Milestones,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Power,Public Executions,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Soldiers,Torture,USSR,Wartime Executions

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17 thoughts on “1941: Masha Bruskina, Kiril Trus, and Volodia Shcherbatsevich, partisans”

  1. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Even the flattened cities of Germany cannot undo the evil which was committed here. May they never forget what their nation did not so very long ago!

  2. Fiz says:

    “A Thousand years and the blood guilt of Germany will not be washed away” – one of the war criminials hanged at Nuremberg (Pot, Kettle?)

  3. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    Well, Fiz, I’d say that was a bit of truth coming from that NAZI, lol!

  4. Fiz says:

    Yes, finally.

  5. chung sunlee says:

    Yeah there is a saying that the female of any species is more bad and lethal than the male .time and again it is proving in this world and will continue to do so.

  6. Nicholas says:

    If her ‘crime’ was courage against immorality then she was obviously guilty to the end.

  7. Augustine says:

    Heroic people.

    However, Jews will always whine.

    She should be called a Russian first and foremost.

  8. Herr_HGS_1967_Berlin says:

    @ Kevin M. Sullivan Hättest Du sie lieber gefickt Trottel? Ist es der Grund weshalb Du weinst? Warst Du in Vietnam Ami und hast dort Kinder verbrannt?

  9. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    @Herr_HGS_1967_Berlin:

    Hello–

    I do not speak German, but if you can get your message to me in English, I’ll be happy to respond.

    That said…I see Vietnam and the German word for children (kinder), so I may already know the road you’re traveling down: I hope you’re not equating what that asshole Lt. Calley and his men did in My Lai with Germany’s actions during the war? If you are, then the comparison between Nazi Germany and what they did throughout all of Europe and what this small group of men did in Vietnam is absurd.

    There were hundreds of thousands of German soldiers during WW2 that were normal people caught up in the war. But you must realize, that even these men were fighting for a regime that was evil and despicable, and was bent on destroying the world. They were murdering Jews and non Jews alike, 11 million people in all. Six million of those were Jews.

    Therefore, everything Germany received in destruction during the war was brought upon themselves by themselves. Had you folks managed to kill that monster Hitler, the world could have been spared a horrendous time in our recent history.

  10. Kevin M. Sullivan says:

    @Herr_HGS_1967_Berlin:

    I forgot to say that I spent some time in your city of Berlin in the summer of 1972. The same summer they located the remains of Martin Borman.

  11. Tietie007 says:

    The Nazi inhumanity in all its magnificence!

  12. Renegado says:

    The Germans buried thousands of chidren alive and throwed them alive to the fire. Kill babies with the bayonets , All the world have to know that this savages did, and don´t think that they feel pity for their victims, they are not repented of any of their crimes.

  13. Shalom says:

    It’s such a pity that the world have not learned anything from the iniquity of man, and that those who probably never faced these atrocities, now use the holocaust card to validate the eradication of Palestinians, just because they call themselves ‘Jewish’.

    Anyway, there’s worse going on in Syria, and elsewhere.

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