Victory over the enemy in World War II was achieved at the cost of great sacrifice and huge loss of life amongst the Belarusian people. The Nazi German invaders left behind them bloody trails of murder, unprecedented destruction and suffering. They planned both the deliberate extermination of the people, the plundering of the national wealth and the liquidation of Belarusian political system. The Nazis totally ignored international law in the occupied territories. Their crimes have no parallels in the modern history of Belarus. No crimes equal their cruelty and universality. In the estimation of many historians & scholars, Belarus suffered more in this war than any other European country.
The Extraordinary State Commission was specially created to investigate the crimes of
the Occupation and to calculate the extent of the war damage. The commission drew its
conclusions from documentary sources. In Belarus this work was conducted from the
beginning of 1944.
Financial damage attributable to the Occupation is estimated at 75 billion rubles (as of 1941 prices), a sum which is 35 times greater than the entire Belarusian budget in 1940.
The German invaders burned down, destroyed and plundered 209 out of 270 towns and district centers (Minsk, Gomel and Vitebsk were 80-90% destroyed) and 9,200 villages in the territory of Belarus.
The total losses in industry amounted to 6,225 million rubles (as of 1941 prices). The country's national economy in terms of industrial power was thrown back to the levels of 1913. The occupying forces burned down and destroyed 100,465 industrial manufacturing buildings. 10,338 industrial enterprises were destroyed or brought to Germany, including all big power stations (85% of their prewar number).
The Extraordinary State Commission for Investigation of the Nazi German Crimes ascertained that property damage to agriculture amounted to 22,471,900 million rubles. 10,000 collective farms, 92 state farms, 316 machine and tractor stations, and 1,200 rural buildings including 421,000 dwelling houses of farmers, were destroyed.
Research, cultural and educational institutions were deliberately destroyed or
According to the data presented by the Extraordinary State Commission, 10 museums were destroyed in the period from 1941 to 1944, the damage totaling 163.4 million rubles. Eight Belarusian museums were plundered. Many works of Belarusian, Russian and Western European art, which had been preserved at the State Picture Gallery of BSSR, were stolen from Belarus and removed to other Central and Western European countries. They included about 1,700 paintings and icons, more than 50 sculptures, numerous sketches, engravings, musical instruments and items of furniture. Among them were the works of the famous artists: I. Aivazovsky, K. Bryullov, V. Byalynitsky-Birulya, M. Vrubel, I. Levitan, I. Repin, V. Surikov, and also Michelangelo, K. Rastrelli, and more. Only a small part of this was returned to Belarus.
The disappearance of the Cross of Euphrosyne of Polotsk, a national symbol of unique value created in 1161, is considered the most significant loss for the Belarusian people. The famous collection of Slutsk sashes which vividly depicted the originality and skilful artistry of the Belarusian people was also lost during the war.
The country's system of libraries was almost completely destroyed. The library stock of 10 million copies was plundered. The State Library of Belarus named after V. I. Lenin, which numbered 2 million volumes in 1941, lost more than 1.5 million volumes during the war, including some unique antique manuscripts. Today about 1 million volumes are still missing.
Five thousand theaters and club-houses were destroyed.
The Belarusian Academy of Sciences and 24 research institutions were entirely obliterated by the occupying forces.
During the war, 8,825 out of 12,294 schools were destroyed and burned down. Economic losses suffered by the educational establishments of the country totaled 4.6 billion rubles.
Although damage to property was very extensive, the most painful and bitter loss was the loss of life.
During the Occupation, the Nazis carried out more than 140 punitive expeditions, when they destroyed 5,454 villages, either partially or completely. The village of Khatyn, burned to the ground with its all residents, became a terrifying symbol of Nazi crime on Belarusian soil. Khatyn's fate was shared by other 618 rural localities, 188 of which have never been restored.
In Belarus, there were about 250 camps for Soviet POWs and 350 places of forced detention. 206,500 people were killed only in the village of Trostenets, where one of the biggest death camps was located. And unlike Auschwitz, Maidanek and Treblinka, Trostenets held mainly local people as prisoners. Jewish ghettos were created in 186 localities. About 100,000 people were held in the Minsk ghetto; only a small number of them survived. Belarusian scholars state that 715,000 Jews perished in the territory of modern Belarus during the war.
It is believed that during the Occupation, about 400,000 people (including 24,000 children) were taken to forced labour in Germany.
The statistics indicate that, if before the war 9.2 million people lived within Belarus's modern boundaries, by the end of 1944 - only 6.3 million remained. According to the Extraordinary State Commission data, 2,219,316 civilians and prisoners of war were killed in Belarus. Later, however, it was discovered that fatalities in a number of districts were underestimated and the data on some POW camps were incorrect. This figure does not include the people who were deported to Germany and died there, those lost without trace, or those Belarusian Red Army soldiers who were taken prisoners and died in captivity. At the present time, many researchers believe that between two and a half to three million people - every third resident of Belarus - perished during the Great Patriotic War.