Abstract. This article examines anti-Semitic propaganda of German authorities in occupied Soviet territory in the so-called “General District of Belarus.” The author identifies the main directions of anti-Semitic propaganda, analyzes its content, assesses the effectiveness of the ideological influence of the German occupation authorities on the Belarusian population, and proves that the occupiers tried to appeal to the national feelings of Belarusians using anti-Semitism. The author concludes that the odious, false anti-Semitic propaganda did not find a response among the Belarusian population. Belarusians practically did not participate in the organization of the “new order”; in contrast to Ukraine and the Baltic countries, it was difficult to create police battalions and a national administration in Belarus. Mass actions of extermination of Belarusian Jews could not arouse any feelings among eyewitnesses except horror and fear for their own lives. Coupled with the punitive SS expeditions against partisans and civilians, the genocide of the Jews nullified all the efforts of German propagandists. A major role in exposing the content of Nazi propaganda and the true plans of the occupiers was played by partisan counterpropaganda and the very existence of a mass partisan movement. The occupiers’ calculations to incite the hatred of Belarusians against the Jews proved wrong: Belarusian and Jewish partisans fought shoulder to shoulder for the freedom of their common homeland – Soviet Belarus.


Propaganda of anti-Semitism as a tool of the German occupation authorities in pursuit of their economic and political aims remains a research challenge. To this day, the regional specificities of the occupiers’ propaganda and its effectiveness remain little studied. The novelty of this study consists in its object. There are very few works in modern Russian historiography devoted to the problem of the use of anti-Semitic and nationalistic propaganda as a policy tool in the occupied territories of the Soviet republics, in our case the BSSR. However, the question of German propaganda in occupied Belarusian territory during the Great Patriotic War did receive some attention from researchers in and outside Russia. For example, aspects of the occupation policy of the German civil administration toward the local Jews in the territory of the General District of Belarus (GDB) were examined in the works of the Polish historian Jerzy Turonek [18]. The German researcher Johannes Schlootz [16] was one of the first to come up with a general and systematic analysis of the content of German propaganda in the GDB. The Belarusian researcher Galina Bolsun [2] has studied the issue of ideological confrontation in Belarus during the Great Patriotic War. Historian Sergey Zhumar has provided a systematic review of the periodicals that the German occupation authorities published in the GDB [19; 20]. The phenomenon of anti-Semitic propaganda, its content, and objectives have been examined in the works of Belarusian researcher E. A. Migunova [13; 14]. Inna Gerasimova and Emmanuil Ioffe continued the study of the phenomenon of the Holocaust on Belarusian land. [12; 11]. The German historian Christian Gerlach [7] wrote an opus on the criminal practice of genocide in Belarus. The work of the English historian Gerald Reitlinger [15] made a priceless contribution to the history of the genocide of Jews in occupied European territories. The Holocaust is the subject of a number of collective monographs and collections of documents by modern Belarusian historians Vladimir Adamushko, Inna Gerasimova, Viacheslav Selemenev, and Galina Knatko [10; 17; 5]. This article draws on materials of the National Archive of the Republic of Belarus (NARB).

Our study focuses on one specific administrative entity in the territory of the occupied Soviet Union – namely, the General District Belarus, which was part of Reichskommissariat Ostland (formed on July 17, 1941). This highest body of German civil administration in occupied territory comprising Lithuania, Estonia, and part of Belarus was under the jurisdiction of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories. It was headed by Reichskommissar H. Lohse, who had his residence in Riga and to whom the General Commissars of the General Districts of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Belarus reported.

It should be borne in mind that parts of the occupied territory of the BSSR were within the GDB, parts were within the rear zone of the Center group of armies, and parts were within Reichskommissariat Ukraine. On the whole, the district’s territory constituted about a quarter of the territory of the prewar BSSR. It also has to be kept in mind that the forces of the SS and SD operating in the same territory did not report to the German civil administration of the district.

The German civil administration of the district was headed by Wilhelm Kube (September 1, 1941 – September 22, 1943) and Curt von Gottberg (September 23, 1943 – June 1944). The General Kommissariat of Belarus (GKB), the supreme body of the German civil administration of the part of the occupied BSSR territory that was part of the General District Belarus, was founded by Hitler’s decree of July 17, 1941, and reported to Reichskommissariat Ostland. In the documents of the occupation authorities, “General Commissariat Belarus” was often used in the meaning “General District Belarus.” The GDB included the territory of the BSSR bounded by the line Polotsk-Borisov in the east, Stariye Dorogi-Lake Chervonnoye in the south, and the River Zelvyanka to the eastern edge of Belovezhskaya Pushcha in the west, which made up one-fourth of the territory of Belarus with a population of 3,138,256 (as of December 4, 1941). The territory of the GDB was divided into 10 areas (Gebiets).

It should be noted that the fact that SS and SD forces did not directly report to the civil administration of the district introduced a dissonance in the occupation policies of German authorities, such that, for example, representatives of the civil administration relied mainly on ideological methods when exploiting Belarusian land.

Something needs to be said about the organization of the work of the propaganda department of the German civil administration in the GDB. It started working as early as August 1941 under the General Commissariat (GC) in Minsk. The department included so-called sections: propaganda proper, press, art, and culture. The propaganda department was headed by H. E. Schreter and his deputy was J. Nagle. Each of the three sections included several “referats,” the propaganda section had six of them.

The first “referat” specialized in issuing leaflets and posters. Its output had to match the mentality of the Belarusian population of the district and the local cultural and historical features, and to address topical issues of day-to-day life. In the opinion of the propaganda department staff, regular daily issue of a new series of leaflets was to stimulate Belarusians to cooperate with their “liberators” and to educate the locals politically and ideologically.1

The second “referat” was responsible for training propaganda personnel, holding rallies, and spreading radio propaganda. The training of propagandists focused not so much on mastering oratorical skills as getting the feel of “the popular character of the language in its pristine form.”2

The third “referat” was in charge of film screening and organizing art and photo exhibitions. All feature and documentary films were translated into the Belarusian language, which, in the absence of Belarusian productions, was meant to bridge the gap between the mentalities of the makers and viewers of the films and adapt German propaganda materials to the perceptions of the local population.

The fourth “referat” provided technical support for all the other “referats.”3 The fifth “referat” oversaw all local propaganda personnel. It prepared work plans, circulars, recommendations, and orders for conducting various actions and events.4

The sixth “referat” was a “translation bureau.” As its name suggests, its staff translated into Belarusian propaganda literature5 sent from Berlin. Thus, propaganda was a well-organized and systematic activity.

Accusing Jews of Unleashing the War and an Attempt to Justify the Policy of Genocide

Extermination of Jews in occupied Soviet territory was accompanied by abhorrent anti-Semitic propaganda on the part of the German administration. The architects of the Third Reich and of “New Europe” sought to involve as many local citizens as possible in order to shift the blame for the genocide of Jews on Belarusians. Unfortunately, this tactic worked in many European countries, including Poland, and inside Nazi Germany itself. This is something that European politicians as well as historians prefer to keep silent about. However, the method tested on the populations of other European territories failed in Belarus. Since early times, Jews lived in many boroughs in Belarus without encountering anti-Semitism on the part of Belarusians. Nevertheless, the Nazi’s anti-Jewish propaganda, having started in Europe, was continued in occupied Soviet Belarus.

According to a Soviet population census conducted in the BSSR in 1939, the number of Jews living in the republic’s territory stood at 375,000. That same year, after Western Belarus became a part of the BSSR, the total Jewish population reached one million. Among them were 200,000 Polish Jews who had fled the Holocaust to seek refuge in the Soviet Belarus.

With the start of the Great Patriotic War, the retreat of regular Red Army units, and the establishment of German administration, the Jews were the first to be exposed to the threat of mass annihilation. In September 1941, the German civil administration in the GDB started implementing the “program of the final solution of the Jewish question in the occupied Soviet regions.” As early as August 13, 1941, the operational headquarters of the Eastern Front ordered the creation of ghettoes in the army’s rear. In Minsk, a ghetto was created in July 1941 on the order of the city commandant [12, p. 197].

It has to be noted that as early as the summer and fall of 1941, there were signs of some discord within the German occupation authorities over the “solution of the Jewish question.” After the October 30, 1941, massacre of Jews in Slutsk by SD troops, the General Commissar of Belarus, W. Kube, who headed the civil administration, wrote several reports to the Reich authorities about the methods of occupation policy and the “solution of the Jewish question.” After the punitive operation, the General Commissar received a report from the commissar of Slutsk, which read in part:

With incredible cruelty the German police and especially Lithuanian partisans (Lithuanian police units in the service of the Germans – E. P.) dragged Jews, and Belarusians among them, out of their homes and herded them together. There was shooting all over the place and bodies of murdered Jews were lying in some streets. It cost Belarusians a lot of effort to clear themselves of the charge (that is, prove that they were not Jewish – E. P.).As for Jews, including artisans, they were tortured before the eyes of the Belarusians, and Belarusians themselves were beaten with rubber clubs and rifle butts. It was no longer a Jewish action, it looked more like a revolution. The Belarusian population, which trusted us totally, is now horror-stricken. I consider that this act destroyed much of what we have managed to achieve in recent months, and it will take a lot of time before we can regain the trust of the population [18, p. 79].

Kube reacted by sending a missive to Hinrich Lohse, Reichskommissar for Ostland (SS Obergruppenführer, since November 1941, Reichskommissar for Oastland, Imperial Commissar for the Baltics):

It is impossible to maintain calm and order in Belarus using such methods. That the gravely wounded were buried alive and then climbed out of the graves – this is infinite swinishness that should have been reported to the Führer and the Reichsmarschal. The civil administration is exerting strenuous efforts in order, pursuant to the directives of the Führer and the Rechsminister for the occupied Eastern provinces (Rosenberg, who was appointed Reichsminister for the occupied Eastern provinces on July 17, 1941 – E. P.), to win the sympathy of the local population. But these efforts cannot co-exist and be reconciled with the methods described above [Ibid.].

It will be seen from the above missive that already the first anti-Jewish actions in Belarus launched by police did not meet with the support of the local population; moreover, they alienated it from the Germans. However, there was no consensus within the occupation authorities: The SS and the SD did not report to Kube. Soviet underground fighters reported that during one such action, on November 7, Jews were herded together on Shirokaya Street, given red flags, and forced to sing the Internationale before being shot. This massacre of innocent people was declared to be punishment for “an attempt to stage a demonstration.” Similar actions were conducted on November 20, 1941, and March 2, 1942. Further, Jews were forced to pay a contribution of 30 rubles per person; hostages were taken. The same source reported sterilization of Jews. Soviet underground fighters reported that under the guise of searches (allegedly to look for weapons), Jews were simply robbed. Some of the old raggedy clothes were then selected for display in a propaganda exhibition at Government House designed to demonstrate how poorly people lived under the Jewish-Bolshevik power. The materials of the “exhibition” were used to make several propaganda documentaries under the title “Soviet Paradise.”6

Researchers have offered varying explanations of Kube’s aforementioned reaction. For example, Alexander Dallin attributes it to the general commissar’s economic and political interests, since most artisans in Belarus were Jews [3]. The genocide of Jews stirred anti-German feelings in the province. Therefore, Dallin argues, Kube was in no rush to carry out anti-Semitic actions. Indeed, some surviving German sources lend credence to this explanation. For example, Kube effectively helped Jewish doctors from the city of Baranovichi when he allowed them to take up residence in Minsk’s Vilenskaya Street. He motivated his decision by the need to preserve professional labor.7

Polish historian J. Turonek takes a more ambivalent view. He believes that Kube “without opposing the core ideological principle of Hitlerism, sought to limit the scale of the massacre of Jews. He tried to delay the action citing various economic and political reasons.” Thus Turonek partly absolves Kube of responsibility for the crimes of the German occupation authorities against Belarusian Jews. “In this situation he could, like the other commissars in the occupied Soviet territories, simply maintain thorough neutrality with regard to the crimes of the Himmler apparatus,” he writes [18, p. 148].

Gerald Reitlinger, a noted student of Holocaust history, observes that although Kube’s actions in this area did not succeed, “Kube was … the one high official in Russia, civil or military, who for any length of time obstructed the path of racial murder.… [T]his elderly man did for many months what no member of the much-vaunted opposition to Hitler dared to do” [15, p. 256].

Be that as it may, Kube’s official stance did not go beyond the framework of the Nazi ideology of genocide of Jews. The fact that the occupation authorities pursued a considered policy of exterminating the Jewish population of the province is not open to question. As an official representative of power, Kube shares full responsibility for the Nazi crimes against the Jews. His missives to the imperial authorities cannot be seen as manifestations of some kind of humanism, in particular because he says merely that such actions are not practicable because they diminish the propaganda effect on the rest of the population. Kube, who had been a member of the NSDAP (the Nazi Party) long before he was appointed General Commissar of Belarus, was thoroughly conversant with the tenets of the Nazi ideology concerning “the Jewish question”; besides, he could not have been unaware of the methods of anti-Semitic policy inside Germany itself.

In general, Kube put his stake on propaganda as one of the main instruments of pacifying and winning the sympathy of the population, which in turn would secure a timely and full-scale fulfillment of occupation’s plans in the area of the economy and ideology. He was in favor of formal recognition of the right of the Belarusian people to self-determination, which translated itself into propaganda of the ideas of the “rebirth of Belarusia”; the “Arian,” “Nordic” origin of Belarusians; and “collaboration” with Germany. These slogans, coupled with anti-Semitic, anti-Polish, and Russophobic ideas of propaganda materials, determined the strategies of the occupiers’ nationalities policy. They were also called upon to justify the extermination of Jews and punitive actions against the partisans, and to educate the people in the nationalistic spirit [14].

From the early days of the establishment of the German civil administration in Belarus under Kube, the guidelines of anti-Semitic propaganda were laid down. Many of them were designed to pit the Belarusians against the Jews:

1. The challenges in the work with the Belarusian population stem from the fact that it had for a long period lived under Russian Tsarism, then under Soviet power and under the Jews who represented Soviet power in Belarus. As a result, the Belarusians lost their national identity, the will to self-government, and a chance at the creation of a nation state.

2. The Jews are the real instigators of war.

3. The overwhelming majority of the Bolsheviks, especially in the AUCP(B) leadership, are Jews who have seized power in order to achieve world domination through escalation of the war.

4. Most Belarusian partisans are Bolshevik Jews or Red Army men who had been entrapped, and not Belarusians.

5. The return of Soviet power, hence the Soviet serfdom and NKVD terror (exercised mainly by Jews), will bring death to the Belarusian people [13, pp. 18-19].

These provisions, representing the gist of the propaganda, were quickly taken up by the media, especially since this was necessary to explain the Holocaust and morally justify in the eyes of the local population the mass killings and ghettoization of Jews. To minimize the negative impression and in general find some justification of criminal deeds, the propaganda department of the General Commissariat conducted all kinds of anti-Semitic campaigns throughout the war. They were launched in late 1941 and early 1942, when, after the defeat of the Werhmacht in the battle of Moscow and the failure of the blitzkrieg, the occupation authorities started taking measures to involve the population of “the liberated areas” in the implementation of their own economic and political tasks.

One of the key issues in the propaganda of anti-Semitism was the accusation of the Jews for unleashing the Second World War. To the question “Who is to blame for instigating the war?” the German propagandists answered: “The Jews are the real instigators of the war.” In October 1941, the Russian-language newspaper Novoye slovo,published in Berlin and circulatedin the GDB, railed against the holding in Moscow on August 24, 1941, of what it called a Jewish rally. The newspaper published the text of the appeal launched at the meeting, which read in part:

Jewish brothers all over the world! The voice of the blood that has been shed calls not for fasting and prayer, but for vengeance!… In the whole tragic history of our long-suffering people there has been no time that could compare with the horror that Fascism visited on the Jewish people. The Fascists attacked our country where the peoples found their mother, the fatherland that gave them wonderful life, freedom, and happiness. Among them, the Jewish people who for the first time in its thousand-year history felt themselves among kith and kin and an equal among equals. Brother Jews all over the world, undermine the economic resources of the Fascists in any part of the world! Boycott their governments! Act with the sacred ferocity of partisans! Agitate everywhere for solidarity with the USSR, for assistance to it! [1].

The text was supposed to be further proof of the Jews’ guilt for unleashing the war.

The main arguments of the German propaganda, which was a reaction to the appeal, were based on the programmatic speech of Adolf Hitler to mark the anniversary of the Munich Beer Putsch on November 9, 1923. In his speech, Hitler spoke about “repeated attempts to find ways toward reconciliation and revival of the European continent that Marxist, Jewish, and plutocratic elements (Great Britain and the USA – E. P.) sought to bring to war, about how his “attempts to establish peace were rejected.” The Führer’s address to the audience began with the words: “The Jews are the world instigators of war. Behind this war stands international Jewry, the perennial instigator of war.” Hitler then cited “proof” that the USSR was preparing to attack Germany:

The Bolsheviks thought that the time would come when they would be able to march on Europe. They began building up strength and managed to concentrate 22 divisions in the Baltic area while there were only three German divisions in Eastern Prussia. This was the situation when Molotov came to Berlin and presented his demands, which bordered on political blackmail.8

Another massive reaction of German propaganda was in response to Joseph Stalin’s appeal to the peoples of the USSR in which he proclaimed the patriotic character of the war. To deny Stalin’s thesis about the war being a war of the whole people, a set of counterarguments were presented to the media. They boiled down to the following:

1. For the peoples inhabiting the USSR, this cannot be a patriotic war for the Fatherland because the Bolsheviks (Jews) deprived them of the Fatherland, destroying their cultural traditions and national feelings.

2. The Bolsheviks’ ideal was “bloodless internationalism” (without national features). Russia’s rulers in general were not Russians, but aliens, Jews – for example, Stalin, Trotsky, Litvinov (Finkelstein), Molotov (Skryabin), Mikoyan, Ordzhonikidze, etc. They are not the defenders but the enemies of all the peoples inhabiting Soviet Russia. Their aim is world Jewish domination.

3. Germany faced an enormous threat of being attacked by the Bolsheviks who were engaged in a massive military build-up at the expense of the people. Germany could not afford to wait for the attack of the Red Army and struck first, which was not a political but a purely military maneuver.

4. You have no future that would be worth fighting for on the side of the Bolsheviks. Russia was hermetically isolated from the rest of the world. Nobody knew where the Kremlin regents would lead the country by their unbelievable experiments. The land is in the hands of the Bolsheviks. You never had an independent policy because it was in the hands of international Jews.9

As seen from the above quotation, German propaganda stressed the problem of “the world Jewish conspiracy.” Jews were painted as the enemy of all humankind who were thoroughly preparing for the war and waging it in order to rule the whole world.

The content of anti-Semitic propaganda did not change throughout the war. All propaganda actions included elements of anti-Semitism. Take the large-scale action on June 22, 1942, to mark the anniversary of so-called liberation of Belarus. Print and radio propaganda carried the following text:

A year has passed since the peoples of Europe led by Germany and Italy united to fight their common enemy, Bolshevism.

To forestall the plans of Stalin and his Jewish underlings who were preparing a perfidious attack on national powers, these states sent armies to the continent’s eastern border in order to save the whole of Europe.10

Beginning in February 1943, German propaganda conducted a campaign to expose “Stalin’s secret order,” which allegedly envisaged three stages of the war, the final stage being a “world proletarian revolution.”11 The “revolution” would bring the “world Jewry” to power. The campaign triggered numerous actions aimed at scaring the population of the District by the prospect of the return of Soviet power.

It has to be noted that German propaganda’s accusations of instigating war applied not only to Soviet Jews, especially those who stood at the helm of the communist party, but to all Jews in the world, and especially Jews from the countries that were allies of the USSR. For example, the Anglo-American military alliance was more often than not referred to as an “Anglo-American plutocracy,” “plutocrats” being members of the financial and industrial elite who had Jewish roots. Thus, Hitler’s New Year address published in the newspaper Novoye slovo in early 1944 read in part:

The victory England seeks will be a victory of world Zionism; it will not be Great Britain that will have deceived the Bolshevik demon, but it will itself become a victim of the Bolshevik poison.12

Materials of this kind were put out by a department of the eastern section of the Propaganda Ministry under the telling name “Anti-Comintern.”13

“Archetype of Jewish Criminality”: Jews as the Main Obstacle to the National Revival of Belarus

A major tool of fomenting anti-Semitic feelings was instilling in Belarusians the idea that the Jews were the main obstacle to the national revival of Belarus. The “archetype of Jewish criminality” was being created by the propaganda department of the General Commissariat of Belarus. The peak of this activity was from 1942 to 1943, which was due to a change of the tactics of ideological warfare in the wake of the collapse of the plans of blitzkrieg. Goebbels, the Third Reich’s propaganda chief, admitted that earlier German statements about colonialist plans in Russia were “idiocy.” His new tactic shifted the emphasis to ideological struggle against Jews and Bolsheviks without touching the peoples of the USSR.

Pursuant to Hitler’s directive, on February 15, 1943, Goebbels issued to all reichsleiters, gauleiters, and heads of propaganda departments an edict that stated the need to bring home to all the European countries, including the eastern ones, that it was in their interest, such that it was forbidden, in speeches and in the press, to speak about colonization and exploitation of eastern territories, and prominence should be given to the prospects of revival under German guidance [18, p. 112].

From that moment on, propaganda efforts were directed at setting the local population against the Jews who lived in Belarusian land.

As early as 1941, W. Kube said the following:

Under Soviet rule, only the Jews and Russians lived well in Belarus, while workers, peasants, artisans, and scientists were oppressed by the Jews.… To straighten out Belarus, it is necessary first of all to destroy Bolshevism.14

Seeking to gain the sympathy of the local population and win it over, Kube even took to spreading the theory about the Nordic origin of Belarusians [18, p. 133].

To bring about a clash between peoples and foment anti-Semitism, the German occupiers staged various actions, published articles, and launched intensive radio propaganda. For example, the newspaper Novoye slovo carried an article titled “Bolshevism and Judaism,” which identified “communism” with “Zionism.”

Bolshevism as an idea in its own right does not exist for the Jews. “October,” along with bleeding Russia white, brought the Jews fabulous power and material benefits. No, Bolshevism does not have a Russian character. The Russian is only capable of a riot, meaningless and ruthless. In contrast, the Bolshevik system of sustained terror reveals Jewish features borrowed from the Old Testament. It is not enough to annihilate Bolshevism; it is necessary to annihilate the Jew with the Talmud. As long as the Jew exists there will exist the possibility of attempts to possess people, only by using other slogans.15

This quotation distills the new Goebbels doctrine on the methods of ideological work that was adopted after the Soviet counteroffensive in Stalingrad.

The new propaganda line was based on scaring the Germans and the population of “occupied eastern provinces” with the prospect of Soviet power returning and the Red Army entering Europe. Fear of the return of the Soviets was to mobilize the population to work harder for the Reich’s war industry and thus assure German victory. The main propaganda slogan of that period of the war was this: “Germany is fighting not against the peoples of the East but against Bolshevism.” Goebbels ordered the press and radio not to speak about German conquests in the East and instead to stress organization of “a crusade against Bolshevism” [8, p. 112]. Turonek points out that softening of terror against the civilian population was also an element of the new anti-partisan tactic of W. Kube’s successor, K. von Gottberg.… He was critical of the results of previous punitive operations and tried to win the sympathy of the local population and involve it in the fight against the partisans [18, p. 166].

One way to win the trust and sympathy of Belarusians was to stage numerous actions to expose repressions by the NKVD, which, as propaganda alleged, was full of Jews. A propaganda article said:

If there was something Stalin and his Jewish accomplices did not like, they gave a signal to “the sword of the proletarian revolution,” the NKVD. This bloody organ used barbarous methods to make short shrift of undesirables. This was the case throughout the 25 years of Jewish-Bolshevik rule. But now there are liberated territories, something that very much displeases Stalin.16

Attempts were made to scare Belarusian peasants with the return of the kolkhoz system, also a Jewish invention. The propaganda department of the Belarus District faked anti-Semitic proverbs and chastushkas (satirical ditties), in Russian: “To live under Stalin you have to serve the Yids,” “But for Stalin’s power, we would never be in jail,” “Hate Stalin until you die,” “A dude wore a kaftan until he joined the kolkhoz; now he is in rags.” The chastushkas composed by the Nazis were even more obscene and insulting:

Yids all around you / No getting away from them / The Yid is bossing it in the kolkhoz / The muzhik is wallowing in shit. We lived long in misery / Didn’t expect any help. / Thank God. Hitler came to save us / from Yid scum [4].

Demonstrating and exposing the negative aspects of the Soviet sociopolitical and economic system, German propaganda accused the Jews of deliberately creating them. This picture was contrasted with an idealized way of life being built in the “liberated provinces” by the German administration. During May 1 celebrations in 1944, local propagandists received from Minsk a typical report devoted to the “Jewish question.” Its main theses were as follows:

1. The Belarusian people have their third chance to live freely without Yids and communists, without the Red terror of the NKVD, to mark May 1 as a day of joy and awakening of forces for the struggle for the happiness of their Motherland, which is following the path of national revival.

2. Although we are celebrating under the conditions of war and the battle against Bolshevism, although the Yid-Bolshevik bands (partisans – E. P.) are doing us considerable harm, our people have been freed from kolkhoz serfdom and Stakhanovite exploitation and hope that in the New Europe it will be able to prove its capacity for national development.17

In 1942-1943, periodicals regularly published articles under the heading “How it happened?” in which the Soviets were again and again accused of escalating tensions in Europe and warmongering. They focused on how the Red Army retreated and Wehrmacht units entered Belarusian cities and villages.

While the former were invariably referred to as “wicked NKVD and Jews who had left people in the lurch,” the latter were painted in rosy colors. The tone of these reports changed somewhat in 1944. With the approach of the frontline, German propaganda resorted to the tactic of exposing “concrete” facts and “eye-witness accounts” of “Red terror” in the territories “recaptured by the Bolsheviks,” as well as the territories of Europe where Red Army units had entered. The rubric “Where the Bolsheviks came” featured blood-curdling stories of atrocities against civilians committed by “NKVD special units,” predictably, “led by Jews.”18

The German “liberators” were particularly bothered not only by the constant growth of the partisan movement, but also by the fact that many Belarusian Jews (about 15,000) had escaped death by joining the partisans. Jews formed their own partisan units as family camps. Jews were accused of shirking combat operations, having become commissars, and of deceiving Belarusian partisans by poisoning them with “Jewish-Bolshevik ideology.”19 The Nazis were particularly incensed by the fact that Jews led partisan units that caused considerable damage to the German administration. Therefore, seeking to mobilize the local Belarusian population to fight the “bandits,” German propaganda presented a portrait of the Jew as a criminal, murderer and warmonger.

Other propaganda materials targeted partisans who were ethnic Belarusians:

Belarusian partisans, think what you are doing. You face death and annihilation. You have been cheated by the Jewish traitors. Their path is not your path. Your path is that of your brothers who are fighting against Bolshevism. Otherwise you will never see your Motherland again. Do not follow the lead of the Jewish minions against your Fatherland. The Jews are leading you to total destruction. Those who want to save themselves, surrender! Defect to the German side with your arms.20

The documents cited above show that appeals to the Belarusian partisans are tinged with “sympathy” and “regret” because they had fallen prey to Jewish deceit. Dangled before them were “prospects” of the resurgence of Belarus as part of a New Europe in which they would have equal rights with Germans.

In contrast, the materials disseminated among the civilian population stressed the “crimes” of the partisans: “Facts” were cited of partisan atrocities against civilians (looting, killings, arson). Assistance in exposing and liquidating “bandit nests” was proclaimed to be “the duty of every honest citizen.” A typical slogan in the last months of occupation of Soviet Belarus was: “Return of Soviet power means death for Belarusians.” Civilians were told that Stalin would punish them for living under occupation and working at enterprises:

The NKVD will be after everyone who lived and worked under the Germans; the Jews are in the forefront of those who administer these punishments; these crimes are not spontaneous actions, they have been ordered by Stalin.21

Belarusian collaborators made a substantial contribution to anti-Semitic propaganda in the District’s territory. Prominent among them were Anton Adamovich (a Belarusian journalist who collaborated with the Germans from the beginning of the occupation, a member of the staff of the General Commissariat propaganda department), Mikhail Ganko (head of the pro-German Union of Belarusian Youth) and other graduates of the propaganda school headed by Fabian Akinchits (leader of the Belarusian National-Socialist Party and head of a so-called propaganda school under the General Commissariat). Their message to their compatriots followed the formula of contrasting Jews to Belarusians prescribed by the occupiers. “The interests of Yids and non-Yids are incompatible,” wrote Menskaya gazeta in September 1942. “The Yids’ ethic and morality should not poison other nations; Yids have no place among us.”22 The head of the pro-Fascist Union of Belarusian Youth, M. Ganko, regularly published articles in the anti-Semitic vein in Belaruska gazeta under the pseudonym “V. Ogonek.” In one of them, he wrote: “The Yid was, is, and will be a Yid; he will never change and become a better person; he will never be a friend of a Belarusian.”23

At the beginning of 1943, on Kube’s order, a special propaganda group of Belarusian staffers of the General Commissariat was formed, tasked with touring the District’s cities and townships to give lectures on anti-Semitic themes. Among the topics were the following: “Why we should fight against the Jewish-Bolshevik threat” and “What Belarusians should know about Jews,” etc.24

Propaganda of anti-Semitism continued until the last days of the German occupation of Belarus, although already in June 1943, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of ghettoes in Ostland territory. In fact, this meant “the final solution of the Jewish question” – i.e., extermination of all surviving Jews. As Germany’s chances of winning the war dwindled, the Nazis became still more intent on killing Jews and accusing them of warmongering. Although the Holocaust had practically completed its gruesome business in Europe by the fall of 1944, inside Germany, propaganda continued to expose “the world Jewish conspiracy.”


It has to be stressed that the odious and utterly false anti-Semitic propaganda did not meet with support among the Belarusian people. Both the Belarusian and the Jewish people sustained great losses during the Great Patriotic War. One in every three of the republic’s citizens died. The Belarusians saw the genocide of Jews as their own tragedy. Belarusians practically did not take part in the establishment of “the new order.” As Turonek wrote: “Unlike in Ukraine and the Baltics, it was difficult here to form police battalions and a national administration” [18, p. 113]. Mass actions of exterminating Belarusian Jews could not evoke any feelings among eyewitnesses other than horror and fear for their own lives. Coupled with punitive expeditions of the SS against the partisans and civilians living in the area where the partisans were active, the genocide of Jews brought to naught the effect of the enemy propaganda. E. V. Fomin, a Belarusian researcher, notes that anti-Semitic propaganda in Belarus was prompted not only by the Third Reich’s ideological principles, but also by the sympathy of Belarusians for their Jewish neighbors [6, p. 50]. As German sources noted, the effort to foment nationalistic sentiments of the local population was stymied by the long preceding period of Russification and Polonization of the Belarusian population, such that “in their mass, Belarusians consider themselves to be more Russian than Belarusian (in the eastern areas) and, accordingly, Poles in Western Belarus.”25 As a consequence, such self-identification and political sentiments did not develop into nationalism and the desire to destroy other nations, including Jews. The partisan counter-propaganda and the very existence of the partisan movement played an immense role in debunking the content of the Nazi propaganda and exposing the true plans of the occupiers. During the Great Patriotic War 1,255 Soviet partisan units – i.e., more than 374,000 fighters – were active in the occupied territory of Soviet Belarus [9, p. 25]. There were also so-called Jewish units. In the years of dreadful peril for Belarusian Jewry, family partisan units and camps, a phenomenon without analogs in any other European country, provided refuge for hundreds and thousands of Belarusian Jews who miraculously escaped death in a ghetto. The partisans’ counterpropaganda went a long way toward reducing the effect of the ideological barrage unleashed by the German occupiers.

It has to be noted that a distinguishing feature of German propaganda in the GDB was heavy bias of the German civil administration toward the use of ideological tools to ensure exploitation plans and secure the rear. Other noteworthy features of the activities of the German occupation authorities in Belarus include the following. First, ideological work with the local population was a well-organized effort modeled on the propaganda system of Nazi Germany. Wide use was made of visual (leaflets, posters, printed matter, exhibitions) and audio tools (radio broadcasts, concerts, festive events, meetings of enterprise workers and rural dwellers). Second, propaganda was tailored to the psychological and cultural-historical characteristics of the local population. Third, the civil administration of the District under Kube used propaganda as a proactive instrument in fulfilling the economic and political tasks of the German Reich in occupied territories. Fourth, the content of propaganda combined brazen lies and demagogy with critique of the real shortcomings of the Soviet and economic and political system. Fifth, because of the prolonged period of occupation of Soviet Belarus, the German authorities had to constantly adjust the forms and methods of ideological and political work with the mass consciousness of Belarusians and to enlist the help of local collaborators in propaganda activities. Sixth, there were several factors that diminished the effectiveness of German propaganda in the District territory: the existence of a mass partisan movement and Soviet counter-propaganda and the extreme brutality of the occupation regime, including the policy of “scorched earth” and genocide of Jews.


1.            Appeal of Soviet Jews to Fellow Jews around the World, Compiled during the “Jewish Rally” on August 24, 1941 in Moscow. Novoye slovo (= New word). 1941. No. 10, p. 1. (In Russian.)

2.            Bolsun G. A. The Confrontation between German and Soviet Propaganda in the Occupied Territory of Belarus (1941-1944). Cand. Sc. Thesis (History). Minsk, 1999. (In Russian.)

3.            Dallin A. German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies. London; New York: Macmillan; St. Martin’s Press, 1957.

4.            Debtor (Anecdote). For the Homeland. 1943. No. 12, pp. 2-3. (In Russian.)

5.            The Executioners Testify: The Extermination of Jews in the Occupied Territory of Belarus in 1941-1944: Documents and Materials. 2nd ed. Ed. by S. Novikov; Compiled by V. Adamushko, I. Gerasimova, V. Selemenev. Minsk: NARB, 2009. (In Russian.)

6.            Fomin E. V. Anti-Semitic Propaganda in Periodicals in the Occupied Territory of the BSSR (1941-1944). Young Science – 2020: Regional Scientific and Practical Conference of Undergraduate and Graduate Students of Universities in the Mogilev Region: Conference Materials. Mogilev, April 22, 2020. Ed. by O. Lavshuk, N. Makovskaya. Mogilev: A. Kuleshov Mogilev State Univ., 2020. (In Russian.)

7.            Gerlach C. Kalkulierte Morde. Die deutsche Wirtschaft – und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1999.

8.            Goebbels J. Latest Entries. Smolensk: Rusich, 1993. (In Russian.)

9.            Guerrilla Belarus: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Partisan Movement in Belarus during the Great Patriotic War. Ed. by A. Litvin. Minsk: Belarusian Encyclopedia, 2019. (In Russian.)

10.         Holocaust in Belarus: Documents and Materials. Compiled by E. Ioffe, G. Knatko, V. Selemenov. Minsk: NARB, 2002. (In Russian.)

11.         Ioffe E. G. Belarusian Jews: Tragedy and Heroism: 1941-1945. Minsk, 2003. (In Russian.)

12.         Jews of Belarus: History and Culture. Ed. by I. Gerasimova. Minsk: Open Univ. of Israel in Belarus, 1997. (In Russian.)

13.         Migunova A. A. Propaganda and Cultural-Educational Activities of the German Occupation Authorities in the General District of Belarus (1941-1944). Cand. Sc. Thesis (History). Minsk, 1999. (In Belarusian.)

14.         Migunova E. A. Anti-Semitic Propaganda in the Occupied Territories of Belarus in 1941-1944. Jews of Belarus: History and Culture. Ed. by I. Gerasimova. Minsk: Open Univ. of Israel in Belarus, 1997, pp. 101-108. (In Russian.)

15.         Reitlinger G. The House Built on Sand: The Conflicts of German Policy in Russia, 1939-1945. London: Viking Press, 1960.

16.         Schlootz J. German Propaganda in Belarus, 1941-1944: The Confrontation between Propaganda and Reality: Exhibition in Berlin, Minsk and Moscow. Text by B. Quinkert, J. Schlootz; Trans. by D. Starchenko. Berlin: Free Univ. of Berlin, 1997. (In Russian.)

17.         Surviving Is a Feat: Memories and Documents about the Minsk Ghetto. Compiled by I. Gerasimova, V. Selemenev. Ed. by N. Denisova. Minsk: NARB, 2008. (In Russian.)

18.         Turonek J. Belarus under German Occupation. Minsk: Belarus, 1993. (In Belarusian.)

19.         Zhumar’ S. V. Occupation Periodicals on the Territory of Belarus during the Great Patriotic War (Based on the Materials of Belarusian-Language Publications). Cand. Sc. Thesis (History). Minsk, 1995. (In Russian.)

20.         Zhumar’ S. V. Occupation Periodicals on the Territory of Belarus during the Great Patriotic War. Minsk: BelNIIDAD, 1996.


1                      National Archive of the Republic of Belarus (hereinafter – NARB). F. 370. Op. 1. D. 2376. L. 16.

2              Ibid. L. 17; D. 1284. L. 19.

3              Ibid. D. 2376. L. 18.

4              Ibid. L. 19.

5              Ibid. L. 20.

6              NARB. F. 4. Op. 33а. D. 648. L. 17-18.

7              NARB. F. 651. Op. 1. D. 3. L. 116.

8              NARB. F. 370. Op. 1. D. 2389. L. 10.

9              NARB. F. 411. Op. 1. D. 32. L. 49.

10             Ibid. L. 18.

11             Ibid. D. 13. L. 6.

12             Ibid. D. 9. L. 11.

13             Ibid. D. 32. L. 18.

14             NARB. F. 370. Op. 1. D. 5. L. 10.

15             Ibid. D. 15. L. 23.

16             NARB. F. 411. Op. 1. D. 33. L. 23.

17             Ibid. D. 10. L. 1.

18             Ibid. D. 37. L. 10.

19             NARB. F. 569. Op. 1. D. 7. L. 7.

20             NARB. F. 411. Op. 1. D. 35. L. 15.

21             Ibid. D. 33. L. 25.

22             NARB. F. 569. Op. 1. D. 7. L. 7.

23             NARB. F. 370. Op. 1. D. 399. L. 46.

24             Ibid. D. 400. L. 66.

25             NARB. F. 370. Op. 1. D. 411. L. 8.

Translated by Yevgeny Filippov