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OZARICHY, Kalinkovichy region

Ozarichy prisoners terrible ordeal is one of the tragic pages in the history of the Belorussian nation.

Wehrmacht also left a bloody trace of its crimes here. Death camps were built on the territory of Belorussia and were made function by Wehrmacht.

In 1944 Wehrmacht's high command resorted to the tactics of putting forward civilians as a cover when Soviet troops were on the offensive. Fascists normally fenced large plots of land at the front line of defense in barbed wire and drove women, children and elders there. They gave them neither shelter, nor food, not even water, but kept them there under armed guard. People who were sick with spotted fever and other infectious diseases were on purpose brought there.

There were built three camps at the front line of German defense in March 1944 at the commands of General Joseph Harzte (9th army commander), General Friedrich Gossbach (56th tank corps commander) and General George Riechert (35th infantry division commander).

Ozarichy death camp's prisoners. Photos made right after the liberation. March 1944

One of the camps was close to the marches near the village of Dert. Another one was 2 km to the north-west of the place called Ozarichy, still another one was 2 km to the west of the village of Podosinnik on the marches. More than 50 thousand incapable people were driven there in the period of late February through early March. These people came from Gomel and Mogilev regions, from Polessie in Belorussia, as well as from Smolensk and Orlov regions from Russia. These three camps got the name of "Ozarichy death camp".

The camps were built on open woodland with swamps. They were not equipped with anything, just fenced in barbed wire. Driveways to them were mined. There were machine-gun towers everywhere. There were no constructions and no facilities. People slept right on the ground. It was absolutely forbidden to build huts or to make a fire there. People were given neither food nor potable water. No medical assistance was rendered to prisoners. Quite the contrary, patients with spotted fever were on purpose brought there. Therefore each day and night there died hundreds of people. Even small children were savagely killed. They made more than half of all prisoners. And they were the first to die. The dead were never buried.

33480 people were liberated from Ozarichy on March 18-19, 1944 by the troops of the 35th army of the First Belorussian front. There were 15960 children under 13 among them.

A similar camp was built in June 1944 on the eastern bank of the Dnieper. There were over 3000 peaceful civilians who came from Mogilev and nearby settlements. Another camp was built to the south-east of Vitebsk. 8 thousand peaceful civilians were liberated from it by the troops of the third Belorussian front.

When building concentration camps, fascists had different aims. They chose places where they had no hopes to hold their positions and used the camps as a cover when the Red Army advanced. And when they infected prisoners with spotted fever, they hoped to infect the Red Army as well and spread the epidemic in order to derange its further offensive.

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