Bruskina, Maria “Masha”.

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Bruskina, Maria “Masha”, born 1924 in Minsk, living with her mother, senior product manager of the Book Trade Office of the BSSR State Publishing House. She was an avid reader and learner. She was also a pioneer leader and a member of the school committee of Komsomol. In December 1938, the newspaper ”Pioneer of Belarus” published a photograph of Masha with the caption: “Masha Bruskina – the schoolgirl of 8th grade in school № 28, Minsk. She has only good and excellent grades in all subjects”. In June 1941, Maria Bruskina graduated from Minsk secondary school № 28.

She volunteered as a nurse at the hospital in the Minsk Polytechnic Institute,  which had been set up to care for wounded members of the Red Army. In addition to caring for soldiers, she helped them escape by smuggling civilian clothing and false identity papers into the hospital. A patient told the Germans what Bruskina was doing, and she was arrested on 14-10-1941, by the members of the Wehrmacht’s 707th Infantry Division under command of Generalmajor Mauchenheim, genannt Bechtolsheim, Freiherr Gustav Maria Benno von,  and the 2nd Schutzmannschaft Battalion, Lithuanian auxiliary troops under the command  of Major Antanas Impulevičius.  Antanas Impulevičius-Impulėnas, born 28-01-1907, was an officer of the Lithuanian Army, reaching the rank of major in 1937, and later a Nazi collaborator. After the occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union, he was arrested by NKVD. He was freed during the Uprising of June 1941. Impulevičius joined the Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft and commanded the 12th Police Battalion. His unit was sent to Belarus where it participated in mass executions of the Jews, particularly in Minsk and Kletsk. He also joined the short-lived Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force. In 1944, he moved to Germany, in 1949 he relocated to the United States. In 1962, Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR sentenced him to death in absentia. After the trial, United States dismissed Soviet request to extradite him. He died age 63 on 04-12-1970 in Philadelphia. The 707th Infantery unit was mainly used as a rear-security division in German-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, and was responsible for large-scale war crimes including the deaths of thousands of Jewish civilians.

Death and burial ground of Bruskina, Maria “Masha”.

After being arrested, Bruskina wrote a letter to her mother on 20-10-1941:

I am tormented by the thought that I have caused you great worry. Don’t worry. Nothing bad has happened to me. I swear to you that you will have no further unpleasantness because of me. If you can, please send me my dress, my green blouse, and white socks. I want to be dressed decently when I leave here.

Local German authorities decided on a public hanging to make an example of Bruskina, along with two other members of the resistance: 16-year-old Volodia Shcherbatsevich, and World War I veteran Kiril Trus. Before being hanged, she was paraded through the streets with a placard around her neck which read, in both German and Russian: “We are partisans and have shot at German troops”.  Members of the resistance were made to wear similar signs whether or not they had actually shot at German troops. She and her two comrades were hanged in public on Sunday, 26-10-1941, in front of Minsk Kristall, a yeast brewery and distillery plant on Nizhne-Lyahovskaya Street (15 Oktyabrskaya Street today) . The Germans let the bodies hang for three days before allowing them to be taken down and buried.

 

A witness of the execution, Pyotr Pavlovich Borisenko, said:

When they put her on the stool, the girl turned her face toward the fence. The executioners wanted her to stand with her face to the crowd, but she turned away and that was it. No matter how much they pushed her and tried to turn her, she remained standing with her back to the crowd. Only then did they kick away the stool from under her.

Olga Shcherbatsevich, the mother of Volodia Shcherbatsevich, was hanged the same day as her son with two other members of the resistance in front of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

For decades after the war, Bruskina was officially referred to only as “the unknown girl”, allegedly due to antisemitism from Soviet authorities. Up to 2009, Bruskina’s name was not acknowledged on the memorial plaque at the execution place. However, since 2009, a new memorial plaque at the execution place has been placed. The Russian inscription now reads “Here on October 26, 1941, the Fascists executed the Soviet patriots K. I. Truss, V. I. Sherbateyvich and M. B. Bruskina”. Bruskina was first recognized in the 1960s, as most of her family and friends had been killed in the Minsk Ghetto. A monument for Bruskina was erected in HaKfar HaYarok in Israel, and a street was named after her in Jerusalem. Under a monument in memory of M. Bruskina and other Jewish women, who fought against the Nazis. Kfar Ha-Yarok, Israel.

All hanged “partisans” were buried in anonymous graves at the Cemetery of Kurapaty, Minsk/Belarus.

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