In October 1941, at Minsk, Belorussia (then occupied by the Nazis), a 17-year-old Soviet Jewish partisan Masha Bruskina was arrested. Her crime? Along with two others, she was accused of killing a German soldier. Before being hanged, she was paraded through the streets with a plaque around her neck which read (in both German and Russian): “We are partisans and have shot at German troops”.
On October 26, 1941, she and her two comrades were hanged by the Nazis. In order to frighten the people into submission, the commander of the 707th Infantry Division, decided to hold a public hanging adjacent to a yeast factory. Every step of this grueling experience by documented by an unknown Lithuanian collaborating with the Nazis in seven infamous pictures.
After the war, the photos were made public — Masha’s two companions were immediately identified, but “the unknown girl” in the photo was not identified until 1968. Soviet authorities, however, refused to recognize her or to award her a posthumous medal. This snub was caused by the prevailing sense of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. In addition, her execution was two months before that of the renowned Soviet resistance fighter Zoya Kosmodemianskya — who was the symbol of Russian women’s resistance to the Nazi occupation.
See the works of Lev Arkadiev and Ada Dikhtiar, who popularized Masha’s cause.