Photograph from photo album: The gallows in the market square of Belgorod, Soviet Union, winter 1941–42


The scene

The photograph from the album of a Wehrmacht officer at the front shows the firmly installed gallows in the market square of Belgorod. The quality of the image is comparatively poor due to several factors. For one thing, the photographer was a German Wehrmacht member who had probably never received any photography training. In addition to that, the bad weather and light conditions reduced the quality of the image. The four persons on the photograph are probably members of the Wehrmacht, even though their clothing does not comply with the regulations. In the winter of 1941–42, Wehrmacht soldiers often wore clothes which they had taken from the Russians, because the German winter gear did not provide sufficient protection against the harsh winter weather.


The elaborate construction of the gallows depicted in the photograph shows that it was a permanent installation. It hence incorporated the ever-looming threat of execution to the inhabitants of Belgorod, warning them not to offer resistance against the German occupiers. In 1941, most of the victims who were publicly hanged by German perpetrators in the Soviet Union were Jewish. The public hangings were intended to be a symbol of the fight against "Jewish Bolshevism". The "Jewish Bolshevism", which was said to be responsible for the Stalinist reign of terror in the Soviet Union, was in fact an invention of the Nazis. Thus, the German occupiers hoped to raise anti-Semitic and anti-Communist feelings among the occupied population. Like many other scenes of Holocaust murders, these gallows were later also used to murder local residents as a means of deterrence in the fight against the growing partisan movement. In 1943 – 75 years ago – the partisan movement was gaining importance, while most of the Jewish Eastern Europeans had already met their death in the extermination system of the German SS.

Pictures like this one show that the anti-Jewish murder machinery of the Germans did not stop short of murdering non-Jewish persons, too.

This picture and others and where to find them in the Museum

This photograph is on display in the permanent exhibition of the Museum and can be found in the section on the German occupation during World War II.

Two more images showing the public hanging of Jewish persons can be found in the sections on the attacks on Poland and the Soviet Union.