“Stalag 342”

 "Stalag 342” (a prisoner-of-war camp) was one 9 concentration camps on the territory of Belarus in 1941. "Stalag 342” consisted of 3 prison camps and its 13 branches in railway stations. The prison camp existed until the Red Army liberated Molodechno in July 1944.                                                

The prison camp was located in the north-east of the city. It was housed in barracks with no proper living conditions. There were about 30000 people kept in the concentration camp.  Prisoners of wars were held together with civilians of all ages including teenagers and the elderly.

All the prisoners tortured and executed by shooting were dumped in the pits for 150-200 and 300 within a 150-200-metre distance from the prison camp. There were 221 graves in the cemetery. 73 graves had crosses with inscriptions about the number of buried prisoners.

There were two branches of the central prison camp. The first was situated in the eastern part of the city, the other one was located behind the railway. 

At night exhausted and starving people lay together in groups and covered themselves with anything they could get to keep warm.  However, it was of no help as in the morning many prisoners were found dead. 33150 people died during  winter time. 

There was the inhumane treatment of the prisoners in the death camp. The barracks were overcrowded with people. The majority of prisoners of war and civilians was held in the open air for several days. They were fed once a day. 100 g of bread mixed with sawdust and 1 litre of thin soup from products unfit to eat made a ration per person. Once a day the prisoners were given a loaf of bread and two water tins per seven.

Insanitary conditions of Molodechno death camp led to a constant typhus epidemic and other diseases. Hard work weakened the prisoners. Starvation and diseases, cold and humiliation resulted in death of thousands of Soviet people.

It was often that the prisoners were not fed for days at all. The death camp reminded of a dreadful ghost. Water lacked. Emaciated to the point of complete exhaustion people looked like skeletons while the prison camp seemed to be a large cemetery. The prisoners went mad because of starvation. They committed suicide. More or less healthy prisoners made gangs sent to everyday work with no extra meals provided.  Starvation, cold and insanitary conditions brought the death toll to 350-400 every day. Mass execution by shooting was carried out at night. Individuals executed used to be a common thing as well.

According to Aleksandr Mazanik, the total death toll in the central prison camp "Stalag 342” reached more than 60000. It is double as many as we got used to think. 

Unfortunately, 221 graves with buried victims were destroyed in the post-war years. Nowadays there have been put up buildings in the major part of former concentration camp territory. Aleksandr Mazanik, a veteran of the Great Patriotic war, an executive secretary of Molodechno branch of Belarusian Society for Protection of Monuments of History and Culture took the initiative in building a monument to the prisoners of "Stalag 342”. Thanks to A. Mazanik a decision was taken "to perpetuate the memory of former concentration camp "Stalag 342” prisoners and to form the committee on reburial of remains.” On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Victory Day the monument "Stalag 342” was founded. Its architect is Leonid Levin, one of the authors of Khatyn Memorial. According to the author, stone symbolizes graves. Each one has its number on. A perimeter barbed wire fence is a symbol of the concentration camp. Black flowers stand for the memory of the dead. The stairs look like the way to eternity. The pit is a symbolic burial site.

Annually on April 11, the Day of Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates, relatives of Stalag 342 victims get together near the memorial and participate in memory actions.