The 17-year-old Jewish high school graduate, Masha Bruskina, was one of many young women during World War II who were put to death for fighting against the Nazi règime and the first teenage girl to be publicly hanged by the Nazis in Belorussia. 

She worked as a nurse in a military hospital in Minsk, and was a member of an underground cell which aided Soviet officers hospitalized there, to escape certain death and join the partisans. Despite the constant danger they continued to risk their lives by disobeying orders, sabotaging the daily routine. In 1941 the members of the cell were informed on and quickly rounded up by Nazi officers. 

Masha and two of her male comrades, Volodya Sherbateivich and Krill Trous, were sentenced to death by the Nazis. They were led through the streets with Masha wearing a large placard proclaiming that they were partisans. Their hands were tied behind their backs with cord and they were hanged one at a time, Masha first, by the German 707 Infanteriedivision who meticulously filmed the proceedings. The young prisoners were neither hooded nor blindfolded, and they were given no drop, so their cruel and slow deaths would act as a stronger deterrent to the local people who witnessed the event.

Hanging was the preferred Nazi method for the execution for partisans as it produced more of a public spectacle than shooting and was used to terrorize the local populace as well as entertain the German troops ...

The execution of Masha and her comrades took place on October 26th 1941 in the city of Minsk and the bodies were left hanging for several days as a grim reminder to others. 

The photograph of the 1941 execution has been reproduced many times all over the world but, in her native Belorussia, Masha Bruskina has not yet gained recognition. Despite the weight of overwhelming evidence, the testimony of eyewitnesses and the confirmation of respected scholars Masha's homeland denies her identity. She may be recognized elsewhere, but in Minsk, Belorussia, where she fought and for whom she died, the girl in the photograph is still officially described as unknown. The reason: Masha was Jewish.


Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a 18-year-old schoolgirl from Moscow, voluntarily joined a partisan detachment in 1941, when Nazi forces invaded Russia and mounted an offensive in the direction of Moscow. The brutality of the Nazis accelerated with murder, violence and terror, and on the night of the 27 November 1941, Zoya, together with two comrades, set fire to a German stable near Moscow. Nazi officers quickly caught one of them - Wassilij Klubkow. Under interrogation he betrayed Zoya.

The Nazis arrested her immediately and brutally tortured her in order to get some information on the partisan detachment. Rape, torture, and mutilation could not break her, so they hanged her in public in Petrishchevo near Moscow on the 29th November 1941. Just before she was pushed off the platform with a loop about her neck she shouted to the Nazis: 'You cant hang all 190 million of us.' 

Zoya met her death with amazing courage and demonstrated a strong streak of defiance. Her words became a pithy saying.

In same partisan squad with Zoya was another young russian girl, Vera Voloshina. Several days before Zoya's execution Vera was wounded in her shoulder during combat and captured. After torture Vera Voloshina was also publicly hanged, later in the same day.

The Nazis left the half-naked body of Zoya in the snow.

After the war Zoya became the symbol of Soviet resistance to Nazi occupation and she was posthumously decorated a Hero of the Soviet Union as was her brother, Shura, for his service in the Red Army tank corps.












Richard Clark, Capital Punishment U.K.  Louis Bülow  Privacy. ©2007-09.