Alanta (Alunta) | Utena

/ Alanta’s former town center. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The wooden synagogue of Alanta, built in the second half of the 19th century, is one of the very few wooden places of worship of this type remaining in Lithuania. It was recently restored. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former pharmacy of Zelig Rappoport, where a pogrom took place in the spring of 1939, after the pharmacist was falsely accused of murdering a Lithuanian woman. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former Jewish house that once belonged to the Jewish cloth merchant Gilinsky. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former Jewish house that once belonged to the Jewish family of Kontespovich. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former Jewish tavern that belonged to the Goldfeibes family. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former prison of Alanta, where the Gordon brothers were locked up, alongside Communists and some other Jews, before being taken outside to be shot. After the war, the building was set on fire by the partisans. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Pranas T., born in 1926: “After the deportation of Alanta’s Jews, the White Armbanders organized an auction of Jewish property and valuables in the former Joskas house.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Henrikas J., born in 1926: “Ginsburg Jewish family was my neighbors. They were wonderful people. They had three daughters and a son. There was also a Jewish man, Krovas, who lived nearby.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Henrikas and the Yahad team near the execution site of Gordon brothers. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Henrikas J., born in 1926, pointing out at the place where the Gordon brothers were killed. The pit was dug not far from the prison. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The execution and burial site of two Gordon brothers, murdered on June 30, 1941. According to Henrikas, the Gordon’s corpses weren’t exhumed and today a house is built on their grave. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Alanta

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Vacant lot near the prison
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
At least 4

Witness interview

Henrikas J., born in 1926:
"Yahad: Do you know how the Jews were brought to Molėtai as it was rather far? Were they taken on foot or in carts?
Witness: In carts. It was 18 kilometers, after all. […]
Yahad : Were some local people requisitioned for that?
Witness: People were requisitioned with their horses and ordered to take the Jews to Molėtai.
Yahad: Do you know who told them to do that?
Witness: It was Germans who told them to bring the Jews to Molėtai.
Yahad: Were the Germans stationed in Alanta at that time?
Witness: Not exactly in Alanta. Some of them arrived here from the Commandant’s headquarters in Utena.
Yahad: Did you see the column leaving to Molėtai?
Witness: I did. I saw them passing by through Alanta. […]
Yahad: Were they guarded?
Witness: There were about three or four guards.
Yahad: Were they Lithuanian?
Witness: Yes. The Jews could have tried to escape but didn’t.
Yahad: Were they all taken by cart or did some of them walk?
Witness: Some younger adults walked. The elderly and children were all sitting in the carts.
Yahad: Did the Jews have their belongings with them?
Witness: They were carrying in hands and in carts some of their belongings. They didn’t expect to be murdered. They thought they would live in Molėtai.
Yahad: Were they calm in the column? Did they cry or scream?
Witness: They didn’t cry nor scream. It seemed as if they imagined this was all some type of a punishment for them, which is why they remained so passive. The sneakier ones managed to escape earlier, but the rest of them not. They would say that God was doing this to them. I think their religion demanded such behavior. It is hard for me to understand.
Yahad: Do you know who transmitted to the local population all the orders that came from the Commandant’s headquarters in Utena?
Witness: The police used to do it. Civilians didn’t take any part. Neither the village elder, nor the other members of administration. Only the police were able to transmit such orders." (Testimony N°YIU415LT, interviewed in Alanta, on November 5, 2022)

Historical note

Alanta is situated approximately 33 km (20.5 mi) southwest of Utena and 17 km (10.5 mi) northwest of Molėtai. The Jewish community started to settle in Alanta at the end of the 19th century, when about 200 Jews were registered as living in the town. A wooden synagogue, which included a separate balcony for women and two entrances, was soon built in Alanta. Religion played an important role in the life of the Jewish community, which observed the Sabbath and religious holidays. According to the 1923 census, the town comprised 222 Jews (42 Jewish families), making up 48% of the total population. Alanta was home to a Hebrew school and a Jewish cemetery. Local Jews were primarily engaged in commerce, service sector and artisanal work, while a number of them worked the land. According to the census conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1931, Jews owned different kinds of shops and small enterprises, most of them producing food, clothing and footwear. Jewish craftsmen offered their services as tailors, wood engravers, carpenters, blacksmiths and others. Jews were highly engaged in the cultural and political life of the town.

However, relations between the communities were strained, not least due to political issues between Lithuanian nationalists and Jewish communists, which led to clashes on several occasions. In 1939, after the Jewish pharmacist, Zelig Rappoport, was falsely accused of murdering a Lithuanian woman, a pogrom in Alanta led to the destruction of the pharmacy and several Jewish homes. When Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, the pharmacy was nationalized and relocated to Molėtai. The economic situation deteriorated during this period as nationalization of the Jewish shops and enterprises led to a shortage of goods and rising prices. Several local families, including the Jewish ones, were deported to Siberia. When Germany invaded Lithuania on June 22, 1941, many Jews tried to evacuate to the interior of the Soviet Union, but most were forced to return to Alanta because of the rapidly advancing German troops.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Alanta was occupied by German forces on June 25, 1941. In the first days of the occupation, the Lithuanian nationalists, a partisan squad of white armbanders, started to humiliate Jewish residents, forcing them to pull the carts while being whipped. Those considered loyal to the Soviet Union, such as communists and Jews, were arrested and locked up in the local prison before being murdered. Two Jewish brothers from the Gordon family were among the first victims to be executed in Alanta. On June 30, 1941, after they refused to follow the orders of the prison guards, they were taken outside the prison and forced to dig their own grave where they were shot by 3 or 4 Germans. The pit was then filled in by requisitioned prison inmates. Yahad succeeded in locating their pit, which today lies beneath a residential house in Alanta. According to accounts from local witnesses, at the same period, at least two other Jews, the cloths merchant Gilinsky and a local dentist, were shot near the sand hill about 1km away of Alanta, in the direction of Utena. Some Jews managed to escape from the prison and went into hiding.

Shortly afterwards, Jewish property was looted, and anti-Jewish measures were implemented in the town, mandating that Jews wear of distinctive Star of David symbols and forbidding them from engaging in any form of business. All the remaining Jews of Alanta were gathered by white armbanders in one Jewish house (synagogue according to other sources). After spending there several days, the detainees were transferred to Molėtai. A number of Jewish men were taken there first, while women, children and the elderly were transported there shortly after. Those of them unable to walk were loaded onto carts and driven to Molėtai  by requisitioned locals under supervision of white armbanders. An auction of Jewish belongings was then organized in Alanta by white armbanders and the local administration.

According to sources, the Jews of Alanta were executed on August 29, 1941, in the Rašė forest, alongside other Jews from the surrounding area, including those from Utena.


Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

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