Ignalina (Ignalino) | Utena

/ Prane B., born in 1932: “Several Jewish families lived in our neighborhood. The Dubinskaya family, who lived in the other part of our house, consisted of elderly couple and a young couple who had a nine-month-old daughter.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Stasys R., born in 1930: “The Jews of Ignalina were rounded up in the ghetto, surrounded by the barbed wire fence. When I went to see the ghetto, there were many Jewish inmates inside.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Vanda G., born in 1936: “In 1941, I saw the column of Jews being taken away from Ignalina. Afterwards, an auction of Jewish property was organized.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during work. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former location of the synagogue (N°1)  in Ignalina, which no longer exists. Today, an apartment block has been built on this site. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former location of the ghetto in Ignalina, situated on the Gavenu Street, today Ateities Street. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The building where German soldiers stationed while staying in Ignalina. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The execution site of 10 Jews, murdered in July 1941 by “Hitler’s henchmen and their local helpers”. The site is located in the forest between Mekšrinis & Peledinis Lakes. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The execution site of 35 Jews, communists & activists d’Ignalina, murdered in July 1941 by “Hitler’s henchmen and their local helpers”, white armbanders. The site is located near the Ilgis Lake. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The former Ignalina synagogue (N°2), where Jewish property were stored after the liquidation of the ghetto. The original building has been partially reconstructed.  Today, it is used as a store. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The house of Esterka, where the auction of Jewish property was organized after the ghetto liquidation. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews and non-Jews in Ignalina

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Forest (1, 2)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Several dozen

Witness interview

Prane B., born in 1932:
"Yahad.: What happened to the Jewish synagogue during the war?
Witness: The Jews were gathered in a ghetto during the war. The ghetto was set up in Ateities street next to the school. The entire street was fenced with a barbed wire, so that they couldn’t leave. They were all gathered there. The younger Jews with more energy managed to escape. Before that, when the Jews lived in our street, they had cows and other cattle. So, our Jewish neighbor later came to my mother and asked her to take the cow from the fields. My mother said she was afraid to do it. The neighbor told her not to be scared and to milk the cow. The Jews would later come by to get some milk. So, they would jump over the barbed wire ghetto fence or perhaps cut through it a little and run over to pick up some milk for their children and for themselves as well. I don’t remember how much time they spent in the ghetto, but they were definitely gathered there. Sometimes they would stop by to ask if we had heard any news. They would ask my father whose brother lived in Linkmenys if he had heard of any shootings. They would say, "We have heard that the Jews were shot". We would say that we hadn’t heard of this, even though we had but how could you tell them such things? " (Testimony N°YIU402LT, interviewed in Ignalina, on October 31, 2022)

Soviet archives

"Question: Where were the Soviet activists shot in Ignalina in 1941, and what partisans did that?
Answer: I don‘t remember the exact date, but about a week and a half after the beginning of the war [list of names] and the common white partisans [list of names] and the others who held a meeting decided to shoot Soviet activists and Jewish population confined in the cellar of the building of the former Soviet police. On the night of July 3rd, 1941, they took the detainees out of the cellar by the list. Adolf P. read the names from the list. They took several groups, 25-30 people in total, to the forest behind the house of Aronas, about one kilometer outside Ignalina, and shot them there. Another group of Soviet activists was escorted down the road towards Daugėliškis village. Stepan Kovalchuk, Anton Samokelis, Katz and his son, Grigoryi Savitskyi were in that group, but the latter crawled out of the pit and survived, while the others were shot.
Three days later, white partisan Adolf P. told me that on the eve of the shooting teacher P. came to the cellar and told the detainees: "Comrades, don’t be afraid, come out of the cellar, we will release you." Nine detainess came out and were escorted 50 meters away from the cellar. Five minutes later, 10 more detainees came outside. They all were surrounded by partisans [list of names] and others. The detainees were taken to the forest behing the house of Aron and shot. Their bodies still remain in the pit. In the early morning, the same partisans took another group of detainees out of the cellar and escorted them down the road towards Daugėliškis. They were shot near the lake of Ilgis, about one kilometer away from Ignalina." [Deposition of Iosip Martinkyan, born in 1892, a Lithuanian resident of Ignalina, taken on October 19, 1944; Lithuanian Special Archives, KGB criminal files (Fund K–1, Inventory No. 58, File No. 20526/3, p. 129-132)]

Historical note

Ignalina is situated approximately 42 km (26 mi) southeast of Utena and about 25 km (15,5 mi) north of Švenčionys. The first written mention of the town comes from 1840. Ignalina started to develop after 1860, when Warsaw – Saint Petersburg Railway was constructed. According to sources, there were 9 Jewish residents in 1866. From 1923, Ignalina was recognized as part of the Second Polish Republic. By 1925, the Jewish population had grown to 593 individuals, constituting approximately 77% of the town’s total population.

Local Jews were primarily engaged in commerce and artisanal work, while some of them worked the land. Many stores of the town were operated by them. There were two Jewish elementary schools, one in Yiddish and another one in Hebrew language instructions. Ignalina was home to a synagogue and three study houses. Most of the Jews were engaged in Zionist movements, while a number of Jewish residents were Bundists.

In 1939, Ignalina was transferred under Lithuanian rule. According to 1939 census, about 800 Jewish residents were recorded as living in the town.  When Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, the economic situation deteriorated as the nationalization of the Jewish stores and enterprises led to a shortage of goods and rising prices. Several local families were deported to Siberia. Very few Jews managed to evacuate to the eastern part of the Soviet Union before the outbreak of the WWII.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Ignalina was occupied by German forces at the end of June, 1941. A Lithuanian partisan squad of white armbanders, which would later become part of the auxiliary police force, was created in Ignalina. Shortly afterwards, the white armbanders started to arrest and shot Communists, Jews and Red Army soldiers. Most of the victims were executed in the forest near Lake Ilgio, where Yahad managed to locate the mass grave of 35 victims, including Jews, Communists and activists, executed in July 1941. Other victims were killed in the surrounding area. Yahad located the execution site of 10 Jews, murdered in July 1941, in the forest between Mekšrinis & Peledinis Lakes.

The new Lithuanian administration, assisted by local police force, was responsible for the anti-Jewish measures implemented in the town, mandating that Jews wear of distinctive yellow patches symbols, performing a forced labor, forbidding them from using sidewalks or having contacts with local non-Jewish inhabitants.

After a brief period of military administration, the town transitioned to German civil administration in August 1941, and an order stipulating the confinement of the Jewish residents within the ghettos was issued. From September 5, 1941, between 400 and 1,200 Jews were compelled to relocate to the designated area on Gavenu Street (today Ateities Street). Despite the restrictions on movement and the barbed wire, about 80 ghetto inmates managed to escape, while others were able to secretly visit local residents asking them for food. Isolated shooting of the Jews were conducted in Ignalina during this period.

After paying a contribution of 21,000 rubles, the ghetto was liquidated over the course of an Aktion, carried out in late September, 1941, by Germans and local policemen, when the ghetto detainees were relocated to barracks in the former Soviet military training camp about 1,5 km from Švenčionėliai. Most of Jews were taken to the barracks on foot, while those enable to walk, were transported there by carts driven by requisitioned locals. Isolated shooting of the Jews who tried to escape were conducted during the Aktion. On October 9, 1941, most of Ignalina Jews were executed along with other Jewish detainees from the surrounding area. A group of craftsmen were spared during the Aktion and transferred to Švenčionys ghetto.  

Soon after the ghetto liquidation, an auction of Jewish belongings was organized in Ignalina by white armbanders and the local administration.

For more information about the killing of Jews in Švenčionėliai please follow the corresponding profile.

Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

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