1 Execution site(s)
Vincas Ž., born in 1930, remembers the day of the mass execution:
“The shooting place was about 400 meters behind a barn. I could see it well. I saw the trucks arriving. Jewish women were shot that day. The trucks were covered. Women would be taken off the trucks in groups of six. They wore only underwear. They were crying. There was an anti-tank trench dug by the Russians. One side of it was inclined, and the other side was steep, so that tanks couldn’t pass it. The women would run to the edge of the trench. Once there, they would be shot with machine-guns and would fall inside.” (Eyewitness N°237, interviewed in Virbalis, on August 13, 2015)
“I vaguely remember that I went to the anti-tank trench around noon where the shooting took place. I don’t remember who suggested joining the shooting, or maybe I expressed my own will. I had a gun in my hand. K. was standing next to me. I think that I shot several times at the women. I can hardly remember that. I dropped the gun. S. noticed that I could barely stand and I was suspended from the shooting; they took away the gun. I don’t remember what happened next. I remember myself lying in the cart on the heap of clothes of Jewish women and children.” [Deposition of Vincas G., accused of shooting Jews in Virbalis, taken on October 10, 1961, Lithuanian Special Archives, Fund K–1, Inventory No. 58, File No. 47363/3, p. 7-9]
Jews had lived in Virbalis since the 17th century, and they made up more than a third of the population of the town by the end of the 19th century (1,219 people, according to the census of 1897). The towns’ location near the German border, on the railway line connecting Berlin and Saint-Petersburg, created favorable business conditions. Therefore, many Jews of Virbalis were engaged in both local and international trade. The proximity of the German border also contributed to stronger Western influence and progressive ideas. This resulted in an active public, academic and cultural life. During the interwar period, Virbalis had a Jewish high school, where subjects were taught in Hebrew. Famous Jews who lived in Virbalis included the agronomist Yakov Filipovsky, who was known as the greatest specialist in cultivating species of fruit trees and berries in Lithuania. Although the living conditions were comfortable enough, the number of Jews in the town declined during the wave of emigration in 1930s. About 150 Jewish families, or approximately 600 Jewish people, lived in Virbalis in 1939. The town was captured by the German army on the first day of the war, June 22, 1941.
By the order of Tilsit Gestapo given on July 7, 1941, the Jewish men of Virbalis over 16 years old and a number of Lithuanian communist activists were gathered together and confined in Raudondvaris estate north of Virbalis. In the middle of July, they all were shot in an anti-tank trench dug out before the war in the pasture field north of Virbalis. The same trench became the mass grave for hundreds more Jews who lived in the surroundings. The second mass execution was carried out there in the end of July. After the Jewish men of Virbalis were shot, the remaining women and children were moved to the ghetto, established on Vištyčio and Maironio Streets. At some point in August, they were joined by Jewish women and children from Kybartai. On September 11, 1941, the ghetto was liquidated, and its inmates were exterminated in the same anti-tank trench outside the town. Together with about 700 Jews, thousands of Russian prisoners of war and a number of Lithuanian communist activists were shot and buried in that trench. The total number of victims resting there is about 10, 000.
For more information about the execution in Kybartai please refer to the corresponding profile
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