The Ponary massacre or Paneriai massacre (Polish: zbrodnia w Ponarach) was the mass murder of up to 100,000 people by German SD and SS and their Lithuanian collaborators, including Ypatingasis būrys killing squads, during World War II and the Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ostland. The murders took place between July 1941 and August 1944 near the railway station at Ponary (now Paneriai), a suburb of today's Vilnius, Lithuania. Some 70,000 Jews were murdered at Ponary,[a] along with up to 20,000 Poles, and 8,000 Russian POWs, most of them from nearby Vilna (Vilnius), and its newly-formed Vilna Ghetto.
Lithuania and the Baltic States became one of the first locations outside occupied Poland in World War II where the Nazis would mass murder Jews as part of the Final Solution.[b] Out of 70,000 Jews living in Vilna according to Snyder, only 7,000 (or 10 percent) survived the war. The number of dwellers, estimated by Sedlis, as of June 1941 was 80,000 Jews, or one-half of the city's population. According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia and others, more than two-thirds of them or at least 50,000 Jews had been killed before the end of 1941.
One of six Ponary murder pits in which victims were shot (July 1941). Note the ramp leading down and the group of men forced to wear hoods.
|Also known as||Polish: zbrodnia w Ponarach|
|Location||Paneriai (Ponary), Vilnius (Wilno), German-occupied Lithuanian SSR|
|Date||July 1941 - August 1944|
|Incident type||Shootings by automatic and semi-automatic weapons|
|Perpetrators||SS Einsatzgruppe |
Lithuanian Nazi collaborators
|Victims||~100,000 in total (Polish Jews: 70,000. Polish intelligentsia: 20,000. Soviet POWs: 8,000)|
Following the Żeligowski's Mutiny and the creation of the short-lived Central Lithuania, in accordance with international agreements ratified in 1923 by the League of Nations, the town of Ponary became part of the Wilno Voivodship (Kresy region) of the Second Polish Republic. The predominant languages in the area were Polish and Yiddish. After the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, the region was annexed by the Soviets and after about a month, on October 10, transferred to Lithuania according to the Soviet–Lithuanian Treaty.
Following the Soviet annexation of Lithuania and the Baltic states in June 1940, the construction of an oil storage facility began near Ponary in conjunction with the future Soviet military airfield. That project was never completed, and in June 1941 the area was overrun by the Wehrmacht in Operation Barbarossa. The Nazi killing squads decided to use the six large pits excavated for the oil storage tanks to abduct, murder, and to hide the bodies of condemned locals.
The massacres began in July 1941, as soon as SS Einsatzkommando 9 arrived in Vilna on 2 July 1941. Most of the actual killings were carried out by the Special Platoons of Ypatingasis burys (Lithuanian volunteers) 80 men strong. On 9 August 1941, EK 9 was replaced by EK 3. In September, the Vilna Ghetto was established. In the same month 3,700 Jews were shot in one operation, and 6,000 in another, rounded up in the city and walked to Paneriai. Most victims were stripped before being shot. Further mass killings, aided by Ypatingasis burys, took place throughout the summer and fall.
By the end of the year, about 50,000–60,000 Vilna Jews; men, women, and children, had been killed according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. According to Snyder 21,700 of them were shot at Ponary, but there are serious discrepancies in the death toll for this period. Yitzhak Arad (Ghetto In Flames) supplied information based on original Jewish documentation augmented by the Einsatzgruppen reports, ration cards and work permits. According to his estimates, until the end of December, 33,500 Jews of Vilna were murdered in Ponary, 3,500 fled east, and 20,000 remained in the Ghetto.[p. 215] The reason for such a wide range of estimated deaths was the presence of war refugees arriving from German-occupied western Poland, whose residence rights were denied by the new Lithuanian administration. On the eve of the Soviet annexation of Lithuania in June 1940, Vilna was home to around 100,000 newcomers, including 85,000 Poles, and 10,000 Jews according to Lithuanian Red Cross.
The pace of killings slowed in 1942, as ghettoised Jewish slave-workers were appropriated by the Wehrmacht. As Soviet troops advanced in 1943, the Nazi units tried to cover up the crime under the Aktion 1005 directive. Eighty inmates from the Stutthof concentration camp were formed into Leichenkommando ("corpse units"). The workers were forced to dig up bodies, pile them on wood and burn them. The ashes were then ground up, mixed with sand and buried. After months of this gruesome work, the brigade managed to escape through a tunnel dug with spoons on 19 April 1944. Eleven of the 80 who escaped survived the war; their testimony contributed to revealing the massacre.
The total number of victims by the end of 1944 was between 70,000 and 100,000. According to post-war exhumation by the forces of Soviet 2nd Belorussian Front the majority (50,000–70,000) of the victims were Polish and Lithuanian Jews from nearby Polish and Lithuanian cities, while the rest were primarily Poles (about 20,000) and Russians (about 8,000). According to Monika Tomkiewicz, author of a 2008 book on the Ponary massacre, 80,000 people were killed, including 72,000 Jews, 5,000 Soviet prisoners, between 1,500 and 2,000 Poles, 1,000 people described as Communists or Soviet activists, and 40 Romani people.
The Polish victims were mostly members of Polish intelligentsia – academics, educators (such as Kazimierz Pelczar, a professor of Stefan Batory University), priests (such as Father Romuald Świrkowski), and members of the Armia Krajowa resistance movement. Among the first victims were approximately 7,500 Soviet POWs shot in 1941 soon after Operation Barbarossa begun. At later stages there were also smaller numbers of victims of other nationalities, including local Russians, Romani and Lithuanians, particularly Communist sympathizers and members of General Povilas Plechavičius' Local Lithuanian Detachment who refused to follow German orders.
Information about the massacre began to spread as early as 1943, due to the activities and works of Helena Pasierbska, Józef Mackiewicz, Kazimierz Sakowicz and others. Nonetheless the Soviet regime, which supported the resettlement of Poles from the Kresy, found it convenient to deny that Poles or Jews were singled out for massacre in Paneriai; the official line was that Paneriai was a site of massacre of Soviet citizens only. This led some — including Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek — to compare this to the Katyn massacre. On 22 October 2000, a decade after the fall of communism, in independent Lithuania, an effort by several Polish organizations resulted in raising a monument (a cross) to fallen Polish citizens, during an official ceremony in which representatives of both Polish and Lithuanian governments (Bronisław Komorowski, Polish Minister of Defence, and his Lithuanian counterpart), as well as several NGOs, took place.
The site of the massacre is commemorated by a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, a memorial to the Polish victims and a small museum. The murders at Paneriai are currently being investigated by the Gdańsk branch of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.
Adolf Lindenbaum (12 June 1904 – August 1941), was a Polish-Jewish logician and mathematician.
He was born and brought up in Warsaw. He earned a Ph.D. in 1928 under Wacław Sierpiński and habilitated at Warsaw University in 1934. He published works on mathematical logic, set theory, cardinal and ordinal arithmetic, the axiom of choice, the continuum hypothesis, theory of functions, measure theory, point set topology, geometry and real analysis. He served as an Assistant Professor at Warsaw University from 1935 until the outbreak of war in September 1939. He was Alfred Tarski's closest collaborator of the inter-war period. Around the end of October or beginning of November 1935 he married Janina Hosiasson, a fellow logician of the Lwow-Warsaw school. He and his wife were adherents of Logical Empiricism, participated in and contributed to the International Unity of Science movement, and were members of the original Vienna Circle. Sometime before the middle of August 1941 he and his sister Stefanja were shot to death in Naujoji Vilnia (Nowa Wilejka), 7 km east of Vilnius, by the occupying German forces or Lithuanian collaborators.His most cited works are Lindenbaum's lemma and Lindenbaum algebras.Anton Schmid
Anton Schmid (9 January 1900 – 13 April 1942) was an Austrian recruit in the Wehrmacht who saved Jews during the Holocaust in Lithuania. A devout but apolitical Roman Catholic and an electrician by profession, Schmid was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I and later into the Wehrmacht during World War II. Put in charge of an office to return stranded German soldiers to their units in late August 1941, he began to help Jews after being approached by two pleading for his intercession. Schmid hid Jews in his apartment, obtained work permits to save Jews from the Ponary massacre, transferred Jews in Wehrmacht trucks to safer locations, and aided the Vilna Ghetto underground. It is estimated that he saved as many as 300 Jews before his arrest in January 1942. He was executed on 13 April.
After the war, Schmid was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem for his efforts to help Jews and was seen as a symbol of the few Germans who defied their government's extermination program. His reception was more conflicted in Germany and Austria, where he was still viewed as a traitor. The first official commemoration of him in Germany did not occur until 2000, but he is now hailed as an example of civil courage for Bundeswehr soldiers to follow.Helena Pasierbska
Helena Pasierbska-Wojtowicz (1921 – 12 March 2010) was a Polish writer.During the Second World War she joined the Polish resistance organization (first Związek Walki Zbrojnej, later Armia Krajowa) and served as a curier and nurse. Took part in the Operation Ostra Brama. After the war she became a teacher and also researched the Ponary massacre. She published several books and articles.
In 1975 she was decorated with Armia Krajowa Cross and in 2004 received the Polonia Mater Nostra Est award. Honorary member of Polish Association in Lithuania (Związek Polaków na Litwie) and leader of "Ponary Families" Association (Stowarzyszenie „Rodzina Ponarska”).Kaunas massacre of October 29, 1941
The Kaunas massacre of October 29, 1941 also known as the Great Action was the largest mass murder of Lithuanian Jews.By the order of SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger and SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca, the Sonderkommando under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, and 8 to 10 men from Einsatzkommando 3, murdered 2,007 Jewish men, 2,920 women, and 4,273 children in a single day at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania.The Nazis destroyed the small ghetto on October 4, 1941, and killed almost all of its inhabitants at the Ninth Fort. Later that same month, on October 28, SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca of the Kaunas Gestapo (secret state police) conducted the selection in the Kaunas Ghetto. All ghetto inhabitants were forced to assemble in the central square of the ghetto. Rauca selected 9,200 Jewish men, women, and children, about one-third of the ghetto's population. The next day, October 29, all of these people were shot at the Ninth Fort in huge pits dug in advance.Kazimierz Pelczar
Kazimierz Pelczar (1894–1943) was a Polish academic and physician. Professor of the Stefan Batory University in Vilnius and pioneer of oncology research and treatment, he was murdered in the Ponary massacre.Kazimierz Sakowicz
Kazimierz Sakowicz (1899-1944) was a Polish journalist. A witness to the prolonged Ponary massacre, he chronicled much of it in his diary, which became one of the best known testaments to that atrocity of the Second World War, in which about 100 000 Jews, Poles and Russians were murdered by Germans and Lithuanian collaborators. An editor of Przegląd Gospodarczy (Economic Review) journal in Wilno, Sakowicz moved to the Ponary district during the German occupation and chronicled events from July 11, 1941, to October 25, 1943. He was an officer of the pre-war Polish army, and possibly a member of the Polish resistance. He died during the 1944 nationwide uprising against the Nazis, Operation Tempest.
His grave is located in the Rossa Cemetery in Vilnius, among graves of the fallen soldiers of the Polish underground (Armia Krajowa).
Cemetery Name Rasų kapinės, Vilnius, LithuaniaKoidanov (Hasidic dynasty)
Koidanov (also spelled Koidenov) is a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Shlomo Chaim Perlow (alternately: Solomon Ḥayyim Perlow) in 1833 in the town of Koidanov (present-day Dzyarzhynsk, Belarus). According to the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, Koidanov was the smallest of the three Lithuanian Hasidic dynasties, the others being Slonim and Karlin-Stolin. On the eve of World War II, its centers of influence were in the regions of Koidanov and Minsk. After its Rebbes and most of its Hasidim were murdered in the Holocaust, the dynasty was re-established in 1948 in Tel Aviv, where it thrives to this day.Lithuanian partisans (1941)
Lithuanian partisans is a generic term used during World War II by Nazi officials and quoted in books by modern historians to describe Lithuanian collaborators with the Nazis during the first months of the occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany. Lithuanian partisans, mostly fighters against retreating Soviet forces during the June Uprising, were later organized into various auxiliary units by German Nazis. Several of the numerous units assisted and actively participated in mass executions of the Lithuanian Jews mostly in June–August 1941.
The term "Lithuanian partisans" might apply to several different and unrelated groups during 1941 and later:
A group led by Nazi agent Algirdas Klimaitis and active in Kaunas at the end of June 1941
Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas (TDA) was formed in Kaunas as basis for independent Lithuanian army, but soon transformed into a Nazi auxiliary unit participating in executions of the Jews at the Seventh and Ninth Forts
Rollkommando Hamann and its Lithuanian auxiliaries from TDA, responsible for mass murders in the countryside
Lithuanian Police Battalions formed in Vilnius from 3,600 deserters from the 29th Lithuanian Territorial Corps of the Red Army
Ypatingasis būrys formed in Vilnius and participant in the Ponary massacreMartin Weiss (Nazi official)
Martin Weiss (21 February 1903 – 1984) was a Nazi official and de facto commander of the Vilna Ghetto. He was also the commander of the notorious Nazi-sponsored Ypatingasis būrys killing squad, which was largely responsible for the Ponary massacre where approximately 100,000 people were shot.Mieczysław Witold Gutkowski
Mieczysław Witold Gutkowski (born July 9, 1893 in Szumlin, died September 17, 1943 in Wilno) was a Polish lawyer, a world-renowned economist who specialized in public finance, and one of the first scholars of economic analysis of law in Poland. He was a professor at the Stefan Batory University in Wilno. He was murdered by German SS units and Lithuanian collaborators in the Ponary massacre.Paneriai
For the massacre during World War II of Jews, Polish intelligentsia, and Soviet POWs see Ponary massacre. For the Polish village of the same name, see Ponary.
Paneriai (Polish: Ponary, Yiddish: פאנאר/Ponar) is a neighborhood of Vilnius, situated about 10 kilometres away from the city center. It is the largest elderate in the Vilnius city municipality. It is located on low forested hills, on the Vilnius-Warsaw road. Paneriai was the site of the Ponary massacre, a mass killing of as many as 100,000 people from Vilnius and nearby towns and villages during World War II.Papirosn
"Papirosn" (Yiddish: פּאַפּיראָסן, transl. Cigarettes) is a Yiddish song that was written in the 1920s. The song tells the story of a Jewish boy who sells cigarettes to survive on the streets. He depicts his tragic fate; having lost his parents, his younger sister has died on the bench, and eventually he loses his own hope.The song's author Herman Yablokoff was a member of the Yiddish theater that was active in Lithuania and Poland in the years following World War I. He was inspired by children who tried to make a living selling cigarettes in the streets. The sight of the children reminded him of his childhood in World War I in Grodno, where he tried selling cigarettes to passers-by.Yablokoff went to the United States in 1924; the song was published in an American radio program in Yiddish in 1932 and became a hit as part of a a musical of the same name that premiered in 1935. Many music sheets of the song were sold. A silent movie in which Sidney Lumet played the Jewish boy was made."Papirosn" was later amended to mirror the tribulations of the Holocaust in the ghettos of Poland and Lithuania. The song was used as a base for many Holocaust songs in the Lodz and Vilna Ghettos, among others. Shmerke Kaczerginski found two alternate versions of the song, both of which share the tune of the original but have different stories: One version was written by Yankele Hershkowitz, a famous street singer from the Lodz Ghetto; it follows the story of the original song but tells a story about ration coupons in the Ghetto. The other version, written by Jewish poet Rilke Glezer, describes the Ponary massacre. An additional version from the Warsaw Ghetto makes a direct allusion to the original but the boy sells ghetto black bread instead of cigarettes. There have been other versions of the song, including non-Yiddish versions.The song was not officially prohibited in the Soviet Union but it was usually played at private events—it was seldom allowed to be played in public because it was argued that the lyrics were not about Soviet Jews.Ponary
For the suburb of Vilnius where Jews and Poles were massacred during World War II, see Paneriai. For the massacre itself, see Ponary massacre.Ponary [pɔˈnarɨ] (German: Ponarien) is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Miłakowo, within Ostróda County, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, in northern Poland. It lies approximately 7 kilometres (4 mi) south of Miłakowo, 28 km (17 mi) north of Ostróda, and 36 km (22 mi) north-west of the regional capital Olsztyn.
The village has a population of 120.Rollkommando Hamann
Rollkommando Hamann (Lithuanian: skrajojantis būrys) was a small mobile unit that committed mass murders of Lithuanian Jews in the countryside in July–October 1941, with a death toll of at least 60,000 Jews. The unit was also responsible for a large number of murders in Latvia from July through August, 1941. At the end of 1941 the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry was effectively accomplished by the Rollkommando in the countryside, by the Ypatingasis būrys in the Ponary massacre, and by the Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas in the Ninth Fort in Kaunas. In about six months an estimated 80% of all Lithuanian Jews were killed. The remaining few were spared for use as a labor force and concentrated in urban ghettos, mainly the Vilna and Kaunas Ghettos.Songs of the Vilna Ghetto
Songs of the Vilna Ghetto is a compilation LP record featuring twelve Yiddish songs from World War II era. The songs were composed by the inmates of the Vilna Ghetto during the Holocaust and are sung by Nechama Hendel, Chava Alberstein, and Shimon Israeli with accompaniment from the CBS Israel Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Gil Aldema. The album contains an 8-page booklet with lyrics in the Hebrew language, photographs from the ghetto, and historical information about the songs in English. According to the liner notes, the recording "was prepared by the Yitzhak Kalznelson House of the Ghetto Fighters, at Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot, Israel, in co-operation with the Vilna Organisation [sic] of Haifa."Timeline of World War II (1941)
This is a timeline of events that stretched over the period of World War II from 1941, marked also by the beginning of Operation Barbarossa on the Eastern Front.Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum
Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum (Lithuanian: Valstybinis Vilniaus Gaono Žydụ Muziejus; Yiddish: דער ווילנער גאון מלוכהשער יידישער מוזיי) is a Lithuanian museum dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of Lithuanian Jewry.Yitskhok Rudashevski
Yitskhok Rudashevski (10 December 1927, Vilnius – 1 October 1943) was a young Jewish teenager who lived in the Vilna Ghetto in Lithuania during the 1940s. He wrote a diary from June 1941 to April 1943 which detailed his life and struggles living in the ghetto. He was shot to death in the Ponary massacre during the liquidation of September–October 1943. His diary was discovered by his cousin Sore Voloshin, in 1944. His cousin Voloshin fought the German army and the Soviet Union, later returning to the hideout, and found Yitskhok's diary. The diary was published in 1973 by the Ghetto Fighters' House publisher in Israel.Ypatingasis būrys
Ypatingasis būrys (Special Squad) or Special SD and German Security Police Squad (Lithuanian: Vokiečių Saugumo policijos ir SD ypatingasis būrys, Polish: Specjalny Oddział SD i Niemieckiej Policji Bezpieczeństwa, also colloquially strzelcy ponarscy ("Ponary riflemen" in Polish) (1941–1944) was a Lithuanian killing squad also called the "Lithuanian equivalent of Sonderkommando", operating in the Vilnius Region. The unit, primarily composed of Lithuanian volunteers, was formed by the German occupational government and was subordinate to Einsatzkommando 9 and later to Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo).There are different estimates regarding the size of the unit. Polish historian Czesław Michalski estimates that it grew from base of 50 while Tadeusz Piotrowski asserts about that there were 100 volunteers at its onset. According to Michalski, after its initial creation, at various times hundreds of people were members. Arūnas Bubnys states that it never exceeded a core of forty or fifty men. 118 names are known; 20 of the members have been prosecuted and punished. Together with German police, the squad participated in the Ponary massacre, where some 70,000 Jews were murdered, along with estimated 20,000 Poles and 8,000 Russian POWs, many from nearby Vilnius.
Massacres of ethnic Poles in World War II
|Pre-war Polish Volhynia|
|Polish self-defence centres|
|1st – 13th century|
|14th – 19th century|