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3 Execution site(s)
Klemensas Mykolas B., a witness, recalls the beginning of the German occupation: “White inscriptions of ‘Juden,’ about 10 by 10 centimeters, were painted on the doors of each Jewish house. Jews had to attach six-pointed yellow stars to their clothes, on the chest, but only adults had to do this. Then, the Jewish families were gathered and separated. Men were separated from women and children, and they were confined in separate synagogues. There was not enough space for all of them. A group of the Jews was arrested and sent to Utena.” (Witness N°248, interviewed in Anykščiai, on April 21, 2016)
“Being free and taking advantage of the change in power, I didn’t take revenge on the people whose testimonies led to my arrest and imprisonment. Quite the opposite, I tried to convince my parishioners to abstain from taking revenge on the people who harmed them and from taking part in the shootings of Jews. Although the Jews of Anykščiai were shot, my parishioners didn’t take part in the shootings after my address. I was personally asking the German commandant of Utena not to shoot innocent Jews, but he replied that it was not his will. He also advised me not to address this kind of request to anyone in order to avoid any trouble.” [Deposition of Juozas Č., born in 1880, Lithuanian priest and doctor of theology, taken on March 12, 1951, Lithuanian Special Archives, Fund K–1, Inventory No. 58, File No. 34837/3, p. 115-116]
First mentioned in 1440 as a Grand Duke’s manor, Anykščiai evolved into a large town and district center. The first Jews settled there in the 17th century. The rapid development of the town in the 19th century culminated in the construction of a narrow-gauge railway line from Panevėžys to Švenčionėliai in 1898. By that time, the Jewish population surpassed 2700. Jews were engaged in flax and felt production, processing bristles made from porcine products. During WWI, Anykščiai was almost completely destroyed, and most of the Jews fled to Russia. When they returned after the war, they started rebuilding their homes and businesses. Apart from commerce and crafts, Jews developed the light industry and introduced innovations, such as photography as well as the first bus and gas stations. They had six houses of worship, three libraries, a theater and an orchestra. The fire brigade consisted almost entirely of Jews. According to the census conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1931, Jews owned 24 of 30 factories in the town, most of them producing food, clothing, footwear and hats. The economic crisis in the early 1930s and the propaganda of the Lithuanian Union of Merchants against buying from Jews triggered a wave of Jewish emigration to the United States and South Africa. When Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, the economic situation deteriorated again as nationalization of the Jewish shops and factories led to a shortage of goods and rising prices. Ten Jewish families were deported to Siberia. When the German army invaded Lithuania on June 22, 1941, many Jews from other regions flowed through Anykščiai on their way eastward.
The German army captured Anykščiai on June 26, 1941, and arrests of the communists and Jewish refugees began immediately. The latter were confined in the synagogues and subjected to abuse, beatings and killings. According to the witness interviewed by Yahad, at least 20 Jewish men were shot and buried in two mass graves on the outskirts of the town at the end of June 1941. The remaining refugees were transferred to Utena, the county center, or back to their hometowns. Several days later, the local Jews were forced out of their houses and confined in the synagogues. The houses were marked with the word “Jew” and plundered, while the Jews were subjected to forced labor and torture. A witness interviewed by Yahad recounted that the guards boasted of raping Jewish women inside the synagogue. Sporadic killings took place at the same time. At the end of July, Jewish men were separated from their families and killed in the Liūdiškiai Forest, one kilometer outside of town. Women, children and the elderly were exterminated at the same place a month later.
For information about the execution of the remaining Jews, please refer to the village profile of Keblonys
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