Palanga | Klaipėda

Exploitation of amber was the main occupation of Jews in Palanga © Public domain Birutės hill, photograph of Pauline Mongird, published in 1916 © Public domain A large fire ravaged 300 buildings in Palanga in May 1938; about 50 of them were Jewish residential houses © www.autc.lt/Book of A.Miškinis “Vakarų Lietuvos miestai ir miesteliai", 2007 / The Palanga synagogue was demolished after the war, and a department store was built in its place, but the street still bears the name of “Synagogue” © Katherine Kornberg - Yahad-In Unum Vytautas, born in 1932, saw Jewish clothes distributed for free from a truck beside the bus station © Katherine Kornberg - Yahad-In Unum The courtyard where Jewish clothes were distributed after the shooting © Katherine Kornberg - Yahad-In Unum Genovaitė, born in 1932, told a story of a Jewish girl who was away at the pioneer’s camp during the mass shooting and later returned to Palanga to learn that her whole family had been shot © Katherine Kornberg - Yahad-In Unum Genovaitė visited Birutės Hill several days after the execution in 1941 and found the mass grave already covered © Katherine Kornberg - Yahad-In Unum To cover the mass grave in the Kunigiškiai forest, the diggers used soil by digging another pit next to it © Katherine Kornberg - Yahad-In Unum

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Execution of Jews in Palanga

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Forest
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944

Witness interview

Genovaitė, born in 1932, remembers going to bring bread to the arrested Jews: "Y.U.: When you went to give bread to the Jews, were there only women and children locked in the synagogues or were there men as well?
Witness: We approached the first building, where women and children were kept. Men were separated from them at the very beginning and locked in the next building. But we didn’t approach their building; we threw bread to the women and children.
Y.U.: Did you speak with the Jews while throwing bread to them?
Witness: No, because we didn’t know their language. Maybe they knew Lithuanian, but we were afraid of the German soldiers, so we threw the bread quickly and ran home.
Y.U.: Were the guards walking along the fence?
Witness: Yes, they were walking along the fence to prevent Jews from escaping or doing something else. We would wait for a moment til the German guard would go away, and then throw the bread or pass it through the gaps in the fence. There were several guards walking around." (Witness N°89, interviewed in Palanga, on October 14, 2014)

Soviet archives

"[…] the commission ascertained that after the invasion of German fascist forces in Kretinga Uyezd on June 22, 1941, starting from the first day, mass arrests and extermination of civilian Soviet citizens began in Kretinga, Salantai, Palanga, Gargždai, Skuodas, Mosėdis and other towns of Kretinga Uyezd. Party members, Soviet officials, members of Komsomol, former soldiers of the Red Army and their family members, as well as the whole Jewish population of the city of Kretinga and uyezd were subjected to arrests, torture, humiliation and shooting. [...] In the town of Palanga and volost, 700 Soviet civilians, men, women and children among them, were shot and brutally tortured to death." [Report of the commission to investigate crimes committed by German invaders in Kretinga Uyezd, compiled on April 11, 1945, RG-22.002M.7021-94]

Historical note

Since the Middle Ages, Palanga was an important sea port and trading center in Lithuania. Jews settled in the town as early as the 15th century. Apart from other crafts, the Jews engaged in collecting and processing amber. Beginning in the 19th century, Palanga became a popular resort town, and the Jews started developing a tourism business—providing accommodation, food and other services for vacationers. During the interwar period, Jewish youth organizations and political parties were active in the town, and Jewish representatives were elected to the town council. According to the 1923 census, 455 Jews lived in Palanga at the time, but the community shrank to 50-70 families by 1940 due to emigration.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

German forces entered Palanga on the first day of the war, June 22, 1941, and the persecution of the Jews and Communists started immediately. On June 26, all of the Jewish population of Palanga was arrested and assembled in the synagogue on the order of German Gestapo officers. At the end of June, slightly more than a hundred Jewish men were taken to Birutė Hill, located in a small forest on the seaside, and shot together with several Lithuanian Communists. After the execution of the men, Jewish women and children were moved to a camp established in farm buildings in the village of Valtariškės, between Palanga and Kretinga. Able-bodied inmates were employed in carrying amber from the workshops to the central warehouse. In late August or early September, more than 200 women and children were taken by truck to Kunigiškiai Forest and shot. The execution was carried out during the night by using the illuminated headlights of the trucks.

Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

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