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1 Execution site(s)
The witness Valentina S., born in 1932, saw the mass grave before and after the execution:
“We knew that forest very well because we often went to pick berries and mushrooms there. The ditch didn‘t exist before, it was dug right before the shooting. It was quite long and deep, but not very wide. [...] When everything was over, and the shooters went back to Naumiestis with Jewish clothes, I went with my sister to see that place. We saw a covered pit and traces of blood on the ground and trees. There was no mound, the earth above the grave was levelled off. There were no clothes or belongings around. The executioners tried to hide the traces of this atrocity." (Witness N°332, interviewed in Kudirkos Naumiestis, on November 3, 2016)
“On September 17, white partisans from the security service arrived from Šakiai. The Jewish quarters were sealed off again by white partisans. Big carts started arriving at the square. At about 11 AM, the loading of Jewish families began. The houses were sealed, while their residents were brought to the Paražniai Forest, where two huge pits had already been prepared. Germans were giving commands and taking photographs, while white partisans were shooting. Babies were beaten in the end against the trees and thrown into the pit. Women, children and teenagers were undressed and pushed into the pits. Pregnant women were pierced with bayonets in the abdomen and thrown into the pits. People screamed in panic. Many of them lost their minds. A Jewish woman, Kats, with an 8-year-old boy escaped the shooting, but the next day she was caught and shot with her child.” [Deposition of unnamed witness, taken on April 6, 1945, RG-22.002M.7021-94/434, p. 33]
Paražniai was a small village in the Kybartai volost, Vilkaviškis county, bordering a forest bearing the same name. There is no information on whether any Jews ever lived in Paražniai. The Jewish community was concentrated in the nearest town of Kudirkos Naumiestis, located 10 kilometers away. 2305 Jews lived in Kudirkos Naumiestis in 1908, but emigration and the First World War reduced this number to 981 by 1923. When the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, they closed the border passage next to Kudirkos Naumiestis, significantly reducing the income of local traders and causing the closure of 24 shops. The Jewish population further decreased in the following years. About 800 Jews lived in the town in 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Lithuanian farmers from the surrounding villages used to visit Kudirkos Naumiestis for shopping and trading with the Jews. The village was occupied on the first days of the war.
On September 16, 1941, the ghetto of Kudirkos Naumiestis, created in the second half of August, was liquidated. About 650 Jewish women and children were placed on carts and brought to the Paražniai Forest, where two large pits had been dug in advance. As a witness explained to Yahad investigators during the interview, victims were forced to undress completely and lie down facing the ground. Then, they were taken to the pits in groups of five or six and shot. Local men were forced to fill the grave.The rest of the Jews of Kudirkos Naumiestis were killed in the town‘s Jewish cemetery and in the village of Žyniai.
For more information about these mass executions, please refer to the corresponding village profiles
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