Plungė | Klaipėda

Jewish musicians in Plungė, photographed on December 21, 1929 © Ghetto Fighters’ House Teachers and pupils in a school of the "Tarbut" system in Plunge, photographed on May 30, 1920 © Ghetto Fighters’ House Exterior of the synagogue © Yad Vashem A building housing a mikveh (ritual bath) © Yad Vashem President’s Street in Plunge during the interwar period © Samogitian Diocese Museum Fire in Plungė in 1931 © Samogitia Art Museum / Birutė L., born in 1929, is confined to bed and thus could not bring the Yahad team to the execution site, but she agreed to be interviewed and gave a detailed picture of the mass crime © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum About 1800 Jews of Plungė were shot over the course of two days on the hill next to the village of Kaušėnai © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Wooden sculptures on the execution site convey the fear and pain of the victims © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Stanislovas M., born in 1927, found the mass grave still uncovered when he went to the execution place © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum The village of Prūsaliai, located near the mass execution place © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Yahad - In Unum team arrives in the village of Milašaičiai to meet the witness © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Zinaida D., born in 1931, saw groups of Jews being escorted to the shooting site in the forest next to Milašaičiai © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum

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Execution of Jews from Plungė in Kaušėnai and Milašaičiai

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Hill/ forest
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
1800/50-60

Witness interview

Stanislovas M., born in 1927, describes the execution site he went to see after the shooting: “I was grazing sheep near the lake when I heard screams, and then the shooting. We went to see that place the next day, and saw clothes piled on both sides of the path under the trees, and naked bodies. […] A man with a spade was arranging the corpses inside the pit, while others were carrying the bodies on stretchers.” (Witness N°92, interviewed in Prūsaliai, on October 15, 2014)

Soviet archives

“At the end of June 1941, a fire erupted in the town; Jewish houses started burning. Anxiety and panic gripped the town and the synagogue. All residents were running to the place of the accident. […]Having stopped at the shoemaker’s workshop, I saw the Jews who were confined inside the synagogue trying to reach the windows, breaking the doors and escaping. Eglinskas and other insurgents opened fire, with rifles, at the Jews who were looking through the window. I don’t know if he killed anybody, but I saw him shooting. […] During the shooting of the Jews who were confined in the synagogue, 10-11 people were killed.” [Deposition of Vladas Narkus, born in 1924, a Lithuanian worker from Plungė, taken on July 25, 1949, RG-26.004M, Fund K–1, Inventory No. 58, File No. 15668/3BBT1, p. 261-262]

Historical note

The oldest tombstones in the ancient Jewish cemetery of Plungė date back to the 16th century. The Jews of the town earned their living in trade and crafts, but many families also had small gardens beside their houses. The first prayer house was erected in 1719 and it eventually grew into a complex of five synagogues. 2197 Jews lived in Plungė in 1847, and this number grew to 2500 by the end of the century. Since then, however, the Jewish community of the town started shrinking due to emigration, three large fires that devastated the town in 1894, 1914 and 1931 and the economic recession in Lithuania in 1930s. Moreover, anti-Semitic sentiment started spreading in the Lithuanian border area after the Nazis took power in neighboring Germany. Anti-Semitic riots broke out in Plungė in 1935, and a pogrom was narrowly averted in 1939. By June 1941, emigration had reduced the Jewish population of Plungė to about 1700 people. Six Jewish families were deported to Siberia by the Soviet government on June 14, 1941, including the richest businessman in the town and the leader of the Jewish community, Chotse Gamzu.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

The Germans entered Plungė on June 25, 1941. Just a few days later, the Jews were assembled in the synagogue and the Beit Midrash. They stayed confined there for several weeks and were forced to perform hard physical labor. Some of the workers taken from the ghetto never returned. One day, a fire erupted in the town, and Jewish houses went up in flames. The Jews were blamed for setting them on fire, and their presence in the town was declared dangerous. According to the historical sources and Yahad - In Unum’s research results, about 50-60 young Jews who worked on the estates were shot in the forest near the village of Milašaičiai, south of Plungė. The rest of the Jews were executed on July 15, 1941, on a hill near the village of Kaušėnai, 4 kilometers northwest of the town. Some of the Jews were marched to the execution site on foot, others were transported by truck. A number of victims were murdered on the way, while one woman was burned alive for her remarks to the guards. The mass shooting lasted the whole night and the next day. The victims were undressed, aligned at the pit in groups of 15-20 people and shot in the back. In total, about 1800 people were exterminated.

Jewishgen

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Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

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