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1 Execution site(s)
Vaclovas E., born in 1934, remembers the day of the mass execution: “I went with my father to Ylakiai to buy something. There was a Jew named Mendelis who dealt with us, the farmers. He told us that all the Jews were going to be taken somewhere, and therefore he couldn’t sell us anything. On our way back home, we saw a group of 10 or 15 Jews being escorted by two guards, armed with rifles. Later, we learned that they had been shot.” (Witness N°102, interviewed in Gonaičiai, on October 19, 2014)
“My house was not far from the shooting site, so I personally heard the shots of automatic weapons and rifles. When the shooting was over, I asked one German officer: “Can I go see the victims?” He told that I could do that. Then, I went to the shooting site. At the site, I saw the bodies of shot people lying in two piles. Some bodies were lying separately from the piles. Bodies of Jewish men were separated from the bodies of the women. When I was approaching the execution site, some victims were still alive and were moving. Two policemen, unknown to me, were walking around the pile and finishing off the victims with rifles. They were shooting in the head, chest and other parts of the body.” [Deposition of Andrej K., born in 1892, a Latvian tailor from Ylakiai, taken on October 11, 1944, collection of archival documents “Tragediya Litvy: 1941-1944”, Moscow, 2006, p. 208]
The village of Ylakiai emerged as a part of Skuodas Manor, owned by the Lithuanian noble family of Sapiegos. The village grew into a town during the 19th century. According to the census conducted in 1897, the total population of Ylakiai was 1367 and 775 (57%) of them were Jews. The Jews engaged in commercial activities and small scale agriculture. Weekly markets and five annual fairs were organized in the town. The Jewish community maintained active public life, which was centered around the Beth Midrash. Youth and athletic organizations, HaShomer HaTsair and Maccabi, were also active in the town. The census of 1923 reported 409 Jews living in Ylakiai, but this number decreased during the interwar period due to emigration to America and South Africa. The German army invaded Lithuania on June 22, 1941, and captured Ylakiai four days later.
The persecution of Jews started on the first days of the German occupation and included physical abuse, such as cutting off the beards of the elderly Jews. Jewish men were arrested and confined in the synagogue for about 10 days. On July 6, in the evening, they all were shot in the Jewish cemetery, one kilometer outside the town. Jewish women and children met the same fate on the next day. The bodies of the victims were not covered immediately, and the local witnesses saw them naked and barefoot. Three mass graves were discovered in the Jewish cemetery after the war. According to the Soviet investigators, apart from hundreds of Jewish victims, they also contained the bodies of 25 Lithuanians and 4 Karaites.
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