Kretinga (Kretinge, Kretingen) | Klaipėda

Kretinga, Lithuania, Ben Zion Bernstein as a soldier during a visit, his sister Rivka to his right, May 26, 1939 © Yad Vashem The synagogue in Kretinga in 1936 © A.Niunkaitė, “Lietuvos žydų tradicinio meno ir simbolių pasaulis”. Vilnius, 2011, p. 466 / “Kretingos krašto enciklopedija” Town square in 1936 © Kretinga Museum Town square after the fire in 1941 © Kretinga Museum / Laima G., born in 1935, brings the Yahad - In Unum team to the Jewish cemetery where a grave with 356 corpses was discovered after the war © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Laima saw the Jews standing in this river just before she heard series of shots © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Laima shows the team the historical photographs she preserved © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Aldona P., born in 1934, still remembers the awful smell when she approached the covered mass grave © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum An abandoned building stands on the site where the synagogue used to be © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Renovated Kretinga manor today © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Household in Kretinga © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Pasture in Kretinga © Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum

Execution sites of Jews in Kretinga

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Grove, Jewish cemetery
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
214, 356

Witness interview

Witness Aldona P., born in 1934, shares her memories during the interview: “We went to pick berries near Darbėnai and saw a big column of people coming from Darbėnai towards Kretinga. There were men and women in the column; they carried small children who were crying. Guards didn‘t wear uniforms, but were armed with submachine-guns. The guards told the Jews to sing. There were at least 50 people in the column and only four guards. I remember my mother wondered why the Jews didn‘t overpower them.“ (Witness N°85, interviewed in Kretinga, on October 13, 2014)

Soviet archives

“Jews and communists were detained and escorted to the pond near the monastery where they were forced into the water and made to bathe. Then, they were forced to crawl over the hillocks, and afterwards, exhausted and weak, they were put on their feet and shot with rifles at a close distance. In total, 300-350 people were shot like that.” [Deposition of Boleslav Sepetis, born in 1904, resident of Kretinga, cited in a special commission report of April 11, 1945, RG-22.002M.7021-94]

Historical note

Kretinga is one of the oldest settlements in Lithuania, but the number of Jews living there remained very low until the town was granted special privileges by the Polish kings in the middle of the 18th century. From then on, the Jewish population developed their business on both sides of the border with Germany, including the production and trade of amber. The Jewish population reached its peak in 1847, when the official data documented 1,738 Jews living in Kretinga. Due to large fires in 1855 and 1908, emigration and WWI, the Jewish population shrank by half by 1923. However, Jews maintained an active political, cultural and economic life during the interwar period. They established a popular Jewish bank, and its building also hosted the Hebrew elementary school, a kindergarten, a “Maccabi” hall, “Wizo” and a library. According to the census conducted in 1931, Jews owned 64 of the 77 shops and 18 of the 26 factories in the town. They were all nationalized in 1940, when the Soviets took power in Lithuania and at least seven Jews were deported. When the German army entered Kretinga on the first day of the war, more than 1,000 Jews lived in the town, including a number of refugees from Klaipėda, which was occupied by Germany in 1939.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

On one of the first days of the war, all the men from Kretinga were assembled in the market square. Jews were separated in one section of the square, humiliated and beaten, and then detained in the synagogue. On June 26, 1941, they were driven outside of town in trucks and forced to dig a long trench in Kveciai grove near the Pryšmančiai estate. Then, the victims were lined up at the edge of the trench in groups of 10 and shot. In total, 214 people were shot that day, including a number of Communist activists of Lithuanian origin. The night after the execution, Lithuanian policemen set the synagogue on fire, but the flames spread to other buildings. Policemen blamed the Jews and conducted new raids, arrests and executions. Inmates in Kretinga, both Jews and Communists, were shot in a large trench dug in the Jewish cemetery. 120 Jews from Mosėdis were shot there as well in July 1941. After the Jewish men of Kretinga were executed, women, children and the elderly were placed in a stable of the Pryšmančiai estate and stayed there until the execution, which was carried out in early September 1941. The victims were told to undress in the barn and come outside one by one. Drunken executioners waiting outside attacked the victims with iron rods, knives and bayonets, while several Germans were photographing the scene, as witnesses recounted to Yahad investigators.

Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

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