1 Execution site(s)
Eyewitness Anelė L., born in 1932, happened to see the auction of Jewish belongings after the mass execution:
“There are three red houses behind the gymnasium of Kybartai. A tribune was placed in the courtyard of one of those buildings. The bags with belongings were there too. A person would lift a bag and announce the price. Then he would start asking, “Who gives more? Who gives more? Who gives more?” The person who offered the highest price would get the bag.” (Testimony N°240, interviewed in Virbalis, on August 13, 2015)
“Policemen […] brought the Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality arrested by the German police to our farm, where I live now, and locked them in a shed. […] Our family wasn‘t allowed to go outside or look through the windows. At about midnight, the Germans came by vehicle. They gathered all the policemen who were in the courtyard, and I heard someone saying in Lithuanian: “Who wants to be a volunteer to shoot the Jews?“ At about 6 o‘clock in the morning, I heard the shooting.” [Deposition of Magdė G., born in 1898, a Lithuanian farmer from Kybartai, taken on July 26, 1951, Lithuanian Special Archives, Fund K–1, Inventory No. 58, File No. 46890/3, p. 71]
Kybartai is a relatively young town. It emerged together with the railway and customs station that was built on the border between the Russian Empire and the Eastern Prussia in about 1865. Within decades, it became an important import and export hub which needed many customs clerks, railway workers and service providers. The border town also attracted many traders. Weekly markets in Kybartai were attended by many Germans, attracted by cheaper food, while the locals would often cross the border to buy industrial goods that could be sold in Lithuania for a substantial profit. The Jews settled in Kybartai almost at the same time when the town was found. The Jewish population of the town totaled to 533 in 1897, and grew to 1253 by 1923. Jews owned many shops of different kind and a number of small factories. The change of power in Germany in 1933 marked the beginning of the town’s decline. The trade amount dropped during the following years, as well as the number of the Jewish population. Only about 350 Jews lived in the town, when it was occupied by the German army. It happened on the first day of the war, June 22, 1941.
Although the local population was aware of the increasing military activity close to the border, the German attack occurred rapidly and unexpectedly; consequently, few were able to escape in advance. The town, together with the whole 25 kilometers wide border region fell under control of Tilsit Gestapo. On the last days of June, an order was given to arrest all the Jewish males over 16 years old. More than a hundred of them, together with a number of Lithuanian communists, were confined in a barn that was located outside the town and belonged to the Lithuanian local farmer Giedraitis. As the neighbor Adelė B. told to “Yahad - In Unum” during the interview, the detainees were kept there in humiliating conditions for several days, while they had to dig their mass grave in the nearby sand quarry. Once it was over, they were released from the barn in groups of ten and forced to run towards the pit. When the victims approached the pit, they were shot from the back and fell inside. Sources provide different numbers of victims of this mass execution: according to “Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania”, it was between 106 and 116, while “The Book of Remembrance of the Jewish Community of Kibart” gives the number 185. After the Jewish men of Kybartai were shot, Jewish women, children and the elderly were moved to one street, which became a ghetto. They were confined in red brick buildings that housed barracks before. Having spent about a month there, the detainees were moved to the Virbalis ghetto. It was liquidated on September 11, 1941.
For information about the mass execution in Virbalis, please refer to the corresponding village profile
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