1 Execution site(s)
Irena Z. speaks: "Y.U.: When the Germans came, did they gather the Jews in a building or somewhere else?
Witness: There was a brewery, a spirit factory that belonged to Mr. Smilgevičius. The Jews were locked in a room there.
Y.U.: Did the Jews stay the whole time in the building or did they work somewhere?
Witness: They were taken to work at the Želvių estate.
Y.U.: Who lived in that estate at that time?
Witness: The priest, Janušas, supervised that estate.
Y.U.: What were the Jews doing there?
Witness: Not any particular work, they just helped with the housework." (Witness N°24, interviewed in Užventis, on November 29, 2013)
In the first half of the 18th century a considerable number of Jews already lived in Užventis. In 1750, they were allowed to build a synagogue. 173 Jews lived in the village in 1923, comprising 22 percent of the total population. They made their living from trading and crafts, but also had small farms or gardens. One Jewish man operated two passenger buses. A large fire erupted in the town during summer of 1939, which mostly hurt the Jewish population. The synagogue, Beth Midrash and the rabbi’s house burnt down among other buildings. By 1941, the Jewish population of Užventis dropped to about 100 people, but immediately after the German invasion, many Jewish refugees from Kražiai, Kelmė and other nearby places arrived in Užventis.
The Lithuanian white armband squad formed in Užventis just after the German invasion, and they gathered Jewish residents of the village in the brewery in early July 1941. Jews were humiliated and forced to do various kinds of work for several weeks. At the end of July, the white armbanders dug a large pit in the Želviai forest. The next day, they rounded up the majority of the Jews from the ghetto (about 50-70 people), brought them to the execution place and shot them. Several groups of Jewish men who were fit to work were taken to Šiauliai and Žagarė. About 20 Jews who were left in Užventis were executed in the Želviai forest in December 1941.
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