Rumšiškės (Rumshishok, Rumshishki) | Kaunas

/ Stasė P., born in 1926: “My mother was employed at the Jewish bakery in Rumšiškės, where she made bread that was then sold by Jewish merchants. The Jews didn’t work on Saturdays as they celebrated their feast day.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The Yadad team during an interview. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Pranas N., born in 1932: “In summer, around midday, I saw 2 or 3 local inhabitants digging a pit under the supervision of the German officer. It was the pit prepared for the execution of the Jews.” ©Pawel Szupiluk /Yahad - In Unum The execution site of about 80 Jews of Rumšiškės, murdered on August 29, 1941. The victims were shot in ditches dug at the outskirts of the former Pieveliai village, which is now part of the Rumšiškės Folk-Life Museum. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The execution site is situated in the southern part of Rumšiškės, which today is under the waters of the artificial lake – Kaunas Reservoir Regional Park, created in 1959. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Rumšiškės

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Valley near forest
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Between 70 and 80

Witness interview

"Yahad: Did you have any Jewish classmates?
Stasė P., born in 1926 : No, the Jews had their own school. There was a synagogue and a separate Jewish school. There was even a public bath, although it was opened to everyone. Otherwise, they had their own establishments. They didn’t interact with us.
Yahad: Were the synagogue, the public bath and the school located in the same place?
Stasė P.: Yes. There was also a restaurant and a big two-story house that belonged to Bliunkovas nearby. Next to them, there was a police station and Jewish school. This is where all the other Jewish places were located.
Yahad: Who was Bliunkovas?
Stasė P.: He was the owner of the restaurant and had a very big house. He had his own car and used it to take passengers to Kaunas. He would also bring back some goods or would take something to Kaunas, too.
Yahad: Did the Jews in Rumšiškės have a different appearance?
Stasė P.: No, they looked and dressed like us. It wasn’t possible to recognize them due to their clothing. We generally got along well. There weren’t any issues." (Testimony N°YIU461LT, interviewed in Rumšiškės, on October 17, 2023)

Historical note

Rumšiškės is situated approximately 20 km (12 mi) east-southeast of Kaunas, on the banks of the Kaunas Reservoir and on the highway linking the cities of Kaunas and Vilnius. The town’s origins can be traced back to the late 14th century. The first trace of the Jewish community dates to the late 18th century, and by the mid-19th century there were 124 Jewish individuals in Rumšiškės. Local Jews were primarily engaged in commerce, but some also worked in the service sector and trades. Jewish inhabitants owned and operated many of the town’s businesses. There was a Hebrew school, a synagogue, a public Bath, an inn run by a Jewish owner and a Jewish cemetery. According to the 1923 Lithuanian census, Rumšiškės was home to 288 Jews. In the following years many young Jews left Rumšiškės for Kaunas in search for better opportunities. When Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, relations between Lithuanians and Jews deteriorated, as the Lithuanian head of the local police was replaced by a Jewish young man from Kaunas. During this period, local Jews were very active in the town’s political, social and economic life. The exact number of the Jewish population that remained in Rumšiškės on the eve of the war remains unknown, but according to sources there were about fifty Jewish families left. A few local Jews managed to evacuate to the east, following the retreating Red Army, but a number of Jewish refugees from Kaunas and other localities arrived in Rumšiškės. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Rumšiškės was occupied by German forces on July 24, 1941. The local administration and police force, a partisan squad of white armbanders, were formed by Lithuanian nationalists, who became responsible for the anti-Jewish policies implemented in the town. In the first weeks of the war, several Jews, accused of being loyal to the Soviet regime, were murdered. The Jewish population was subjected to theft, confiscation of provisions, humiliation and forced labor, including peat cutting. They relied on locals for food, trading remaining valuables and clothing.

By August 15, 1941, a ghetto was set up in Rumšiškės, and 140 Jews were compelled to relocate to two houses belonging to the Katz brothers. On the same day, about 70 ghetto detainees, aged between 15 and 70 years old, were taken away by German and Lithuanian soldiers. According to sources, they were transferred either to Pravieniškės forced labor camp, where they were murdered by September 4, 1941, or to Kaunas.

The remaining ghetto inmates, between 70 and 80 Jewish women, children and the elderly, were rounded up in the house of Yankl-Leyb Langman, under supervision of the local police. After paying a contribution of 8,000 rubles, the ghetto was liquidated over the course of an Aktion, carried out on August 29, 1941. The Jews were gathered in the synagogue, from where they were taken on foot by a squad of about 6 white armbanders to the execution site, located in a valley near the forest on the outskirts of the Pieveliai village (today part of Rumšiškės Folk-Life Museum). Trucks with 10 to 15 soldiers from the Kaunas Lithuanian self-defense unit awaited the victims at the execution site. Once arrived, all the Jews were immediately lined up on the edge of the pit and shot dead. The pit was then covered by the shooters themselves, who also put some lime inside the pit. Today, the execution site is under the waters of the Kaunas Reservoir Regional Park.

Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

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