Svėdasai (Svadushch, Świadoście, Svedasų) | Utena

/ Anelė Š., born in 1914: “Many Jews used to live in Svėdasai before the war. I had some Jewish classmates in my school. There were two synagogues as well, one for women and another one for men.” ©Kate Kornberg/Yahad - In Unum Albinas S., born in 1932: “Before being shot, Leiba, a Jewish merchant, gave my father a photo that represented Svėdasai’s Jewish community. I counted around 400 people in that photo.” ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Juozas B., born in 1927: “I saw the Svėdasai synagogue burning and Germans in uniform pushing a bearded old Jewish man into the flames. Fortunately, he wasn’t burnt.” ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Stanislovas V., born in 1930, with the Yahad team at the Old Jewish cemetery of Svėdasai, where the shooting of Jews was conducted during the German occupation. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum The site of Svėdasai’s former Jewish cemetery. Today, no gravestones remain and the area is covered by forest. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Stanislovas V., born in 1930, near the execution site of the Svėdasai Jews, murdered in the Old Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Svėdasai. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum The execution site N°1 of Jews of Svėdasai, mainly the elderly, women and children. The site is located in the forest, on the former location of the Old Jewish cemetery of Svėdasai. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum The execution site N°2 of Jews of Svėdasai, murdered in July 1941, in the forest near the Bajorai village. According to the monument, the Aktion was conducted by Nazi and their local helpers. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Svėdasai

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Jewish cemetery (1); Forest (2)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Between 245 and 386

Witness interview

Juozas B., born in 1927: "I lived about a kilometer from the old Jewish cemetery where the Jews from the ghetto were shot. Early in the morning, I heard the first shots and tried to see what was happening through the window. The Jews had to strip down to their underwear before being executed. I saw them climb over the small fence into the cemetery where the grave was prepared. My father wouldn’t let me continue to watch the execution. He seemed nervous because he smoked a lot, and my stepmother was crying. I heard screams, a series of gunshots, then isolated shots. After the shooting, I couldn’t sleep for a while and had nightmares. My friend, who lived closer to the cemetery and witnessed the execution, told me that on that day it was mainly old people, women, and children who were shot. The remaining Jews were taken to Rokiškis for execution." (Testimony N°YIU265LT, interviewed in Svėdasai, on April 28, 2016)

Historical note

Svėdasai is situated approximately 33 km (20.5 mi) northwest of Utena. The town was first mentioned in written sources in 1503. It was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom before being taken over by the Russian Empire in 1795. The first Jews began to settle in Svėdasai in the 18th century, with 154 Jewish residents recorded in the town in 1766. During this period, large markets and two annual fairs were held there. According to the 1897 census, there were 528 Jews living in Svėdasai, making up 37% of the total population. In 1904, the town suffered greatly from a fire that destroyed almost the entire town. However, Svėdasai was eventually reconstructed, and its economy restored. According to the 1923 census conducted by Independent Lithuania (1918-1940), Svėdasai had 245 Jewish residents, comprising 21% of the total population.

Local Jews were primarily engaged in commerce, including the trade of agricultural products such as flax and timber, the service sector, and artisanal work. Some also worked the land. There were several Jewish stores and small enterprises, including one pharmacy and one restaurant. Svėdasai was home to two synagogues and a Hebrew school located on Ežero Street, a Jewish cemetery, as well as various Jewish institutions and societies, including Hasidism and later Zionist movements. When Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, the economic situation deteriorated as the nationalization of Jewish shops and enterprises led to a shortage of goods and rising prices. The community institutions were disbanded. On the eve of the German invasion, there were about 400 Jews in Svėdasai.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Svėdasai was occupied by German forces on June 26, 1941. A new administration and local police, which included Lithuanian activists known as white armbanders, were established in the town. In the very first days of the occupation, Lithuanian activists rounded up 18 of the wealthiest Jews in Svėdasai in the blacksmith’s shop, where they were tortured and killed. The remaining Jews were compelled to relocate to a designated area near the synagogue, which became a ghetto guarded by armed white armbanders. The Jews relied on local residents for food, which some brought to the ghetto.

Most of the ghetto inmates were murdered in July 1941. Some perished in a fire when the synagogue, where they were locked up, was burned down by the Germans. A group of Jews, including the family of Yeshayahu Shapira, was taken early in the morning to the Jewish cemetery of Svėdasai, where they were forced to strip to their underwear before being shot and buried in a mass grave. Most of the victims were taken to the outskirts of the town, to the forest near Bajorai village, where they were shot over the course of two days. In all, between 245 and 386 people, mainly Jews, were murdered in Svėdasai during this period.

The remaining 70 Jews of Svėdasai, mainly the elderly, women, and children, were taken to Velniaduobė forest in the Rokiškis district, near Bajorai village, where they were murdered alongside other Jews from Rokiškis and the surrounding area. The Aktion was carried out on August 15 and 16, 1941, by a mobile unit (Rollkommando Hamann) of the Gestapo, assisted by white armbanders. According to the Jäger Report, a total of 3,207 people, most of whom were Jews, were killed in Velniaduobė forest.

After the execution of the Jews from Svėdasai, their possessions were distributed among the shooters, while other belongings were sold at an auction.

For more information about the killing of Jews in Velniaduobė forest nearBajorai please follow the corresponding profile.


Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

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