Veiviržėnai | Klaipėda

Genovaitė B., born in 1934: "I remember that in the spring of 1941, the Jewish women were all taken to the Trepkalniai manor and kept in terrible conditions. "    ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad - In Unum Genovaitė G., born in 1934: " Every day I brought food to the Jews. The area was guarded by the Germans. I know that two Jewish men who left the territory and were shot in the street by one of these German soldiers."    ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad - In Unum Albina K., born in 1931 : ". My aunt lived nearby and could hear the shooting at night. After the execution, all their belongings were taken to the synagogue and then shared with the other inhabitants."      ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team interviewing Genovaitė G., born in 1934, about the fate of the Jews of Veiviržėnai.    ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad - In Unum The Old Jewish cemetery of Veiviržėnai. It is a reminder of a community that has now disappeared. Today it remains in rather good condition, with several graves still preserved.    ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad - In Unum The School in Veiviržėnai. Before the war, this was the location of the local synagogue building. In September 1941, after the execution of the Jews, their valuables were stored there and then distributed to the local population.     ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad The mass grave site located in the forest, 1 km (0.6 mile) north of Trepkalniai. In September 1941, 76 Jewish women, children and old men from Veiviržėnai were shot by Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators here.    ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad - In Unum The monument located near the execution site, commemorating the 76 innocent Jewish victims executed there in September 1941.    ©Omar Gonzalez/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Trepkalniai

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Forest
Memorials:
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941 - 1944
Number of victims:
76

Witness interview

Genovaitė B., born in 1934: "My house was the closest to the site of the shooting. In the middle of the night, I heard the Jewish women and children screaming terribly for hours. That’s how I knew they were being shot. My mother was very affected by this and couldn’t eat for days. The shooting site was less than a kilometer from the Trepkalniai manor. The pits had been dug especially for this mass execution. When my father went to rescue some horses that were near the site, he saw that the shooters hit a woman with the handle of their guns and took small children by the legs to throw them against the trees until they lost consciousness. The next morning, with my family, we went to see the place and found one of the shooters, Vitkus, guarding it. He had dirt on his knees and was quite drunk. The pit was already filled in and there was still a lot of blood on the ground and trees." (Witness n°364LT, interviewed in Vištiškiai on September 25, 2018)

Historical note

Trepkalniai is a hamlet in the northern suburbs of the town of Vištiškiai, located 28 km (17 miles) southeast of Klaipėda, Lithuania. Before the war, a small Jewish community lived in Veiviržėnai. Its members had a brick synagogue and a cemetery. Jewish children had their own school. The adults were mainly merchants and craftsmen, and owned a few stores in the town center. In the summer of 1940, under the terms of the German-Soviet pact, this Lithuanian territory was annexed by the USSR and several important local Lithuanian figures were arrested and deported.  

Holocaust by bullets in figures

On June 22, 1941, the German armies and their allies began their invasion of the USSR, marking the beginning of Operation Barbarossa. Within the first few days of the attack, Veiviržėnai was captured.

In early July 1941, the Jewish men were transferred to a labor camp in another area, where they were executed. Meanwhile, the women, children and elderly members of the local Jewish community were rounded up in the Trepkalniai mansion, located in the northern suburbs of Veiviržėnai. There, they were forced to perform forced agricultural labor and wear a visible yellow star on their clothing. As the weeks passed, they became increasingly hungry and the condition of their clothing began to deteriorate. The perimeter of the manor was constantly guarded by Lithuanian collaborationist police.

In September 1941, SS-Oberscharführer Franz Behrendt ordered the preparation of the mass execution of the Jews of the Trepkalniai mansion. When the local priest found out about this, he tried to save the Jews by having them baptized and by informing the Lithuanian mayor who had been nominated by the Germans. This rescue request was not successful. So, one day, also during September, the group of women, children and old men was taken to the forest 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) north of Trepkalniai. There, the Jewish elders had to dig their own grave, over which they placed a board. Once on the board, they were shot and fell into the pit. The women and children were executed in a prepared pit. Those who were not killed immediately were beaten to death. That day, 76 Jews were killed. Their executioners were three Germans from the Gestapo, including one named M**, and three Lithuanians, including one named P**. This operation was carried out at night. At the end of the shooting, all of the Jews’ valuables were taken to the Veiviržėnai synagogue. They were then divided among the local population. After that, there were no Jews left in the town and its surroundings. In mid-October 1944, Veiviržėnai was liberated by the Red Army. 

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