Bajorai (Rokiškis, Rokishok) | Panevėžys

The town of Rokiškis before World War II. ©Photo archive, taken from The Tarbut Hebrew School of Rokiškis. Standing, fourth from left: Slovka Segal. Sitting, second from left: Itale Orlin. ©Photo archive, taken from / The former location of the ghetto in the Rokiškis Manor. After the execution, the auction of Jewish belongings was held here. Today, it is a museum. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Algirdas Ž., born in 1932: "All the Jews of Rokiškis were either salespeople or artisans, often working with leather. There was also a small candy factory that operated until the arrival of the Soviet regime.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Vytautas G., born in 1929: “I saw the column of Jews of Rokiškis being taken to the shooting site in the Bajorai forest. While being marched, the Jews were throwing some of their belongings on the road.” ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Vytautas G., born in 1929, showing our team a pre-war map of Rokiškis, which depicts the location of Jewish houses in the town. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Lionginas Š., born in 1924: “A few weeks after the Germans’ arrival, a ghetto, surrounded by the barbed wire fence, was created in Rokiškis Manor. I went there twice to bring food to my teacher, Kliumeris.” ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Stasė N., born in 1928: “I brought food to my Jewish neighbors, Roza, Reiza and Esterka, locked up in the ghetto. The guards let me talk to them. Jews were frightened because they didn't know what was going to happen.” ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Vidmantas M., born in 1933: “The Jews of Skapiškis were rounded up in the main square of the town before being taken to Rokiškis ghetto under supervision of white armbanders. A month later, in August 1941, they were shot.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Vytautas G., born in 1929: “A week after the Jews of Kamajai were taken to Rokiškis to be murdered, the auction of their property took place in Kamajai. People from surrounding villages came here to buy things.” ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum Edmundas V., born in 1933: “I was in the main square of Rokiškis when I saw the column of around 40 Jews escorted by 4 to 5 guards to the nearby forest to be killed. Each man had his hands tied behind his back.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Javdokija P., born in 1929: “After the mass shooting of the Jews of Rokiškis, I saw 2 white armbanders escort a handsome Jewish man with a shovel to the nearby forest, where he was subsequently killed.” ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during an interview. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum The execution site in the Velniaduobė Forest near Bajorai village, where 3,207 Jews of Rokiškis and surrounding area were murdered and buried in 8 mass graves on August 15 & 16, 1941. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum The monument in the Velniaduobė Forest is dedicated to people who died at the hands of Lithuanian nationalists and Germans on August 15 & 16, 1941. ©Cristian Monterroso/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews from Rokiškis in Bajorai

1 Sitio(s) de ejecución

Tipo de lugar antes:
Velniaduobė forest
Período de ocupación:
Número de víctimas:

Entrevista del testigo

Algirdas Ž., born in 1932:

"Y.U.: What happened to the Jews of Rokiškis once the Germans had set up their own administration?
Witness: The local Jews, and those from the surrounding area, were immediately gathered in a ghetto. It was a matter of several days. […] I saw the Jews of Kamajai being taken there. […] The entire Jewish community of Kamajai was brought to the ghetto by a German and a few Lithuanians. The German was the leader. They were not brought along the road but straight through the pond. Everyone had to enter the pond, including children, adults, the elderly, men, and women. […]

Y.U.: Were they forced to enter the pond fully clothed?
Witness: Fully clothed. Fully clothed. Even if you had a small child in your arms, you still had to dive in and submerge the child in the water. Then, they were taken straight to the ghetto. The guards made this kind of spectacle on purpose. So, this is something I saw. I didn’t see how the Jews from Rokiškis were taken to the ghetto, so I can’t tell you anything about it. What else… It was allowed to take a few Jewish people from the ghetto. You could take two to three Jews from the ghetto to do labor for a week or a week and a half. My father used to go to the ghetto every morning and bring back three Jewish acquaintances—former shop owners. Some shop owners had passed valuables to my father when the Soviet government was confiscating everything. So, he would bring around three Jews. He would keep them for a day, give them bread and lard to bring to their families, and take them back in the evening. Sometimes, even I was told to bring the Jews back to the ghetto. I would escort them there and pass them along to the policemen at the gate. Then, I would go home.

A week later, you could still take a few Jews from the ghetto, but it was demanded that a yellow Star of David be sewn on their clothes. The Jews could only walk in the middle of the street. I would walk on the sidewalk; the Jews had to walk in the middle of the street. About a week and a half or two weeks later, it was no longer allowed to take Jews from the ghetto. A few days after that, the Nazis and their collaborators started taking the Jews to be shot." (Testimony N°YIU488LT, interviewed in Raudondvaris, on December 15, 2023)

Archivos soviéticos

"At the end of June and July 1941, members of punitive squad arrested all Jewish families in Rokiškis. They were kept in a ghetto until August 16-17, 1941. The ghetto was located on the territory that now belongs to Rokiškis sovkhoz [collective farm].
Apart from Jewish residents of Rokiškis, other Jewish families that lived across Rokiškis Uyezd [district] were kept in the Rokiškis ghetto, up to 5000 people in total. They were guarded by members of Rokiškis punitive squad; the same guards shot them all next to the village of Bajorai, 5 kilometers from Rokiškis, on August 16-17, 1941.

Furthermore, members of Rokiškis punitive squad arrested about 1,000 Soviet party activists in June-Agusust, 1941. They were kept in prison and guarded by the insurgents. About 600 of them were sent to be shot to Kupiškis and forests of Steponys and Vyžuonos." [Criminal report on punitive squad that operated in Rokiškis in June-August, 1941, compiled on May 20, 1951, p. 150; War Crimes Investigation and Trial Records From the Former Lithuanian KGB Archives RG-26.004 Reel# 36 File P9157 BB]

Nota histórica

Bajorai is a small village bordering the nearby town of Rokiškis, where a significant Jewish community once lived. Rokiškis is situated approximately 80 km (50 mi) northeast of Panevėžys. The first Jews began to settle there in the second half of the 18th century. In the 19th century, when the town became a provincial center and hosted a large market and annual fair, the Jewish community started to grow. By 1847, there were 593 Jewish residents, primarily engaged in commerce, the service sector, and artisanal work. The establishment of a direct rail link in 1873 led to the town's economic expansion, making it an important trade center that exported wood, linen, and wheat to countries such as the Netherlands and Great Britain. According to the 1897 census conducted by the Russian Empire, there were already 2,067 Jews living in Rokiškis, making up 75% of the total population.

During the interwar period, when Rokiškis was part of an independent Lithuania, the town’s population continued to grow, particularly due to the influx of Lithuanians. According to the 1923 census, Rokiškis was home to 2,013 Jewish residents, comprising 46.6% of the total population. The town was consequently home to multiple Jewish stores and small enterprises, including a power station, three flour mills, a woodcutting mill, two factories, a hospital, and two pharmacies. Local Jews were primarily involved in Hasidism, with the town recognized as one of the few centers of Habad Hasidism in Lithuania. During this period, many Jews faced a difficult economic situation due to trade nationalization and competition from Lithuanian cooperatives, leading some to leave the town. In 1939, there were around 3,500 Jewish residents, making up 40% of the town’s population, including several hundred Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied Poland.

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. Community institutions were disbanded. When Nazi Germany invaded Lithuania on June 22, 1941, many Jews tried to evacuate to the interior of the Soviet Union, but most were forced to return to Rokiškis or were killed on the roads by Lithuanian partisans.

Holocausto por balas en cifras

Rokiškis was occupied by German troops on June 27, 1941. Shortly afterward, Lithuanian activists, known as white armbanders, established a civil administration and a police force. The new authorities began persecuting and executing anyone considered loyal to the Soviet regime. By August 1941, 981 people, including Jews, were murdered and buried in the forest of Steponiai.

Anti-Jewish policies were implemented in the town during the first days of the occupation. Beginning on July 9, 1941, all local Jews, and later those from nearby villages including Pandėlys, Južintai, Panemunėlis, Svėdasai, Kamajai, Obeliai, Maneivai, and Onuškis, were forced to give up their property and were gathered into two separate ghettos. Jewish men were rounded up in the stables of Count Pzezdetski’s estate, known today as Rokiškis Manor, which was surrounded by a barbed wire fence and supervised by local policemen. Most women and children were taken to the Antanašė Manor, situated between the villages of Rokiškis and Obeliai. Empty Jewish homes were looted. Ghetto inmates had to wear Star of David patches and were forced to perform manual labor, such as repairing roads or working on surrounding farms. They were forbidden from using sidewalks while going to work.

The ghetto of Rokiškis was liquidated on August 15 and 16, 1941, when 3,200 Jews, mainly men, as well as 5 Lithuanians, 1 Pole, and 1 partisan, were murdered in the Velniaduobė forest near Bajorai village. The Aktion was conducted by a detachment of Einsatzkommando 3, assisted by Lithuanian policemen. Those unable to walk, such as children and the elderly, were transported to the forest by carts or trucks, while others, especially men, were escorted on foot under the supervision of guards. At the shooting site, the Jews were ordered to undress and lie down in pits dug in advance by Soviet POWs, where they were shot to death. As soon as one group of Jews was killed and the pit was slightly covered with soil, another group was brought from the ghetto to meet the same fate. In all, the victims were shot and buried in 7 to 8 mass graves. Isolated shootings of weak Jews or those in hiding were also carried out in Rokiškis during this period.

After the execution, the Jewish victims’ belongings were stored in the Rokiškis Manor and sold at an auction conducted by the local administration.

On August 25, 1941, the inmates of the Antanašė ghetto, 1,160 people in all, were executed near Obeliai village.

For more information about the killing of Jews from Antanašė ghetto please follow the corresponding profile.


Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

Pueblos cercanos

  • Steponiai
  • Vyžuonos
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