During World War II and Afterwards

In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, most of the industries owned by Jews were nationalized. A number of Koshedar Jewish shops were nationalized and commissars were appointed to manage them. The supply of goods decreased and, as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and the Hebrew school was closed.

On the 22nd of June 1941 the German army invaded Lithuania, entering Koshedar two days later. Lithuanian nationalists immediately took over the town and began to plot against the Jews. Four Jewish men who were detained during these first days, were taken out of town and disappeared. Shortly afterwards the Lithuanians organized a provocation by hiding eight rifles and a machine-gun in the Beth-Midrash. A "search" resulted, of course, in the discovery of the arms, and thus the Rabbi and the Shokhet were arrested. Both were forced to run through the streets, being abused and hit until the old Rabbi David-Aharon Yafe died.

In the middle of August all Koshedar Jews were imprisoned in a big warehouse, which had been built for storing grain near the railway station during the short Soviet rule. Jewish men from Zhosle (Zasliai) and Zhezhmer (Ziezmariai) were also brought to this warehouse. Apparently none of the imprisoned people escaped, because they did not believe that they were in danger. Every day men and women fit for work were taken to various types of work in the town or with farmers or to excavate peat. Those who stayed in the warehouse were abused and robbed by the Lithuanian guards.

On the 28th of August 1941 (5th of Elul 5701) all Jews from the warehouse were put on trucks and led in the direction of Zhezhmer. At a point five km from Koshedar, near the village of Vladikiskis in Strosiunu forest, all were shot and buried in mass graves. A Lithuanian ranger who hid a Jew with two little children was shot by the Gestapo.

The Lithuanian murderers were the local police chief Peskauskas, Zitkus, Norbotas Vuckauskas and others.

After the war two separate monuments were erected: one on the graves of the men and on it the number 2,200, and the other on the grave of the women and children where the number 1,800 is written. It would appear that Lithuanians and Soviet war prisoners were also buried in these graves.

In 1990 the mass graves were fenced off anew by the local authorities and on one of the graves three big oak-wooden carvings, entitled "Pain", by the sculptor Vidmantas Kapaciunas from Zhezhmer, were erected.

The monument and the three wooden carvings on the mass graves of the men at Strosiunu forest.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the murders the tablets on the monuments were replaced and on the new ones the following inscriptions in Lithuanian and Yiddish were written: "In this place on the 28th of August 1941, Nazi murderers and their local helpers cruelly tortured and buried alive 2,200 Jews from Ziezmariai, Zasliai and Kaisiadorys". On the other monument the same inscription was written with one change: "…1,800 Jewish women and children…".


In May 1943 sixteen young men from Kovno ghetto were brought to Koshedar to construct a camp for about 300 people, who were ordered mainly to excavate peat in the nearby wet fields. Later Jews from Zhezhmer, Zhosly and other towns were brought to the camp.

At the beginning of 1944 an S.D. officer took 12 young men from the camp for a special task, which was later revealed. They were brought to the terrible ninth fort in Kovno to excavate and burn the corpses of the murdered, after 64 men who had previously performed this work had managed to escape on the eve of Christmas 1943. Several men in the camp made contact with partisans in the vicinity and organized a group to escape and join the partisans. On the 11th of April 1944 forty four young men escaped and twenty two of them managed to reach and join the regiment of "Genys" in the Rudniky woods, where they remained until the liberation. After the escape Koshedar camp was dismantled and the 250 Jews were transferred to other camps around Kovno.


The monument on the mass graves of the women and children in Strosiunu forest.


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The Lithuanians Encyclopedia, Boston 1953-1965 (Lithuanian).

Yahaduth Lita, (Hebrew) Tel-Aviv, Volumes 3-4.

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JIVO, NY, Collection of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania, Files 717-919, 1542.

Y.D.Kamzon-Editor, Yahaduth Lita, (Hebrew), Rav Kook Institute, Jerusalem 1959.

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Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje (Mass Murder in Lithuania) vol. 1-2, Vilnius 1941-1944 (Lithuanian).

Pinkas haKehiloth. Lita (Encyclopedia of Jewish Settlements in Lithuania) (Hebrew), Editor: Dov Levin, Assistant editor: Yosef Rosin, Yad Vashem. Jerusalem 1996.

The Book of Sorrow, (Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Lithuanian), Vilnius 1997.

Naujienos, (News) Chicago, 11.6.1949.

Kaisiadoriu Aidas, (Koshedar Repercussion), 24.8.1991.


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