Ponevezys under the Russians
On June 15, 1940, Lithuania fell under Soviet control and Jewish houses occupying over 220 square meters and all
shops and factories were confiscated by the state. Zionist and all youth organizations were dissolved and several
activists were arrested. Hebrew educational institutions were closed and the language of instruction was primarily
Yiddish. The Tarbut, Yavneh, and Yiddish kindergartens were subsumed into a Yiddish Kindergarten that housed 160
children in two buildings; all Jewish elementary schools were united into two elementary schools; hitch schools
were concentrated into the building of the Yavneh under the title “The Third Governmental Gymnasium with
Instruction Language Yiddish.” The Great Yeshiva building was taken over by Russians and students were forced to
continue their studies in various shifting places. Jewish communists, however, did well and were given jobs in the
With the Soviet occupation, the supply of goods became scare and prices soared. Jews, who were mainly middle class,
experienced a significant drop in their standards of living.
Things went from bad to worse over the course of the year. On 22 June 1941, the German army invaded
Lithuania. 27 Jews at least who were former factory owners were exiled to Siberia.
The German army invaded on June 26, 1941, five days after they invaded the Soviet Union. Lithuanian nationalists –
including the principal of the high school, the deputy of the district prosecutor, and the secretary of the
provincial court – seized upon the opportunity to begin targeting Jews. Local students were later involved in the
murder of Poniewież Jews.
On August 24 and 25, 1941 the remaining Jews were led by foot in the direction of Ponevezh and were murdered
in the Pajuoste Forest, about 8 km east of Ponevezh.
The names of the murderers are recorded in the archives of Yad Vashem.
The Red Army liberated Panevezys in the summer of 1944. A memorial on the Pajuoste Forest
mass grave site was erected in 1972.
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