Holocaust-Related Materials from the Holocaust Atlas


On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany attacked Lithuania, which the Soviet Union had ruled since July 1940.  The Rokiškis and Environs yizkor book contains accounts of Holocaust survivors describing how the Jews in the Rokiškis region were attacked, gathered into temporary “ghettoes,” humiliated, starved, and subsequently shot by Lithuanian nationalists and special German detachments.  Jewish property having useful value was distributed by the nationalists.  The three synagogues on Rokiškis’ Synagogue Street were burned, as were many others in other shtetls throughout Lithuania.


Most official accounts indicate that the Jews of the Rokiškis region were killed at four locations, specifically, the Steponiai forest (July 1941), the Vyžuonai forest (July 1941), the Velniaduobė woods near the village of Bajorai (August 15 and 16, 1941 – 3,207 men, women, and children), and the Antanaše forest (August 25, 1941 – 1,160 men, women, and children).[1]

Excerpts from the Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania

In 2010 the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and the Austrian association Gedenkdienst (Memory Service) launched initiated the on-line website, Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, which is intended to present comprehensive information regarding each mass-murder site in Lithuania. Following are the Atlas’ descriptions of the massacre sites at Velniaduobė and at Antanašė.


1.  Velniaduobė (Bajorai)

The Mass Murder of the Jews of Rokiskis and Surrounding Areas at Velniaduobe Forest

About Massacre

The temporary Jewish ghetto in Rokiškis was set up in July, 1941. It didn‘t last long: all ghetto prisoners were shot on August 15 and 16, 1941.  Soviet POWs were brought to Velniaduobė forest near Bajorai village about 4.5 kilometers from Rokiškis a few days before the mass murders and were forced to dig several large pits.  Heads of auxiliary police units, subordinate to the commandatura in Rokiškis, were summoned there the night before the mass murder operation. They were ordered to assemble their units secretly at the Rokiškis manor that evening.  The next day, August 15, the commander told the units assembled in the manor courtyard they must go to the ghetto and bring Jews in groups to the killing site.  About 25 men from the Rokiškis Guard Unit went to Bajorai village in a truck.  The remaining white armbanders went to the ghetto and began lining up Jews in long lines of about 100 people each. Most Jews were marched on foot but the elderly and small children were taken by truck and cart. The columns were marched toward Juodupė and then turned onto a road on the right at Bajorai village leading into the forest.  They ordered their victims to undress before they shot them. They ordered groups of half-naked Jews into the pits and shot them from the edge of the pits.  On the first day Rokiškis Guard Unit people and German Gestapo did the shooting.  The site was surrounded by white armbander units from Rokiškis, Juodupė, Kamajai, and Svėdasai.  A mobile unit (Rollkommando Hamann) of the Gestapo, about 12 SS troops armed with machine guns from Kaunas, commanded the shooting.  After they shot one group of victims, Soviet POWs laid down a thin covering of earth over the corpses and the next group of victims was brought down into the pit. The sound of a nearby tractor engine drowned out the sound of gunfire.

On the first day approximately half of the Jews in the Rokiškis ghetto were murdered.  The mass murder operation continued the next day.  The shooting was performed in the same manner except that the Rokiškis Guard Unit did less shooting and auxiliary police from the rural districts and Gestapo did more shooting.  Soviet POWs covered the pits over with dirt.  The Jäger Report says 3,207 people were killed on August 15 and 16, 1941, at Bajorai village, including 3,200 Jews, 5 Lithuanian Communists, 1 Pole and 1 partisan.

Jäger on December 1 reported on the mass murder of the Jews of Rokiškis as a successful example of cooperation between the German mobile unit and Lithuanian white armbanders. Members of the Rokiškis Guard Unit each received a 150 ruble reward for their part in the mass murder of Jews.  Several hundred Jews from Pandėlys, 6 Jewish families from Južintai, 70 Jews from Panemunėlis, 70 elderly, women and children from Svėdasai, 117 people from Kamajai, some of the Jews from Obeliai, 17 Jews of Maneivai village and 20 Jewish families from Onuškis were put in the Rokiškis ghetto .


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Rollkommando Hamann/1st Battalion 3rd Unit;
Rokiškis Guard Unit;
white armbanders from Rokiškis, Juodupė, Kamajai and Svėdasai



Velniaduobė (Bajorai) Memorial Plaques 


In 1958, a memorial was erected at the Velniaduobė site with the following plaque, which states in Russian, Lithuanian, and Yiddish, “Here rest those killed on August 15-16, 1941, by Lithuanian-German nationalists.”  The Yiddish text provides the Hebrew calendar dates, and thus, the yahrzeit dates, as Av 22-23 [5701].





The following photograph was taken in 1997 of a metal sign that also marked the Velniaduobė massacre site.  The sign stated, in Lithuanian and Yiddish,In this place Hitlerists and their local helpers on August 15 and 16, 1941 cruelly killed 3207 Jews - children, women, men.  Let the memory of them be blessed.”


2.  Antanašė

Mass Murder of the Jews of the Rokiskis Region Near the Near the Antanase Manor

About Massacre


Some of the Jews of the Rokiškis region (mainly women and children) were held in the summer of 1941 at Antanašė manor near Obeliai.  On August 25, 1941, about 30 Rokiškis Guard Unit troops and several German Gestapo officers arrived at Antanašė manor from Rokiškis.  The night before the mass murder operation, Soviet POWs dug two large pits at the edge of Degsnė forest (about 1.5 kilometers from the manor).  Obeliai municipal and railway station auxiliary police were placed as guards on the road from Antanašė manor to the killing site.  Other Obeliai white armbanders marched the Jews in large groups (of about 100 people).  In total, about 120 to 160 Rokiškis Guard Unit troops and Obeliai rural district auxiliary police perpetrated the mass murder (including transporting and guarding Jews as well as shooting them). They ordered Jews to undress before they shot them.  Executioners from Rokiškis and several Gestapo did the shooting. The mass murder operation lasted an entire day. The Jäger Report says 1,160 Jews were killed at Antanašė, including 112 men, 627 women and 421 children. Thirty policemen from Obeliai, 23 from Obeliai railway station, 13 from Aleksandravėlė and 12 from Kriaunos auxiliary police unit received rewards of 100 rubles each for the mass murder operation.

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German Gestapo;
Rokiškis Guard Unit;
Obeliai municipal and railway station auxiliary police;
Obeliai white armbanders;
Aleksandravėlė and Kriaunos auxiliary police



Antanašė Memorial Plaque 



Yad Vashem Archives, Photo Collection No. 404


Professor Alfonsas Eidintas’ Description of the Murders at Velniaduobė (Bajorai)

Professor Alfonsas Eidintas, a historian, served as ambassador to the United States from 1993 to 1997 and later served as Lithuania’s ambassador to Israel.  His book entitled “Jews, Lithuanians, and the Holocaust, [English translation of Žydai, lietuviai ir holokaustas, Leidykla Vaga (2002)], Versus Aureus (Vilnius 2003), includes the text of his 2002 address to the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament),[2] which described the murder of the Jews in Rokiškis as follows:


The story of witness Brunius, recorded by Secretary General of the Lithuanian Nationalist Party Zenonas Blynas in 1941 testifies what the massacre in Rokiškis looked like – and it was exceptional, because observers were allowed to watch it, “Half naked Jews had to jump into a three-meter deep trench.  They were shot at by killers walking around the trench.  Brains and blood spattered everywhere.  The killers were soaked in blood.  […]  People from the area came to watch.  At first they laughed and smiled and were satisfied, but later, women (Lithuanian)[[3]]  began screaming in horror.  A slaughter, how vile.  The [administrative] governor of the district is Judas.[[4]]  I had said that if Germans made us do it, everything had to be done quietly, in secret and without any scandal.  That degenerate did quite the opposite.”


-- Jews, Lithuanians, and the Holocaust, p. 500.

In the same book, Eidintas noted that in November 1965, the Soviets put on trial five individuals who were “parties to the killings in Rokiškis,” specifically, Kazimier[a]s Dagys. Steponas Lašas, Stasys Varnas, and Petras Strumskis.[5]  He added that news articles at the time observed that four other “members of the Rokiškis command company” who fled to the West after the Second World War, namely, “in the United States – Henrikas Dūda and Andrius Abarius, in Australia – Balys Milaknis, and in Canada – Vladas Erslovas. [footnote 54: S. Laurinaitis, “Kaltina nužudytieji, smerkia gyvieji” (Those who were murdered accuse, those who survived condemn), Tiesa, 7 November 1965.][6]  


As of 2017, post-Soviet Lithuania has not successfully prosecuted any perpetrator. [7]

[1]  This list should not be assumed to be all-inclusive.  For example, some of the Jews in Svėdasai, which was part of the Rokiškis region before the Second World War, were expelled to Kamai / Kamajai.  The Jews of these towns were then sent to Rokiškis.  En route, many of these Jews were killed at Aukštakalniai, a settlement 4 kilometers northeast of Kamajai to the right of the Kamajai-Rokiškis road.  As of 2017, this massacre site had not been marked by any sign.

[2]  “Presentation by Prof. Alfonsas Eidintas at the September 21, 2002, Lithuanian Seimas “Parliament’ Special Session in Respectful Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Holocaust in Lithuania,” Supplement No. 3, Jews, Lithuanians, and the Holocaust, pp. 497-503.

[3]  Elsewhere in his book, Eidintas translates the description as “Aryan women.” Jews, Lithuanians, and the Holocaust, p. 289.

[4]  In the original Hebrew text of the “Abel” [Obeliai] article in Pinkas Hakehillot Lita [the Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Lithuania], the name of the Lithuanian who was the governor of the Rokiskis District in July and August 1941 is written as  ז׳וקאס  (Žukas).  Pinkas Hakehillot Lita, at 116 (third paragraph from the end of the article).  According to another source, Źukas held the rank of lieutenant.

[5] Jews, Lithuanians, and the Holocaust, p. 355.

[6]  Id.

[7]  In January 1999, the names of 83 ethnic Lithuanians were included in a "Partial List of Lithuanian murderers of the Jews of Rokiskis and its district" that was published by the Lithuanian-born Israeli attorney Joseph Melamed in his publication Lithuania: Crime and Punishment, Volume 6, p. 113.

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