Lithuanian Jews

Of the some 220,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania before the invasion of the German Wehrmacht in 1941, only around 32,000 lived to see the end of the war. The first persecutions and murders to the Jewish population living in Lithuania had already begun even before the Wehrmacht actually arrived there.

On their return from forced labour the Jews were searched by German and Lithuanian guards as they entered the Kovno ghetto. Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of George Kadish/Zvi Kadushin

A ghetto in Kaunas was built on 15 August 1941. Around 20,000 Jews were rehoused in a designated part of the city. In October the SS carried out a selection: More than 9,000 Jews were brought to the IX. Fort and killed there. By the end of the year, all Jews remaining in the country had been allocated to labour camps or ghettos.

In 1943 the Kaunas and Siauliai ghettos were transformed into concentration camps. The Nazis murdered 1,200 infants, children and elderly people in Kauen concentration camp (German name for Kaunas), within just a few months.  By the end of the year the concentration camp still had around 8,000 Jewish prisoners.

Before the Red Army reached the concentration camp, in Spring 1944 SS members murdered several thousand boys and girls. In July, both of the remaining concentration camps were dissolved. The SS deported Jewish prisoners to Auschwitz-Birkenau or to Stutthof concentration camp, where they were selected. Those who were deemed fit for work were taken further into the German Reich for forced labour such as to Landsberg/Kaufering concentration subcamp complex. Those who were deemed unfit for work, were killed.