Paneriai is six miles outside Vilnius.
It had been a quiet small suburb in the Vilnius district up
to the beginning of Second World War. Since then it has been
associated only with suffering and death. During World War
II, the Nazis turned the Paneriai forest into mass killing
site. Between 1941 and 1944, at least 100,000 innocent Vilnius
civilians, prisoners of war, priests, partisans and underground
fighters were killed here and buried into pits. Seventy thousand
of those killed were Jews, who were systematically annihilated
from the time the Germans arrived in Vilnius in 1941 up to
1944 when Soviet army drove out German troops. The territory
of several kilometers has become a common grave for the people
of different nationalities: Lithuanians, Russians, Poles and
The first monument in Paneriai was
erected in 1948, but in 1952 it was replaced by the new one.
Probably, because of the fact, Jews on the first monument
were mentioned among the victims of fascism. That was unacceptable
in the country, where the policy of anti-Semitism was carried
out. The second inscription was more "correct":
"Here the Nazis shot over 100,000 Soviet people."
Only in 1990, with the beginning of the Lithuanian Revival
Movement, a new text in Hebrew was added. In 1960, in Paneriai
a museum displaying the tragedy of Paneriai was established.
In 1985, the first memorial was set up, later accomplished
by several more.
Nowadays, the entrance to the Paneriai
memorial complex is marked by three stone slabs with the inscription
in Russian, Lithuanian and Hebrew that were established to
embalm the memory of the hundred thousands murdered people.
From here a path leads to the Paneriai museum and two monuments.
One of them is a monument, commemorating seventy thousand
Vilnius Jews, executed by the Nazis. The other is a Soviet
obelisk to all the "victims of fascist terror".
The paths lead further, to the pits in the wood where dead
bodies were burnt and to another eight-meter pit where the
bones of the dead were crushed.
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