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Alternate names: Pilviškiai [Lith], Pilwiszki [Pol], Pilvishok [Yid], Pilviškiu, Pilviškai, Pil'vishkyay, Pil'vishki, Pilvishki, Pilviskai, Pilviski, Pilviskis. 54°43' N, 23°13' E, 9 miles ENE of Vilkaviškis, 12 miles NNW of Marijampolė (Maryampol). 1897 Jewish population: 1,242 (53% of the total). ShtetLink. After WWI, the Jewish population decreased. In the inter-war period, many Jews immigrated to the USA, South Africa, and Palestine. In the eve of the Shoah, about 1,000 Jews lived in Pilviškiai district. The Jewish community had a synagogue, schools, a kindergarten, a library, a drama club, and Zionist youth and sports organizations. [March 2009]

MASS GRAVES: During the first days of WWII, a German Military Commander's Office was established in Pilviškiai. A district police station established. Furthermore, a "self-defense" squad (white-bands) responsible for guarding Pilviškiai railway bridge and subordinate to Vilkaviškis was formed. In summer 1941, Pilviškiai police and white-bands carried out massive arrests of communists and then, the Jews. About 100 communists and about 1,000 Jews were arrested. The first massacre of Jews was carried out around June 27-29, when the Jewish men of Pilviškiai district were shot in Baltrušiai village about 2 km from Pilviškiai on the land belonging to a large landowner, Jonas Lozoraitis. Before the murders, the Jewish men were arrested and locked in the barn belonging to a Jew, Kovenski, in Pilviškiai. In the early morning before the massacre, the Jewish men were herded to Lozoraitis' field and made to dig two ditches. During the digging, the policemen brought a former communist to the massacre site and shot him on the spot. Then, 300 to 350 Jewish men and some dozens of communists, even a group of female communists, were herded to the ditches. The victims were made to strip to underwear and then in small groups placed in front of the ditch and shot by the Germans and a few policemen from Pilviškiai. The victims were shot at the backs from approximately 10 meters away. The German officers photographed the massacre. Around September 15, a bus with German soldiers from Vilkaviškis arrived as did some local policemen from the self-defense squad arrived to murder the Jewish women, children, and elderly men. They were brought to the market square and from there taken to the same field near Baltrušiai Village, the same place as the shooting of the Jewish men. Before the shooting, the victims were told to sit down, strip to underwear, and to turn over their jewelry. After that, they were taken in small groups to the ditch and shot by the German soldiers from the Commander's Office with submachine guns and the Lithuanians with rifles. In the middle of the massacre, a bus with Vilkaviškis police arrived. They took over the shooting from the local police and from the white-bands squad. About 700-800 women, children and elderly men were murdered. Their clothes and personal possessions were taken to storage and later distributed among the killers or sold to the local inhabitants. Although two massacres were carried out in Pilviškiai, not all the Jews of the district were shot then. Some Pilviškiai Jews were taken to Marijampole, Vilakaviškis, and Kaunas Ghettos. The ones taken to Kaunas Ghetto survived. Determining the number of the victims of the Holocaust is difficult, but could be about 4,000 people although some estimates are 6,994 Jews. [March 2009]

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 April 2009 01:25
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