Paneriai memorial


Paneriai Memorial reminds us both of the stories of the biggest mass murder in Lithuania and of the tragic fate of local Jews during the Holocaust. A visit to this land of blood and ashes highlights the weakness of human existence in confrontation with cruelty and the banality of evil. This memorial can induce very strong emotions, so we recommend to inquire at least a bit about Holocaust history in Europe and Lithuania before visiting the site.

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Before the Second World War, Paneriai was a lovely summer getaway for Vilnius citizens. However, in 1941 Soviet army prepared 7 pit tanks for fuel storage near Paneriai railway. Soviets did not have a chance to use these storages, because Lithuania was occupied by Nazis a few months later. But the pits were not left unused – Nazis used them for the victims of mass murders. Germans, with the assistance of local men, murdered around 100 thousand people in Paneriai – about two-thirds of the victims were Jews, but there were Polish and Roma people, war prisoners between the victims as well. Jews usually were taken straight from the Vilnius ghetto and sent to be murdered to Paneriai. These mass murders in Paneriai began already at the beginning of July in 1941, and already in the Spring of 1942 Nazis aimed to hide evidence of these cruel acts. At the end of September in 1943 the so-called “Corpse unit” was sent to Paneriai – these 80 Jewish people were forced to dig all the bodies, bury them and mix the ashes with the sand. Afterwards they had to be killed – these condemned workers realized the fate awaiting and in 1944 they started to dig up an escape tunnel with the sole help of simple spoons. On the night of the 15th of April, they aimed to escape through the tunnel, but the guards heard them and started shooting. Only a dozen of the 80 workers successfully escaped from this horrifying place.


Soon after the Soviet army forced out Nazis from Vilnius, in the summer of 1944, Jews who survived the Holocaust started to talk about macabre mass murders in Paneriai. They refused to forget and initiated the remembrance of this horror. After a year the first memorial “To the Jews murdered in Paneriai” was erected, but later politics of the Soviet Union tried to reconstruct the memory of the Great War and demolished this statue.  In 1952 it was replaced by the obelisk with the pentagon star for the nameless and nationless “victims of Fascists terror” (to-this-day this obelisk is still in place in Paneriai Memorial complex). However, in 1960 a museum was established in Paneriai, and in 1977 this territory was named Paneriai Memorial. In the 1980s the Memorial was reconstructed and now it consists of the pits, where people, were murdered, places where victims were held, and different memorial monuments (for murdered Jews, Poles, Roma, Lithuanians, Soviet war prisoners, and individual persons and families). Since the 1991 Paneriai Museum belongs to the Vilna Gaon Jewish history museum, its exhibition was radically changed and now it presents a detailed story of Paneriai tragedy.


Historical Jewish quarter, 54.679532, 25.285090

Jewish street, 54.679532, 25.285090

The place of the Great Synagogue and shulhof (jid. shulhoyf) (Žydų g. 3), 54.679901, 25.284511

The mausoleum of Vilna Gaon and his family (Jewish cemetery, Sudervė road, 28), 54.712898, 25.234477

A sculpture of Vilna Gaon (Žydų g. 3), 54.680137, 25.285079

Choral synagogue Taharat ha–Kodesh (Pylimo g. 39), 54.676070, 25.281575

Užupis synagogue (Užupio g. 36), 54.681471, 25.298633

A sculpture of doctor Cemachas Šabadas  (sculpt. Romualdas Kvintas), 54.677248, 25.284342

Pohulanka (now. J. Basanavičius street), 54.680145, 25.276134

The place of old Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės (Olimpiečių g. 1a), 54.690243, 25.291117

Jewish cemetery in Užupis (Olandų g. 22), 54.688106, 25.307748

The printing house of widow Rom and Rom brothers (A. Strazdelio g. 3), 54.675534, 25.292128

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