| Subscribe | Press Room | Store | Friends | Contact Us

Vilkaviškis

Vilkaviškis, Vilkaviškis County, Lithuania

To enlarge the map click here Cornerstone laying for a senior citizens' home in Vilkaviškis Cornerstone laying for a senior citizens' home in Vilkaviškis YVA, Photo Collection, 1044/85 Elderly Jews at the entrance to the senior citizens' home in Vilkaviškis Elderly Jews at the entrance to the senior citizens' home in Vilkaviškis YVA, Photo Collection, 1131/28

Although according to local Jewish tradition, Jews began settling in Vilkaviškis in the fourteenth century, the first Jewish gravestones found in the town cemetery date only to the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth century Jews comprised more than 80 percent of Vilkaviškis's residents and played a major role in the grain and wood trades and the exporting of agricultural product to Germany, as well as the manufacture of brushes made with pig bristles.
During the first year of World War I the Russian army harassed the Jewish population of Vilkaviškis and during the ensuing German occupation (1915-1918) the town's Jews suffered from harsh measures that severely curtailed their communal life. With the end of the war and the establishment of an independent Lithuania the economic situation of Vilkaviškis deteriorated but Jewish cultural and educational activities flourished. On the eve of the World War II there were 3,600 Jews in Vilkaviškis, comprising aproximately 40 percent of the total population.
Following the annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union, in June 1940 all private enterprises, mostly owned by Jews, were nationalized, Jewish educational and cultural institutions were closed, and all political activities were banned.
The German army occupied Vilkaviškis on June 22, 1941. Many Jewish homes and the synagogue were destroyed by bombing. With the onset of the occupation, Lithuanian nationalists attacked local Jews. A few weeks later the Jews were imprisoned in a ghetto set up in a military barracks outside of town.
The Jewish men of Vilkaviškis were murdered on July 28, 1941 in two pits, prepared in advance. On September 24 the Jewish women and children were shot at the same location. The massacres were carried out by the Einsatzkommando Tilsit, commanded by Hans-Joachim Boehme, aided by Lithuanian nationalists. According to Soviet sources, a total of 3,056 people were murdered at that time.
The Red Army liberated Vilkaviškis in the summer of 1944.