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2021.04.08 11:01

Holocaust victims to be commemorated at massacre site near Vilnius

BNS2021.04.08 11:01

A commemoration will be held in Paneriai, a suburb of Vilnius where tens of thousands of Jews were killed during the Holocaust, to mark the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day on Thursday. 

Members of the local Jewish community, diplomats and Vilnius Ghetto survivors will lay pebbles and flowers at monuments and mass killing pits. All the required coronavirus safety precautions will be in place for the event at the Paneriai Memorial Museum, according to the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LŽB).

"Traditionally on this occasion, we would hold a March of the Living along the same route the victims took from Paneriai Railway Station to the Paneriai Memorial, but the commemoration will not be massive this year because of the pandemic situation," Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman of LŽB, told BNS.

"Only a few of us will take part – those who bear the responsibility for preserving the memory of the Holocaust and passing it on to future generations," Kukliansky said, noting that "this year marks 80 years since the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania".

"A witness to these terrible events, Kaunas Ghetto prisoner Dovydas Leibzonas, is also with us today," she added.

Read more: ‘Lithuanians, not Jews, should be talking about the Holocaust’ – interview

Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and foreign diplomats are also expected to attend the event.

More than 90 percent of Lithuania's pre-war Jewish population of over 200,000 were killed by the Nazis and their local collaborators during the Second World War.

Around 100,000 people were massacred and buried in Paneriai, including 70,000 Jewish, 20,000 Polish and about 8,000 Russian prisoners.

Some 8,000 Lithuanian Jews were saved during the war and a similar number survived by fleeing the country.

Around 900 Lithuanians have been named Righteous Among the Nations by the International Institute for Holocaust Research, Yad Vashem, for saving Jews.

Currently, around 3,000 Jews live in Lithuania.