In July 1941, the German military administration issued a series of
anti-Jewish decrees. During the same month, German Einsatzgruppen (mobile
killing squads) aided by Lithuanian auxiliaries killed 5,000 Jewish
men at Ponary forest, eight miles outside Vilna. A German civilian administration
took control of Vilna in August 1941. At the end of the month, Germans
killed another 3,500 Jews at Ponary.
The Germans established two ghettos--ghetto # 1 (large) and ghetto #
2 (small) in Vilna in early September 1941. Jews considered incapable
of work were concentrated in ghetto # 2. In October 1941, German Einsatzgruppe
detachments and Lithuanian auxiliaries destroyed ghetto # 2, killing
the ghetto population in Ponary. Lukiszki Prison served as a collection
center for Jews who were to be taken to Ponary and shot. By the end
of 1941, the Einsatzgruppen had killed about 40,000 Jews in Ponary.
The Jews in ghetto # 1 were forced to work in factories or in construction
projects outside the ghetto. Some Jews were sent to labor camps in the
Vilna region. In periodic killing operations, most of the ghetto's inhabitants
were massacred at Ponary. From the spring of 1942 until the spring of
1943, there were no mass killing operations in Vilna. The Germans renewed
the killings during the final liquidation of ghetto # 1 in late September
1943. Children, the elderly, and the sick were sent to the Sobibor extermination
camp or were shot at Ponary. The surviving men were sent to labor camps
in Estonia, while the women were sent to labor camps in Latvia.