History of the Vilna Ghetto Vilna
  Vilna Ghetto
Historical photographs  
Historical Posters  
Education Kit   


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.

(Source: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005173)