Historical Context

Dr. Arūnas Bubnys

Before World War II, Šiauliai hosted one of the most numerous Lithuanian Jewish communities. According to the records of 20 August 1941, 5,043 Jews were living in the city of Šiauliai. German army took the city 26 June 1941. Before the coming of the Nazis, about 1,000 Jews managed to flee to the Soviet Union. The history of the Šiauliai Ghetto may be divided into four periods: 1) during the first period (September – November 1941) administration of the ghettos was formed, including the Jewish Council, various offices, and ghetto police. At the same time, mass killings of the Jews were carried out – mostly in September 1941; 2) the second period (end of 1941 – summer of 1943) can be noted for relative stability. No mass killings of the Jews were carried out during this time; 3) during the third period (September 1943 – middle of July 1944) the ghetto was taken over from the civil authorities by the SS and turned into a concentration camp; 4) the fourth period lasted through the second half of July 1944. During that time, the Šiauliai Ghetto was liquidated and its inhabitants were transported to concentration camps in Germany. (1)
The first large-scale arrests of Jews in the city of Šiauliai were carried out on June 30, July 1 and July 5, 1941. Between those arrested were 20 of the most reputable Jews in the Jewish community (including the chief rabbi Aronas Bakštas). Even before the ghetto was founded, approximately one thousand Jews of the city of Šiauliai were shot. (2) The first killings of Šiauliai Jews were carried out on 29 June 1941, in the forest of Kužiai, 12 km away from Šiauliai. (3) In the summer of 1941 local Jews were also being shot near the village of Pročiūnai (7 km away from Šiauliai), not far from the village of Bubiai (15 km away from Šiauliai) and in the forest of Gubernija. (4) The killings were usually carried out by German Gestapo officers under the command of SS-Hauptscharführer Werner Gottschalk, and the Lithuanian auxiliary police force. Legal discrimination of the Jews came alongside the arrests and the killings – civil liberties and private property were taken away. The order to found a Jewish ghetto in Šiauliai was received by the Lithuanian administration from the German military commandant of the city. The Jewish Committee was created, which served as an institution responsible for the issues related to the transferring of the Jews to the ghetto together with Lithuanian government representatives. Two locations were chosen for the ghettos: a hilly part of the town called the Caucasus and a strip of land between the Ežeras and Trakai streets. The distance between those areas was approximately 300 meters. The Caucasus ghetto was populated first, the Ežero–Trakų ghetto – a bit later. The transfer of city Jews ended on 15 August 1941. (5) Approximately 4,000–5,000 Jews were imprisoned. The ghettos were surrounded by barbed wire, which stood 2 meters tall, and the gate was always protected by the police. Much like the ghettos in Vilnius and Kaunas, the Šiauliai ghetto had a Jewish administration and police. The Jewish Committee was reorganised and called the Jewish Council (Judenrat); Mendelis Leibavičius became its chairman. (6) The Jewish Council was responsible for the administration of both ghettos, communication with German and Lithuanian government institutions, maintenance of the determinate order, distribution of the work force, food, sanitation and other aspects of everyday life.
Until October 1943, the Šiauliai ghetto was under the command of Gebietskommissar Hans Gewecke, but starting 1 October 1943, command was taken over by the SS. (7) The ghetto became a concentration camp. SS-Oberscharführer Herman Schlöf was put in command. The security of the camp perimeter was given to a squad of 30 SS officers. Inside, the order was still in the hands of the Jewish police (around 10 people), as it had been until then. (8) Starting 1 April 1944, George Parizer – a German Jew – became the leader of the internal administration of the ghetto. (9) After the mass killings of Jews that took place in the summer and autumn of 1941, the Šiauliai Ghetto lived a relatively peaceful period. On 5 November 1943, a selection of children and invalid Jews took place in the Šiauliai Ghetto. The action was supervised by the SS-Hauptsturmführer Förster. 570 children and 260 elderly people were shot in the ghetto or taken to concentration camps in Germany (supposedly Auschwitz) by SS and ROA officers that had come from Kaunas that day. The Judenrat members Ber Kartun, Aharon Katz and pediatrician Uriah Razovski, unable to leave the children alone in such a terrible journey, joined them and left together. (10)
In the middle of October 1943, the Caucasus ghetto was liquidated. Only the Ežero – Trakų ghetto remained in the city. Some of the Jews were transferred to the Daugėliai, Pavenčiai and other labour camps. (11)
15 July 1944, the liquidation of the Šiauliai Ghetto began. Several thousand Jews were taken to Stutthof concentration camp in several stages. From there, men were taken to Dachau concentration camp, while women and children were taken to Auschwitz. Able women were left in Stutthof. Some of the Šiauliai Jews were liberated from Dachau by the American forces on 2 May 1945. Only 350–500 Šiauliai Jews survived the war. (12)


(1) Enzyklopedie des Holocaust: die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden, München – Zürich, Bd. 3, 1995, p. 1281.
(2) Statement of disinterring the remains of the Šiauliai City inhabitants murdered in the Gubernija Forest, Nov. 16, 1944, Lithuanian Special Archives (hereinafter referred to as LSA), f. K-1, ap. 46, b. 1274, l. 47; Дневник А. Ерушалми, Черная книга, (Yerushalmi‘s Diary, Šiauliai (Shavli), The Black Book), Vilnius, 1993, p. 265, 522; Rab. E. Oshry, The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, New York, 1995, p. 248; Enzyklopedie des Holocaust..., Bd. 3, p. 1281.
(3) Memorandum by the Šiauliai Region’s Working People’s Deputies’ Council Executive Committee, 4 April 1968, LSA, f. K-1, ap. 46, b. 1261, l. 86; L. Peleckienė, “Mournful “Requiem” at the gate of the Šiauliai Ghetto, Lietuvos rytas, 26 July 1994, p. 12.
(4) Statement of disinterring the remains of the Šiauliai City inhabitants murdered in the forest at the village of Pročiūnai, October 14, 1944, LSA, f. K-1, ap. 46, b. 1274, l. 32-1–32-4; Note issued by the Soviet Lithuanian KGB about mass murders in Šiauliai Region in 1941, Feb. 7, 1973, ibid., l. 1; Statement of disinterring the remains of Šiauliai City inhabitants murdered in the Gubernija Forest, Nov. 16, 1944, ibid., l. 47-1–47-2; Note by Captain Obraztsov, Soviet Lithuanian KGB Šiauliai City Chief Operative Official, about the 14th Lithuanian Police Battalion, undated, ibid., ap. 47, b. 1268, l. 145.
(5) Дневник А. Ерушалми, p. 522.
(6) E. Gens’ Examination Record, Jan. 21, 1948, LSA, f. K-1, ap. 58, b. 42809/3, l. 18.
(7) G. Parizer’s Examination Record, April 17, 1945, ibid., l. 1–2.
(8) G. Parizer’s Examination Record, April 17, 1945, ibid., l. 1–2.
(9) G. Parizer’s Examination Record, April 24, 1945, ibid., l. 1-9–1-11.
(10) Masinės žudynės Lietuvoje (Mass Murders in Lithuania) 1941–1944, collection of documents, VOL. 2, V., 1973, p. 342; Notes about H.Schlöf’s activities (Feb. 4, 1972), LSA, f. K-1, ap. 46, b. 1228, l. 1–2; Дневник А. Ерушалми, p. 279.
(11) Дневник А. Ерушалми, p. 276–277.
(12) L. Peleckienė, “Mournful “Requiem”...”; E. Gens’ Examination Record, Jan. 21, 1948, LSA, f. K-1, ap. 58, b. 42809/3, l. 12–13.
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