The Paneriai Memorial Museum

Vilnius, Vilnius County, Lithuania

About The Paneriai Memorial Museum

The History of Paneriai:
Before the Second World War the beautiful forest area around Paneriai was a very popular recreational area for residents of Vilnius and its surroundings. In 1940 and 1941 Red Army soldiers established a military base in Aukštieji Paneriai and set up fuel tanks and ammunition warehouses. At that time seven large pits were excavated.

Within days of being captured by the Germans this base became a place of execution. The shootings were supervised by the Nazis, but mainly carried out by the Special Squad (Ypatingasis Būrys), which consisted of 60 to 100 Lithuanian nationalist partisans.

The site chosen for extermination met all the requirements for mass murder: the doomed could be brought from nearby Vilnius (by truck, railway or driven by foot), the forest cloaked the area from unwanted eyes and muffled the sound of shooting.

The earlier designation “base” was used for the massacre site and initially the murderers used it intentionally so that others would think Paneriai was just a “work camp.”

Between July 1941 and April 1944 more than 100,000 people were murdered at Paneriai, the majority were Jewish. However, Poles, Roma, communists and Russian prisoners of war were also killed there.

By the end of 1943, as the tide of war turned, the Nazis began to hastily destroy the evidence of their crimes. A special brigade of prisoners was forced to exhume corpses and burn them. On April 15 1944, 12 of the 80 people chosen for the burning brigade escaped. Some were captured and shot, several survived and reached partisan units.

About the Paneriai Memorial Museum:
The museum was opened in 1960 at the mass murder site. In 1985 a new museum building was built and the exhibition overhauled. The terri¬tory was also renovated under architect Jaunutis Makariūnas - the small roads were asphalted, the burial pits were renovated and commemorative stones with Russian and Lithuanian inscriptions were erected.

After Lithuanian independence, on the initiative of the Jewish community, the first memorial stone with inscriptions in Hebrew, Yiddish, Lithuanian and Russian announced that 70,000 Jews were murdered here.

In 1991 the Paneriai Museum was transferred to the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.

The exhibition at the Paneriai Memorial Museum shows photographs of people murdered at Paneriai, orders and other documents issued by the occupying power and found in the area of the massacres, as well as clothing, shoes and prisoners’ work tools. In 2009, for the 50-year anniversary of the museum, parts of its exhibition were renovated.

For further information please visit the museum’s homepage:

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