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KRETINGA: Kretinga district , Klaipėda County PDF Print E-mail

Alternate names: Kretinga [Lith], Kretinge [Yid], Kretingen [Rus], Kretynga [Pol], Crottingen [Ger], Krottingen, Krettingen, Myasto Kretinga, Kretingos, Kratinga, Russian: Кретинга / Кретинген. 55°53' N, 21°15' E, 13 miles NNE of Klaipėda (Memel), 23 miles W of Plungė (Plungian). 1900 Jewish population: 1,202. ShtetLink: The first Jews settled in Kretinga in the mid-17th century. 1897 Jewish population: 1,203 (35%). During Lithuania's Independence, the Jewish population dropped to 800, most engaged in trade and crafts. In 1932, the Jewish National Bank had 233 members. The local Jewish community had a synagogue, a Tarbut school, and a library. Jewish population of Kretinga region was 4,016 Jews (3.42 %) on January 1, 1941. Kretinga became an important border point under Soviet control, fraught with spying. Violent Soviet terror and torture raged in Kretinga's prison. Carters smuggled people fleeing from Lithuania to Germany across the border although some were NKVD agents who turned them in. After German occupation, the place of NKVD tortures and buried burnt corpses was discovered near the pond of the monastery. Hands of some corpses were skinned, heads were scalped, etc. As far back as the end of 1941, resistance groups emerged in Kretinga province. Some established relations with the Lithuanian Activist Front in Berlin. With the beginning of WWII, Lithuanian partisans started acts of sabotage, cutting telephone lines, damaging transports, and protecting warehouses. Situated in western Lithuania on the previous East Prussian border, in 1941 among the 1,000 residents were refugees from Memel. [March 2009]

MASS GRAVES: The German army occupied Kretinga on the first day of WWII. Along with Germans came the former chief of the Lithuanian Security Police of Kretinga district from exile in Germany with the Gestago. On June 24, 1941, the military commander ordered all men aged 14 to 60 in the town to gather in the market sqaure at 10 a.m. Severe penalties were threatened for failure to appear. About 2,000 men gathered in the market place surrounded by German soldiers and local white-bands. Gestapo officers ordered Jews and communists to step forth. Only several did. The white-bands entered the crowd and started picking out suspects, taking this opportunity to settlement of personal scores. The Jewish men were herded into a special designated corner. The gentiles were unharmed, but the Jews were immediately made run around the square on their knees. The Germans and wild Lithuanians beat them mercilessly with belts, clubs and whatever weapons they could find. This cruel humiliation went on into the afternoon;at twilight the Jews were forced into the synagogue. On June 26, 180 Jewish men were taken into a fenced plot on the ruins of the Provoslavit Church, which had been hit and destroyed in the first days of the war. At the same time the Germans, led by the Lithuanians, began a search of Jewish homes, and rounded up another 30 Jewish men who had defied the assembly order, forcing them to join the others in the square.That evening, they were driven into the former Soviet cooperative farm. The following day they were taken to build a bridge and to repair roads. Towards evening June 25, Gestapo officers put male Jews in vehicles and drove them to Kveciai Forest. Later, the Lithuanian communists were brought. The Jews were ordered to dig a large trench. Several Gestapo commanders arrived at the massacre site and started a "court". The arrested were called one by one and with the police chief informing about them. The "accused" were sent to the left (subsequently set free) or to the right (condemned to death). 35 men were set free, including three Russian engineers and two military drivers. Then shootings commenced. During the shootings, the Lithuanians knelt on one knee facing the trench, while the Jews stood facing the shooters. Gestapo officers from Tilže aktion squad and German policemen from Klaipeda murdered 214 men and one woman. Most victims was Jews. Those Jews from Kretinga, who were not shot, were locked in the town synagogue. On the same day (July 26-27), the assistant to the Lithuanian Security Police in Kretinga district set the synagogue ablaze. The dry and windy weather spread the fire to other buildings until nearly the entire center of town was in flames. The Jews were accused of this arson. Local firemen could not manage to fight the fire. A fire brigade from Klaipeda was called. German soldiers wearing gas masks and local criminals plundered burning houses. The entire center of the town as well as the locked synagogue filled with Jews burned. Four Jewish women with children survived temporarily; however, the massacre of Jews and communists did not end. On June 28 , 63 men were taken from the Prishmenti Farm and executed. In the middle of August, 20 women and children, members of families of 15 men already murdered, were executed. Until this point the murderers were Germans who had come from Memel and Tilsit. The Lithuanians did guard duty and were allowed to humiliate and torture the victims. Within a few days another 15 men met the same fate. During this entire time, the local prison was filled to capacity with Jewish men of Kretinga and the surrounding villages. The Lithuanian guards took great pleasure in humiliating them. A witness at the board of inquiry after the German retreat a witness reported that he saw 80 Jews being taken out of the cells to the banks of the river, forced to crawl from the height of the bank down to the river. Those who did not crawl fast enough were severely beaten with clubs. Later the armed guards forced them into the river to swim from bank to bank. Those who did not succeed were shot in the river. Afterwards the survivors were returned to the cells. Between 11-18 July, 120 men were shot at the Jewish cemetery. There were attempts to escape, but those caught were forced into the pit to straighten out the bodies and were shot last. Prisoners in custody in Kretinga were taken to the Jewish cemetery to dig a trench about 6 m x 2.5 m x 2 m. The approximately 40-50 prisoners sentenced to death were put in two tarpaulin-covered buses and taken to be shot. Jews kept in custody suffered cruel taunts; some were shot during the first weeks of the Nazi occupation. Massacres were usually carried out in the Jewish cemetery in Kretinga. The police chief was especially sadist; he killed Jewish women with an oak stake in the cemetery. In July 1941, seventeen Jewish women were exterminated when he and "partisans" dug a trench in the Jewish cemetery, took the women there, and killed them with shovels in the dark of night. Similar atrocities occurred when he killed Jewish women at dawn. Those Jewish women temporarily left alive had been confined in a ghetto in Pryšmančiai estate. The senior criminal assistant of the German police called the Jewish women and their children "useless eaters" to be exterminated. They were murdered in August and September 1941 by Lithuanian policemen and white-bands supervised by German officers. An eyewitness testified that the women were stripped naked and brutally beaten. Their children were ripped from terror-struck mothers, stabbed, and thrown to the mass grave like rags. Other children were drowned in the pond in front of their mother whose heartrending screams delighted the murderers. Most women were beaten with metal sticks. When filling the mass grave, some still moved. The number killed during this action is unknown. After their execution, their valuables (watches, rings, money) and their better clothing was taken by their killers. Sometimes Germans were strict with those who robbed Jewish property without their authorization. During the first days of the war, German soldiers and two Lithuanian civilians were arrested, court martialed, and sentenced to be shot because after shooting Jews from Palanga, the murderers loaded a bus with various clothes that had been promised to the Red Cross in Kretinga. When the bus arrived at the police station, locals and police officers who did not take part in the shooting stole the majority of better clothes. In Summer 1941, 40-50 Jews was driven to Kretinga from Mosedis. The police chief searched the Jews for valuable items like money, jewelry, bars of soap and handed them over to the Police Chief of Kretinga district. In 1941, he conducted the shooting of 300-400 Jewish women in Veivirženai, collecting 6-8,000 rubles, clothing, beddings, and other items. Some was delivered to the district Security Police warehouse, while other items were divided among the murderers. The money bought stationery for the security office, vehicle maintenance, and vodka for the killers. The atrocities in Kretinga reached an enormous scale as the security police abused their official position, settling personal scores, forging cases, and arresting and killing innocents. At the beginning of September, a group of 120 women and children were murdered as planned with extreme cruelty. Those women and children and a small number of old persons were still being held at the Prishmenti stables. They were always told that the heads of their families had been taken to a separate labour camp. The women had always requested to join their husbands. In the beginning of September they were told that their request would be granted. All the women, children and old persons were assembled and taken to a nearby threshing hall and told that they would undergo a medical examination. Each in turn was asked to disrobe and step outside. There the Lithuanian military policemen waited, drunk and intent on murder. As each person came out, the policemen fell upon them with branches, iron bars, bayonets and knives, beating and stabbing them. Throughout, the Gestapo stood watching and photographed this event. After this individual attention and taking of the photographs, the rest of the Jews were murdered by shooting. By early September 1941, all Jews of Kretinga and a significant number of communists of Lithuanian nationality, even others who displeased Jakys, were exterminated. On December 15, criminal actions were brought against P. Jakys, G. Bražinskas and V. Smilgys for the killings.torturing the arrested, abusing women, taking the property of the executed, and forging documents. Yet, the Ketinga security chief was set free but no longer security chief in Kretinga. After his arrest in 1942, local residents finally relaxed. When the war ending, he escaped to Germany and was convicted by the court in Ulm in 1958 with other officers from the aktion squad of the Gestapo in Tilže for the murder of 818 persons, but sentenced to only seven years in prison. A special commission in Kretinga District investigating Nazi crimes estimated that 4,000 persons were killed during Nazi occupation, but maybe was only 1,000; the majority of victims were Jews. [March 2009]The lists of mass graves in The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II, include the following:

  • Place: Jewish cemetery. Date - August 1941. Number who perished - 356.
  • Place: Kweitziar Wood, to the right of the road from Kretinga to Polangen. Date - June - July 1941. Number who perished - 700 men and women.



Last Updated on Thursday, 20 August 2009 21:38
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