MOLETAI: Vilna Print

Alternate names: Molėtai [Lith], Maliat and מאַליאַט [Yid], Maliaty and Маляты  [Rus], Malaty [Pol], Maletai, Moletay, Malyaty, Malėtų, Maletay, Malat, Meliat, Moliat, Maletos, Maljaty, Malyat, Russian: Маляты. מאַליאַט -Yiddish. 55°14' N, 25°25' E, 38 miles N of Vilnius (Vilna), 26 miles E of Ukmergė (Vilkomir). 1897 Jewish population: 1,948 (80%).

One of the oldest settlements in Lithuania, Moletai is a popular resort for the inhabitants of Vilnius with 7,221 inhabitants in 2001. The first Jews arrived in Moletai in the 18th century. 1923 census: 1,343 Jews in Moletai District, most traders. In the inter-war period, some Jews emigrated to South Africa, USA, and Uruguay. On the eve of WWII, Moletai had fewer than 400 Jewish families, four synagogues, and schools instructing in Hebrew and Yiddish. Some young Jews studied in Kaunas, Ukmerge and Utena. The current town population is 1000-5000, possibly with a current Jewish population of 10-100. [March 2009]

Cemetery photos [March 2011]

CEMETERY: The unland-marked, inactive cemetery has no caretaker. The urban flat land has no sign or marker. Access to the cemetery is open to all. A broken fence and a gate that does not lock surround the cemetery. The current size is 3 acres. The cemetery is not divided into special sections. Tombstones in the cemetery date from the 19th and 20th centuries. 500-1000 gravestones are in the cemetery, regardless of condition or position, with some not in original location. Less than 25% of surviving stones are toppled or broken. The limestone tombstones are finely smoothed and inscribed in Yiddish, some with portraits on the stones. Properties adjacent to the cemetery are residential. The cemetery is visited rarely. No known vandalism occurred. No care, maintenance, or structures. Weather erosion is a serious threat. Vegetation overgrowth in the cemetery is a constant problem, disturbing graves. Completing this survey on 15 Jul 1997 after a 1991 visit was This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it [1997]

MASS GRAVES: After the outbreak of WWII, "partisans" started forming a squad in Moletai. On June 23, eight men gathered in Kairionys village, about 3 km from Moletai, commanded by a priest from Dubingiai. That day, they cut the telephone line between Moletai and Alanta. Soviet officials and some Jews were withdrawing from Moletai. Next day, the town was controlled by the Lithuanian partisans until a Red Army unit entered. Communists and Soviet officials still remaining in the town identified the more active local partisans. The Soviets attacked and captured and shot a white-band a short distance from Moletai and then killed the priest. After withdrawal of the Soviet Army, the white-bands once again took control, still combing the surrounding forests, arresting Red Army soldiers and communists. The squad increased to more than ten men. On June 28, they disarmed several groups of withdrawing Red Army soldiers. On July 1, the squad returned to Moletai. Mass persecution of Jews started on the early of August when they had to move from their homes to a ghetto on Kauno, Dariaus ir Gireno, and Ažubalių Streets. Some Jews settled in a few synagogues. One Jewish family from Videniškes and a few families from Alanta were taken to Moletai Ghetto also. More than a dozen local Jews were taken to Utena prior to the mass murder. Jewish men and women, supervised by guards, had to perform various hard manual labor, repairing roads and bridges. A few days before the mass murder, all Moletai Jews were closed in the synagogues and guarded by local white-bands. All Jewish property from their homes was transferred to the houses near Gordon and Rudaševskis on Vilniaus Street. On the eve of the murder, all Jews were robbed. Before the execution, every Jew was searched for valuables. A table was placed by the largest synagogue where members of the special commission sat. Jews were taken to the table one by one and searched. During the mass search of about 800-900 persons; watches, jewelry, and money were taken. The town's police took the seized valuables. About 40 men were gathered from the town on the eve of the murder and taken to a field between two roads leading from Moletai to Giedraičiai and to Videniškiai, about 1 km NW of town to dig a pit in the field of about 50-m x 3-4 m x 4 m deep. While working, the men were guarded by the local white-bands. Digging took almost 24 hours. After it was finished on August 29, a few SS officers arrived by car and told them to drive Moletai Jews to the ditch. That morning, the squad of twenty white-bands was called to headquarters at the Riflemen Union where a German officer from Utena, an interpreter dressed in plain clothes, and Police Chief of Moletai District. The German officer told the white-bands that they would shoot Jews that day, adding that as a harmful nation and exploiters of people, the Jews had to be executed. The white-band squad went to the synagogues. First, 180 men aged 16 to 45 were told to leave the largest synagogue and lined up outside the synagogue. 10-15 white-bands escorted the line of Jews to the site of murder. The German officer and the interpreter drove. By the ditch, Jews were told to undress, leaving only underwear, and to get into the ditch. Then, the German officer told them to lie down in the ditch face down. The white-bands and several Germans surrounded the ditch. Upon the order of the German officer, they opened fire. The first group of Jews was shot in 10 to 15-minutes time. About an hour later, the second line of men, women and children Jews brought to the site of murder were shot in the same manner as the first. The corpses were covered with a thin layer of soil by the diggers who remained near the massacre site. The second group of Jews was executed by the same white-bands. Then came the third line of Jews, elderly men, women and children of different ages. The elderly who were incapable of walking were taken to the massacre by cart and killed. Some witnesses claim three lines of Jews were formed, while others claim four or five. The slaughter lasted about five hours. The German officer photographed the execution. The victims' clothing was loaded into a cart and taken to Moletai's largest synagogue. The precise number of victims is unknown, possibly 3,782 Jews killed in Utena and Moletai together. Witnesses of the murder claim that in Moletai from 700 to 1,200 Jewish men, women and children might have been killed. The massacre was followed by looting and selling of their property. The white-bands involved in the arrests and murder of Jews plundered the Jewish property without records. Part of the property was free to those who dug the ditch and covered Jewish corpses. A special commission was set up to auction the remaining assets. The property left after the murders was taken to three houses and four synagogues in Moletai. The total property sold to the townsmen was worth 30,000 rubles. That money was transferred to the chief of the District. Moreover, in 1943, some of the wooden houses belonging to Jews were sold. Residents who had no accommodation were settled in Jewish houses. The total unofficial Jewish population in Utena District as of January 1 was 5,443. Presumably, they all perished.[March 2009]

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 March 2011 19:16