SAUKENAI: Kovno Print

Alternate names: Šaukėnai [Lith], Shukian [Yid], Shavkyany [Rus], Szawkiany [Pol], Shavkany, Szayikiany, Shaukenay, Šaukėnų, Szaukeinaj, Russian: Шавкяны. 55°48' N, 22°53' E, 19 miles WSW of Šiauliai (Shavl), 12 miles N of Kelmė in northern Lithuania in the Siauliai (Shavel) region. 1900 Jewish population: 624. 1939, the Jewish community was about 100 families. Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego (1880-1902), XI, p. 811: "Szawkiany" #4. [March 2009]

MASS GRAVE: The Germans captured the town on Thursday, June 26, 1941. The Jews had taken refuge in the surrounding villages already sheltering refugees from Kelme. After its capture, all returned to the town with the thirty families from Kelme. The Lithuanian "partisans" had been organized, encouraged by proclamations of Radio Kovno. They had ambushed retreating Russians and stopped the Jews from fleeing eastwards with them, shooting and robbing. By Friday , the Lithuanians controlled the town. Immediately, abuse and maltreatment in the old Jewish neighborhoods began. The white-bands burst into the Beit Midrash during morning prayers, removed the Jews still wearing tallisim and tefilin to forced labor. They cleared abandoned Russian vehicles from the roads as the Lithuanians beat them unmercifully, even the elderly. Jewish community leaders objected, but were told that the Germans had ordered the labor. They questioned the brutality and use of the elderly. The let the Jews elect a council to select Jews to work. The Jews elected a council and selected the required labor. Still, the Lithuanian "partisans" continued to abuse and beat all the Jews. Ten Jews, most young, were arrested and taken to the prison in Siauliai (Shavel). Only one returned. Authorities banned the Jews from leaving their homes after sunset, from contact with non-Jews, and from leaving the town. The Shukian Jews were required to stay separate from the Kelme Jews and to send them away. They objected. The Lithuanians pretended to agree, but repeated their demands in a few days. On July 25, the Lithuanians demanded 50,000 rubles from the Jewish Council; if not paid, all the Jews to the last person would be suffer. The Council informed the community of the threat during Shabbat services. Some Jews friendly with nicer Lithuanians suggested that approaching them to explain the difficulties. The appeal failed, but they learned of the other mass murders in Lithuania. They then appealed to the priest who told them to pay the ransom and ask the questions of Jesus. Despite everything, the Jews decided to pay the ransom. By Sunday morning, they handed over the required amount. On July 28 at about 5 a.m. Lithuanians outside each house shouted to bring all their valuables and move to a ghetto in the Great Synagogue. In the hallway of the synagogue sat the white-band leader, who struck them and forced them to hand over their jewelry, money, and other valuables in exchange for food and other necessities. At 10 a. m. the Jews were ordered to line up in the yard of the synagogue. All Jews were taken under heavy guard to an estate called Shukiskis, three km from Shukian owned by two Rosenthal brothers. One with his son and daughter had been banished to Siberia by the Russians. The other, a bachelor, remained on the estate. Before the Jews were brought there, he fled among Lithuanians and survived. All the Jews were locked up in the estate buildings, stables, and the granary with ten families from surrounding villages again abused. The abusers took their shoes and later all of their clothes. No German was present. On July 30, all Jews were stuffed into the granary. The white-bands took out 89 children. After that, they took 20 mothers, 15 adult women, four adult men --in all 128 people, leaving about 200 in the granary. The list of those called had been prepared by the Lithuanian leaders to keep certain persons alive for specific reasons. All people taken from the granary were put into the main house of the estate with the doors and blinds shut and armed guards outside. The gate of the granary was opened and the Jews inside, dressed only in their underwear, were forced out by shouting Lithuanians and taken from the estate between 3:00 and 4:00 PM. At about 6 p.m., those in the main crowded house were allowed by the Lithuanians into the yard for an hour. Told that they others were taken to forced labor, the remaining Jews did not believe them. In fact, the other Jews had walked about 5 km to Dolkiskis forest, about 500 meters to the left of the road between Saukenai (Shukian) and Shavel, between the villages of Suvila and Poshvinishi in the direction of Shavel. A long pit was dug that morning.They brought the Jews in groups of ten and shot them next to the pit. Those who fell dead into the pit were lucky. The others, who did not die or were wounded, were thrown into the pit alive. No German ordered the white-bands to do this. The remaining were to be moved to Jewish-owned farms or flour mill at Suvila in the area where they could work and live. The Lithuanians put the Jews in five different locations. The largest group (50 small children and 15 mothers and adult women) was taken to a big farm next to the flour mill in Suvila. Friendly Lithuanians were told them to convert to Catholism to remain alive so these farmers could hide them with a clear conscience since they would be Christians. The Jews thanked them for their good intentions but did not agree although the younger persons, especially the girls, would benefit. On August 29, they started moving all five groups next to the house of farmer Pilatzkis about one kilometer from town. At 7 p.m., the people were put in carts heading north. After a night of travel, they arrived at Zagare in the morning. The local Lithuanians why they had brought them to Zagare because they had no place to bury them. At Zagare, the Jews of Shukian met many Jews from towns and villages in the vicinity, mostly women and children, but very few adult males. Only from the village of Bazilionai were all the residents alive, including the adult males. The gentiles of Bazilionai refused to believe the Germans and avoided initiating any action against their Jewish neighbors. At the beginning of July, by order of the Germans, the Jews were expelled from their homes and forced into the Beit Midrash and a few surrounding homes until being brought to Zagare. Surviving Jews were brought to Zagare from Kursenai, Papile, Tryskiai, Joniskis, Zeimelis, Kriukai, Radviliskis, Saukenai, Kelme, Tirksliai, Krakes, Joniskelis, Linkuva, Pakruojis, Laukuvas, Lygumai and other places. 7,000 Jews were gathered in the ghetto. Some of the Shukian Jews realized their impending death. They approached the white-bands and asked to be returned them to Shukian. Secretly 16 Jews of Shukian left Zagare to return to Shukian, but when they reached the forests around Shukian, the Jews went different hiding places, approaching farmers known. Some farmers helped, gave them food and sometimes hiding places. After a few days, those farmers, instigated by the priest, approached the Jews to convert. All except the oldest of them converted, but still sought more secure refuge. In September, these Jews sent food parcels with the Lithuanians to their families in Zagare and received letters of acknowledgement they knew that Zagare ghetto had been eliminated. (The Lithuanians did not deliver the food parcels.) In November, an activist appeared with followers and murdered some of these Skukian Jews. Others fled, but eventually were rounded up and murdered. Only two survived the war. According to The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part I, the mass graves are in the forest about 6 km on the road from Shukian to Shavel. Number who perished is about 400.[March 2009]

MASS GRAVE: Forest, 6 km at the road Saukenai-Siauliai; 105; pic. # 122. Zagare, town park; 90; pic. # 84-85 US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 April 2009 23:55