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Moscow Jewish Committee Issues Report on Nazi Extermination of Jews in Kaunas

Kaunas, the liberated capital of Lithuania, where only about 1,000 Jews have survived under the German occupation, had been used by the Nazis as an extermination center for Jews from western Europe, it was reported here today by the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in a comprehensive survey of more than three years of Jewish life under the Nazi regime in Lithuania.

There were forty thousand Jews in Kaunas when the Germans invaded Lithuania, the report said. Not more than nine thousand managed to leave with the Russian Army.

“In Gestapo documents which have fallen into Russian hands,” the report continues, “the city of Kaunas was referred to as ‘extermination point of the Eastland.’ In the common graves near the forts of Kaunas are buried not only local Jews, but also thousands of other Jews driven into Kaunas from other Lithuanian towns and villages, and executed there by the Gestapo. It was in Kaunas that the Germans executed Jews from Berlin, Vienna and frague, from France and from Holland.”

Reviewing in great length the mass-execution of Jews which took place in Kaunas between July 1941 up to this month when the German armies were forced in Kaunas between July 1941 up to this month when the German armies were forced to evacuate the city, the report says that as the Russian Army advanced towards Lithuania, the Germans began to make efforts to wipe out the traces of their crimes in Kaunas.

During the latter part of October and the beginning of November 1943, the Germans built a fence round Fort No. 99 and posted up warnings prohibiting anyone from approaching the Fort within a radius of two miles, under penalty of death, the report states. On November 1st, the Germans proceeded to dig up the mass graves in the Fort. Prisoners of war, and Jews from the Ghetto, were made to do this work. In order to prevent any of the people escaping from this terrible task, the Nazis put chains on the workers and machine-guns were set up round the area of the common graves. Despite all these measures, a few Jews nevertheless succeeded in escaping, and they have made the following statement.

Six common graves of three hundred to three hundred and fifty feet long, nine feet wide, and five feet deep were dug up between November 1st and December 25th, and twelve thousand bodies of men, women and children were exhumed, piled up in stacks of three hundred, and burned. The bones were ground in special machines, and the ashes were mixed with the earth. Some bodies had a few bits of clothing on them, but most of them were completely naked. The position in which the bodies were found in the graves showed that they victims had been driven there in groups, forced to lie down, and so shot. Many bodies showed no signs of wounds, proving that many of the people were buried alive.”

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