One cemetery memorial and three Holocaust memorials are dedicated to the murdered Jews of Skuodas. It’s important to note that some non-Jewish Lithuanians, mostly those accused (rightly or wrongly) of being Communists, were also killed and buried in the places marked by the memorials.
Following is a description of each of the four memorials, its history, and its location.
1) Cemetery memorials
At the entrance to the cemetery stands this monument, with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian, reading “The Old Jewish Cemetery. Sacred is the memory of the dead.” A few surviving tombstone fragments are set into a cement base inside the cemetery grounds, which are presently maintained in good condition by the municipality.
The Jewish cemetery was destroyed during Soviet times and the tombstones used as building materials. The following description is excerpted from “Jews in the Memory of Skuodas People” (see link to the right on this page):
“Hitlerism and fascism destroyed the Jews physically. This work, the destruction of what remained, was continued by Stalinism and communism. Purposefully, the synagogues were destroyed, the cemeteries were torn apart, [and] historical memory was suppressed … The Stalinists planned to build a new marketplace in the Jewish cemetery in the old town. But somewhere, there was a Jew of Skuodas who appealed to Moscow to prevent this vandalism. A market place was not built in the cemetery, but neither was it left in peace. … Broken stones, with their Hebrew inscriptions turned inward, were set into foundations and decorative walls. One such high wall separates the town’s cultural centre from the dwelling house on Gedimino Street, no. 3. There is no doubt that the Jewish tombstones, broken into three or more pieces, are set there; they can be clearly seen. I heard a story that the walls built from tombstones were set by workers with the help of a student building party, which included one Jewish girl. While helping, she read the inscriptions on stones set into the wall, and cried” (“Jews in the Memory” 16-17).
The cemetery is the final resting place of generations of Skuodas Jews. It is also a murder site. The murders were carried out in July 1941, about two weeks after the Nazi occupation, by the Skuodas “Riflemen” militia, under the leadership of Kostas Vasaris. According to Arunas Bubnys, “around 10 July, members of K. Vasaris’ company brought about 20 Jewish men from the riflemen hall [where they had been held prisoner since the outbreak of war] to the Jewish cemetery and executed them in the pits turned up by aviation bombs.”
Date: According to “Jews in the Memory of Skuodas People,” the entrance monument dates from 1992 (18); the tombstone memorial was presumably built around the same time.
Location: The cemetery entrance is at the corner of S. Neries and Berzu streets, about halfway between the town centre and the railway tracks to the west.
2) Town centre memorial (next to Shaul “Riflemen’s” Hall)
Among those buried here are women and children killed on the way to Alka Hill, near Dimitravas (see below). In 1963, eight of the twelve mass graves between Skuodas and Dimitravas (four were never found) were exhumed and the bones returned for honourable burial in Skuodas. According to Hana Shaf-Brener’s “Testimony on the Murder of the Jews of Shkud, Lithuania,” “Everyone from the graves (not including the graves on Alka Hill) was brought to Shkud to be buried in two mass graves to the left of the Shaul Hall, on June 13 1963, in a stately ceremony. There were 30 coffins on 15 trucks with a guard of honour, with many (about 100) flower bouquets, in a long procession. There was much respect and many speeches” (15). Presumably hundreds of other Jews and non-Jews killed in the early days of the Nazi occupation, either in the fighting between the German army and the retreating Soviets, or by mass murder, are also buried here.
The following description is from “Jews in the Memory of Skuodas People” (link on this page): “Another Jewish genocide site is in Skuodas, in the western part of the town park, not far from the Skuodas Museum and the Riflemen’s Hall. Here stands a sculptural composition made of red granite. In the centre of the composition is a cube made of red granite, standing on one corner. There are inscriptions on two sides of the cube in the Lithuanian and Jewish [Yiddish] languages: ‘In memory of Jews – children, women, and men – as well as Lithuanians and people of other nationalities from Skuodas, who were killed by Nazi invaders and their helpers in 1941.’”
Date: The monument dates from 1963, but the present-day inscription dates from the 1990s. According to “Jews in the Memory of Skuodas People,” the original inscription, in Lithuanian and Russian, indicated that around 3000 Soviet citizens had been murdered and buried there. The surface of the panel was filed down and the inscription was replaced in the 1990s (“Jews in the Memory”18 ).
Location: The memorial is located near the town centre, on the west side of the Bartuva river. Starting from Gedimino street and heading west, cross the bridge and continue west on Laisves street about 100 metres until you reach Sauliu street. Turn left onto Sauliu. You’ll pass the newspaper building, Musu Zodis, and the Skuodas Museum to your left. The monument is just past the museum, at the corner of Sauliu and J. Chodkeviciaus streets. The long building next to the monument is the Riflemen’s Hall, where people were imprisoned and tortured before being shot. The building is currently in use as a sports hall.
This monument stands near the villiage of Kulai I, south of Skuodas. The inscription reads, “In this place, helpers of Hitlerists murdered about 800 Jewish residents of Skuodas town and region in July, 1941. Here is a bleeding wound on the land of Lithuania.” Apparently, most of the victims were men; women and children were force-marched out of Skuodas and at the end of July, 1941, and were killed and buried at Alka Hill, near Dimitravas (see below).
Date: The Kulai monument was designed by the Skuodas architect Raimundas Sebeckis and inaugurated in 1991 (“Jews in the Memory of Skuodas People”; see link on this page, 17).
Location: Starting in the centre of town on Basanaviciaus street, which becomes Vytauto street (Highway 169), drive south out of town about 1 kilometre. At the south edge of town, Highway 169 intersects the Kretinga highway, which is signposted. Turn right (west) in the direction of Kulai. After 3-4 kilometres you’ll come to a bridge crossing the Bartuva River. Cross the river. The monument is on the west bank of the river. There is a small car park and a short gravel path leading to the monument.
4) Alka Hill
Dr. Arunas Bubnys, in his article “Holocaust in Lithuanian Province in 1941,” describes the horrifying murders of 510 women and children from Skuodas at Alka Hill, near the village of Dimitravas. At the end of July 1941, the Jewish women and children of Skuodas, who had been imprisoned in the synagogue, were convoyed in a two-day forced march to Dimitravas Camp, 41 kilometres distant. The march took two days. Those who could not keep up were shot and left at the side of the road. In Dimitravas, survivors were imprisoned in two empty barracks (now a memorial site).
On August 15, auxiliary policemen from Skuodas came to the camp. Leaving the younger women behind, they took the women with children to large pits that had already been dug up at the foot of Alka Hill, 1.5 kilometres from the camp. There, in groups of about 20, the victims were forced into the pits and shot. About 20 participants from the Skuodas squad carried out the killings. “In December 1944, the commission investigating the place of killings on Alka hill recovered four graves. The commission found 510 bodies of killed persons (31 children, 94 teenagers and 385 women). No gunshot wounds were found in the bodies of the children. They were all buried alive” (Bubnys, “Holocaust”).
Location: The mass graves, at the foot of Alka Hill, are about 1 kilometre northwest of the village of Dimitravas.
Don’t try getting there in a small car – you’ll need a vehicle that can handle a very rough road. The last kilometre (and believe me, it seems a lot longer) is a dirt forest track. It’s extremely narrow and bumpy, and no doubt muddy in wet weather.
Take Highway 218 (to Kretinga) southwest out of Skuodas. About 16 kilometres before you hit Kretinga, cross the railroad tracks and enter Darbenai. Drive on the main road (still on 218) through Darbenai. Eight kilometers after you leave Darbenai, still on 218, turn right at the sign to Dimitravas. Enter Dimitravas and drive straight ahead through the town. After the town, the road becomes dirt. Drive over the creek. You’ll come to a three-way fork in the road. Take the right-hand road. It becomes very narrow and bumpy. There is, I think, one more unmarked fork – keep right. After about five minutes, you’ll come to a fork with a small stone marker bearing a star of David indicating there’s a memorial in 450 metres. Take the left-hand fork. You’ll come to a small clearing with a memorial stone (see above, the beginning of this section, for a photo). Beyond this first memorial, there’s a flight of concrete stairs leading up the hill.
About 40 teenage girls and young women from Skuodas are probably buried somewhere near Darbenai. According to Arunas Bubnys, “In September 1941, Jewish girls still in Dimitravas (about 40) were taken by the Camp guards to Darbenai Town and placed in the synagogue. In a short while they were also killed.” It is as yet unknown where the girls are buried. For more information on Darbenai and its memorials, see here.