Ponary – Vilna During the Holocaust – The Jerusalem of Lithuania: The Story of the Jewish Community of Vilna// // //
Ponary, the murder site of the Jews of Vilna and the surrounding area, was situated 10 km south of Vilna on the road to Grodno. Before the war it was a forested area used for holidays and recreation. Vilna residents used to go there for their summer holidays and to gather berries and mushrooms. The site was chosen for murder due to its proximity to the train track and also because there were pits 12-23m wide and 5-8m deep. There were high embankments with ditches between the pits, which had been dug by the Soviets in 1940 as a planned emergency fuel store.
11th July. Lovely weather. It’s hot out; there are white clouds and a gentle breeze. Shooting can be heard from the forest. Presumably from training. The shooting started at 4pm. Then I was informed that many Jews were transported to the forest via the road to Grodno and were then shot. This was the first day of executions. A depressing feeling. The shooting stopped at about eight in the evening.
For the Germans 300 Jews are 300 enemies of humanity. For the Lithuanians 300 Jews are 300 pairs of shoes, trousers and clothes.
V. Sakovich, Vilna – Ponar: A Land Without God p. 11, 13
From June 1941 until July 1944 over 75,000 people were murdered in Ponary, most of whom were Jewish, the others were Soviet prisoners of war and local opponents to the Nazi regime. The victims were brought to the murder site on foot, by motor vehicles and by train; in groups of tens, hundreds and thousands. There, they were shot and buried.