If a Genocide Happens in the Forest and No One Hears It…

If a Genocide Happens in the Forest and No One Hears It…

That’s the question the news service of the LNK television channel in Lithuania faced Friday when they were investigating the case of a mysterious Holocaust site which vanished somewhere along the Kaunas-Vilnius highway during reconstruction.

The mass murder site in the Strošiunas forest, aka Vladikiškės forest, near Bačkionys village in the Kaišiadorys region is the mass grave of about 1,800 women and children from Žiežmariai, Žasliai, Kaišiadorys, Rumšiškės and the surrounding areas murdered on August 29, 1941, according to Lithuania’s Cultural Heritage Department. The Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas says the number was 784 people from the same locations, with other, larger mass murder and mass grave sites in the same immediate area.

The paved road to the Holocaust memorial was fenced across and the sign announcing it as a mass murder site was removed about six months ago during reconstruction of Lithuania’s busiest highway. This is the only access to the site in the Kaišadorys region near Žiežmariai. LNK said they received a complaint from the Lithuanian Jewish Community and looked into it. After receiving mixed comments from Lithuania’s Department of Vehicle Routes Directorate, the fencing blocking access was removed within two hours–just in time for the evening news broadcast–with the promise to replace the road sign marking the Jewish mass grave in the immediate future.

Local resident Jonas Kokliaviičius said the paved road and off-ramp had been operating for 30 to 40 years without a problem. Žiežmariai resident Ludvikas Markuntavičius, who has helped maintain the mass murder site as an unpaid volunteer for several decades, said that after the closure those wishing to pay their respects to their lost family members could only arrive by helicopter.

To reach the site, drive from Vilnius about 60 km on the Vilnius-Kaunas highway and look for the unmarked paved road with cattle guard on the right hand side of the highway between the towns of Elektrėnai and Kaišiadorys. The small road winds left down into the former quarry where there is a metal plaque on a large stone monument behind a wrought-iron fence surrounded by lawn. Exact latitude and longitude and map information is available at the Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas link below.

Segment of LNK newscast here.

Entry in Lithuanian Holocaust Atlas here.

Cultural Heritage Registry entry here.