The memorial symbol for the Roma
A symbolic circle of stones in memory of the Roma killed in Paneriai was laid out in August 2015 by the children of Kirtimai day centre together with the staff of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum to commemorate Roma Genocide Remembrance Day.
The idea of erecting this modest symbol of the Roma historical lifestyle – the cartwheel – was raised by the museum staff to draw attention to the martyrdom of this nation in Paneriai. To date, the Roma are the only community that does not have any specific monument in the Memorial area.
Before the war, about 1,500 Roma lived in Lithuania, at least a third of whom were killed during the Nazi occupation. It is impossible to determine the exact number since the wandering Roma families were shot dead without even being documented. The Roma people in Lithuania, as elsewhere in the world, were killed for racial and social reasons. It is assumed that up to 100 members of the Roma community were killed in Paneriai.
The mass killing of the Roma in Paneriai in April 1944 is referred to in the memoirs of Mr Farber, a member of the ‘burning brigade’ (Sonderkommando 1005A), who testified about 50 Roma who were executed at the dead-end of a railway branch line leading to Paneriai and whose bodies were to be burnt at once: “At eleven o’clock, a series of machine guns was heard. The next day, we were led outside the gate, to the dead-end of a railway branch line, where 50 Gypsies were lying, probably the whole tribe, most probably shot right after being brought there.”
The same 46 Roma are likely to have been mentioned in the diary of Juozas Baltramonaitis, a Lithuanian priest and chaplain of Lukiškės Prison in 1942–1944. On 12 April 1944 he wrote: “On Holy Saturday, 175 people were taken to Kaunas Prison, and 46 gypsies and a Russian woman were taken to ‘Entlassung’ [Entlassung from German means ‘release’ – editor’s note], which completely ruined the Holy Saturday mood. The gypsies were taken away with children. Twenty-six gypsies (all adults) made their confession and received Holy Communion; I baptised three little gypsies.”
The 84 Roma killed in Paneriai are also mentioned by Konstantin Potanin, one of the members of the ‘burning brigade’, who, according to him, were brought there by train along with 15 Polish railwaymen and shot to death.