Mass killing pit
This pit is referred to in various sources as the ‘Kaunas pit’. This name, used in the narratives of the witnesses, relates to the events of 5 April 1943, when the Jews brought by train from the ghettos liquidated in Vilnius County were shot dead in Paneriai, although they were told beforehand that they were being transported to Kaunas. On 25 August 1944, Konstantin Potanin, a member of the Nazi-assembled ‘burning brigade’ (Sonderkommando 1005A), testified to the Special Soviet Commission about this pit as follows:
“The Kaunas pit and ditch were by Grodno road. There were 37 Lithuanian corpses with regular military underwear. They were not buried and were lying on top of the pit, not yet decomposed. This happened at the beginning of 1944. There were around 8,000 people in the pit and ditch. There were 252 children’s bodies from one to five years of age in the same pit, laid separately. The 2,900 corpses lying on the top were dressed, children were undressed to their underwear, while 4,500 bodies found in the deepest layer of the pit and ditch were completely naked. One of the workers (i. e. ‘burners’ – editor’s note) Icchok Dogim discovered his wife and children in this pit, and three workers whose names I cannot remember any more said that the mother of the partisan commander Kovner was also found in the same pit.”
On 23 August 1944, journalist named Petrauskas mentioned the ‘Kaunas pit’ in the Soviet daily Tiesa (the Truth) when writing about “dozens of gypsies and dozens of Lithuanian soldiers” brought to Paneriai in 1944”, who were shot there: “From these troops, the burning brigade received 37 brand-new green hats, as many trousers, uniforms and greatcoats.” Petrauskas also refers to the discovery of about 200 corpses of children in the upper layer of the ‘Kaunas pit’ discovered by the ‘burning brigade’. They could have been the victims of the Nazi-initiated children’s campaign of 27 March 1944 at the forced labour camps Kailis and HKP.