The first monument to commemorate the Jews and the Soviet monument in memory of the victims of Fascism
The first monument at the mass killing site was erected in May 1948 by the Jews who survived the Holocaust. They raised funds and built a monument with an inscription in Russian and Yiddish to commemorate the Jews who were killed. The inscription in Yiddish stated that the monument is dedicated to the “Eternal memory of the holy martyrs – the Jews of Vilnius and other places who were killed by fascist killers, enemies of humanity.” A biblical quote followed in Hebrew: “The voice of their blood cries out from the ground. Let God avenge for these holy martyrs. The 1st of Menachem Av, 5704 [1-7-1944]. Let their souls be entangled in life’s knot.” The Russian version of the text sounded slightly different: “In eternal memory of the Jews killed by German fascist killers, the most severe enemies of humanity. July 1941–July 1944.” Artist Mikhail Klein designed the monument, and the memorial inscriptions were made by Rabbi Chaim Shiffrin and the chairman of Vilnius religious Jewish community Grigory Kab. According to the statement of the Soviet secret police, the monument cost between 70,000 and 80,000 roubles, of which 15,000 were collected by the Jewish religious community and the rest was funded by other members of the community. The monument was erected by community members David Gordon, Ilya Eishyshok and David Zhitomirski. The Soviet censors and the secret police did not approve of the religious tone of the inscription in Yiddish and Hebrew; they also did not appreciate the different wording of the inscriptions in various languages, which was interpreted as manifestations of Jewish disloyalty and nationalism. In order to stop any Jewish public activities, the monument was not officially unveiled, although the Jewish community had hoped to do so on the day of Yom Kippur.
During the Kremlin-initiated anti-Semitic campaign between 1948 and 1952, the monument was pulled down and replaced with an obelisk bearing the inscription “In memory of the victims of Fascism”, which reflected the memorial policy of the Soviet state, levelling all victims of the Nazi regime by naming them ‘Soviet citizens’, ‘Soviet people’, ‘peaceful civilians’, ‘Lithuanian residents’, ‘men, women and children’.
This obelisk is the oldest monument in the memorial area. It is visited each year on the 8th of May to commemorate the end of World War II, as well as on the 2nd of August, on the day of the Roma genocide.