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Jews on selection ramp at Auschwitz, May 1944
The Plungė massacre (in Yiddish Plungyan - פלונגיאן) was a World War II massacre committed on 13 or 15 July 1941 in the town of Plungė, in Lithuania. Following the anti-Soviet June Uprising in Lithuania and the German invasion as part of Operation Barbarossa, Plungė was captured by German forces on 25 June 1941. Lithuanian nationalists, led by Jonas Noreika, formed a town administration and police force. German forces killed 60 young Jewish men, accused by the Lithuanians of being a read guard for the Red Army, shortly after the town's capture. On 13 or 15 July the Lithuanian nationalists transported the Jews to ditches near the village of Kausenai where they were shot. Of the 1,700-1,800 remaining Jews of Plungė, only a few survived.
Jews first arrived in Plungė in 1348; by 1900, the population of more than 2,500 Jews comprised more than half of the people of the town.
Ghetto and repressions
Lithuanian nationalists, led by Jonas Noreika, formed a town administration and police force. While relatively not involved in subsequent events, German forces executed 60 young Jewish men who were accused of being a rear guard for the Red Army.
On 26 June 1941, the Lithuanians forced the Jews to the area around the local Beth midrash and synagogue which they declared a ghetto. Lithuanians took Jews out of the ghetto to perform hard manual labor, accompanied with humiliations and beatings, and some were murdered and did not return to the ghetto. The living conditions (filth, overcrowding, lack of food and water) in the ghetto led to high mortality and disease, particularly so among the elderly. Valuables were extorted from the Jews by the Lithuanian authorities.
On 13 or 15 July the Lithuanian nationalists transported the Jews to ditches near the village of Kaušėnai in Nausodis eldership where they were shot. Of the 1,700-1,800 Jews of Plungė, only a few survived. Survivors included people deported to the Soviet Union prior to the German invasion, and six who were sheltered by Lithuanian friends.
Catholic priest Petras Lygnugaris baptized 74 Jewish maidens, in an effort to spare them, but the Lithuanian activists killed them there, notwithstanding. Plungė was perhaps the first town in German-occupied Europe where all of the Jewish inhabitants were murdered, including children, women and the elderly.
72 Plungė Jews joined the Red Army, of which 42 died in combat. Following the war there were 138 Jews in Plungė, most emigrated to Israel, South Africa and the United States. By 1970, 45 remained. By 2002, Jacob Bunka was the last Jew in Plungė. Bunka died in 2014. Bunka created massive wooden sculptures commemorating the massacres in Plunge and other sites as well as the life of the Jewish community.
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945, Geoffrey P. Megargee, Martin C. Dean, and Mel Hecker, Volume II, part B, pages 1105.
- „Die Mörder werden noch gebraucht“, Der Spiegel, Von Leonid Olschwang, 23 April 1984
- She thought her grandfather was a Lithuanian hero. Research leads her to ask, was he a patriot or a Nazi?, Chicago Tribune, Ron Grossman, 14 January 2019
- Lithuania, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
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- Captain Jonas Noreika Museum. Grant Gochin's "Query Regarding Jonas Noreika’s Criminal Gang.", Andrius Kulikauskas, 15 June 2018
- Death of Jakovas Bunka, jewish-heritage-europe.eu, 1 August 2014
- Yankl-Yosl Bunk – Jakovas Bunka (1923 – 2014), 4 August 2014, defendinghistory.com
- "Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania: MASS MURDER OF THE JEWS FROM PLUNGĖ". www.holocaustatlas.lt. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
- "Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania: MASS MURDER OF THE JEWS IN PLUNGĖ CEMETERY". www.holocaustatlas.lt. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
- "Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania: MASS MURDER OF THE JEWS NEAR JOVAIŠIŠKĖ". www.holocaustatlas.lt. Retrieved January 27, 2019.
- Plungyan: A Memoir (Plunge), Yizkor book by Jacob Yosef Bunka
- Memorial of victims of the Holocaust in Kaušėnai, visitplunge.com