A bleak chapter of Lithuania’s wartime history is commemorated in this neighbourhood of Vilnius, 11km southwest of the centre. Paneriai is notorious as the site of 100,000 murders – the exact figure is unknown – by subunits of the Nazi secret police. These wooded hills were previously an outdoor retreat for Vilnius’ residents but today the area is a sombre memorial site.
Around 70% of the people slaughtered in Paneriai were Jewish. Other victims were Lithuanian and Polish soldiers and partisan fighters, prisoners of war and priests. The site was chosen because of an incomplete fuel tank base in Paneriai, whose pits the Nazis repurposed to dispose of the dead.
A small museum details the massacres and a walking path connects Jewish, Soviet and Polish monuments and locations associated with the killings, such as prison bunkers and pits where victims were shot.