Within two weeks of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on August 1, 1940, almost the entire intelligentsia of these countries had been liquidated. The German attack on these provinces forced the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and paved the way for Hitler's Einsatzgruppen to start their roundup of all resident Jews. About 3,000 had already fled with the retreating Red Army but the 57,000 left behind in Vilna, faced a terrifying future.
When the Germans ocupied Lithuania they found thousands of Jews were already killed, murdered by their own neighbours, the non-Jews. Einsatzgruppen 'A' operated in the Baltic Provinces under the command of SS Major General Stahlecker who, after five months, reported to Himmler (Document 2273-PS) that 229,052 Jews had been shot. Thousands more were housed in ghettos as they were urgently needed for slave labour.
In Duenaburg, on November 9, 1941, a total of 11,034 Jews were executed.
At Libau, two weeks later, another 2,350 fell victim to SS bullets. In Lithuania, under the Nazi's, 136,421 Jews were put to death in numerous single actions by Lithuanian mercenaries with the help of the German police squads. In this total were 55,556 women and 34,464 children all shot to death in a deep moat surrounding the 19th century Tsarist Ninth Fort outside Kovno. In the White Russian Settlement Area, around 41,000 executions had taken place. In Vilna, around 32,000 Jews were murdered during the first six months of German occupation.
When Vilna was liberated by the Red Army on July 13, 1944, a few hundred Jews who had been hiding in the surrounding forests suddenly appeared in the city square. Altogether, between three and four thousand Jews out of the original 57,000, survived in the concentration camps in Germany. (The Einsatzgruppen, which followed behind the four German armies, consisted of 3,000 men. Their orders were to hunt down and kill Russia's five million Jews.
The Wehrmacht could not intervene as these murderers were under the control of Himmler. By the end of the 1941-42 winter the SS had reported that 481,887 Jews had been liquidated in Russia.) Pre-war Vilnius had 105 Synagogues and houses of prayer. Today, only one survives, it was used by the SS as a medical store. Ninety percent of Vilnuis Jews were murdered, only 24,000 survived.