Lithuanians welcome German troops on the streets of Kovno
Playing cards made from desecrated Torah scrolls.
Smoke from German shelling billows over the city of Kovno, June 22-25, 1941.
"Operation Barbarossa," June 22, 1941.
Mass Murder
Inside the Ghetto
Secret Archives
Final Days
German soldiers and Lithuanians watch a "partisan" murder Jewish men at the Lietukis garage, Kovno, June 27, 1941.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
On Sunday, June 22, 1941, the residents of Kovno awoke to the sound of martial music on the radio and distant gunfire. As part of a massive invasion of the Soviet Union codenamed "Operation Barbarossa," German troops streamed into Lithuania. Only one year before, the Soviet Union had occupied the small Baltic country under the terms of the German-Soviet Pact. Now eager to be rid of Soviet rule, Lithuanian nationalists welcomed the Germans as liberators. In the wake of the German invasion, pro-Nazi Lithuanians killed 3,800 Jews in Kovno. These so-called partisans exploited the vacuum created by fleeing Soviet troops to terrorize Jews, whom they identified with Soviet rule in Lithuania. After German soldiers entered the city on June 25, Nazi authorities condoned and even encouraged attacks against Jews. In one incident documented by a German air force photographer, partisan-led gangs at a garage in central Kovno clubbed more than 50 Jewish men, revived them with waterhoses, then beat them to their deaths. Armed German soldiers stood by and watched as crowds cheered the killers on.

Oral History
Antisemitic propaganda poster
The Jews of Kovno

Thank you for visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website.
Please consider taking five minutes to complete a short survey to help us improve your experience using this site.

(Survey opens in new window)