Jews appeared in Pabradė (Polish: Podbrodzie) at the beginning of the 19th century. Before receiving official permission to settle in the town (in 1903), the community was very small – according to census of 1866, there were 59 Jews living in the entire Švenčionys (Polish: Święciany) District. At the time, two Jewish colonial shops operated in the part of the town owned by the Russian Treasury. The local synagogue was situated in the quarter called Lappy, by the Dubingiai river.[1.1]

The local youth was involved in the activities of the Bund, even before World War I. In the interwar period, there were various Jewish organisations operating in Pabradė – the Jewish People’s Bank, Jewish Charity House, and Jewish Social Library. Young Zionists helped organise emigration to Palestine.

Before World War II, Pabradė boasted a large Jewish community – some 900 people, a third of the town’s total population. After the outbreak of the war, the local Jews tried to flee to Russia, but only few managed to escape. In the first days of German occupation, the Jewish population was moved to two streets – Arnionių and Bajorėlio, where the Nazis created two ghettos separated by a square. Local Belarusians assisted the Germans in the extermination of Jews. In early July 1941, they arrested and shot a group of Jews and communist activists. Another execution was carried out on 15 July 1941 – 67 Jews (men and women) were arrested at night and transported to the mill, where they were killed. During the round-up, the men were trying to stop the guards and attacked them, but only one person managed to escape.

Only 100 Jews from Pabradė survived the war. The final extermination of the local community took place at the turn of September and October 1941, when Nazi policemen assisted by Belarusians transported the elderly and children to a military training field in Švenčionėliai (Polish: Nowe Święciany) and ordered the young and healthy to arrive there on foot. Ca. 100–250 people in total were assembled at the site. Some managed to hide in nearby villages and escape the deportation to Švenčionėliai. On 9 October, all the people displaced from Pabradė, together with Jews from neighbouring towns in the Švenčionys area, were shot.

In May 1942, a labour camp was opened in Pabradė. Its population comprised 190 Jews from the Vilnius ghetto (women and men). They performed rail works at the German Giesler factory.[1.2]

  • [1.1] “Podbrodzie,” in: Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego, B. Chlebowski, Wł. Walewski (eds.), Warszawa 1887, vol. 8.
  • [1.2] Ašmenos, Svierių, Švenčionių apskričių getai: kalinių sąrašai, joint publication, Vilnius 2009, pp. 28–29.