During World War II, Ponary, which today is one of the districts of Vilnius, was the site of executions carried out by SS units, German police, and the Szaulis from the Lithuanian Voluntary Unit of Ponary Riflemen (Ochotniczy Oddział Strzelców Ponarskich).

Victims were killed by machine gun fire. Immense ditches, the remains of  the unfinished construction of a liquid fuels base for the Red Army, were used as mass graves. It is estimated that about 100,000 people were murdered there. People of Jewish origin constituted approximately 80 percent of the victims. Chaim Siemiatycki, a rabbi and poet, was among those killed in Ponary.