Ponár (Polish Ponary, Lithuanian Paneriai) is the mass murder site outside Vilnius where around a hundred thousand civilians were murdered by the Nazi regime. Some 70,000 of them were the Jews of Vilna and its region.
Before the war the site was known as a bucolic holiday and picnic spot set in the forest. During the year-long Soviet rule in 1940-1941, large pits were dug for an oil storage facility. After the Nazi invasion the site was converted to a mass murder operation with the ready-dug pits serving as mass graves.
The vast majority of the murderers were local nationalist volunteers organized by the Nazis for the purpose of annihilating the country’s Jewish population. The eyewitness account of Christian Polish journalist Kazimierz Sakowicz was brought out in an academic English edition by Yale University Press in 2005 (Ponary Diary).
The small museum at the site has generally won acclaim for providing authentic information in a very small space and modest means. The primary address in Lithuania for visitors and locals wishing to learn more about the site is the Green House in central Vilnius.