GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 21-8
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


FUERSTENBERG, Madeline Mae1, JOL, Harry M.2, FREUND, Richard A.3, JAROCKIS, Romas4, KUJELIS, Giedrius5, REEDER, Philip P.6, BECK, Joeseph D.2, KOFMAN, Chloe Copeland7 and SCHNEIDER, Samuel Grant2, (1)Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 124 Garfield Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701, (2)Department of Geography and Anthropology, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, 105 Garfield Avenue, P.O. Box 4004, Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004, (3)Maurice Greenberg Center of Judaic Studies, University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, Hartford, WI 06117, (4)Klaipėda University, Herkaus Manto str. 84, Klaipėda, LT-92294, Lithuania, (5)Director of History Department, Rokiškis Regional Museum, Tyzenhauzų g. 5, Rokiškis, 42115, Lithuania, (6)Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Duquesne University, 600 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15282, (7)Department of Liberal Studies, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 124 Garfield Avenue, Eau Claire, WI 54701

In the Rokiškis Region of Lithuania, ground penetrating radar (GPR) was used to examine the subsurface in search of a mass grave from the Holocaust. Two GPR grids were shot at a suspected Jewish mass grave site in the Trakas-Pempiškis woods of the Kamajai Eldership. The locations of these two grids relied primarily on the eye-witness account of Jonas Rudokas, who had witnessed the executions on the outskirts of the forest during summer, 1941. For the first grid, a pulseEKKO GPR system with 500 MHz antennae was used to shoot 36 parallel lines along the Y-axis of an 8mx9m grid. All lines, on both grids, were shot with 0.25-meter spacing. A Topcon RL-H4C laser leveler was used at every 1mx1m on both grids to measure the topography of the top soil. For the second grid, 28 parallel lines were shot along the Y-axis of a 7mx9m. Relative height changes in the topographical measurements on this grid indicated the presence of a rectangular depression in the top soil. The data compiled by the GPR, once processed using GRP_Edit and EKKO_Project, revealed a truncation in the natural subsurface stratigraphy in the GPR profile. This anomaly is also visible in Slice View, approximately 5 meters long and 1.5 meters in width, about 1 meter beneath the surface. This stratigraphic anomaly is a strong indication of the potential presence of a mass burial, believing to hold around 28 executed Jewish Lithuanians, according to Rudokas. Jewish human remains cannot be excavated under the Jewish practice of Kavod HaMet. Despite this inability to investigate further, the datasets gathered through GPR, the presence of a visible soil depression, and the eye-witness account reaffirm the theory that a mass grave is present, originating during or around the time of the Holocaust. The research conducted at this site provides the Jewish, Lithuanian, and scientific communities with prospective answers to a decades-old question: Is Trakas the site of a mass burial? With the data collected, the Rokiškis community can now apply for national recognition of the Trakas mass burial site.