Alytus Jewish Cemetery 2
The Jewish community of Alytus (Alite in Yiddish) was one of the oldest in Lithuania, with an established Jewish community that can be traced back to the sixteenth century.
In 1897, the year of the official census in the Russian Empire, there were 2010 Jews in Alytus I, that made up 37% of the total population. Before the Holocaust there were 1400 Jews in both parts of Alytus, comprising 17% of the population.
The Jews of Alytus made their living from commerce, light industry, crafting and agriculture. According to the government survey of 1931 there were 94 businesses in Alytus, of which 76 were owned by Jews (81%). There were also 51 factories in Alytus, of which 24 belonged to Jewish people (47%).
The Jewish children of Alytus could choose a suitable school among the several in the town, including a Hebrew elementary school that was affiliated with “Tarbut”, a Hebrew pro-gymnasium, a vocational school “ORT”, several Chadarim and a Yeshivah.
Zionist parties were highly active in Alytus, especially the Zionist Socialist party. Numerous Zionist youth organizations functioned in Alytus, such as “Gordonia”, “HaShomer HaTzair” and “Betar”. Sports activities were organized by the local branch of “Maccabi”.
Alytus was occupied on the second day of the Nazis’ invasion into the Soviet Union. Between August 13 and September 9 1941, in the Vidzgiris forest 1,137 Jews, men, women, and children were murdered. It is known that Jews from Czechoslovakia were murdered at the same site, as well as tens of thousands of Soviet civilians and war prisoners.
After the war, there was a monument built with inscriptions in Russian and Lithuanian that stated: “Soviet citizens and war prisoners, victims of the Hitlerist murderers are buried here”. In 1993, an impressive new monument made of iron in the shape of a broken “Star of David” was inaugurated in Vidzgiris forest in the outskirts of Alytus.
The Jewish cemetery of Alytus II was in the area of the current Smėlio Street. Various buildings are currently built over it. Though the cemetery has been completely destroyed and the graves are no longer visible, the remains of a brick fence have survived.
A small stream flowed near the cemetery, separating it from the community residential area. It is not known how many graves there were in this cemetery. The area of the cemetery was 0.26 hectares bounded within the area of a heptagon. It is believed that burial began in the first half of the 19th century with the oldest tombstone dating back to 1852.