Darsuniskis Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Lithuania
Region
Kaunas County
District
Kaišiadorys
Settlement
Darsūniškis
Site address
Going South on road 3320, from Darsūniškis Saint George gates/arch (Šv. Jurgio vartai), drive for about 400 meters and then keep left. From this point drive for another 140 meters and the cemetery should be on your left, surrounded by trees.
GPS coordinates
54.72752, 24.12849
Perimeter length
260 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
The cemetery is surrounded by a metal-mesh fence on concrete pillars, between 1-1.5m in height.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
The cemetery is located in woodland therefore the ground is covered with fallen branches, pine needles and foliage and many of the gravestones are mossy. The condition of the fencing is bad, in some places it is broken and tilted, mending is required.
Number of existing gravestones
59
Date of oldest tombstone
1876
Date of newest tombstone
1916
Urgency of erecting a fence
Low
Land ownership
Municipality
Preserved construction on site
There is memorial plaque marking the cemetery.
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

Darsuniskis (Darsunishok in Yiddish) is located in central Lithuania, about 20 miles from the district administrative center Kaisiadorys. Jews settled in Darsuniskis at the end of the 18th century. Even at their peak, the number of Jews in the town did not exceed more than 300-350. During the period that preceded WWI, many of them emigrated to the USA and South Africa. During the period of the Independent Lithuanian state (1918 – 1940) their number fell to 120 residents. Most of the Jews were engaged in petty trade, labor, and peddling. Some of them had small ancillary farms. According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, Jews of Darsuniskis owned: 3 cloth shops, 2 liquor stores, and one restaurant. In 1937, there were still 13 Jewish artisans in Darsuniskis: 6 tailors, 3 butchers, a glazier, a blacksmith, a shoemaker, and a barber.
At the end of the 18th century, a Synagogue was built. Over time, the entire structure of Jewish community life was established in Darsuniskis, with a secular primary Jewish school being established, as well as various Jewish social and cultural institutions that operated in the town. The Darsuniskis branch of the Lithuanian Zionist Revisionist Union was also established in the town in the 1930s.
At the end of June 1941, after Germany conquered Lithuania, a ghetto was set up in Darsuniskis. The Jews were forced to do labor on farms in the surrounding areas, fix roads, and to do other manual labour. On August 15th 1941, armed Lithuanians led the Jewish men towards Kaunas and murdered them. The others, 69 women, 20 children, and 10 sick and old men, a total of 99 people, were massacred between August 28th and September 2nd 1941, in the Jewish cemetery in Darsuniskis. In autumn 1991, through the initiative of the local council, a memorial was erected in Darsuniskis with an inscription in Lithuanian and Yiddish: “Here, in 1941, in the Jewish Cemetery in Darsuniskis, Nazi murderers and their helpers murdered children, women, and men.”
The Jewish cemetery is located in the forest in the outskirts of the settlement. Тhere are around 100 gravestones or their fragments in the cemetery. The cemetery was in use until the destruction of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. Nothing was built on the cemetery grounds in the Soviet time. In 1996, the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. There is a memorial stone with an inscription in Hebrew and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal”.

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