Gargzdai Jewish Cemetery
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. The oldest preserved matzeva dates to the first half of the 20th century. As such, it can be inferred the cemetery was established around that period.
The Jewish community of Gargždai (Pl. Gorgżdy, Yid. גאָרדז) dates back to the 15th century and is older than that of Klaipėda (Memel), which later became the dominant city in the area. Jews from Memel, who had no cemetery until 1823, often buried their dead in the Gargždai cemetery. Although the two communities were separated by a border, ties with Memel remained of paramount importance. In 1897, the Jewish population was 1,455, or 59% of the total. Most of the Jews dealt in timber or horses. During WWI, the occupying German army brought a number of Polish Jews to the town. A lot of them remained in Gargždai after the war. According to the first census of independent Lithuania, there were 1,049 Jews in Marijampolė, or 49% of the total population, in 1923. The community maintained a synagogue, a beit-midrash, a talmud-torah, a Hebrew school and a Yiddish school. The Jewish People’s Bank (Folksbank) also had a branch in Gargždai. Zionist organisations became active in the interwar period. After Klaipėda (Memel) was annexed by Germany in 1939, the economy of Gargždai declined. In 1940, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the Germans invaded in 1941. Only a few days after the invasion in late June, Gestapo sent the Jewish men to dig an anti tank ditch and shot all of them the next day. The women and children were killed by Lithuanians in September 1941. In 1989, the Jewish population of Gargždai was only 1.