Jonava Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Lithuania
Region
Kaunas
District
Settlement
Jonava
Site address
Jonava Jewish Cemetery
GPS coordinates
55.07653, 24.27113
Perimeter length
520 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
No fence
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
Unfenced Jewish cemetery. The cemetery is well-maintained.
Number of existing gravestones
around 190.
Date of oldest tombstone
1871 (the earliest tombstone found by ESJF).
Date of newest tombstone
1987 (the latest tombstone found by ESJF).
Urgency of erecting a fence
High
Land ownership
Property of local community
Preserved construction on site
Drone surveys
No

Historical overview

Given the oldest preserved tombstone is dated 1871, it can be inferred the cemetery was founded no later than the latter half of the 19th century.

Jews likely first settled in Jonava (Pl. Janów, Yid. יאַנעווע) during the second half of the 18th century. In 1775, there were 300 Jews in Skaruliai, a village long considered a part of Jonava. The Jewish population rose to 813 in 1847 and peaked at 3,975, or 80% of the total, in 1897. In 1893, a big fire destroyed two synagogues, one of them Chasidic, and a beit-midrash. The economic situation deteriorated temporarily, and there was a large Jewish emigration to the US and South Africa. The Zionist Association was established in 1898. Thanks to the lumber trade and the railroad, the community soon prospered again. A distinct type of the Jewish workman crystallized in Jonava: physically strong and self-reliant. In 1915, the retreating Russian army expelled the local Jews to central Russia. Unlike in most other places, the local military commander acted fairly towards the Jews. After WWI, in the Independent Lithuanian state, the community life was restored, however the percentage of Jews decreased to 60%-66%. The Jewish People’s Bank (Folksbank) was established in Jonava in 1920, the town also had a branch of the United Credit Union for Jewish Farmers. The community maintained three Jewish primary schools and three libraries. When WWII began in 1939, Jonava absorbed a great number of Jewish refugees from Poland, including an entire yeshiva from the city of Kleck. In 1940, when Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union, the Jewish population of Jonava was 3,000, or 60% of the total. On 22 June 1941, the day Germany invaded the Soviet Union, a Lithuanian shoemaker murdered the Jewish deputy mayor of the city with an iron rod. On June 26, immediately after the Germans entered Jonava, all the Jews were ordered to assemble in the city square. The Jews were kneeling with Lithuanian machine-gunners around them when suddenly a bomb landed nearby and everyone fled in panic. During the summer of 1941, 2,108 Jews were shot in the Girele grove. Only a few Jews lived in Jonava after the war. In 1959, the Jewish population was 10.

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