Joniskis Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Lithuania
Region
Siauliai County
District
Joniškis
Settlement
Joniškis
Site address
Bariūnų street 4. To locate the cemetery, start on the A12 and then turn onto Bariūnų street. Turn left at the first intersection, follow the road for 300m and then turn left. The cemetery is located 100m down this road.
GPS coordinates
56.26054, 23.64436
Perimeter length
569 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
There is a metal mesh fence, about 1.2m in height.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
The majority of the site is clear, although it is partially overgrown by grass. Close to the houses there are dense bushes. The existing fence requires mending. In some places the fence is broken, crooked, and some sections are absent. There are broken gravestones.
Number of existing gravestones
450
Date of oldest tombstone
1880
Date of newest tombstone
1940
Urgency of erecting a fence
Low
Land ownership
Municipality
Preserved construction on site
There is memorial dedicated to the cemetery.
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

Joniskelis (Yonishkel in Yiddish) is a small town some 12 miles southwest of Pasvalys, the district capital.
It is likely that the first Jews settled in Joniskelis, in the 18th century. The Jewish community was quite small. According to the census in the Russian Empire of 1897, there were 136 Jewish residents out of the entire population of 607 (22%). Pre WWII there were 70 Jewish families in Joniskelis. Most of their income was provided by the ownership of small stores. Some of them made their living by the sale of fruit. They rented orchards from the landowners and from the farmers or even rented individual trees and when the fruit was ripe in the fall they would pick it, and bring it by horse and carts to the markets, mainly to Riga, Latvia.
Over time a wooden synagogue was erected, with an impressive holy ark decorated with wood carvings made by craftsmen and antique brass ceiling lights. It was burnt out during WWII. In 1937, there were 16 Jewish craftsmen in Joniskelis: six tailors, four butchers, two dressmakers, a shoemaker, a weaver, a tinsmith, and a fabric dyer.
On June 27, 1941, German soldiers entered Joniskelis and took control of the town, together with local nationalists under the command of a former officer of the Lithuanian army. On August 16, 1941, they took all the Jewish residents, together with the Jews of Pasvalys, to the forest near Zadeikiai, about 3 miles from Pasvalys, shot them, and buried them in a mass grave.
The old Jewish cemetery was completely destroyed in the Soviet time. There is a little park on its grounds today. А memorial stone with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal” testifies to a cemetery at this place.

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