Kamajai Jewish Cemetery
Kamajai (Kamai in Yiddish) is located in the eastern part of Lithuania, about 8 miles south of the district administrative capital Rokiskis. Jewish historians believe that the first Jews settled in Kamajai after the Great Plague of 1709-1711. In 1766 the town had 216 Jewish taxpayers. In 1847 there were 453 Jews in Kamajai, and according to the all-Russian census of 1897, the population had risen to 1,105, of whom 944 were Jewish (85%). After WWI, the population almost halved and only 336 Jewish people remained. Just before the Second World War, there were 60 Jewish families in Kamajai.
Most of the Jewish residents worked as tradespeople. Some were shopkeepers, others engaged in the flax trade, in taverns and peddling. The annual fairs and weekly markets of the town were a favorable environment for Jewish traders, whose purchased grain, eggs and flax and moved them to Riga where they would buy salt, herring, and various industrial goods. The market place was in the center of the town, with four alleys branching out from it. One of them led to the railway station where emigrants departed to South Africa and America.
The three annual fairs were major events in the life of the town. Because the majority of the population was Jewish, fairs were not organized on Sabbath days. This arrangement was supported by non Jewish people from the area who wanted to trade with the Jews at the fairs. Many farmers, butchers, horse traders, rich and poor would come to the fairs. Jewish housewives made cakes and baked goods, and the income derived from these days enabled the Jews to earn a basic living.
Kamajai Jews were divided between Hasidim and Mitnagdim, praying in different prayer houses. In addition, an old Beit Midrash accommodated worshipers during Yamim Norai.
The Germans entered Kamai on June 26, 1941, four days after the beginning of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union. Jews who owned transport tried to escape to Russia but most were stopped in Rokiskis. There they suffered abuse and torture together with the Jews of Rokiskis, and eventually, all were murdered together.
There are about 350 gravestones, mostly from the 19 and 20th centuries left in the Jewish cemetery in Kamajaj. The cemetery was still in use until the destruction of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. Nothing was built on the cemetery grounds in the Soviet time. In 1993 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”.