Kaunas, Panemune Jewish Cemetery
Kaunas (Kovne in Yiddish) is the second largest city in Lithuania, located about 60 miles west of Vilnius, the capital. The Jewish settlement in the Panemunes suburb of Kaunas dates back to the 18th century. In 1784, there were 22 Jewish families. In 1851, there were 89 houses with 1343 inhabitants, of which 1243 were Jews (92%). Although the local Jewish community kahal already existed at the time, Jewish affairs of Panemune were handled by the Kaunas Rabbinate. There were two wooden Synagogues in Panemune, the large and the small one. The large Synagogue was for the Shabbat and holidays, while the smaller one was for everyday prayer. Both Synagogues were burnt during the German occupation 1941-44. Until 1941, Panemune had a Jewish primary school, with one teacher and around 50 pupils.
There were around 30 shops in Panemune and most of the shopkeepers were Jewish; they traded mostly baked buns, herring, or costume jewelry.
The Germans entered Kaunas on June 25th 1941. The persecutions of the Jews, including the residents of Panemune started immediately. In August 1941, all the Jews that remained in Panemune were marched to the Fourth Fort and shot dead there, together with Jewish residents from the other Kaunas districts.
Panemunes cemetery dates back to the 18th century. Only three tombstones have survived in the surveyed area, one dated back to 1840. The cemetery was in use until the destruction of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. The cemetery’s destruction was started during WWII and finally completed during the Soviet period. 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. A granite monument has been erected with an inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal”.