Kaunas Slobodca Jewish Cemetery
Vilijampolė, commonly known as Slobodka (Lit. Slabotkė, Pol. Słobódka, Yid. סלאָבאָדקע), is now a part of Kaunas, but for the majority of its history it was a separate community. Jews began to settle in Vilijampolė in the second half of the 17th century, soon after the town was founded. The Jewish community had close ties with Kėdainiai, where the first settlers probably came from. Slobodka offered refuge to the Jews of Kaunas during the several expulsions. The community maintained a cemetery and a prayer house. The Great Synagogue was built in 1772. The construction was funded by R. Moshe Soloveichik, an influential lobbyist and the synagogue’s first rabbi. About 600 Jewish families lived in Slobodka in 1824. In 1847, the Jewish population was 2,973. The town had several yeshivot, the most famous of which, Knesset Israel, was established in 1882. It became an important centre of the Musar movement and one of the most influential Jewish Orthodox yeshivot in the world. In 1919, Vilijampolė was incorporated into Kaunas. There were about 10,000 Jews in Slobodka in 1940. After the German invasion in 1941, Slobodka became the main site of the Kaunas ghetto, which held 29,760 Jews at its peak. Only 90 escaped during the destruction of the ghetto in 1944. Some 2,500 Kaunas Jews managed to survive in German camps, 500 more had joined the partisans or were saved by Lithuanians. In 1950, all Jewish community institutions in Kaunas were closed by the Soviet authorities. The cemetery in Slobodka was destroyed in 1963.