Krakes Jewish Cemetery
Krakes (Krok in Yiddish) is a small town in central Lithuania. The first Jews settled in Krakes around the middle of the 17th century. With time these Jews developed strong ties with the older Jewish community in Kėdainiai . During the years the Jewish community of Krakes built a large central synagogue and two smaller prayer houses. In 1897 there were 1090 Jews in Krakes, which was 59% of the total population. Just before the Holocaust, 150 Jewish families lived in the town.
The local Jews made a living from a variety of professions such as: the leather industry, ironsmiths, and teamsters. Some of them were engaged in commerce, mainly connected to the weekly fair held every Wednesday in the town. According to a survey held by the Lithuanian authorities in 1931 there existed in Krakes 20 stores and businesses of which 18 were owned by Jews (90%). In Krakes there were several prosperous Jewish merchants who traded mainly in wood and cereals. There were also some Jewish families that were supported by their relatives living abroad, mainly in South Africa.
In the 1920s in the shtetl a Hebrew school under the auspices of the Tarbut chain of schools was established. About 80 students studied in the school. Besides this school, there were also other Jewish educational institutions in Krakes like a small yeshiva and cheder. Most of the Jews of Krakes had received a religious Torah education and continued to study the Torah in their free time, belonging to such study institutions as Shas, Chevrat Mishnayot, Chevrat Ein Yaakov, and Tiferet Bachurim. The secular cultural activities centered around the Jewish library where different cultural activities took place such as a drama group and chorus group, all of which were under the auspices of the different Zionist groups. Various youth organizations were also active in Krakes: Hashomer Hatzair, Beitar, and Maccabee. In 1931 there were in Krakes 58 active members in these organizations some of its members made aliyah to Israel.
On September 2, 1941, all the Jews of Krakes and its surrounding settlements were marched to the village Pestinukai, 1.5 kilometers away from Krakes. There they were shot. According to the German report 448 male Jews, 476 female Jews, and 221 Jewish children were murdered. A memorial stone with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian has been erected on the spot after 1991.
It is likely that the Jewish cemetery of Krakes was established in the 18th century. About 120 gravestones or their fragments have survived to this day and burials were carried out 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 Yiddish, Hebrew, and Lithuanian: „The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal”