Krekenava Jewish Cemetery
Jews first settled in Krekenava in the beginning of the 18th century, their number grew rapidly and reached its peak by the end of the 19th century. According to the official census taken in the Russian Empire in 1897, Jews numbered 1505 people and this comprised 68% of the total population of Krekenava. In May 1915, during World War I, the Russian government expelled Krekenava’s Jews and at the war’s end only one third of the pre-war Jewish residents returned.
The main synagogue was built at the start of the 20th century and is now used as a sports centre, however there is a plaque on the wall informing people about the initial purpose of the building. An apartment house next to the former synagogue also belonged to the Jewish Community and was used as the praying house for Jewish women. Two more small synagogues and one large Beit Midrash did not survive.
The Jews of Krekenava earned their living through petty trade, peddling and in agriculture, through leasing fields. Other Jews supplied fuel for the lime kilns that were in the area and some were artisans.
Jewish children received their elementary education in the Hebrew language school that was part of the Tarbut system. Krekenava also had a library of 2,000 Hebrew and Yiddish books.
Many of Krekenava’s Jews were affiliated with the Zionist movement, but there were also branches of non-Zionist Orthodox organizations such as ‘Agudath Israel Youth’ and ‘Tiferet Bahurim’. Many of the townspeople were deeply knowledgeable Jews that had rabbinic ordination, but they did not earn their living by sharing their religious knowledge.
With the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the young Jewish men were arrested and shot outside the town between the stone bridge and the Nevėzis River. The remaining Jews on the 27th of July 1941 were transported to Pajuostė forest (near Panevėžys) and were murdered there together with other Jews from the neighbouring towns.
Today on the bank of the Nevėžis river a monument has been erected with the inscription, in both Yiddish and Lithuanian, reading: “At this place Hitler’s butchers and their local helpers murdered about 200 children, women and men in July and August 1941”.
The Jewish cemetery is partially preserved: there are about 30 tombstones of different shapes and forms, made from concrete or hewn granite. The oldest grave is dated to 1863, the newest that was found mentioning 1937 as the burial date. Several gravestones are inscribed in Hebrew.
In 1991 the cemetery was being encroached upon by local farms and was fenced. A monument has been erected there in memory of the Jewish population. On the new metal gate there is the inscription in Lithuanian – “The Jewish Cemetery of Krekenava.” Inside, a monument was erected with the following inscription in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Lithuanian – “The Old Cemetery. May the Deceased be Remembered Forever.”