Kriukai Jewish Cemetery
Kriukai (Kruk in Yiddish) is a village situated at the northern border of Lithuania with Latvia. The Jewish community in Kriukai first established itself in the town at the beginning of the 19th century. According to the Russian census of 1897, there were 677 residents, of whom 450 were Jews (60%). After WWI, the Jewish population had dropped to 180 people.
The Jews maintained their livelihoods through petty trading in flax, grains, fruits, and livestock with the local peasantry in Lithuania and in neighboring Courland province in Latvia.
At the end of June 1941, Kriukai was taken by the German forces, as well as the rest of Lithuania. On Yom Kippur of 1941, all remaining Jews of the village were murdered in Naryshkin Park together with the other Jews of the neighborhood of the town Zagare.
A native of Kriukai, Hillel Kook was a Revisionist Zionist activist and politician. Kook worked hard in the United States during World War II to promote Zionism and raise awareness about the plight of Jews during the Holocaust. He later served in Israel’s first Knesset. He was a nephew of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel.
The old Jewish cemetery of Kriukai dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. There are about 60 tombstones remaining with most dating to the 19th or 20th century, some of them still have clear inscriptions. 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. According to Lithuanian law, it is marked by a memorial stone with an inscription in Lithuanian, Yiddish, and Hebrew: “The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal”.