Kupiskis Jewish Cemetery 1
Kupiskis (Kupishok in Yiddish) is a town in north-eastern Lithuania. Local researchers consider the beginning of the Jewish community in Kupiskis as dating to 1682, when the local nobleman Pacas granted the right to build a synagogue. Kupiskis’s Jewry engaged mostly in petty trade, craftwork, and peddling. At the end of the 19th century, the Jewish population of Kupiskis had reached its peak: 2661 Jewish residents (71% of the town), however around that same time, many of the town’s Jews began to emigrate to places overseas, primarily to the USA. Some returned to the town after having accumulated a sum of money in the USA but left again for South Africa. During World War I, many of the town’s Jews left for the Russian interior, and not all of them came back. After the war, in the first years of Lithuanian independence, Kupiskis’s Jewish community numbered around 1500 Jews. The economic situation in the Interwar years was difficult. During this period, many Jews lived off the generosity of relatives abroad. The Jewish Bank (Folksbank) assisted the needy, however in the twenties, the bank itself ran into financial difficulties. Kupiskis’s Jewry divided into two communities, the Hassidim and the Mitnagdim. As a result, the town had two official rabbis, two ritual slaughterers, two burial societies and three synagogues: a prayer house for the Hassidic, a study house for the Mitnagdim and a great Synagogue in a fine large building capable of containing of all the town Jews. The town also had a stone-built bathhouse. Kupiskis had a Talmud Torah, a school allied to the Tarbut stream, a school teaching in Yiddish, a kindergarten, and a library. The town also had two clubs, a Jewish cultural society, and numerous charitable societies. All the Zionist organizations, including Agudat Yisrael, were represented in the town council. In 1939, Kupiskis had a Maccabi club with 68 members, as well as branches of Hashomer Hatzair and Beitar.
The German army entered the town on June 26th 1941. In the middle of July, they ordered the Jews to concentrate in the Ghetto, and within a short time, the annihilation of the Jewish population began. There are three mass graves of Jews in the town. The first one is near the Free Thinkers cemetery, the second grave is at the Kupiskis Jewish cemetery. The third grave is in the forest, 1 km from the railway station.
It is likely that the first, old Jewish cemetery in Kupiskis was established in the second part of the 17th century. In the 19th century, the community began to bury their members in a new cemetery, however the territory of the old cemetery stayed untouched until the outbreak of World War II in Lithuania. During the Soviet era, most of the cemetery’s territory was destroyed and residential houses were built on it. After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence in 1993, the cemetery was included into the Register of Cultural Heritage of Lithuania. A memorial stone was erected to mark the place.