Kupiskis Jewish Cemetery 2
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.
The New Jewish cemetery in Kupiskis was established in the 19th century, around 400-600 meters from the old one and operated until 1941. Throughout July and September 1941, around 2,000 Jews from Kupiskis and the surrounding area were murdered there. This mass grave is marked today by a monument with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: “In memory of victims of the Jewish genocide, as well as Lithuanians and people of other nationalities who were killed here by German Nazis and their henchmen in 1941”. During the Soviet era, around 1970, the cemetery was closed and destroyed. The gravestones were used to build the pavements of the town. There are only a few tombstones, with inscriptions in Hebrew, left on the edge of the former cemetery area that was restored after 1991, when Lithuania declared its independence again. Nowadays, as a rebuke to the Soviet System, in the centre of the former burial ground, there is a water tower. It is impossible to determine the layout of the cemetery territory and the exact places of burials. In 2015, the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania.