Kybartai Jewish Cemetery
Kybartai (Kybart in Yiddish) is a town in south-western Lithuania, on the border with the Kaliningrad area of Russian Federation. The history of Kybartai’s Jews is tightly related to the history of the town itself. The first Jews settled in the town with the construction of the Russian railway and its connection to the European network about 1865. All the changes the town went through were reflected in the life of the Jewish Community. In 1897, the urban population of Kybartai was 1,182 inhabitants and among them, 533 residents (45%) were Jews, who enjoyed relatively high standards of living in comparison to the Jews in other parts of the Pale of Settlement. In those years there were no beggars among the inhabitants of the town, nevertheless, a charity existed that helped strangers. The Jews had a school with a Jewish teacher of the Russian language. Additionally, there were three traditional chadarim. Later a few “Improved chadarim” were established. The wealthier Jews sent their children to the German schools in the German border town Eydtkuhnen. The German language was, at that time, the language of the aristocracy and local Jews began to “Germanize”‘ their Yiddish. Although most of the Jews in Kybartai were not devout, two prayer houses existed in the town. During the period of the independent Lithuanian state, a large red-brick synagogue was built opposite the market square. Adjacent to the synagogue was another building in which the bathhouse, the mikveh and the library were housed. Various Zionist Organizations were highly active in Kybartai, and the merchants of Kybartai used to contribute generously to the National Funds.
On the eve of the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, there were 1,300 Jews in the town. All of which were murdered in July, August, and September 1941, together with the Jews of Virbalis in mass graves at the meadows close to Virbalis. After the war, memorial monuments were erected on the graves.
Kybartai was the hometown of one of the greatest landscape painters of Russia – Yitzchak Levitan (1861-1900). Most of his pictures are in museums in Russia and a few of them in “The Israel Museum” in Jerusalem.
Until 1912 the local Jewish Community did not have a cemetery in the town: they buried their dead in the nearby town Virbalis. Only in 1912 a Chevra Kadisha was established in Kybartai and it obtained a plot for a cemetery outside the town. The cemetery was in use until June 1941, and became completely abandoned after the annihilation of the local Jewish Community. When in 1998, Lithuania included the cemetery into the list of Lithuanian cultural heritage, only around 80 different gravestones in rather poor condition were found at the cemetery. Three stone pillars from the cemetery fence also survived.