Laukzeme Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Lithuania
Region
Klaipeda
District
Kretinga
Settlement
Laukzeme
Site address
Exiting the town from the south on Miško Street, follow the road for 800m and then the cemetery will be located on the left hand side of the road, at the edge of the forest.
GPS coordinates
56.059799,21.198029
Perimeter length
179 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
There is an old wooden fence 1m high. A few sections are broken.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
The territory is slightly overgrown with bushes and there are many fallen leaves and branches. The existing fence should be repaired or a new fence erected. Only 14m of the site could be filmed as the cemetery is in the vicinity of an airport.
Number of existing gravestones
3 (+6 fragments). There are no readable dates on any surviving gravestones.
Date of oldest tombstone
N/A
Date of newest tombstone
N/A
Urgency of erecting a fence
Low
Land ownership
Municipality
Preserved construction on site
There is a memorial dedicated to the cemetery.
Drone surveys
No

Historical overview

Laukzeme (Loikzhim in Yiddish) is a small village in the western part of Lithuania, close to the border with Latvia. A Jewish community lived in Laukžeme from the second half of the 17th century. Laukzeme was located near an important trade route connecting the western part of Lithuania, Zemaitija (Samogitia) with the port of Sventoji, so it was a lively settlement that attracted Jews. The first Jewish Community consisted of 23 members. However, at some point during the 18th century, the Jews of Laukzeme left the town and resettled in the nearby town of Darbenai. Historical sources claim that the reason for that might be a miscommunication with a local nobleman, who became angry with Jews and simply expelled them from his property. Those few Jews who stayed in Laukzeme rented taverns, water mills, and bought agricultural products, which they transported to Liepaja and Riga. It is known that at the end of the 18th century the population in Laukzeme reduced greatly, from a bustling town it turned to a small village, and according to the census of 1784, only two Jewish families continue living at the place.
The old Jewish cemetery in Laukzeme likely dates from at least the second part of the 17th century. In the 18th century, despite the community’s move to the nearby growing town of Darbenai, the community continued to bury their dead in the Laukžeme Jewish cemetery until the 19th century. Today only one legible tombstone remains. A not very distinctive epitaph on it bears witness to the fact that between 1819 and 1828, Yenta Katz, the daughter of the rabbi, was buried in the cemetery. There are also some other stones on which the writing is no longer legible, but that give information that the last burial is dated 1913. In 1993 in front of the entrance to the cemetery, a black polished memorial plaque with the Star of David engraved at the top was built. The text in Yiddish and Lithuanian says: “The old Jewish cemetery of Laukzeme”. Since 2005 the cemetery is considered a historical monument and a photo of the lone legible tombstone is included into a recent travel book about historical sites of the Kretinga area. In 2011 the municipality cut off the bushes and surrounded the cemetery by a wooden fence.

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