Laukzeme Jewish Cemetery
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.