Lygumai Jewish Cemetery
Lygumai (Ligum in Yiddish) is a village in northern-central Lithuania. The first Jews settled in Lygumai in the 18th century. Until the beginning of the 18th century, there were more Jews in Lygumai than in Siauliai and the Lygumai Jewish cemetery served Siauliai’s Jewish community as well. Lygumai’s Jews made their living from small trade, crafting, and peddling. In 1897, 482 Jews were living in Lygumai and they were the majority of the town. There were all essential institutions necessary for a vivid Jewish Community: a Beit Midrash, a cheder, bathhouse, a community-owned house. A new brick synagogue was built in place of the old wooden one, which was lost in a fire, and this building still exists in the town.
In the years before World War I, many of Lygumai’s Jews immigrated to America, England, and South Africa. The families that remained in 1915 were expelled to the inner regions of Russia during World War I. After the war, only 50 families returned to Ligum.
During the period of Lithuanian independence, a Hebrew school was opened in Lygumai, but due to the low number of pupils it was closed after two years of operation and a number of the children went to the Lithuanian school. The more prosperous families sent their children to the Hebrew schools in Siauliai or Kaunas.
Most of Lygumai’s Jews were porponents of the Zionist movement, but there was a small part of the Jewish youth who were active in the Communist underground.
In Lygumai the Lithuanian nationalists took over the rule immediately after the German Army invaded Lithuania in June 1941. With the pretext that they were communists a certain number of Jews were transferred to Siauliai prison and there they were murdered. The rest of the Lygumai Jews were murdered in August 1941 at the Juknaiciu forest. There is a small monument at the massacre place, but the memorial is abandoned.
The exact date of the establishment of the Jewish cemetery is unknown, however it is likely that it was around the 18th century after the community was established. Many of the remaining stones are unreadable due to extreme weathering or because the quality of the original stone was poor. The territory is partly surrounded by an ancient rock wall. The cemetery was in use until the Nazi occupation. During the Nazi occupation, the cemetery was abandoned but not demolished. In 2001 the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. There is a small sign, written in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Lithuanian, which says: “The old Jewish cemetery. Sacred is the memory of the deceased”.