Moletai Old Jewish Cemetery
Moletai (Maliat in Yiddish) is a city in eastern Lithuania, 40 miles north of the capital Vilnius. Jews began to settle in Moletai in the eighteenth century. In 1765, there were 170 Jewish taxpayers. In 1847, 1,006 Jews had settled in Moletai. According to the 1897 all-Russian census, the population of Moletai numbered 2,397 residents, of whom 1,948 were Jewish (81%). Most made their living by small scale trading or through crafting. Next to most homes, small auxiliary farms were maintained.
During the period of the independent Lithuanian state (1918-1940), Jews made their living in trade, peddling, crafting, and light industry. Fishing in the surrounding lakes and selling their catch in Utena, Kaunas, and other towns, augmented their income. Important factors in the life of Moletai Jews were the weekly markets and the two annual town fairs. According to the government survey of 1931 the town had 21 shops, of which 19 of them were owned by Jews (90%).
The Jewish children of Moletai acquired their elementary education at the Yiddish school (established in 1910) and at the cheder (with 30 boys). Under the independent Lithuanian state, the Yiddish school joined the Kultur Lige chain, and a Hebrew school of the Tarbuth chain was formed. On average 160 children studied in both schools. In 1924, a Talmud Torah was also opened.
Religious life was concentrated at the four prayer houses. In the 1920s and 1930s, Zionist activities intensified, and most of the Zionist parties had their followers. Among the Zionist youth , Gordonia and Beitar had branches in Moletai. The Bund also had an active membership together with a sports team. Sports activities were also organized by the Maccabi branch with its 30 members.
On June 26th 1941, several days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the German army entered Moletai. On August 26th 1941, the Germans forced all the Jews into the Beit Midrash where they were kept for three days without food and water. On August 29th 1941, they were ordered to a place one mile out of town. There they were murdered and buried in a mass grave. In the early 1990s, a monument was erected on the mass graves carrying an inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Lithuanian.
There were two Jewish burial sites in Moletai. The first Jewish cemetery was in the northern part of Moletai, however in 1958, it was destroyed and later Azubaliu street was laid there. The cemetery extended to the border of Moletai at that time. Now two-storey bricks houses stand there. During the construction of the apartment buildings around 1970, human bones were excavated. There is no memorial or plaque commemorating the site’s previous history. The second Jewish cemetery has survived and is located in front of Moletai stadium, on Kreivoji Street.