Naujamiestis Karaite Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Lithuania
Region
Panevezys
District
Panevėžys
Settlement
Naujamiestis
Site address
Coming into Naujamiestis on road 3002, turn onto road 3008 and proceed forward for 600m, then turn left and proceed for 500m on a dirt road along the wood. The cemetery is located on the left. Near the cemetery there is a building surrounded by trees.
GPS coordinates
55.68199,24.16312
Perimeter length
470 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
There is a metal mesh fence on concrete pillars 1-1.5 meters in height.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
There are tree stumps, trash, fallen trees, branches and bushes in the cemetery. On the territory there is a water barrel and a container. Some metal mesh sections of the fence are missing, some have tilted or broken.
Number of existing gravestones
140
Date of oldest tombstone
1899
Date of newest tombstone
2019
Urgency of erecting a fence
Low
Land ownership
Municipality
Preserved construction on site
There is a wooden memorial marking the Karaite cemetery.
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

Naujamiestis (Nayshtot-Ponivezh in Yiddish) is a small town located on the right bank of the Nevezys River, 15 km southwest of Panevezys.

Naujamestis was found by the Karaites, brought to Lithuania by Grand Duke Vytautas in the 15th century from Crimea. Over the next two hundred years the Karaites made up the majority of Naujamiestis population. However, when in the 18th century the local noblemen took away the lands gifted to the Karaites centuries ago, the Karaite community began to fade, and the status of Rabbinical Jews grew.

The latter organized a community which was concentrated around the synagogue and other institutions. In 1897, of the 985 residents in Naujamiestis, 298 were Jewish, and only a few families of Karaites remained in the town. The Jews made their living from grocers and from light industry. The Jewish community also dwindled due to younger people emigrating abroad or moving to the larger cities in Lithuania.

In June 1941, when Germany conquered Lithuania, Naujamiestis had only a few Jewish residents. In July those Jews were transferred to a ghetto that had been established in Panevezys, and they were murdered in the Pajouste forest together with the local Jews.

The Jewish cemetery in Naujamiestis is known to have existed since the 19th century. It is possible that the site was used for burials even earlier, however of the 90 surviving gravestones, none date to before this time. The cemetery was in use until the outbreak of World War II in Lithuania. The cemetery was not demolished during the Soviet period, however it was abandoned, which is why only a part of the gravestones survived, including a pre-war concrete gate.

At the beginning of the 1990s, a stone memorial was erected in the place that was the Jewish cemetery of Naujamiestis. It has an inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The old cemetery. Let the sacred be remembered for all eternity”.

In 1993 the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. In 2019 it was discovered that the cemetery is larger than the currently fenced area.

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