Pakruojis Jewish Cemetery 1
Historians are still uncertain about the start of the Jewish community in Pakruojis (Pokroy in Yiddish). Some of them think that Jewish Community of Pakruojis was first established in the 16th century. Others alledge that Jewish settlement did not happen until the end of the 18th century. At that time, the land around Pakruojis belonged to the family of Baron von Ropp. Jews found the life at von Ropp’s property comfortable and they soon became the majority in Pakruojis for an extended period. At the end of the 19th century the Jewish population had reached its peak, with 1093 jewwish residents comprising 70% of the total population. At this time many of the town’s Jews began emigration abroad. The most popular destination was South Africa. About 100 Jewish families remained in Pakruojis when the Independent Lithuanian state was established in 1918.
Most Jews in Pakruojis made their living from petty trade and labour but other businesses existed as well. Some Jewish families in the interwar period became successful tradesmen that helped to stimulate- the economic life of Pakruojis.
The bulk of the community belonged to the Zionist camp. Most of the Jewish children studied in the Hebrew school and there were also a few Zionist Youth Organizations.
There were three synagogues in pre-war Pakruojis. Two of them did not survive. However, the summer synagogue dated to 1801 has been preserved. It was reconstructed in 2017 and today it is the oldest wooden synagogue in Lithuania. The restored building houses the children’s section of the Pakruojis Public Library.
In June 1941 the German Army entered Pakruojis but handed over the administrative rule of the town into the hands of the Lithuanians. The mass killings took place on July 31 and August 5, 1941. Jews were driven to Morkakalnis, a distance of 5 km from Pakruojis, where they were murdered. A memorial plaque was placed at the mass grave here with identical inscriptions in Yiddish and Lithuanian “At this place on August 10, 1941, Hitler’s henchmen and their local collaborators murdered 300 Jews of Pakruojis”.
The first and the oldest cemetery was on the town-side bank of the river Kruoja. Iit was used until the early 1800’s. The testimony of the community’s Rabbi in 1932 claims that one of the ancient headstones that was here had an inscription dating from 1761. It is impossible to check it now because this cemetery does not exist anymore. During the Nazi occupation, the Germans destroyed the cemetery by taking the gravestones to the local mill where they were pulverized. After the war, the cemetery was used by the Soviets to bury their fallen soldiers, who had died in battle against the Germans in 1944. There is a monument to the Soviet soldiers at the entrance of the former Jewish cemetery. A small plaque in Yiddish next to the cemetery indicates that this was the site of a Jewish cemetery. The area of this cemetery is about 20 meters square.