Pakruojis Jewish Cemetery 2
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 new Jewish cemetery is located about one and a half kilometres northwest of Old Pakruojis. It was founded in the middle to late 19th century. The overall size of the cemetery is more than 100 meters long and about 40 metres wide. The natural boundaries are open fields on three sides and the road from Pakruojis on the fourth. The whole area is covered with trees and it is nowadays enclosed by a wooden fence. In total about 50 gravestones can be seen, about 30 are in the fenced-off area and 20 outside the fence. The original wall around the cemetery was destroyed during the Nazi occupation. In 1994 a memorial stone was erected on the new Jewish cemetery; its foundation is made of fragments of tombstones found therein. There is also a stone commemorating the murders of the Jewish citizens in July-August 1941.