Palanga Old Jewish Cemetery
Palanga (Polangen in Yiddish) is a seaside resort town in western Lithuania, on the shore of the Baltic Sea. It is likely that the Jewish community had already been established in Palanga from the second half of the 15th century. As in most Lithuanian cities, in Palanga Jews were merchants and artisans, however many of them were engaged in the amber trade, which was traditional in the region. At the end of the 19th century, Jews were also owners of resort-related businesses. Such businesses made Palanga the capital of Lithuania’s summer resorts. During the interwar period, Jews held positions in the city administration. The economic situation of local Jews was good.
Besides cheders and the Talmud Torah, Jewish children also studied together with Christian children at the district’s school established through the initiative of the Tiskeviciai aristocratic family. During the interwar period, an elementary school that was part of the Yavne network was opened.
Religious life in the city concentrated around the synagogue built in 1880, the Beit Midrash and a Kloiz. The synagogue was a spacious building capable of hosting the city’s Jews and also the Jews who vacationed in Palanga during the summers. Many of Palanga’s Jews belonged to the Zionist camp.
Due to a large fire in 1938, almost the entire Jewish residential quarter was destroyed. Only a small number of memorable signs survived that could testify of the once-prosperous Palanga Jewish community.
In 1941, after Germany attacked the Soviet Union, massacres of Jews occurred in Palanga. More than 300 of Palanga’s Jews became the victims of a massacre between the 27th June and 12th October 1941. In 1989, a monument, a large granite stone, was built in a symbolic location in memory of the massacre victims.
Among the famous Jewish residents of Palanga was Yudel Mark (1897–1975), Yiddish linguist, educator, and political activist.
The first evidence of Jewish burials in Palanga is found in the documents of local Jewish funeral brotherhood, Hevra Kadisha dated 1487. This fact suggests that Jews had the cemetery in Palanga as early as in the second part of the 15th century. This first Jewish Cemetery of Palanga could be found at the edge of the park of the Tiskeviciai family, near the entrance. During the establishment of the park around Tiskeviciai manor, it was found out that the layers under the cemetery were more than 200 years old, however today there is no sign about this Jewish cemetery’s existence.
From 1831, funeral registration began in the new Jewish cemetery in the town’s outskirts near Naglis Hill. After the Holocaust in 1941, the cemetery stopped being used. Today only 10 various-sized granite and concrete tombstones can be seen here. The fate of the other gravestones is unknown. In 2008 the cemetery was included in the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. In 1991, a memorial stone with inscriptions in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Lithuanian marking the location of the old Jewish cemetery was built.