Raguva Jewish Cemetery
Raguva (Rogeve in Yiddish) is a small town in central Lithuania, 20 miles from the district capital Panevezys. Jews first began to settle in Raguva during the 17th century and by 1847 there were 852 Jewish residents in Raguva. The peak of the Jewish population in Raguva was in 1897, when there were 1223 Jewish residents out of 1763, comprising 69% of the population. Before WWII there were around 500 Jewish residents in the town.
The economic situation of the Jews of Raguva was fairly good until WWI. They traded with the estate owners in the area and made a decent living. Raguva also had a leather factory as well as making bristles and brushes, both belonged to Jews and employed about 100 people. There were also artisans and peddlers in Raguva, most of them spending their week in the surrounding villages, before returning at the weekend. During the period of the independent Lithuanian state (1918-1940), the Jews of Raguva made their living through commerce, peddling, and crafting. According to the 1931 census, conducted by the Lithuanian government, there were 12 shops and businesses in Raguva, of which 11 of them (92%) were owned by Jews.
The centers of Jewish life in Raguva were the old wooden synagogue, with a beautifully carved Holy Ark, built in the 18th century, and the large Beit Midrash, built at the end of the 19th century. Many of Raguva’s Jews belonged to the Zionist camp. The number of Jews who bought the “Shekel” (“a quasi membership card of the Zionist society”) increased with the years. The Zionist-Socialist party was the most active in Raguva and initiated most of the cultural activities in the town. The “Mizrahi”, the General Zionists, and others also had branches.
The war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out on June 22nd 1941. A few days later, on June 26th, the German army entered Raguva. In the middle of August, the entire community, men, women, elderly and small children, were transferred to the city of Panevezys, where they were placed in a ghetto. On August 24th, the Raguvan Jews together with the Panevezys Jews were taken to Pajuoste forest, 5 miles east of the city, and were murdered there. After the war, the Soviet government uncovered a mass grave at that place, of around 8000 victims.
The Jewish cemetery was established in the 17th century. The Jews of Panevezys, who did not have their own cemetery at that time, used to bury their dead in Raguva. There are around 200 gravestones and their fragments in the cemetery. In 1948, a Soviet military cemetery was established in the southeastern part of the abandoned part of the Jewish cemetery, The remains of the Soviet soldiers who were killed in the battles of Raguva area were moved here. In 2015, the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. There is a memorial stone with an inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal”.