Ramygala Jewish Cemetery
Ramygala (Ramygolo in Yiddish) is a town in central Lithuania, located some 24km south of Panevezys.
Jews began to settle in Ramygala as early as the end of the 16th century, when in 1580, Ramygala obtained the rights to hold 3 fairs a year. The Jews of Ramygala made their living through small commerce, peddling, crafting and agriculture. The number of Jews in Ramygala increased steadily and reached its peak in the second part of the 19th century when the Jewish population (650 people) made up 49% of the urban population. However, during World War I, the Russian military rule exiled the Jews of Ramygala from their town into the interior of Russia. After the war, only two-thirds of the exiled returned to the town. And from the middle of the 1930’s, the number of Jews in the town was only falling. The economic crisis and the boycotting of Jewish stores, motivated many Jews to seek their future elsewhere. When autonomy was granted to the Jews by the independent Lithuanian government, 7 members of the community were voted to a ruling committee. The committee was active in most areas of Jewish life in the town. They initiated the foundation of a school, in which Yiddish was the language of instruction. However, many of the Ramygala Jews belonged to the Zionist camp. So, the Yiddish school was closed after a short while, and in the following years, the Jewish children studied in the Hebrew school that was part of the “Tarbut” network. A new library was built in 1929, replacing the library with its 600 books which had been destroyed by a fire. Ramygala had a fairly large number of scholars, intellectuals, and Hebrew speakers. It is known that, in 1859, there was a synagogue in Ramygala, however, it was burned during one of the numerous fires. In January 1933, a new Beit Midrash was inaugurated on the ruins of the burned one. This building still exists in the town and is marked by a plaque.
During the Holocaust, the entire Jewish Community of Ramygala was murdered in the Pajuoste forest, 8 km from Panevezys, on August 24-25, 1941.
It is likely that the Ramygalos Jewish cemetery was established approximately at the same time as the first Jews settled in the town: in the end of the 16th century. However, it is difficult to prove this, as only 30 gravestones have survived in the partially demolished cemetery, which operated until the Nazi Occupation in 1941, and was totally abandoned during the Soviet era. In 1993, the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. In 2013, during the construction works in Ramygala, some fragments of the former Jewish gravestones were found in the town. All of them were returned to the site of the cemetery, which is today partly fenced. There is a memorial stone with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The Old Jewish Cemetery. Sacred is the memory of the dead.”