Seduva Jewish Cemetery
Seduva (Shadova in Yiddish) is a town situated in northern Lithuania, between two great Litvak towns Panevezys (Ponevezh) and Siauliai (Shavl). Jews originally settled in Seduva in the 15th century, although the community would only grow after a further influx in the 18th century, reaching its peak by 1880, when 2,386 Jewish residents comprised 63% of the town. Seduva’s Jews made their living in trade, crafting, light industry, and agriculture. Public life centred on the synagogue and a few small prayer houses. In 1866, the Chevra Kadisha inaugurated a beautiful synagogue with one of the most beautiful Aron Kodesh in Lithuania. Seduva had the oldest Torah Scroll in Lithuania. However at the beginning of World War I Seduva was almost completely burnt to the ground.
Following the end of German occupation, Seduva’s Jews began to re-establish their businesses and social life. However, according to the first census carried out by the new Lithuanian government in 1923, the number of the Jews in town was only 916 (29%) out of the total population of 3,186. The economic crisis of Lithuania and the open propaganda against Jewish shops resulted in deterioration of the economic situation of the Seduva Jews. During these years, many Jews emigrated to America, South Africa and Israel. The remaining community members needed support from their relatives abroad. The Jewish Popular Bank (Folksbank) played an important role in the economic life of the town. Schools in Seduva included a yeshiva, two chadarim schools for boys and a Hebrew school of the Tarbut network. The Jewish public library had hundreds of books in Hebrew, Yiddish, German and Russian. All of the youth were able to speak and write Hebrew. Among the Zionist youth organizations were HaShomer HaTsair and HeHalutz. Sports were organized in the local branch of Maccabi. The religious youth belonged to the Tifereth Bahurim and Beth Ya’akov movements.
The centuries-old life of the Seduva Jews was brutally cut short by Nazis and their local collaborators in August 1941, with the shooting of 664 Seduva residents in two separate massacres: in Liaudiskiai forest and at Pakuteniai village. A monument to commemorate all the Jewish residents of Seduva was erected in 2015 in the centre of the town.
The Jewish Cemetery in Seduva was established in the first half of the 18th century when the local Chevra Kadisha society acquired a plot of land for burials on the edge of the city. After the extermination in 1941, the cemetery fell into disrepair and was neglected until the end of the Soviet Era. Therefore it is difficult to determine the fate of many of the disappeared tombstones from the cemetery. In 1995, the cemetery was included in the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. From 2013 to 2014 the old Jewish cemetery was cleaned up, a fence was erected and over 800 headstones were discovered and catalogued, of which 400 were identifiable, with the oldest burials dating from 1779 or 1780 and the most recent from 1932. Today inside the territory there is a memorial – a Star of David shaped from the fragments of former gravestones.