Silute Jewish Cemetery
Silute (Heyedkrug in Yiddish) is a city in western Lithuania, 30 miles south of Klaipeda. It is likely that the first Jews settled in Silute at the end of the 18th century. At that time Silute belonged to the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1814, the town had Jewish residents who engaged in trading lumber and who were Prussian citizens. The community grew as time progressed and in 1855, it had 89 Jewish families. In 1863, a small synagogue was built in Silute. During the period of the Independent Lithuanian State (1923-1939), the town had between 100-150 Jewish residents.
According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, Jews owned 20 shops: 4 for foodstuffs, 3 butchers, 3 cloth shops, 2 cattle shops, 2 poultry shops, 2 sewing shops, 2 weapons’ and hunting equipment shops, a beverages shop, as well as a fur shop. According to the 1938 census of the Jewish Artisans Association in Lithuania, the town had 8 Jewish heads of families who made their living as artisans: 3 tailors, 2 shoemakers, a butcher, and 2 others. The majority of Silute’s Jews were Zionists.
Jews were harassed in the town even before the Nazis occupied it in 1939. In 1938, local Nazi sympathisers broke the windows of the city’s synagogue. On March 22nd 1939, the German army entered the Klaipeda region including Silute and its Jewish citizens fled to Lithuania. When in 1941, Lithuania was conquered by the German army, the refugees suffered the same fate as the Jews they had taken shelter with. The German authorities established labor camps in Silute and its surrounding areas for more than 500 Jews from Klaipeda (Memel) county. Only 32 of them would survive to see liberation.
In 1869, the local Jewish community acquired land in a, now central, location of the city and opened their cemetery there. The cemetery was completely destroyed during WWII, when the Germans established a labor camp at the site. At present, it is simply an open grass-plot, with a small monument to denote that it is a former Jewish burial ground by an inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal”.