Simnas Jewish Cemetery
Simnas (Simne in Yiddish) is a small town, located in southern Lithuania near a lake of the same name, 23 km west of Alytus. Information on the Jewish community in Simnas dates back to the 18th century. According to the census data available, the peak of the Jewish population in Simnas occurred in 1856, when Jews comprised 98% of the town (736 people). The Jews were active in shopkeeping, craftwork, farming, and fishing. The three lakes in the vicinity belonged to Jews. The main market for selling fish was in Kaunas. Almost every household had an auxiliary farm plot. The size of the Jewish population reduced in the 20th century, when the Russian government expelled all of the Jews of Simnas to the interior during the first world war and only some of them later returned.
According to a government survey in 1931, during the period of Lithuanian independence, Simnas had 33 businesses, of these, 32 were Jewish. The town had 24 Jewish artisans. The Jewish Peoples bank, founded after War War I, contributed greatly to the Jewish economic life in Simnas. It granted loans, which were repaid in small instalments over years, to many Jews to build homes. Jewish children studied in several chadarim, as well as in a Hebrew primary school belonging to the Tarbut network. Simnas had a large Yiddish and Hebrew library and was the centre of cultural activities. The Zionist movement was already active in Simnas before the First World War. In the period of Lithuanian independence, Simnas had adherents to all the Zionist parties. Branches of Zionist youth movements active in the town included HaShomer HaTzair and Beitar. Simnas had a two-story brick synagogue, the upper floor of which was used by the primary school.
A day after the Nazi invasion of Lithuania, on June 23rd 1941, Simnas was bombed, and units of the German army entered the town. The main mass murder of Simnas Jews took place on September 12th 1941, when over 400 Jews were transported to Kalesninkai forest, 2 km from the town and shot in the pits. After the war, at the place of the murder, a large sculpture was erected in memory of the victims.
Simnas’ Jewish cemetery does not exist anymore. The territory of the former cemetery today is a piece of land covered by greenery, with several houses built on it. There are no remnants, tombstones, or any signs, marketing the borders of the cemetery. It is likely that the cemetery was demolished after World War II, however, there is no written evidence about any official decision to destroy it.