Skapiskis Jewish Cemetery
Skapiskis (Skopishok in Yiddish) is a small town in the north-eastern part of Lithuania, situated near the road connecting Panevezys with Daugavpils.
There is no clear data showing when and under what circumstances Jews first settled in Skapiskis, due to the destruction of almost all of the county records during the uprising in 1863. According to the scarce information found, in 1870 the town had 60 houses, two churches and a Jewish prayer house. The Russian Imperial Census shows 1010 Jews living in Skapiskis in 1897, this comprised 85% of the town’s population. In the period between 1897, when the number of Jews reached its peak, and the beginning of World War I, the Jewish population contracted to some 50 families. During the period of Lithuanian independence, the number of Jews fell even more, and the town contained only 25 Jewish families. The Skapiskis Jews lived mainly concentrated around the market. They made their living from trade, shopkeeping, and peddling. The main trade was in flax, with some of the Jews also dealing in timber. Others leased lakes in the vicinity and there were also artisans. In the 1920’s, the economic situation of the Jews worsened with the founding of Lithuanian co-operatives and the increasing anti-semitism that had become a part of the political climate. The Jewish youth began to leave the town, mostly emigrating to South Africa. The town had neither a library nor a primary school, but there was a Maccabi club with 28 members. It had 2 wooden study houses, one belonging to the Hassidic group and the other to the Mitnagdim.
In the period of WWII, the town had approximately 28 Jewish families. It is known that they were transferred to Rokiskis and they shared the fate of the Jews of that town. According to an eyewitness, who returned to the town immediately after its liberation by the Red army in 1944, the houses remained undamaged, but the cemetery was destroyed. Of the town’s Jews, not a single one survived.
The date of establishment of the Jewish cemetery in Skapiskis remains unclear because early documents of the town did not survive until modern time. Besides that, the cemetery was severely damaged during World War II and during the post-war period under Soviet rule. Nonetheless, around 200 hewn granite and concrete tombstones of various forms have survived, mostly with carved memorial records in Hebrew. The oldest tombstone in the cemetery dates back to 1823, the most recent to 1935. The area of the cemetery is unfenced, but the fragments of an original stone masonry wall with a gate are still visible. In 1996, 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”.