Sudargas Jewish Cemetery
Sudargas (Sudarg in Yiddish) is a village situated in southwestern Lithuania, close to the border with the Kaliningrad area of the Russian Federation. The first Jews settled in Sudargas in the middle of the 18th century. In the 19th century, the Jewish community established all essential institutions, and for many years the Jews were the majority in the town. In 1856, Sudargas had a population of 689 people, of whom 627 were Jews (91%). A large forest near Sudargas, lying partly in Lithuania and partly in Prussia, was a convenient site for smuggling and many Jews made their living from this activity. There were also some Jews who floated timber down the Nieman river. The rest of the Jewish population was busy in trading: the Jews in Sudargas ran a few grocery and haberdashery stores, two taverns, two bakeries, a pharmacy, and a wool combing workshop.
During the period of the Independent Lithuanian state (1918–1940), Sudargas became a forgotten town, where opportunities to earn a living became ever more difficult. As a result, almost all the Jewish youth left the settlement and moved to Kaunas or emigrated abroad. The first census in Sudargas undertaken by the Lithuanian government in 1923, showed only 257 people in the town. In the 1920s there still was a cheder, where children learned to read and write, but soon the few Jewish children studied in the Lithuanian school. Throughout the entirety of the Jewish presence in Sudargas, there existed a great synagogue, used for prayers only in summer, while in winter people would pray in the Beit Midrash, in which there was a stove. Both praying houses were built in the 19th century and were made of wood.
The German Army entered Sudargas on the 22nd of June 1941. The local Jewish community at that time consisted of around 30 families. At the beginning of July 1941, the Nazi’s and their Lithuanian collaborators transferred all men to Sakiai, where they were murdered, together with the local men. The women and children of Sudargas were murdered in August 1941, in the vicinity of Kiduliai village.
The Architect Mosheh Yitshak Blokh (1893 – 1942), who prepared a plan for irrigating the Negev, was born in Sudargas. The municipality of Beer Sheva in Israel named a street after him.
Sudargas Jewish cemetery was established at the end of the 18th century on one of the five Sudargas mounds near the Nemen river. The cemetery existed until the destruction of the Sudargas Jewish community in summer 1941. In 1944, the hill’s landscape, where the cemetery was located, was changed and a farmhouse was built on the territory. The cemetery became surrounded by cultivated fields. In 1998, when the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania, only 20 gravestones or their fragments were found.