Vabalninkas Jewish Сemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Lithuania
Region
Panevezys County
District
Biržai
Settlement
Vabalninkas
Site address
From K. Šakenio street, turn onto Martišiūnų street, go straight for 900m until you reach the end of the street and then the cemetery will be in front of you.
GPS coordinates
55.97977,24.76092
Perimeter length
441 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
There is a metal mesh fence 0.5-1m high on the front side and stretched wire over other sides, there are no gates.
Preservation condition
Unfenced Jewish cemetery
General site condition
The cemetery is severely overgrown by trees and bushes. The sides and back of the cemetery have only wire stretched over pillars as a fence in some places, however it is mostly absent. The pillars of the fencing remain.
Number of existing gravestones
180
Date of oldest tombstone
1881
Date of newest tombstone
1934
Urgency of erecting a fence
High
Land ownership
Municipality
Preserved construction on site
There is a memorial dedicated to the cemetery.
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

According to the archives, the first Jews settled in Vabalninkas (Vabolnik in Yiddish) at the end of the 17th century. In 1738, there were fifteen Jewish families among its total of 160 residents. The peak of the Jewish population in Vabalninkas was in 1897, the year of the official census in the Russian Empire, when 1828 Jewish residents comprised 78% of the total population. Before WWII the Jewish population had declined to 500 inhabitants that made up only 30% of the whole population.
During World War I, in July 1915, retreating Cossacks instigated a pogrom against Vabalninkas’ Jews. The Russian army exiled the Jews far into Russia, and the town with its four prayer houses and its Pinkasim and other books was set on fire. Only the Torah scrolls were saved as the residents took them into exile with them.
After the First War, the Jewish community of Vabalninkas managed to collect money and restore the two Synagogues that still stand today. The large one was known as “Die Kalte Shul” the cold synagogue for summer, and the smaller one “Die Wareme Shul” the warm synagogue for winter.
Jewish residents of Vabalninkas made their living mostly in small trade, crafting, light industry, and agriculture. According to the 1931 government survey, there were ten stores in Vabalninkas , seven of them owned by Jewish people. According to the same survey, Jews owned eleven light industry factories: three flour mills, two bakeries, two wool-combing workshops, one spinning mill, one leather factory, one felt factory, and a power plant. The most famous native of Vabalninkas is Rabbi Elazar Menachem Man Shach (1899-2001), the leading Lithuanian-Jewish Orthodox rabbi in Bnei Brak, and the founder of the Degel HaTora political party representing Lithuanian (non-Hasidic) Ashkenazi Jews in the Israeli Knesset.
On June 27, 1941, five days after the German invasion into the Soviet Union, the German army entered Vabalninkas. In mid-August 1941 the Jews were ordered to gather at the shulhoyf and bring along food for three days. After a short time, they were transferred by trucks to the larger city of Pasvalys. From there on August 26, 1941, together with the local Jews they were taken to the Zadeikiai forest. There all were shot and buried in prepared pits. On that day 1,349 Jewish men, women and children were murdered.

The Jewish cemetery in Vabalninkas is located on the outskirts of this small town. It is surrounded by a fence and has around 200 gravestones mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries.