Viesintos Jewish Cemetery
Viesintos (Vishinte in Yiddish) is a small town in central Lithuania, 28 miles east of the district capital Panevezys. Jews first settled in Viesintos in the 19th century. According to the census in the Russian Empire of 1897, there were 400 Jewish residents out of 741, which was 54% of the town. Before WWII there were around 20 Jewish families in Viesintos. The majority of the Jews made their living from storekeeping, petty trade and crafting. Almost every family had an auxiliary farm, which included a vegetable garden, orchards, a cow and poultry.
The relations between the Jews and the owners of the town’s lands, the Komar family, were very good. In the summer of 1879, when the Jews of Viesintos began building the Beit Midrash, the head of the Komar family, General Constantin Komar, supported and encouraged them. He also gave them the land for the cemetery. When the aristocrat passed away, many of the town’s Jews attended his funeral.
During the period of the Independent Lithuanian State (1918-1940) Jews owned 20 stores and 4 taverns in Viesintos. The majority of their income was made from farmers from the surrounding areas during the weekly market day. Outside of the market days, the storekeepers and their families engaged in crafting and petty trade in nearby towns. Among the 33 artisans in the town were: 10 seamstresses, 5 coachmen, 4 tinsmiths, 3 tailors, 3 carpenters, 3 butchers, 2 glaziers, 2 shoemakers and 1 chimney cleaner. In 1937, the number of artisans had fallen to 14: 3 butchers, 2 tailors, 2 tinsmiths, 2 shoemakers, a baker, a carpenter, a leather worker, and 2 photographers.
The building of the Beit Midrash was completed in 1882. In 1911, a Yeshiva was built in Viesintos. The religious and social life concentrated around the Beit Midrash and the Yeshiva. The Shas society was active there and it had dozens of members who studied Judaic studies. The Yeshiva and 3 educational institutions of the “Cheder” type were operational for many years.
On June 22nd 1941, after Germany occupied Lithuania, the Jews suffered severely as Lithuanian nationalists took control of the town. At the end of September 1941, the Jews of Viesintos were taken to Kupiskis, where they were murdered together with the Jews of Kupiskis and were buried in a common mass grave.
The Jewish cemetery dates back to the beginning of the 19th century. There are over 100 gravestones and their fragments remaining in the cemetery today. There is no fence, however an old cemetery gate still exists. The cemetery was in use until the destruction of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. In 1998 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”.