Zidikai Jewish Cemetery
Zidikai (Zhidik in Yiddish) is a small town in northern Lithuania close to the border with Latvia, 14 miles from the district capital, Mazeikiai. Jews began to settle in Zidikai in the eighteenth century. According to the all-Russian census of 1897, there were 1,243 residents in town, 914 of which were Jews (73%). After World War I, the population of Zidikai dropped considerably. According to the first government census of 1923, there were 893 residents in town, 799 of whom were Jewish (89%). Most of the local Jews made their living through trades. A few were peddlers who traded in the nearby Kurland villages. In 1780, a wooden synagogue was built in town and was known as the “cold synagogue” as it was not heated in winter. Later, a Beit Midrash was built whose congregation were mainly less-educated people. Due to its geographic remoteness from larger towns and centers of education, the Zidikai community was very traditional, and every innovative idea evoked strong opposition. A dispute erupted following the decision of the synagogue Gabai to replace the prayer stands (shtenders) with more comfortable benches for praying. It took years to overturn this entrenched thinking, however the decision was eventually implemented after rabbis from the nearby communities of Ylakiai, Seda and Pikeliai intervened. According to the government survey of 1931, seventeen stores operated in Zidikai at that time, thirteen of them (86%) belonging to Jews: eight textile shops, two food stores, two tools and iron stores, one haberdashery shop, one engaged in the grain trade, and one butcher shop. According to the same survey Jews owned the power station, the flour mill, the wool combing shop, the millinery shop for men’s hats, and four leather processing factories. In 1941, approximately 40 Jewish families (150 people) lived in Zidikai. Upon the invasion of the German army into Lithuania on June 22nd 1941, many of Zidikai’s Jews attempted to escape to the Soviet Union, however only a few succeeded. The majority of them perished on the road, while a few reached Kaunas and ended up in the ghetto. In July 1941, the Jewish men and women were separated. The men were transferred to Mazeikiai and locked in barns near the Jewish cemetery where Mazeikiai Jews were already imprisoned. On August 3rd 1941, they were murdered at the local Jewish cemetery. Six days later, women and children were murdered at the same place. The Jewish cemetery was established at the end of the 18th century. Around 35 gravestones or their fragments remain in the cemetery. The cemetery was in use until the destruction of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. 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 and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. May their memory be eternal”.