Jurbarkas Jewish Cemetery
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. Given the oldest tombstone is dated to the late 19th century, it can be inferred the cemetery was founded around that era.
Jurbarkas (Pl. Jurbork, Yid. יורבורג) is first mentioned in a Jewish context in the response of R. Meir ben Gedalyah from Lublin in the 1590s. The legal issue concerned a woman whose husband had been killed there. By 1650, there were already 7 Jewish households in the town. In 1766, the Jewish population was 2,333. The community maintained a cemetery and a few prayer houses, among them the magnificent wooden Synagogue built in 1790, one of the oldest in Lithuania. The majority of the Jews were involved in the timber industry and trade with Germany. The community was strongly influenced by the Haskalah ideas. In 1884, the local talmud-torah began to teach mathematics and Russian in addition to traditional subjects. One of its teachers was the famous Hebrew writer Avraham Mapu. In the late 1880s, after three years of negotiations with authorities, a cooperative credit company was established. During WWI, Jews were forced to leave the town and not all of them returned afterwards. In 1923, during the first census in the Independent Lithuanian state, the Jewish population of Jurbarkas was 1,887 Jews, or 43% of the total. The Jewish People’s Bank (Folksbank) was established in 1922. Zionism was very strong in Jurbarkas, one of the two public parks was even informally called Tel Aviv. The Soviet occupation of 1940 disrupted community life. Various sources have different figures for the number of Jews in Jurbarkas at the beginning of the war, the lowest being 1,319 and the highest 2,500. After the German invasion in June 1941, mass shootings began. The Jews were forced to tear down the old wooden synagogue. Three days later Torah scrolls and religious books were burned. Murders continued until September. On October 1, the mayor reported that no Jews remained in Jurbarkas. However, a few individuals survived, some joining the partisans.