Pasvitinys Jewish Cemetery
Pasvitinys (Pashvitin in Yiddish) is a village in northern-central Lithuania. It is likely that the first Jews settled in Pasvitinys at the end of the 18th century. They made their living through small scale trading, peddling and crafting. The weekly markets and the four fairs each year were important sources of income. According to the all-Russian census of 1897, there were 763 people in Pasvitinys and 435 of them were Jewish (57%). During World War I, the Russian military exiled local Jews into the interior of Russia. After the war not all of the exiled Jews returned home. Those that did return rebuilt their homes and organized the community.
The first government census of the independent Lithuanian state in 1923, counted 818 residents in Pasvitinys, of which 274 were Jewish (33%). According to the government survey of 1931, all nine shops in the town were Jewish-owned. However, from the beginning of the 1930s, the Jewish community gradually decreased. The economic crisis in Lithuania and the open propaganda against Jewish shops caused many Jews to emigrate to South Africa, America and Israel. Before World War I, Jewish children received their primary education in chadarim. The cheder Metukan (a progressive cheder) was attended mainly by children from wealthier families, and in traditional Common cheder children of the affluent and the poor studied together. After 1918, Jewish children received their elementary education at the government school in Pasvitinys. Pasvitinys’ Jews were sympathetic to the ideals of Hibbat Zion. As the first Zionist Congress approached the Bonei Zion (Builders of Zion) society was established in the town. Its members participated in all its activities and fundraising. Most of the Zionist parties had supporters in the town. The Zionist youth organization HaShomer HaTsair had a branch in the town.
A few days after the war between Germany and the Soviet Union began, the Germans entered Pasvitinys. A short time later the Jews were imprisoned in the old barn on the road to Zeimelis and from there were taken out every day for farm work. One day they were loaded onto carts and driven to Zagare. It is believed that they were murdered together with Zagare Jews on October 2nd 1941.
The Jewish Cemetery in Pasvitinys was opened in 1862 when the local Jewish community purchased a piece of land for the burial of their dead. Previously the Jews of Pasvitinys used the Jewish cemetery of Joniskis. The cemetery stopped being in use after the Holocaust in Lithuania. The Soviet authorities did not demolish the cemetery, however there were no longer a Jewish community to take care of it. 120 gravestones were found in the territory in 1993, when the cemetery was included in the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. The territory is still unfenced, but periodically the descendants of the village visit the cemetery searching for their roots. Thanks to them, some of the gravestones today are nicely restored. There is a memorial stone with the inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The Old Jewish Cemetery. Sacred is the memory of the dead.”