Vaskai Jewish Cemetery
Vaškai is a small town in Panevezys County, in northern Lithuania. The first Jewish settlers in Vaskai arrived in the 18th century. The community has always been small. According to the all-Russian census of 1897, there were 440 Jewish residents in Vaskai. On the eve of WWII, the Jewish community numbered 340 people. Vaskai made their living mostly by trading in flax and exporting it to England, with many of them being craftsmen.
In the 1930s due to competition from the Soviet Union, the price of flax went down significantly in the world market, bringing heavy losses to Jewish merchants with many businesses going out of business. Lithuanian cooperatives which were established in Vaskai also competed against the Jewish merchants. Seeing that their economic opportunities became significantly limited, many of them emigrated to South Africa and the United States.
Soon after the Nazi occupation of Lithuania in 1941 27 local Jews were accused of sympathizing and affiliating with the Soviet Rule and were executed in the Jewish cemetery. All of the other Jews, including the town’s Rabbi, were transferred within a few weeks to the nearby town of Pasvalys where they were murdered together with the Jews of Pasvalys by being shot on August 26, 1941.
The exact date of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. Of the nearly 30 standing gravestones, some are protected from weathering by the dense shrubs. 25 of them have clear inscriptions dating in-between 1895-1908. The cemetery was in use until the destruction of the Jewish community during the Holocaust. The cemetery was not demolished after the local Jews were murdered in 1941, however under the Soviet period, the cemetery was neglected. In 1992 the cemetery was registered into the Cultural Property Register of the Republic of Lithuania. There is a memorial stone with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery“.