Vegeriai Jewish Cemetery
Vegeriai (Veger in Yiddish) is a village situated in north-western Lithuania, in the Samogitia region, near the Latvian border. The exact date when Jews first settled in Vegeriai is unknown, however judging from the dates recorded on gravestones there must have been a community there from at least the start of the 19th century. Local researchers claim that Jews may have already settled in this part of Lithuania (including Vegeriai), in the 17th century.
The Jews made their living from petty trading, peddling, agriculture, and taverns keeping. The economic condition of most of the Jewish families in the town was exceedingly difficult. The Jewish community held limited social and public activities due to the size of its population, which was always very small. Vegeriai’s Jews had a Beit Midrash and a brick synagogue, built in 1890. However in July 1941, the synagogue was closed, and after the war, the building was demolished. The plot was later used for agricultural activities. In 2017, archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of the synagogue, the mikvah and a school. Between 1921-1926, among the 18 Jewish families who lived in Vegeriai were: five widows and one widower, four peddlers, who traded in the surrounding villages, two shoemakers, two butchers, a builder, a tailor, a market stall owner, and a horse merchant.
On the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, 50 Jews lived in Vegeriai. A few weeks after Germany conquered Lithuania in summer 1941, armed Lithuanian nationalists transferred the entire Jewish population of Vegeriai to the town of Akmene. On August 5th 1941, the Jews of Vegeriai, together with the Jews of Akmene, were taken to Mazeikiai and were shot to death and buried in mass graves in the vicinity of Mazeikiai.
The exact date of the establishment of the cemetery is unknown, however it is known to have existed since the start of the 19th century. Since the summer of 1941 the cemetery has been abandoned. It was not purposefully destroyed during the Soviet era, however, it was neglected. In 1993, when the cemetery was registered into the list of Lithuanian Cultural Heritage, only 20 tombstones and their fragments were found. There is a memorial stone, with an inscription written in Yiddish, Hebrew and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. Sacred is the memory of the deceased”.