The Old Jewish Cemetery in Užupis, Vilnius

WORTH VISITING:

In the 19th century the road from Vilna Old town through Užupis leading to the Jewish cemetery sometimes was called a death road. It received such a macabre name because of long funeral processions that were going through it in 1831-1959. Do not hesitate to take a few steps from the usual routes in the Vilna Old town and find this territory of previous Jewish cemetery as a place inseparable from Vilna Jews history in the 19th century – beginning of the 20th century.

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BRIEF HISTORY:

In 1829, the second Jewish cemetery in Vilnius was established in Užupis. Jewish community immediately took care of both ritual and practical use of the cemetery – a mourning house with a washing room was built in the center of the territory and water supply was introduced to the territory as well.  The burials in this cemetery began in 1831, the territory was expanded several times due to the growing needs of the Vilna Jewish community.  At the beginning of the 20th century,  family chapels, obelisks, and monuments became popular in this cemetery. In 1959 Soviet authorities in Lithuania decided to close this cemetery and in 1965 it was totally demolished. During the period of 1830–1939 around 70 thousand people were buried in this cemetery, many famous people of the Vilna Jewish community included. When the cemetery had been destroyed some of the famous Vilna Jews were reburied in the new Jewish cemetery on Sudervė road in Vilnius.

CURRENT SITUATION:

When in 1968 the cemetery has been razed to the ground, this territory was not used for a decade. In 1975 Ritual services palace was built in this place and eventually, apartment buildings were built around this territory as well. In the meantime, the old tombstones from Jewish cemetery have been tossed around Vilnius – for example, they were used for building stairs on Tauras hill or National Martynas Mažvydas library. After Lithuania regained independence these known buildings from the tombstones have been dismantled and tombstones were returned to the previous cemetery territory.

At the moment there is a memorial in the previous territory of Jewish cemetery on Olandai street in Užupis. It was erected in 2004 from previous tombstones in this Jewish cemetery. In the same year, part of the old cemetery gates was rebuilt as well. Also, there are still about 70 separate tombstones or their fragments in the territory of the old Jewish cemetery – these were returned only in 2016.

LOOKING AROUND:

Jewish street, 54.679532, 25.285090

The place of the Great Synagogue and shulhof (jid. shulhoyf) (Žydų g. 3), 54.679901, 25.284511

The mausoleum of Vilna Gaon and his family (Jewish cemetery, Sudervė road, 28), 54.712898, 25.234477

A sculpture of Vilna Gaon (Žydų g. 3), 54.680137, 25.285079

Choral synagogue Taharat ha–Kodesh (Pylimo g. 39), 54.676070, 25.281575

Užupis synagogue (Užupio g. 36), 54.681471, 25.298633

A sculpture of doctor Cemachas Šabadas  (sculpt. Romualdas Kvintas), 54.677248, 25.284342

Pohulanka (now. J. Basanavičius street), 54.680145, 25.276134

The place of old Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės (Olimpiečių g. 1a), 54.690243, 25.291117

Jewish cemetery in Užupis (Olandų g. 22), 54.688106, 25.307748

The printing house of widow Rom and Rom brothers (A. Strazdelio g. 3), 54.675534, 25.292128

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