Historical Jewish quarter in Kulautuva


During the interwar period in Lithuania, Kulautuva resort was nicknamed “Jewish Palestine” because the majority of vacationers were Jews from Kaunas and other nearby cities. Although its landscape is not similar to Palestinian in any way, many people found Kulautuva relaxing place for a summer break from the city.  There was a saying between its sworn visitors, that if You are not healed by this special air in Kulautuva, there is no way that something else would heal You.  So breathe in the fresh healing air of Kulautuva and take a walk through Jewish heritage in this resort!

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In 1933 began a history of Kulautuva as the first official resort in newly independent Lithuania. However, this town between the pine forests is already mentioned in the sources of the 19th century. But during the interwar period, it put itself on the map – Kulautuva became one of the main competitors with Palanga. Kulautuva was a summer leisure destination for Lithuanian citizens even before it was officially declared as a resort.  In 1929 the first sanatorium “Rest” was opened in Kulautuva, and it was owned by local Jewish man Ovsiej Portnov. There were famous pine, salt, and oxygen baths in this sanatorium, and soon foreign vacationers started to come to Kulautuva as well. New business began to open up in Kulautuva in the 1930s – cinema theatre, casino, photo-atelier. In 1935 Roman Polovinsky opened a luxurious hotel “Vita”, which had a tennis court, casino, and restaurant. The building of “Vita” is changed but extant to this day, You can visit it on Poilsis street no. 5.

During the interwar period, local Jews in Kulautuva constituted more than 60 percent of the local population, and most summer vacationers in the town were Lithuanian Jews as well. So it is quite strange, that the local Jewish community built a synagogue in Kulautuva relatively late – only in 1935. Before that religious Jews used to gather for common prayers in an outside restaurant owned by Lidija Fugelevičiūtė. The new wooden synagogue building distinguished not only from other local buildings, its exterior was very different from other wooden synagogues in Lithuania. Unfortunately, this unique architectural project by I. Trakman was used as a storage house after the Second World War. Later the building was reconstructed and turned into a cultural house with a library on the first floor. In 2016 due to its poor condition, the building was demolished.


In 2017 Kulautuva regained its official status as a resort. However, the current resort drastically differs from its historical predecessor. Historically all summer houses stood in the center of the town – today we can see many of them still there, but they are not used for summer vacationers anymore. In the current Krantas street, there is a line of wooden houses, where operated main resorts shops owned by local Jews.  In the current school of Kulatuva (Lelijos str. 15) was a vacation house for the students of Jewish association “Jeshurun”. Not far away from this students` vacation house was a boarding house with an outside restaurant owned by Lidija Fugelevičiūtė. Later, Lidija was saving Jews from Nazis during the Second World War and is one of the Righteous Among the Nations. Her sister Ludmila is also on this list, she saved about 15 Jews (mostly children) in her manor next to Klevinė river. Today the memory of this great family in Kulautuva is preserved with a roof pillar in the town`s square built by the nephew of these women in 2014.


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