In 1928 in this market square, greeting President of Lithuania A. Smetona, a symbolic banner was erected near the newly erected synagogue, illustrating the friendship between Lithuanians and Jews, and their shared common vision of interwar Lithuania: “We, the Jewish community of Švėkšna, congratulate the leader of the nation, the President of Lithuania and his companions, and wish that the next time you come to visit our town, you would come here from Vilnius”.
Švėkšna was a typical shtetl, a small town, where Jews constituted more than one-third of the total town’s population. The Jewish community settled around the town’s main square, in the current J. Maciejausko, S. Dariaus, and S. Girėno and Gediminaičių streets. During the interwar period, Jews owned more than 20 shops and groceries, which offered a wide array of goods.
In the context of shtetls, Švėkšna is unique regarding the place where the synagogue was built. The local Jewish community managed to receive special permission to build a synagogue in the center of the town, near the main market square. The town was often ravaged by the huge fires. One fire that broke out in 1925 destroyed the entire central part of the town, including two synagogues. After the fire, only one synagogue was rebuilt.
In 1926 engineer L. Pronskis designed a synagogue, which was completed in 1928. The synagogue is built from bricks and has elements of Moorish architecture. This synagogue is also unique because it is one of several Jewish prayer buildings, which were visited by the President of Lithuania Antanas Smetona.
Even though the synagogue managed to survive the Second World War and the Soviet Occupation, its deteriorating physical condition had not received attention for a long time. However, the synagogue now is under reconstruction and soon will regain its former beauty. We are reminded about the town’s Jewish past by the building in Gediminaičių str., which has writings on its façade that tells us about the shop of Jewish shoemaker.
Former Cemetery of Švėkšna Jewish Community (Aušros str..) 55.522248, 21.622326
Mikveh (Pirties str.. 1) 55.515542, 21.624735
Shoemaker’s Šeftelovičius house (Gediminaičių str. 2) 55.516958, 21.623026