by Samuel D. Gruber
The Radviliskis cemetery is a good example of how the land of Lithuanian Jewish cemeteries has often been privatized, but over the last two years the municipality has made an effort to reclaim much of the cemetery and to protect and restore it. Because access to the cemetery had previously been difficult, its existence and condition was hardly mentioned on previous surveys.
The cemetery is enclosed by a continuous wall; there is no mistaking the location. But this property was privatized in the early 1990s and a single owner lay claim to the entire parcel – and behind the wall no one could see what took place. A house is built at one end of the site and a small orchard is behind it. Much of the rest of the cemetery plot was probably farmed – or at least used for gardening. No stones are seen on much of the plot, and most likely stones were removed over the years to facilitate plowing and planting.
Meanwhile, the municipality has been cleaning the cemetery which will allow the documentation of the surviving gravestones, most of which are preserved, not surprisingly, at the edge of the cemetery furthest from the house.There appear to about 3-4 dozen intact and erect gravestones. There is also a substantial ruined brick tomb amidst the other stones.
MACEVA has agreed with local gymnasium (high school) that all stones will be photographed next summer. Then MACEVA will follow is established procedure for transcriptions and translations of all legible stones, and these will be made available on the organization's website.
The situation at Radviliskis is not perfect. A significant portion of the remains privately controlled and proportionately managed. Still, the improvement of the situation is great and shows that increasingly there is a willingness of Lithuania municipal official to take action to protect Jewish cemeteries - but hits often has to be stimulated by outside attention, and sometimes subtle pressure.