Vievis Jewish Cemetery, The
Recently I visited my grandparent’s shtetl in Lithuania. Its former Yiddish name was Vevya, but it is now known as Vievis in modern Lithuanian. It is forty kilometres from Vilnius on the main road to Kaunas. None of the Jewish community buildings remain. The local gas company offices have been built on the site where the synagogue stood. However, in the centre of the town there still stand the wooded buildings that were previously mainly Jewish homes and shops.
Sadly, the Jewish cemetery, five kilometres from town, was also mostly destroyed in 1963 by the Soviet authorities when constructing the highway. On investigating I found that there were a few scattered headstones left, and I felt that this last evidence of a former Jewish community should be recorded.
I arranged for all the stones to be photographed. Svetlana Saratova from the Vilnius Jewish Museum organised it, Ana Sokoliskiene did the photography, and Mira Voiciukevic prepared the stones by dusting down and applying shaving cream to highlight the lettering. The cream washed away without leaving any after effect. Although the highlighting was very effective and photographed well, it was still necessary to revisit with the photographs to further study a few of the words and letters that were not quite clear.
There is only one 20th Centuryand thirteen 19th Century stones.
The 19th Century stones are quite modest and are mostly of rough hewn, undressed granite, and only between 12 inches to 24 inches wide. Patronymics have been used but there generally were no family names except Katz in the case of two Cohanim and also one reference to a Levite.
The 20th Century stone was seen and recognised by Odile Suganus, a French lady whose family left Vievis in the 1920’s. It was that of her uncle who died as a child. She had it re-erected as it had fallen over and there were signs of desecration to some of the graves. Ms. Suganus has written a book, MOSAIQUE, in French (published by Graphein, Paris, 2000), on her family research and visit to Vievis in 1991.
I was not fortunate enough to determine whether any of the graves were those of my direct ancestors, but as there were never more than a couple of hundred Jewish families living there, anyone not exactly mishpocha would at least be landsleit.
Generally, on 19th Century Jewish tombstones, patronymics were used rather than family names, so for them to be of use genealogically it is necessary to know the Hebrew names of the deceased, and the dates of death, but with luck, of course, something might turn up.
There are several Jewish cemeteries remaining in Lithuania, and although a few are still reasonably intact, and a few even well maintained by local people, most of the Jewish cemeteries are in a derelict, deplorable state, and, whenever possible, ought to be recorded before they are irretrievably lost.
To view a photograph of each matzeva, please click on the highlighted number in the left hand column.
*Reb is an Honorific title which is the equivalent of "Mr." It does not indicate that someone was a rabbi.
**Marat is the traditional Ashkenazi title of address for a woman, similar to Mrs. or Miss.
All of the stones are headed with the Hebrew letters Peh"Nun signifying "Here is concealed," and sometimes followed by the letters Heh"Heh for "HaKever hazeh" (This grave of) or "Halo Hoo" (It is he). Many of the stones end with the Hebrew letters Tof, Nun, Tsadi, Bes, Heh which is a Hebrew abreviation for "Thee Nishmato (Nishmata) Tz’roora b’Tzror haChayim" or "May This Soul Be Bound Up In The Bonds Of Life" referring to a quotation from 1st Samuel 25:29. On many of these tombstones the Hebrew year is followed by the letters Lamed Peh Kuf, indicating that the number is "abbreviated" and 5000 must be added to it.