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UTENA: Utena district and county PDF Print E-mail

Alternate names: Utena [Lith], Utiyan [Yid], Utsiany [Rus], Uciana [Pol], Uedainiai, Utian, Utien, Utsjany, Utsyany, Utyan, Uyana, Russian: ?????. ??????-Yiddish. 55°30' N, 25°36' E, 38 miles ENE of Ukmerg? (Vilkomir). 1900 Jewish population: 2,405. Yizkors: Yisker-bukh Utyan un umgegnt (Tel Aviv, 1979); Yisker-bukh fun Rakishok un umgegnt (Johannesburg, 1952) ; Lite (vol. 1) (New York, 1951) ShtetLink. One of the oldest Jewish communities in Lithuania, the first Jewish settlement dated from the sixteenth century. Census: Jewish population: 1897-2,405 (75%) and 1923- 2,485 and 5,443 Jews in the entire District of Utena (4.73%). Sizeable Jewish communities resided in Anykš?iai, Moletai, Užpaliai and Tauragnai. With lakes at either end of the town and a river through its center, four bridges united the two halves of the town. Mud marshes were a problem. Originally, the town was four km away, but moved at the end of the 18th century. During the Napoleonic War, the town was an important transport center on the Petersburg-Warsaw highway. The small Ponovezh-Gluboke railroad line opened in the late 1800s. The population of about 600 families-was 95% Jewish. The compact town with wooden straw-roofed houses was a fire hazard  The pre-WWI Utian economy, with neither large business nor industrial capabilities, was poor. Czarist repression and conscriptions comtined to make emigration to America, South America and South Africa appealing. During WWI German occupation, a prison was built with no courts. Utena District was composed of twelve rural districts. In the inter-war period, the once muddy town was modernized, doubled in land size and tripled in population. New streets divided into hundreds of blocks were divided among the Christians with not one Jew. Almost all streets in the old town were paved with sidewalks added. Lithuanians purposely campaigned to "buy Lithuanian", hurting the Jewish businesses. Jews still rented land or orchards. The kahal property was turned over to the folksbank, which became the limited Jewish community focus. During Independent Lithuania and German occupation, Utena was the district center. Before Nazi occupation, Utena had four synagogues: one on Kauno Street, another in Utenio Square, the other two in the Market Square, gymnasiums instructing in Hebrew and Yiddish, and an elementary school with Yiddish instruction for about 770 children. Utena had a public Jewish library, various charity organizations, divisions of political parties and sports clubs.  [March 2009]

REFERENCE: Utianer Benevolent Association (New York, N.Y.) Title: Records, 1937-1977. Description: .6 linear ft. Notes: Landsmanshaft of Jewish immigrants from Utena, Lithuania. ... YIVO collections are in Yiddish, Russian, Polish, English, Hebrew, and other European and non-European languages. Location: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, NY. Control No.: NXYH89-A816 [December 2000]

CEMETERY: Gravestones dated from the 1600s.

MASS GRAVES: Anti-Soviet Lithuanian collaborator squads with 484 men began activities in Utena District in July 1941. On June 24, men from Nemeikš?iai village (4 km from Utena) gathered 40 men and occupied Utena, disarmed four militiamen, and released all prisoners from NKVD custody. They also disarmed small Red Army groups crossing the town and retreating communists. On the evening of June 24, two NKVD buses came to Utena with two groups of men. After a battle, the partisans left. On June 25, a fierce battle for the town broke out on the highway from Utena to Ukmerge between German and Soviet military units. That evening, the Germans occupied Utena. Their shelling seriously damaged the center of Utena, mainly belonging to Jews. A Lithuanian Commander's Office opened; and an 80-man squad of auxiliary police (collaborators) was set up. The majority of the town's Jews did not attempt to flee into the Soviet Union. Persecution of Jews began from the very first days of occupation.  Jews were forced to perform public works  wearing a Mogen David, were prohibited from using sidewalks, and had their property looted. Jewish houses were marked and rabbis scorne. Religious books and other valuables were looted from Utena's synagogues that were turned into temporary custody sites. Some arrested Jews were taken to Utena prison. On July 1, posters all over the town stated that all Utena Jews must leave the town in twelve hours. Those refusing to obey the order were threatened with shooting. Utena white-bands started driving about 2,000 Jews from their homes to a camp within Šiline forest. Nearly daily, a group of young Jews (from 35 to 40 men) were taken from the camp and executed in Raše forest (about 2 km from Utena). In the camp, jewelry, money and other valuables were taken from the Jews. The first mass execution of Utena Jews was carried out on July 3, 235 Jewish men and 16 women were shot in Raše forest by the "flying squad" of Hamann from Kaunas and local white-bands. Utena Ghetto was small so most Utena Jews were kept in the Šiline forest camp and others in prison. The Ghetto in the synagogue on Ežero Street was fenced with barbed wire. People in the Ghetto lived under unsanitary conditions with food was in very short supply. Typhus broke out. On August 7, the second massacre occurred. The squad led Hamman and local white-bands gunned down 483 Jewish men and 87 women in Raše forest. The Ghetto of Utena and the remaining Utena Jews were killed on August 29 -- adult men and women, children, babies and the elderly were shot by Hamann's squad and Utena white-bands that murdered 3,782 Jews from Utena and Moletai. Three large ditches and several pits in Raše forest hold the remains of between 4,600 and 9,000 murdered Jews from Utena town and district. Only a few Jews from Utena survived WWII. [March 2009]

Forest of Rase, 2 km from Utena; 179-181; pic. # 320-326 US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad

Press Release: [June 2012]

Digitization of the Jewish Cemetery in Utena, Lithuania

Maceva, a NGO (Charity) in Lithuania announces the completion of work in Utena (in Yiddish, Utyan), Lithuania.MACEVA preserves Lithuanian Jewish cemeteries. Goals include:

1.       Collect, catalogue and publicize information about all the pre-WWII Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. Document through photographs all remaining tombstones in all Jewish cemeteries throughout Lithuania.

2.       Translate all legible inscriptions from the gravestones and post this information on our website, so that everybody can get a list of cemeteries or a burial list free of charge

3.        Whenever possible restore/reconstruct, or at least clean cemeteries, with the assistance of and in cooperation with local municipalities

4.       Raise awareness among local communities about the Jews who used to live in the neighborhood and seek their support to look after Jewish cemeteries.


The Jews of Utena had two cemeteries, the old cemetery was completely destroyed, the now restored newer Jewish cemetery in Utena is in the Šilin? Forest, located on a small hill rather far from town, occupying about 0.45 hectares. It was abandoned to the whims of fate during Soviet times and was often desecrated by gold-hunters. In 1994 the cemetery was renovated and a commemorative plaque with inscriptions in Yiddish and Lithuanian was erected; with this recent work, it has again been placed into order, the stones cleaned, identified, photographed and transcribed, with all information uploaded to as a permanent record of the Jewish lives in Utena. Henceforth, the schoolchildren of Utena will maintain the cemetery and be taught of their Jewish neighbors that were slaughtered during the Holocaust.

Thanks to Maceva friends who volunteer to translate the digitalized inscriptions of over 850 tombstones from Utena cemetery this very important material, hidden and neglected until now, will become available for everyone interested in the Litvak heritage.

The full article about Maceva initiative in Utena can be found at (authors V. Develiene and R. Puisyte, translation Geoff Vasyl)

For further information, please contact Ruta Puisyte at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Maceva's website is at:

Last Updated on Monday, 25 June 2012 18:20
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