The Holocaust-era mass graves, mostly from 1941, when entire communities of hundreds of years’ standing were murdered and buried by the Nazis and their many local collaborators, should not be confused with the remnants of old Jewish cemeteries. Unlike Belarus and some other countries in the region, Lithuanian law protects these historic sites, which sometimes contain historic stones that are hundreds of years old. A project to enable anyone who reads the Jewish alphabet to read and understand these stones was recently initiated (see http://defendinghistory.com/the-language-of-litvak-gravestones-a-dictionary-by-dovid-katz). Much remains to be done, including demanding the dignified removal of stones used for various inappropriate purposes (such as church steps in central Vilnius).
In addition to his work in discovering, identifying, and lobbying municipalities and government agencies to mark the mass graves, Joseph Levinson in the 1990s pioneered the discovery, inventorization and description of the surviving old Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania. Very recently, a current project that raises funds for Jewish cemeteries made fun of the earlier work done “on a typewriter”: “However, this work was undertaken in the times of typewriters and before the era of the internet and therefore, unfortunately, none of this information is available on the web.”
The Joseph Levinson website is proud that in the 1990s, long before it was popular or a basis for fund-raising, J.Levinson used his typewriter to record every cemetery or cemetery remnant he found. Here are three sample pages of his typewritten registry of cemeteries, given to the archive of the Lithuanian Jewish Museum, from the year 1996. Thanks to records kept on typewriters, it was then easy to transfer the data to computers without having to do all the spadework again!
In addition to these typewritten pages, we present here a selection of photos of old Jewish cemeteries made by the Joseph Levinson team in the 1990s.
The scanned document (see below) is The Transfer-Acceptance Act of the materials that J.Levinson gave to the Archive of the Lithuanian Jewish Museum.
The submission date was 2 February 1996.
The cover page says: Material, Jewish cemeteries’ restoration, ordering and registration documentation. Compiler J.Levinson
The first page title is: The List of files submitted to the Archive of the Lithuanian Jewish Museum
The columns of the table presented say (from left to right): Sequence number; Name of city, region; File number; Number of pages submitted; Number of pictures; Remarks.
For instance,Ignalinos rajonas (Ignalina region): File number 7, Pages submitted 39, Ppictures 18
Šilalės raj. (Shilale region): File number 40, Pages submitted 33, Pictures 4 plus 28 photo negatives