Kaunas

Jewish Kaunas

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Litvaks—Lithuanian Jews—are believed to have arrived in the Kaunas region at the start of the 15th century, originally settling by law in the nearby shtetl of Slobodka (now Kaunas’ Vilijampolė neighbourhood) just over the river from Old Town and the location of the wartime Kovno Ghetto. By the time of the Nazi invasion in June 1941, the city’s Jewish population numbered over 30,000 inhabitants. A vast and conveniently forgotten amount of the city’s interwar architecture was built using Jewish expertise and/or money, a contribution to the success of the newly independent country that was rewarded with their wholesale slaughter during the Holocaust. Today’s Jewish population is tiny, its two ageing communities constantly at war with each other, oblivious to the fact that several centuries of civilisation are soon destined to come to a final end.

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