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My Karnofsky family is from Vilkija, Lithuania. Vilkija is a small village or shtetl about 20 kilometers west of Kaunus. It is located at 55 03' N and 23 35' E.
We met two local Lithuanian woman who take care of the cemetery and keep it from being overgrown. They have erected small stakes around the cemetery to form a fence and are starting to plant pine saplings. When asked if they get paid for doing this they said, "No. It is our duty to due this. As Lithuanians, we must remember."
The small parking lot in town, just past Kovno stree on the right was the site of the synagogue. It's on the edge of a steep incline with a beautiful view of the river and pastures. All that remains are part of the brick foundation at the bottom of the incline. We were told the synagogue was destroyed when the road was paved.
A number of people, including the descendants of Karnof(v)sky's trace their routes to Vilkija. Click here to see the list.
Seredzius is a small village a few kilometers west of Vilkija. Virtually nothing remains of the Seredzius Jewish cemetery. The former cemetery is just up the hill from the Christian cemetery, across the street from the church. From the church, down the path there is a small steep incline. There is a modern memorial stone representing what used to be there. We did find a Jewish gravestone fragment on the path with the Hebrew word "nefter" (departed) on it. The Jewish cemetery probably used to be on the grassy incline up from the path.
We did find 2 1/2 overlooked Jewish gravestones back in the woods. To find these stones: Facing the memorial, there are old dirt steps up on the left side. Walk up and follow the path to the left about 30 meters. You will come to the back of a yard of an old house. Turn right and walk across the back of the yard. Walk through the bushes about 10 meters. In a small clearing there are 2 stones near the small drop off. Then there are 2 broken stones or bases along the drop off about 10 meters through the woods.
In the Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, New York, there is a burial society for the landsmen of Vilkija and Seredzius.
Alove is a very small village about 5 km east of Alytus. I was not able to find a Jewish cemetery. An old man did point out three houses that used to be owned by Jews. It is possible that some of my Kotlowitz family lived in Alove.
In Alytus, we found an old, brick former synagogue. Is is about 1 km from the center of town and the police station. Just the shell remains. You can poke your head inside through one of the broken windows around the back. We were told that the Jewish community cannot afford to fix the building and the city doesn't know what to do with it.
To find the mass murder site in Alytus: From the police station, go to the dead-end (at the pedestrian street). Turn right and go straight about 1 km to the dead end, then keep on going in the car to the very end. The site has multiple memorials, both Jewish and Lithuanian. There are also about 10 large white pyramids scattered in the woods that are probably located over the former killing pits. One of the signs there says in Lithuanian, "Be still. For the ground you walk on is filled with blood."
There are two Jewish cemeteries is Zarasai. The old one is on a very beautiful peninsula. The stones were in relatively good condition. We could see about 80 stones, but more were in the woods and were completely overgrown. The other, newer cemetery is still in use. It is maintained by the town and is in very good condition.Back to: Home, Genealogy