June 2, 1936
The eleventh graduating class of the Tarbut school in Moletai, Lithuania
On the eve of World War II, approximately 350 Jewish families lived in Moletai, Lithuania, comprising 75% of the town’s population. Most of the Jews in the town worked in trade and various crafts. For example, Jews owned four of the town’s five restaurants, and the textile production and sales industries were almost completely owned by Jews.
A third of the town’s Jews were Zionists, another third were “Bundists” and workers, and the remaining third were ultra-Orthodox. Consequently, educational institutions from all of the different streams of Judaism were active in the town: a Talmud Torah, a Yiddish School of the “Cultural League” – and a Hebrew School of the “Tarbut” Network, which opened in 1925. This photograph of the eleventh graduating class of the school along with their teachers was taken towards the end of the school year on June 2, 1936.
In August 1941, after the German invasion, many Jews were murdered in the town. Some managed to escape, while the rest of Moletai’s Jews were locked in the local Beit Midrash (Jewish study hall). After three days without food or drink, the Jews were deported in the direction of Vilna. Approximately one kilometer outside the town they were shot by the Nazis and buried in a mass grave.
The mass grave was discovered after the war, containing the bodies of approximately 700 men, women and children. In the early 1990s a monument was erected at the site, with an inscription engraved in both Yiddish and Latin: “In this place the murderous Nazis and their partners murdered on August 29, 1941, approximately 700 Jewish men, women and children.”
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 3238/54