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Molėtai, Utena County, Lithuania

To enlarge the map click here The 11th graduating class of the <i>Tarbut</i> school in Moletai (June 2, 1936) The 11th graduating class of the Tarbut school in Moletai (June 2, 1936) YVA, Photo collection, 3238/54

Jews began to settle in Molėtai in the 18th century. In the mid-19th century they comprised over 80 percent of the town’s inhabitants. During World War I, in July 1915, the Russian authorities deported the town’s Jews to Russia. After the end of the war only 2/3 of the deportees returned. In 1923 the Jewish population was 1,340 or 76 percent of the total population.
Molėtai had a Yiddish and a Hebrew school, as well as a traditional Talmud Torah. The Jews of Molėtai worked in crafts, small industry, and trade. At the end of the 1920s the local authorities decided to close dozens of shops owned by Jews. As a result many Jews decided to emigrate to the United States, Uruguay and, especially, South Africa.
In 1940, with the annexation of Lithuania to the USSR, all the stores and workshops in Molėtai, most of which were owned by Jews, were nationalized. Zionist political parties and movements were banned and Hebrew educational institutions were closed down.
The Germans occupied Molėtai on June 26, 1941. Seven hundred local Jews were murdered at the end of June and the end of August 1941.
The Red Army liberated Molėtai from the Germans in the summer of 1944.