Touring Present-Day Vištytis Part 2
We now continued down the same street towards the Russian border which is at #15 on the Vištytis town map and near the Arnsforf House on Bert's map. The former synagogue was on the same road and we came back to it after visiting the border. The mayor told us when we were passing a former Jewish home as he said that they had doors directly opening towards the street while Lithuanian houses did not. The next picture says we are leaving Vištytis and Lithuania (all within a few hundred meters).
We are at the border in this picture and you can see all of the barbed wire and fencing. There is a Russian lake patrol boat at a dock just beyond the border and there were a few Russian border guards/soldiers watching us from the behind the fence and from the boat.
When I took this picture, they sounded a loud ships' horn to warn us not to take pictures. The Lithuanians ignored this. The mayor advised that this border crossing is not used. We asked him if the smuggling that we have heard about was still going on. He said that it has never stopped and lower priced gasoline (poorer quality) and cigarettes are smuggled to Lithuania from the Russian side. It sounded like Lithuanians filled up their gas tanks in the Russian section (Kaliningrad Oblast) and just brought it back, mainly to resell.
We then dropped in to chat with the Lithuanian border guards who were in a small guardhouse about 50 meters back from the Russian border.
They were quite relaxed and appeared to have low stress jobs.
We drove a short distance down the road to the site of the former synagogue, which now resembles a shed or garage and is now used by the school. The mayor told us that there was a second synagogue across the street and that one synagogue was for men and the other for women. I told him that this was not correct and have since deduced that it was probably the Mikva and steam bath described in Jacob Rubenstein's article about his visit to Vištytis. Please use the following link to Jacob Rubenstein's article about his life in Vištytis.http://www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/vishtinetz/rubenstein.html
This building appears to be a rectangular shed with a brick back and side then wooden planks and the front is corrugated metal with large doors (locked). The first picture (with stork) shows the side and the next two are moving around the building.
The last picture is from the rear and shows a bricked up window. The mayor asked if we wanted to go in, but we declined (Ruta later thought we should have). She asked him what had happened to the rest of the building, as the only original part is the brick rear. We were told that the residents had taken away the bricks for their own use.
Our next stop was the New Jewish Cemetery (used by the community up to its annihilation in the Holocaust in 1941). It is located about 500 Meters from the last buildings in the town. It is located at or near #1 on the Vištytis town map and is shown on Bert Oppenheim's map. We were told that the Old Jewish Cemetery is hard to get to and there is little to see. Ruta speculated that the tombstones might have been taken for use in construction. Bert Oppenheim did visit it in 1995.
Before driving into the site the Mayor called the Border Police and advised that we were going to the cemetery. Entry to the cemetery is allowed only with the Border Police's permission as the border goes very close to the cemetery. The road in was very rough, basically two ruts, and the cemetery had been recently cleared but the ground was very uneven. There was a commemorative stone placed there by the Town about 10 years ago.
The site was quite large.
From the following picture you can see back to the town from the cemetery.
On leaving the cemetery we came to one of the local attractions. It is the third largest stone in Lithuania and is just across the main road from the road going to the New Jewish Cemetery. It is marked as #3 in the Vištytis Town Map.
Local mythology states that the bowl on top of the rock never dries up, even during a drought as it is filled up because it is, "a footprint left by a devil." There is a ladder so you can go up and check, which Ruta has done in this picture.
The Russian border runs along the other side of this same road and it starts at the tree line set back from the road by about 75 meters. There are a few signs posted indicating the position of the border.
Our next stop was the Grist Mill, which is the site where the local Jewish population was murdered in 1941. On the way we passed a Soviet memorial dedicated to the Russian soldiers buried at that resulting from the fighting in Vištytis in 1944. The Mayor said that there were Germans who were coming to dig up various parts of the site as they believed that there were also German soldiers buried in the same grave.
We also passed a large new house surrounded by a fence. It clearly did not fit with the local architecture. The Mayor said that it built by wealthy out-of-towners as a vacation residence. He did not like what it did to the appearance of the town, but could do nothing about it.