We would be delighted to show you Lithuania's treasured port city, formerly known as Memel, on our Jewish Klaipeda Tour. Lithuania’s third largest city will captivate you with its tranquil lagoon, its white sand beaches, and its distinct German flavour.
Built on the mouth of the river Danė, this picturesque Baltic city has offered a strategic advantage to anyone in need of a stronghold throughout history. The first to take advantage were the Teutonic knights who built the Klaipeda Castle in 1252. Despite the heavy damage it has suffered over the centuries, its fortification walls have been preserved, with other parts of the castle being reconstructed. The Castle’s Towers offer a beautiful panoramic view extending across the city.
The Old Town of Klaipeda reflects the strong German influence left after their ruling. A large number of old houses were built in the typical German Fachwerk style, featuring 18th-century wood-framed buildings, giving Klaipeda a warm, inviting feeling ,as though it were a small fisherman’s town.
The central point of the city is the Drama Theatre Square, home of the neoclassic Drama Theatre, and a typical meeting point for locals. Located on the same square is the symbol of the city, the famous monument to Taravos Anike, a character from a popular German folk song and yet another example of the strong German cultural influence.
Another eye-catching site is the educational vessel Meridian, offering a marine exposition and the means to learn all about Meridian’s structure, the gadgets used on the ship and its former voyages.
When it comes to entertainment, Klaipeda boasts dolphin shows and maritime exhibitions within the Lithuanian Sea Museum situated in a 19th-century fort.
Klaipeda’s Jewish Heritage represents an essential part of our tour, since, like most important cities in almost every European country, Klaipeda too has a rich Jewish history. Jews were residents of Klaipeda as early as the 15th century, and the city archives contain documents of "Jew-taxes." The community was dissolved in 1567 when the Jews were ordered to leave the city within five months. With a few exceptions, Jews were only allowed to come to Klaipeda once a week for business reasons until 1812, when the limitations on Jewish settlement were lifted as a result of the emancipation granted to the Jews of Prussia that year. In 1823 a Jewish cemetery, the first Jewish institution in the city, was consecrated. In the middle of the century, the two groups in the Jewish community, the German and the Polish-Lithuanian Jews, founded their own synagogue, while the Jewish hospital was erected in 1870.
While just 488 Jews lived in the city in 1905, the Jewish population grew dramatically in the period after World War I, as did the number of Jewish-owned businesses.
When the region was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1939, almost all of Klaipėda’s 7,000 Jews managed to escape to Lithuania. Nevertheless, they didn’t manage to escape from the Nazi terror; as the war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out in June 1941, all of Lithuania was occupied by the Germans, and the fate of the Klaipeda refugees was the same as that of their Jewish brethren in their new homes.
Some returned in 1945, and by 1967 the Jewish population numbered about 1,000.
The Sinagogų gatvę (the streets of Synagogues), home of the current local Jewish Community and the remnants of the former Jewish Cemetery, form what is the continuation of Jewish life in Klaipeda.
Embark on a journey both thrilling and relaxing through Klaipeda’s past and present with our Jewish Klaipeda Tour!