Harvey Kaplan's Visit to Krakes, Sept. 2005
We reached Krakes via Dotnuva, a village with an 18th century church
and typical carved wooden crosses on the roadside. Krakes (or Krok
in Yiddish) is 14 miles (20 km) from Kedainiai. Like many of these
little towns, you could walk around Krakes and never know that there
was once a Jewish community, with synagogues and a range of religious,
charitable, cultural and Zionist institutions.
Krakes was on our list because in the 1852 List of Jewish Craftsmen in Ariogala, my great-great-great grandfather, Abram David Kaplan, aged 43, is described as a brick-layer from Krakes. It may well be that my Kaplan family was based in this town before they washed up in Ariogala.
There is a small Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of the town, which is quite overgrown, with stones sunk into the ground and heavily worn. Some stones are still legible, however, and there is no sign of vandalism or graffiti. We arrived in Krakes late afternoon, and it seemed like a ghost town. The one-time market square was deserted, and it was hard to imagine it on market day a hundred years ago, when it would have been bustling with Jewish traders hawking their wares. As usual, there is a fairly sizeable church, and a few shops. There are still a fair number of one-story wooden houses in varying states of repair, and geese, chickens and goats roam around the gardens. We saw no surviving Jewish buildings, although our guide was able to point out where at least one of the synagogues once stood.