UTENA (or Utyana; Rus. Utsyany; Heb. and Yid. אוטיאן), town in E. Lithuania. One of the earliest Jewish communities in Lithuania, Utena had a Jewish cemetery with tombstones from the 16th century. In 1765 there were 565 Jews in Utena and the communities under its jurisdiction; in 1847 they numbered 1,416, increasing to 2,405 (75% of the total population) in 1897. During the period of Lithuanian independence (1918–39) the town developed considerably and its Jewish population increased; in 1935 their number was estimated at 5,000 (about 33% of the population). The major source of livelihood was trade in flax, skins, and boar bristles. The community supported both a *Tarbut and a Yiddish school. The Germans arrived on June 25, 1941. On July 14 they removed the Jews from the town and during the month of August murdered most of them in the Rzhech forest. After the war the community was not reconstituted. There were about 50 Jews in the late 1960s, and no synagogue. In 1963 the Jewish cemetery was completely destroyed and its land earmarked for a building project. A monument has been erected for the Jews murdered by the Nazis.
Yahadut Lita, 3 (1967), 284–5.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.