Jewish Rights Group Opposes European Funding for Convention Center on Site of Lithuanian Jewish Cemetery
The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it was opposed to a Lithuanian plan to seek European funding for the construction of a convention center built on top of a former Jewish cemetery in Vilnius.
“Obviously we oppose the plan,” said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jewish rights group’s Israel office.
“We are certain that an equally appropriate site can be found instead of disturbing the remains of deceased Jews,” he added.
Zuroff’s comments came shortly after Lithuanian Finance Minister Rimantas Sadzius said his ministry was waiting for the European Commission to confirm funding for the 19.7 million euro project, which includes acquiring a now derelict building that was constructed on the Jewish cemetery about 40 years ago.
The Lithuanian Competition Council believed that declaring the site of national importance would qualify the project for European aid. Lithuania is prepared to pay the 5 million euros for the abandoned building itself, but was seeking the addition 13 million euros from the European Commission.
Among opponents to the plan are Lithuanian Chief Rabbi Chaim Burshtein, Director of the Lithuanian branch of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem Pastor Michael Maas, and major Litvak rabbis in Israel, including Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, Rabbi Israel Isaac Kalmanovitz and Rabbi Tzvi Rotberg.
Earlier this year, archeologists had confirmed that Lithuanian Jewish gravestones were used to construct a power station in Vilnius, sourced from a Jewish cemetery that had been desecrated during Soviet occupation in the 1960s.
About 90 percent of Lithuania’s once-thriving Jewish community was murdered in the Holocaust.