Twin Reports Document Desecration at Lithuanian Jewish Gravesites
Two reports emerged this week documenting the seemingly irreverent use of historical Jewish gravesites in Lithuania for urban projects in recent times.
On Tuesday, a Jewish group said that a formal request had been submitted to the U.S. State Department asking for immediate contact with high-level Lithuanian officials to forestall construction at an already desecrated Jewish cemetery.
The authors of the request are concerned at the Lithuanian government’s go-ahead to developers to begin construction atop one of Eastern European Jewry’s “most sacred sites,” the Snipisek Jewish Cemetery of Vilnius.
According to the group, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkerslius dismissed the site as a “former Jewish cemetery,” and said “private investors could build a hotel, parking lots and other infrastructure” on its grounds.
Asrah Kadisha — a group which is dedicated to preserving Jewish gravesites — and the Conference of Academicians for the Protection of Jewish Cemeteries criticized what they said was the Lithuanian government’s “planned incursion and desecration of one of the Jewish people’s most sacred sites.”
Meanwhile also on Tuesday the Associated Press reported that archaeologists confirmed Jewish gravestones were used to construct a power station, also in Vilnius.
Across the street from the stone power station there had been a Jewish cemetery, but it was destroyed during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in the 1960s.
Vilinius Mayor Remigijus Simasius said he had already asked authorities to move the tombstones to a proper resting place.
Most of Lithuanian Jewry, which numbered well over 200,000 people and was close to 10 percent of Lithuania’s population before World War II, was murdered during Nazi occupation.