Appeals to the European Commission on Piramónt
Jews and Other Minorities in Eastern Europe Concerned by EU Chief’s Addition of a Single Word about Old Jewish Cemetery
BRUSSELS—Back in October, 2015, high-level European Union spokesperson Chiara Adamo had replied to French human rights activist Didier Bertin on behalf of European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, assuring the public that
“Contrary to reports in some Lithuanian newspapers and international media, the planned renovation project at the Vilnius Snipisek cemetery is not supported by European Union funds.”
Asra Kadisha Calls on Lithuanian President, After Yad Vashem Visit in Jerusalem, to Cancel “Convention Center in the Vilna Jewish Cemetery”
NEW YORK—The Brooklyn based office of the international NGO Asra Kadisha that works to preserve Jewish cemeteries worldwide from desecration has released the following statement to coincide with the official visit to Israel of Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaitė. Titled “World Jewry Hopes that Lithuanian President’s Visit to Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem will Result in Government’s Cancellation of Development Plans on Vilnius Cemetery,” it calls on the president to cancel the mass desecration of the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Lithuanian capital by a convention center where crowds would cheer, sing and drink surrounded by many thousands of Jewish graves. The old cemetery is in the Šnipiškės (Shnipishok) district, and is known in Vilna Yiddish culture as Piramónt. The Asra Kadisha statement reads as follows:
First Moral Victory in the EU, in Effort to Prevent Unprecedented Desecration of Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Mr. Berel Fried of New York City, an Orthodox Jewish scholar and businessman, has authorized publication of the reply which he received from the European Commission to his letter of 25 August 2015, sent to Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, regarding plans for a convention center at the old Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. He is a frequent visitor to Vilnius, where he is known for his exquisite Torah readings at the Choral Synagogue.
International Rabbinic Delegation Issues Press Release on Visit to Lithuania to Appeal for Reprieve for the Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramont
NEW YORK—A spokesperson for the rabbinic delegation from the United States, Israel and Europe that came to plea for a reprieve for the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius issued the following press release upon completion of the group’s meetings. Its content contrasts sharply with the BNS report published in various Lithuanian media today.
International Rabbinic Delegation Travels to Vilnius to Plea for the Cancellation of Development Plans on the Šnipiškės Cemetery
Group Meets Deputy Chancellor and the Vilnius Mayor to Relay Calls of World Jewry to Spare 500-Year Old Šnipiškės Cemetery from Further Desecration
VILNIUS—A rabbinic delegation visited Vilnius yesterday and met the authorities to plea with them to cancel plans to construct a congress hall on Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery. The Šnipiškės cemetery was established over five centuries ago, and it interred the most famous Jewish leaders of Vilnius.
Mr. Berel Fried of New York City, an Orthodox Jewish scholar and businessman, has authorized this publication of his letter, sent earlier today to Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, regarding plans for a convention center at the old Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. He is a frequent visitor to Vilnius, where he is known for his exquisite Torah readings at the Choral Synagogue. The most recent public response from the European Commission is here.
Hon. Frans Timmermans
First Vice President of the European Commission
Serge Klarsfeld Calls on EU to Desist from “Structural Funds” for the “Cemetery Convention Center” in Vilnius
PARIS—Following publication earlier today of Didier Bertin’s letter (in French) to the president of the European Commission, Holocaust documentarian and Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld added his voice to the growing European chorus asking the Europan Commission’s “structural funds” program to desist from funding a convention center in the heart of Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery. The international opposition has been growing by the day.
Mr. Klarsfeld’s statement, issued in response to publication of Mr. Bertin’s, was released today, with Mr. Klarsfeld’s permission, by the France-based Association for a New Model of Human Rights and Duties.
Nous nous associons à votre protestation et il nous parait inadmissible que des fonds européens puissent soutenir ce projet sacrilège.
— Serge Klarsfeld
We join your protest and we consider as unacceptable that EU funds would support a project of such sacrilege.
— Serge Klarsfeld
Didier Bertin’s Letter to the President of the European Commission on the Old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery
Didier Bertin, president of the Association for the Promotion of a New Model of Human Rights and Duties, today sent this letter to the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The text was released by the Association.
- Monsieur Jean-Claude Juncker
- Président de la Commission Européenne
- Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200 – 1049 Bruxelles – Belgique
- Objet : Profanation du cimetière juif de Vilnius par les autorités lituaniennes utilisant pour cela des fonds de l’Union européenne.
- 22 Août 2015
Satmar Grand Rabbi and Rabbinical Court Call on Lithuanian Gov. to Abandon Convention Center in Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—The high rabbinical court of the most populous Hasidic group in the world, Satmar, today released to the media the text of its judgment of 6 July 2015 calling on the Lithuanian government to abandon its multimillion dollar convention center project in the heart of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery. The bilingual text, in rabbinic Hebrew and English, also calls on the American government to exert its influence to save the thousands of graves on the site from further desecration. The document was further signed, with an added note, by Satmar grand rabbi (der Sátmerer Rébe) Yekusiel Yehuda Teitelbaum on 10 July 2015.
“We were horrified to hear that the government of Lithuania intends to renovate an abandoned building in the heart of the ancient cemetery of Vilna, and turn it into a place of assemblage and entertainment; and invest a huge sum of money to make it into an attraction for the masses from their country and worldwide.”
— from the Satmar Rabbinic Court’s ruling
European Commission Redirects Cemetery Inquiry to Lith. Finance Ministry, Cites CPJCE’S “Close Cooperation”
VILNIUS—The following is the reply received to an inquiry concerning press reports that European Union funding of 13 million euros (around 14.5 million dollars at current exchange rates) would be sought as part of the new 22.8 million euro (= US 25.4 million dollar) budget for a convention and congress center in the heart of the historic Jewish cemetery at Piramont (Snipiskes). The current debate, entailing reports of high intrigue, has engendered a long paper trail and considerable international opposition to the project. A DH section is dedicated to the topic.
The recent rabbinic declaration dated Av 5775 (16 July−15 August 2015) concerning the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius was released in parallel Hebrew and English texts (and appeared this way in the 30 July 2015 American edition of Hamodia; it was reported on in its 29 July online edition, and in a 30 July DH report). The document is prominently cited in a statement issued earlier today by the office of Lithuania’s chief rabbi.
The English text was in effect a short summary. The following is a draft translation of the original Hebrew text of the proclamation, the image of which follows below.
Vilnius Professor of Architectural & Civil Engineering Speaks Out on Sports Palace at the Old Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Jewish Cemetery
While serving as deputy chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania in July and August of 2005 I participated in discussions at the Urban Development Department of the Vilnius City Municipality Administration regarding the construction of an apartment building near the Mindaugas Bridge. My own profession is civil engineering. Supported by representatives of the United States Senate, delegates of the American Jewish community demanded that the capital’s municipality halt the construction, as the site of the construction once used to be a Jewish cemetery.
O P I N I O N
VILNIUS—After two apartment and business buildings started to go up a decade ago on the grounds of the old Jewish cemetery at Piramónt in the Šnipiškės (Shnípishok) district of this city, across the river from the city center, a damaging international conflict ensued between elements of the Lithuanian government on the one hand and Jewish groups around the world and a number of Western governments on the other.
Protocol of 26 August 2009 Meeting in Vilnius on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in today’s Šnipiškės)
Related: The 2015 saga. Paper Trail. DH section. Other descriptions of the same 2009 agreement. The U.S. ambassador’s dispatch mentioning the rabbis’ payment for supervising “beautification” of the grounds. Embassy’s dispatch on the secrecy of the document. What were they actually paid? What were the same rabbis promised in 2015? In the past, the slightest digging in the area revealed human remains throughout.
The Question: Does the agreement (which a US State Department cable, published by Wikipedia, makes clear was supposed to remain secret) really permit a twenty-five million dollar convention center in the heart of the old cemetery (and millions in subsequent development) where people will cheer, revel, drink in bars, use toilets and parking areas on top of and surrounded by tens of thousands of Jewish graves paid for by grieving Vilnius families over a period of more than five hundred years? Comment in 2015 by (inter alia) the chief rabbi of Lithuania, resident rabbinical Vilna Gaon scholar in Lithuania, a Christian leader, a Vilnius Holocaust survivor, Gaon of Vilna’s descendants in Israel at Tel Aviv’s Vilna Gaon Synagogue, and the Central Rabbinical Council of the United States and Canada.
U.S. State Department’s 2009 Memo Refers to Rabbis Compliant on Old Vilna Cemetery, the Need for Paying for their Supervision, and — Need for Secrecy
VILNIUS—A memo from the United States Embassy here in the Lithuanian capital, dated 27 May 2009, released by Wikileaks (as PDF) and in the public domain, expressed optimism about solution of the disputes that had arisen over desecration of Vilna’s old Jewish cemetery. The cemetery, known to generations of Vilna Jews as Piramónt, is within the Šnipiškės district (itself in Yiddish: Shnípishok).
VILNIUS—Because of its renewed relevance, the press release of the Experts Group summarizing the findings of the Geophysical Survey, dated 3 September 2008, concerning the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, is republished:
U.S. State Department’s 2006 Conclusion about the Location of the Sports Palace in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
VILNIUS—The following excerpt from a 21 June 2006 United States report from the American Embassy here to the Secretary of State in Washington deals with questions around the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. The site, known to generations of Vilna Jews as Piramónt, is within the Šnipiškės district (itself in Yiddish: Shnípishok).
The document, entitled “Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius — Overview and Update,” now published at part of the Wikileaks Public Library of US Diplomacy (PDF here) emanates from a period when the “current debate” was focused on two new buildings, rather than on the Sports Palace per se.
O P I N I O N
Editor’s note: Reprint from The Times of Israel, where this article, with several photographs, appeared on 25 June 2016.
I am a Holocaust survivor. I was born here in Vilnius (Yiddish: Vílne), today’s capital of Lithuania, known forever as the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” for its vibrant Jewish culture, religious and secular, for hundreds of years. Today our post-Holocaust Jewish community is a tiny remnant, just a few thousand people, but we are vibrant, and, as always, a community of many opinions. Once again, a question has arisen that calls for robust discourse.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK—The Central Rabbinical Congress (CRC) of the U.S.A. and Canada today released to the media the facsimile of the original Hebrew letter it has issued concerning plans for a convention center at the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt, now in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania (background; the paper trail to date). The facsimile is followed by an English translation provided by the CRC.
“We turn to the enlightened government of Lithuania, and to the European Union, and say: Please Brothers—do no evil! O Heaven! Aren’t we all children of the same father and mother? Why are we different than every other nation, that you decreed such terrible things against us?”