Cemeteries and Mass Graves
DOCUMENTS | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY |OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
VILNIUS—On 19 December 2019, Defending History reported on the “Day of Shame” in this city, when representatives of the discredited “CPJCE” rabbis in London, a Haifa geotechnical specialist in tow, and the head of the state-sponsored “official” Jewish community together allegedly “morally sold out” the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery to Turto Bankas, a Lithuanian government state agency for development as a convention center where people would cheer, clap, sing, dance, drink at bars and flush toilets surrounded by thousands of Jewish graves on all four sides, including some of the greatest Jewish scholars of the last five hundred years. The international opposition to the “convention center in the cemetery” has been massive. It is a human rights issue in so far as such fates do not await cemeteries of the religious or ethnic majority.
The court hearing documents, kept secret in Vilnius, were released by a conscience-stricken London employee last week, and appear here in full translation for the benefit of all following the case. There are by now around 160 individual plaintiffs accepted by the court (who have signed affidavits affirming the burial of their ancestors and relatives in the cemetery); the court documents continue to refer by name to the first plaintiff only. In the interests of personal privacy, his/her name is blocked out. The trial is scheduled for 7 May.
‘United Lithuania’ Invites Public to Lithuanian Independence Day Event at Old Vilnius Jewish Cemetery
EVENTS | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
Vilnius Braces for May 7th “Jewish Cemetery Trial of Century”; Around 160 Plaintiffs Recognized by Court
OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | CPJCE (LONDON) | USCPAHA (WASHINGTON DC)
VILNIUS—At a hearing at the District Court of Vilnius City, at Laisves Prospect 79A on Monday, the presiding judge set Thursday May 7th 2020 as the date of the trial over plans of the state-financed property bank, “Turto Bankas” to establish a national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. The plaintiffs in the case are Jewish people whose ancestors and relatives are still buried in the old cemetery, at Piramónt (in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius). Of hundreds of claims submitted, sources close to the court reported that “around 160” have been accepted as legal plaintiffs for the trial, which is expected to attract expert witnesses from the United States and Israel as well as foreign media interest. There has been extensive international opposition to the convention center project, including impassioned pleas from major Lithuanian-origin rabbis internationally, most recently the doyen of Litvak rabbis, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a nephew of Vilna’s prewar Chazon Ish. A petition by Vilnius native Ruta Bloshtein has garnered some 47,000 signatures.
Doyen of Litvak Rabbis, Chaim Kanievsky, Signs Impassioned Plea to Save Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery from Convention Center Project
VILNIUS—The doyen of Litvak rabbis internationally, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, is among the signatories on a decree issued by the leading Litvak rabbinic court in Bnei Brak, Israel, the court of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz (1926-2019), concerning plans to erect a national convention center via conversion of a derelict Soviet building that lies in the center of the old Vilna Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (in the Šnipiškės district of modern Vilnius).
VILNIUS—Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, the editor of the Vieninga Lietuva (United Lithuania) website, and a contributor to DH for some years, has announced an event scheduled for midday this Sunday, February 16, Lithuania’s Independence Day. The day marks the declaration of independence of 1918, which led to the democratic Republic of Lithuania that flourished in interwar Eastern Europe. Posters for the event are available in PDF format in English, and in Lithuanian, and are reproduced below. All are welcome to the event, which calls on Lithuanian authorities to move the national convention center project away from the old Jewish cemetery to another venue. The project has attracted much opposition, as well as an international petition.
[last updated: 6 Feb. 2020]
EFHR’s Press Statement in English, Lithuanian, and Polish
Meanwhile, “CPJCE” London “cemetery specialists” fail to release “the secret agreement” they (with “Haifa geotechnocrat” in tow) signed on December “Day of Shame”. The agreement was signed many months after the matter was placed before the Lithuanian courts, and while it remains in litigation. Where is the rule of law?
Defending History calls for document to be made public at once. Catch up on coverage from recent months. See the scope of international opposition to “the convention center in the cemetery”…
A TALE OF TWO VIDEOS
(Satmar Aaronites and — Litvaks)…
VIDEO of London CPJCE (Satmar “Aaronites”) with prime minister of Lithuania (2015) [note: opposing Satmar “Zalmanites” have condemned the convention center in the Jewish cemetery]
VIDEO of top Lithuanian-origin (Litvak) rabbis explaining Jewish and Litvak views to ambassador to Israel (2020)
OPINION | MEDIA WATCH | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION
Note: This follows on from our report where links are to be found to the articles that elicited the present discussion.
Anyone who would claim that Ruta Bloshtein, a citizen of Lithuania, born and raised in Vilnius, is anything less than a staunch supporter of what is ultimately best for Lithuania, is sorely mistaken. She is a courageous leader of the Vilnius Jewish community and seeks only truth and fairness in Lithuania’s treatment of its minority communities. An abomination took place in Vilnius when it was under Soviet domination. A Sports Palace was constructed over a historical Jewish cemetery, where for some 400 years, every Jew – man, woman, and child – who died in Vilnius was buried. These include the graves of the Gaon of Vilna’s entire family (parents, wives, and children); R. Abraham Danzig, author of a famous Jewish code of law still in use and studied widely, and his family; and hundreds of other distinguished rabbis, scholars, poets, and scientists.
“United Lithuania” to Hold Peaceful Gathering on Sunday to Celebrate Sanctity of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
VILNIUS—A peaceful gathering will be held this Sunday, 12 January, AT 2 PM to celebrate the sanctity of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt, in today’s Šnipiškės district across the river from central Vilnius. The event will be organized by Vieninga Lietuva (United Lithaunia), a group of Lithuanians and Jews working together to make bona fide progress by dialogue and a search for basic truths — rather than just score PR or political points — concerning the issues at hand. In this case, the group has asked for the new national convention center project to be moved away from the five hundred year old Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery, which could be lovingly restored. The initiative’s website, Vieninga Lietuva describes the event in detail, and the event’s poster appears below.
What Website in Vilnius would Defame Leading Jewish Woman Activist to Deter Jewish People from Voicing Views?
[LAST UPDATE: 12 JAN. 2020]
OPINION | MEDIA WATCH | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION | JEWISH COMMUNITY ISSUES
VILNIUS—Yet again, an operative has allegedly been mobilized as fodder to personally attack a member of Lithuania’s small Jewish community as part of a campaign by some state-sponsored “official Jewish community leadership” to intimidate today’s Lithuanian Jews. If they stand up for a Jewish cemetery, and dare disagree with it becoming a national convention center, they will be smeared on the official website as liars, misleaders and secretly paid agents of some mysterious source of riches. This is a tragedy. It is part of a saga that will go down in Jewish history as possibly the worst case of state restitution for prewar Jewish property leading to disastrous results for the present and future of Jewish life on site, while providing glories and power for a tiny local elite and its “boards” of foreign fellow-travelers who relish coming to Vilnius for banquets and photo-ops with the high and mighty.
OPINION | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY |OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION
by Ruta Bloshtein (Vilnius)
This article appeared in Lithuanian on the website of the official Jewish Community of Lithuania. After the site’s editor refused to publish an English version on the site’s extensive English-language section, the author released this text for publication here. See also Ms. Bloshtein’s recent article in New York’s Algemeiner Journal. She is the author of the international petition concerning the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery.
In his article “On the Reconstruction of the Palace of Sports on the Old Vilnius Šnipiškės (Piramont) Jewish Cemetery into the New Congress Center” (“Dėl Sporto rūmų rekonstrukcijos ant esančių senųjų Vilniaus žydų Šnipiškių (Piramonto) kapinių į naują Kongresų centrą”), published on the Lithuanian Jewish Community website on December 12, 2019, the author expresses his concern over the possibility of the cemetery being desecrated for the third time if the decision to demolish the building of the Palace of Sports was made.
The author calls the suggestion to restore the cemetery a “delirious fantasy”—in effect a slur against the suggestion by highly esteemed Professor Sid Leiman, who has spent many years researching the history, plans, and epitaphs of the Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Cemetery in great detail.
Did a “Dubious Minyan of Ten State Property Bank Officials” with Alleged “Jewish Enablers” Just Sell Out the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery for a Multimillion Euro Conference Center?
Are leaders of some American Jewish organizations betraying Jewish interests for a pot of lentils from East European governments? AJC’s Andy Baker trashes Ruta Bloshtein’s petition and its tens of thousands of signatories; another one-sided YIVO “symposium” (but with powerful audience questions from Ms. Rebecca Cook and Prof. Bernard Fryshman)… Top state medals for Yivo and AJC leaders (see Yivo’s “politics in Lithuania” record from 2011). “History will be very clear about all this, notwithstanding the current mush achieved by some big PR bucks.” Recent PR shtik includes claiming some books found decades ago are “just now discovered” and recruiting an American academic (who helped cover for two new buildings on the old Vilna cemetery over a decade ago) to tell the media they are “the new Dead Sea Scrolls”…
If a new national convention center is indeed to open at the old Vilna Jewish cemetery, thousands each night would cheer, sing, clap, dance, use bars and flush toilets surrounded by thousands of Vilna Jewish graves going back over 500 years. Including the parents and son of the Gaon of Vilna. Just as the state-sponsored “2020 Year of the Gaon” gets underway, including a handsome new recombinated menorah coin.
The author is a native of Vilnius hailing from centuries of Litvaks, who has worked for years in the Judaica department of Lithuania’s Martynas Mažvydas National Library. She is a prominent member of Vilnius’s small Orthodox Jewish community. She is the author of the international petition to save the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. English translations of some of her writings are available online. For more on the 10 euro “Gaon coin” referred to, see its DH section. The views reflected in this article are strictly Ms. Bloshtein’s. The Lithuanian original of this article appeared in 7md (PDF of print version).
How does one hurt and humiliate a person (or a people)?
2020 has been declared “The Year of the Vilna Gaon and the Jewish Heritage.” Sounds solemn? It only sounds so. Empty pots make the most noise. What are these words based on? On plans to build a convention center on Jewish graves? On the remains of the Vilna Gaon’s family members and tens of thousands of other Jews. How does that sound? Like a mockery of the close to 50,000 Jews and Non-Jews from around the world who signed the protest petition. How does that sound? Like laughing at the sorrow of the venerable rabbis, of the great leaders of Lithuanian-tradition yeshivas. How does that sound? Like a rape of the very spirit, of the religious and moral norms of the entire nation.
Kokiais būdais galima užgauliai pažeminti žmogų?
Veiksmu, raštu ir žodžiu.
2020 metai paskelbti „Gaono ir žydų paveldo metais“. Skamba skambiai? Tik skamba. Tuščia puodynė garsiai skamba. Kuo pagrįsti šie žodžiai? Planais įrengti nacionalinį konferencijų centrą ant žydų kapų? Ant Vilniaus Gaono šeimos narių, jų palikuonių ir likusių dešimčių tūkstančių žydų palaikų. Skamba? Kaip pašaipa iš 50 000 pasaulio žydų ir ne žydų, pasirašiusiųjų protesto peticiją. Skamba? Kaip pajuoka iš didžiųjų litvakų ješyvų vadovų, garbių rabinų širdgėlos. Skamba? Kaip prievartavimas visos tautos dvasios, religinių nuostatų ir moralės normų.
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | JEWISH COMMUNITY ISSUES | USCPAHA | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
The original Lithuanian text appeared in Bernardinai.lt.
הייליקע ליטווישע רבנים, טײַערע חברים און חברטעס, בני ליטא, מײַנע געטרײַע בני ליטא, מיט אהבת ישראל און אהבת ליטא:
Four years ago Prof. Dovid Katz asked me to find a Catholic priest or nun who would publicly speak out regarding the fate of Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery. I failed to do so, but in empathy for my friend, I published an article in the web portal “Veidas” and gave academic talks at three conferences about conceptions which would help us appreciate why it would be meaningful to grant the demand by Jewish believers that we forego the Sports Palace and respect the Jewish cemetery which was there. Tonight in fifteen minutes I will present five images of how I imagine this cemetery, what it could mean for us.
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
The program of speakers and events. Facebook report with photos. Text of Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas’s keynote speech. Julius Norwilla’s photo gallery.
Lithuanian media: Main LRT evening news (from timecode 4:56). 15min.lt (report and photo gallery). Lithuanian text of Dr. Kulikauskas’s keynote address published in Bernardinai.lt. European Foundation for Human Rights (Lithuanian offices).
Lithuanian Polish language media: TVP Wilno; Wilnoteka.lt.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa Calls on Lithuania’s Leaders to Move Convention Center Project Away from Old Jewish Cemetery
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
JOHANNESBURG—The Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein, today added his voice to the international Litvak and wider opposition to state-sponsored desecration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt in the form of a national convention center surrounded by Jewish graves going back half a millennium in Vilna, the city once known as Jerusalem of Lithuania. The office of the chief rabbinate made public his letter to Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda and prime minister Saulius Skvernelis.
A PDF of his letter is available here, and follows below. Please use handles in the upper left-hand corner to turn pages.
Chief Rabbi of South Africa on Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
Schedule of September 23rd 2019 Events on Lithuania’s Holocaust Day, in Plea for Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery
VILNIUS—The following is the schedule for today’s events organized by Mr. Dov-Ber and Mrs. Chaya Fried of New York City in cooperation with the Vilnius Committee for Preservation of the Piramónt Jewish Cemetery (chaired by Julius Norwilla) and the European Foundation for Human Rights (represented by attorney Evelina Dobrowolska). The first event, at twilight, is on a ridge above the cemetery, moderated by Rabbi Yehuda Genut. The second, more formal, seminar is at the nearby Marriott Hotel, moderated by Mrs. Chaya Fried.
This Year’s Sept. 23 Events Remembering Holocaust to Include Pleas for the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt
Monday September 23 in Vilnius
Day of Prayer and Respectful Challenge to Spare Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) from Plans to Site a Convention Center in its Heart
September 23rd is Lithuania’s Holocaust Commemoration Day. It is because of the Holocaust that there are almost no local descendants of the many thousands of buried there to stand up for the dignity and integrity of ancestors’ graves. This is a matter of human and minority rights: it would not be happening to a five-hundred year old cemetery of the majority population. It would not happen in the west of the European Union, and must not happen in its east, whose peoples deserve the same standards of equal rights and human dignity. Cheering at conventions, drinking at bars and flushing toilets surrounded on all four sides by extant graves is not human dignity. Vilnius deserves better for the years and generations to come.
All welcome! Major Litvak rabbis and scholars will be flying in for the one-day event among them Rabbi Asher Arielli, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Rabbi Orin Reich, and Rabbi Yaakov Shapira . Local speakers include Vilnius Jewish Community head Simon Gurevich and Lithuanian philosopher Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas. Coordinated by Julius Norwilla, chair of the Vilnius Committee for the Old Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt, in cooperation with the European Foundation for Human Rights, whose appeal before the Vilnius courts is now supported by 235 affidavits, including the Elyashiv, Finkel, Levine, Segal, Shternbruch & Soloveitchik families. Established by Dov-Ber and Chaya Fried.Continue reading
OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | INTERNATIONAL PETITION | USCPAHA | CPJCE | ADMAS KODESH
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—The following is the text of the complaint that was filed with the UK Charity Commission by Stone King solicitors here, a firm specializing in the righting of alleged corruption by charitable organizations recognized by the commission concerning. The “Serious Incident Report”, as these are known in the UK, includes the following text:
“Put simply it is alleged that this Charity [CPJCE—“Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe” ], in collaboration, for payment, to the further destruction through development of the old Vilna Jewish Cemetery in the Snipiskes district of the modern Vilnius, the Capital of Lithuania (See Lithuania liveliest Cemetery” in The Times of Israel, 13.12.15). This proposed development has been met with universal protest and condemnation by the international Jewish Community. This includes an international petition which currently contains 45,000 signatures, a letter from 12 Congressmen, oppositions from the 12 greatest Lithuanian origin rabbis and a letter from Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites to the President of Lithuania dated 1.2.18. We set below for ease of reference a list of hyperlinks which demonstrates the scale of opposition.”