HUMAN RIGHTS | LITHUANIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PETITION
VILNIUS—In March of 2017, Vilnius native and resident Ruta Bloshtein, author of the international petition on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery that has achieved 44,000 signatures to date, presented a copy of the petition with a full list of signatures to the office of the prime minister. In June of 2017, she received a reply from the government restating the supposed justification for desecrating the five hundred year old Jewish cemetery on the basis of “permissions” obtained from the (allegedly corrupt) “grave-trading CPJCE rabbis” of London, who are currently under investigation in London.
Over a year later, earlier this month on 3 July 2018, Ms. Bloshtein wrote to the prime minister asking for a meeting with his staff, following a constructive meeting with municipal officials last month. The entire correspondence appears below in English translation (original Lithuanian text here). The English translation of the 2017 letter referred to in the government’s reply is available here.
Not only do officials refuse to meet with Ms. Bloshtein and other concerned citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, but the reply from the Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister goes into triumphant detail about the glories of the convention center project that some patriotic Lithuanians honestly believe will be a source of shame to Lithuania’s beautiful capital for decades to come. Much of the reply concerns the state bank that deals with state-owned property, Turto Bankas, the subject of today’s piece by Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas on these pages.
But when, in 2015, the allegedly corrupt London “grave-trading” rabbis of the London-based CPJCE, who have nothing to do with Lithuania or Litvak heritage came to town to “give away the cemetery,” they were received with honor and fanfare by the then prime minister.
- From: Ruta Bloshtein
- Sent: Tuesday, July 03, 2018 10:21 AM
- To: SKVERNELIS Saulius
- Subject: Meeting on the old Šnipiškės Jewish cemeter
- Dear Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis
- We would like to meet with you to discuss the reconstruction project of the Palace of Concerts and Sports, which is being carried out despite protests of many Jews and non-Jews from around the globe against establishing a congress center on the old Jewish cemetery of Vilnius.
- Former meetings and open discussions with employees and experts in Vilnius Municipality (June 21) and Turto Bankas (July 2) give us hope that the government decision to establish a congress center on the old Jewish cemetery can be reconsidered.
- Best regards
- Ruta Bloshtein
- From: Andrius Kalindra
Sent: July 12, 2018 15:52
Subject: RE: Meeting on the old Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery
To: Ruta Bloshtein
CC: Henrikas Grigutis, Živilė Navickaitė
- Dear Ms. Bloshtein
- We thank you for your constant interest in the reconstruction of the Palace of Sports into a congress center. We would like to inform you that a year ago, in early June, 2017, the Office of the Government provided you an official document with information on the basic elements of the reconstruction currently carried out and the commitment of the Government to carry out all the works in coordination with the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the London-based Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, as foreseen in the 2009 agreement. We would like to inform you that the position of the Government on this issue has not changed.
- We would also like to inform you that state enterprise Turto Bankas has prepared documents for the procurement of the technical project of the reconstruction of Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports at 1 Rinktinės street, Vilnius. The technical project will be prepared according to the prepared project suggestions that were coordinated with the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe [CPJCE]. We plan to select the coordinator of the project until the end of 2018. Parallel with this, we are preparing documents for the competition for the position of the operator and we plan to have chosen the operator of the future congress center by the end of 2018. Further plans see that the technical project and permission for construction works will be obtained by the end of 2019; public procurement for contractors would last until mid-2020; contractors would start their work in mid-2020 and have it done by the end of 2021.
- Best regards
- Andrius Kalindra
- Senior Advisor
- Secretariat of the Prime Minister