Revealed: The “Secret Vilna Cemetery Agreement” of Dec. 2019




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.

The translator has taken note of discrepancies between the Lithuanian and English versions of the agreement itself which is the part of the packet that is bilingual in the original. The translator’s notes on these discrepancies are in red for rapid contrast, and to mark their non-appearance in the original. It is hoped that Dr. Alvydas Nikžentaitis, whose previous historic work seems to be abused here in favor of a convention center in the middle of a historic Jewish cemetery, will speak out publicly and rapidly on the use of his name and work in support of a project that does so much damage to the good name of Lithuania.

Last but not least, it is important to point out that the lawyers for Turto Bankas fighting for the new national convention center to be located in the old Jewish cemetery are being paid exclusively by the state.


 

STATE ENTERPRISE TURTO BANKAS

 

To the District Court of Vilnius City                                         2020-01-27  No. (22.1-32)-SK4-895

Laisvės pr. 79A, LT-06144 Vilnius

Submitted via ESS

 

By the Defendant: State Enterprise

                                    Turto Bankas  

Code in the Register of Legal Entities: 112021042

Kęstučio g. 45, Vilnius LT-08124

acc. No. LT51 7044 0600.044 3925

AB SEB Bankas

info@turtas.lt

REQUEST FOR ATTACHING ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE

to the civil case No. e2-625-918/2020

  1. The Plaintiff ■■■■■■■■■■ has filed a preventive action claim by which he requests that State Enterprise Turto Bankas be prevented from carrying out (directly or by giving such right to other entities) the reconstruction of the building of Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports (at Rinktinės g. 1, Vilnius).
  2. The Plaintiff has filed a request to the Court for the exaction of evidence by which he requests the court to exact from the Defendant the 2019 contract between SE Turto Bankas, the Lithuanian Jewish Community, and the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe.
  3. The Court set a 7 day term for the Defendant to express its opinion on the request for the exaction of additional written evidence.
  4. The Defendant informs the Court that it agrees to provide the evidence requested by the Plaintiff and provides it in the term set by the Court. The Defendant also provides additional evidence to the case (a study by the Lithuanian Institute of History on the Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės: localization of its borders) and requests that it would be attached to the case at hand.

ATTACHED:

  1. Protocol for Approval of Vilnius Congress Center Project, That Is Related with Work in Vilnius Jewish Old Šnipiškės Cemetery
  2. A copy of the study by the Lithuanian Institute of History on the Jewish Cemetery in Šnipiškės: Localization of Borders, 11 pages

 

Head of Law Department                               [signature]                   Justė Žibūdienė

Ernestas Knezevičius, (8-5)278 0917, Ernestas.Knezevicius@turtas.lt


PROTOCOL FOR APPROVAL OF VILNIUS CONGRESS CENTER PROJECT, THAT IS RELATED WITH WORK IN THE OLD VILNIUS JEWISH  ŠNIPIŠKĖS CEMETERY

2019 December 4th

 

Attended by Signatures
Faina Kukliansky, Chairman of the Vilnius Jewish Community

[note: in Lithuanian version: Chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community]

[signature]
Rabbi Hershel Gluck, Representative of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe [signature]
Rabbi Abraham Ginsberg, Executive Director of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe [signature]
Mr. Arieh Klein, Geotechnical consultant [signature]
Renaldas Augustinavičius, Representative of the Lithuanian Jewish Community [signature]
Mindaugas Sinkevičius, SE “Turto bankas” general director [signature]
Karolis Maželis, SE “Turto bankas” project manager [signature]
Sigitas Kuncevičius, architect [signature]
Karolis Maciulevičius, [technical] project manager [signature]
Considered: Vilnius Congress center reconstruction technical project design, that is related with construction work in Vilnius Jewish Old Šnipiškės cemetery. (Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery).
Resolved:
1. Vilnius Congress Center technical project architectural plans, structural plans, site utility pipe and cable plan, site plan, construction site management plan that are added to this protocol and which are prepared by the SE “Turto bankas” are acceptable and approved.

These plans shall form an integral part of this Protocol.

2. Vilnius Congress Center reconstruction work will be carried out according to Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery territory and its protection zones preservation conditions established in 2009 August 26th protocol, Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (Committee) 5th May 2016 letter and May 12, 2016 letter of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.

To state explicitly that the Rabbinic supervision have the full right and ability to hold work when necessary.

[note: “and May 12, 2016 letter of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania” is not present in the Lithuanian version]

3. In order to preserve and adapt the cultural heritage of the building, the former Vilnius Sports and Concert Hall, in accordance with point 2 of this Protocol, construction work that involves digging can be carried out inside the Vilnius Congress Center building in order to construct new congress halls, accessways, elevators, basement and other rooms, utility pipes, cables, foundations, demolish existing structures. Presented in the architectural and construction plans. All excavation work inside the existing building, in the basement, the Cold room, the garage area, etc., will be carried out under rabbinical supervision of the representatives of the Committee, as detailed in the regulations of 2009.

[note: the last sentence is not present in the Lithuanian version]

4. In order to preserve and adapt the cultural heritage of the building, the former Vilnius Sports and Concert Hall, in accordance with point 2 of this Protocol, Asphalt can be carefully removed when constructing access road through the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery in order to construct protective Special steel plates specified by the Committee representatives or other covering according to the presented site plan.

Also, asphalt can be removed in order to make good conditions for the new grass to grow.

All such work shall be carried out under the supervision and direction of the representatives of the Committee.

[note: in “Asphalt can be carefully removed”, the word “carefully” is not present in the Lithuanian version]

5. Accordance with point 2 of this Protocol, utility pipes, cables as presented in the site utility plan in Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery zone “B” can be constructed using minimal intervention methods described in the construction site management plan with rabbinical supervision.

[note: “using minimal intervention methods” is not present in the Lithuanian version]

6. Accordance with point 2 of this Protocol, maintenance, reconstruction of old manholes, storm drain gates, utility pipes in the area of the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery, area “A” can be done using minimal intervention methods described in the “construction site management plan”.

All such work shall be carried out under the supervision and direction of the representatives of the Committee.

[note: the Lithuanian version would have it “can be done by open digging using minimal intervention methods”; it also says “Planned works and their methods are noted in the general plan of utility pipes and cables, attached to this Protocol.”]

7. Shallow channels can be carved in the concrete slabs that cover the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery and buffer zone at the moment in order to install electric cables, rain water drainage gutters and other utilities.

All such work shall be carried out under the supervision and direction of the representatives of the Committee.

8. Accordance with point 2 of this Protocol, construction equipment can move in area of the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery, on special pathways covered by geoweb and aggregate. No permanent parking is allowed. Machinery types and pathway details are presented in the “construction site management plan”, which is attached to this Protocol.

All such work shall be carried out under the supervision and direction of the representatives of the Committee.

9. During the reconstruction of the Vilnius Congress Center, is proposed to be installed a wide diameter piles (800 mm or more) at the site of an existing garage. During the piles installation, the fill under the piles must be manually removed up to 2 m deep.

All such work shall be carried out under the supervision and direction of the representatives of the Committee.

10. During the reconstruction of the Vilnius Congress Center the soil that was dug in the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery site cannot be taken out of construction site. The soil can be stored in the area as described in the “construction site management plan” and later used to cover planned green areas in Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery.

[note: “The soil can be stored in the area as described in the “construction site management plan”  is not present in the Lithuanian version]

11. Architectural and structural elements, constructions, railings, retaining walls, light poles, old fences (only above ground) can be demolished in the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery zone and zone „A“, „B“. Structures above the ground can be removed and taken out of the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery site.
12. Concrete slabs that are in the territory of the cemetery cannot be removed unless it is necessary to maintain, construct, reconstruct utility connections and to do archaeological supervision.

Such plates shall be lifted under the supervision and direction of the representatives of the Committee.

[note: the Lithuanian version has an additional first sentence: “Concrete slabs in the territory of the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery can not be taken out of the cemetery territory.”]

13. If no other engineering solutions found, excavation work in the area of the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery can be carried out in exceptional cases in areas where the soil has already been moved during previous construction work and essential human remains have historically been removed. The places where this can be done and how such excavation is to be carried out shall be determined on the basis of archaelogical survey data and in accordance with the instructions and supervision of the Committee.
14. To ensure respect for the buried and to protect the lawn in the area of the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery from walking, pets and other factors, lawns will be arranged with decorative plants (except trees and shrubs) according to the enclosed Lawn design proposals.

More specific solutions for decorative plants and how will be chosen later in consultation with the Committee.

15. In the procurement documents for reconstruction works of the Vilnius Congress Center, clear requirements for the organization of works in the territory of Šnipiškės Jewish Cemetery shall be detailed, including the requirements for fencing of the reconstruction territory, construction of temporary construction roads, installation of information stands, protection of the territory and other. The Contractor shall inform all participants of the reconstruction as to how the works will be organized in the territory of the Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery and in the protection zone. The tender and contract shall detail appropriate sanctions for violation of such requirements.
16. In the procurement documents for reconstruction works of the Vilnius Congress Center, conditions shall by [sic] defined for the future contractor or investor regarding the participation of the Committee and its appointed representatives in the reconstruction works. The conditions must be discussed how and when the contractor/investor informs the Committee of the start of the reconstruction works, when Committee representatives arrive at the construction site, how to coordinate the reconstruction works, and how to reimburse the Committee representatives.

These conditions will be agreed with the representatives of the Committee.

The representatives of the Committee shall submit to the SE “Turto bankas” the average rates and detailed conditions of supervision of the reconstruction works.

[note: in the last sentence, “and detailed conditions” is not present in the Lithuanian version]

17. The contents of this protocol shall be included in the tender documentation and it must be legally part of the tender documentation.

Als, the Committee and its representatives will be invited to meet with the Contractor/investor and his design team during the work project stage, to review the design drawings, and they will be able to comment on, and require changes to these drawings as necessary before the start of works on site. The Contractor or investor shall bear the expenses of this process, including payment for the Committee representatives and all their expenses.

[note: the Lithuanian version lists the contents of “the design drawings” in brackets: “(architecture, roads, utility pipes and cables, etc.)”]

(The representatives of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe are authorized to represent this institution in the implementation of the Vilnius Congress Center project and have the authority to negotiate / approve Vilnius Congress center design project solutions on behalf of the Committee and sign all documents related to the implementation of the Sports Palace project.)

Appendices:

  1. Vilnius congress center reconstruction technical project architectural drawings;
  2. Vilnius congress center reconstruction technical project construction drawings;
  3. Vilnius congress center reconstruction technical project site plan;
  4. Vilnius congress center reconstruction technical project site utility connection plan;
  5. Vilnius congress center reconstruction technical project construction site manegment [sic] plan;
  6. 5th May 2016 letter of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteris [sic] in Europe;
  7. Šnipiškės Jewish cemetary [sic] territory and its protection zones preservation conditions established in 2009 August 26th protocol;
  8. May 12, 2016 letter of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.


LITHUANIAN INSTITUTE OF HISTORY

 

JEWISH CEMETERY IN ŠNIPIŠKĖS: LOCALIZATION OF BORDERS

(SUMMARY OF CARTOGRAPHIC, ARCHEOLOGICAL, AND HISTORICAL STUDIES)

Historical data up to the 19th century collected by Dr. Elmantas Mielius

Historical data from the 19th and 20th centuries collected by Dr. Vytautas Jogėla

Cartographic and archeological data collected by Dr. Gediminas Vaitkevičius

 

Data summarized by: Habil. Dr. Alvydas Nikžentaitis,

Dr. Gediminas Vaitkevičius, Dr. Elmantas Mielius

◊◊◊

Vilnius, 2007

[stamp, here and on every following page:]

REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

VILNIUS

LITHUANIAN INSTITUTE OF HISTORY

[signature]

Secretary

Laima Olevsovienė]

Jewish Cemetery in Šnipiškės: Localization of Borders (summary of cartographic, archaeological, and historical studies)

Research object: localization of the Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės borders throughout the 15th–20th centuries.

Researchers: historian Dr. Elmantas Meilius, historian Dr. Vytautas Jogėla, archeologist. Dr. Gediminas Vaitkevičius (head of the working group).

Formulation of the problem. Territory of the burial site is, in practice, defined by found graves, but, since this fact was challenged, the problem was solved by using cartographic, archeological, and historical data.

Analysis of cartographic data. Problem: outline of the territory in question was changed radically at least three times in the period of the 18th to the 20th century (no surviving older cartographic data):

1) Mid-to-late 18th century: Jewish cemeteries were merged into a single massive site; roads and plots changed accordingly;

2) Early 19th century: after establishing a fortress, the shape of and the roads in the Southwestern part of the cemetery changed accordingly;

3) 20th century: after the construction of the sports complex, the cemetery (officially) disappeared completely (nevertheless, burials that were not destroyed by the construction works remained).

To define the territory of the Jewish cemetery, the 1952 Vilnius city general plan (picture 1), the 1935 scheme of the Jewish cemetery (picture 4), the 1832 plan of the fortress and the Jewish community cemetery (picture 8; especially important, since its purpose was to set the relation between the fortress and the Jewish cemetery), the 1816 Šnipiškės plan (picture 10), and the 1808 (picture 12) and the 1737 (picture 14) Vilnius city plans were used.

-The 1952 general plan—

provides coordinates according to which the objects still present in 1952—the outer edge of the fortress moat, the central building of the fortress A (pictures 2 and 3)—can be pinpointed in the current plan.

Important to note: the territory in the general plan marked by Russian letters is not the site of the Jewish cemetery but the borders of the sports complex construction territory. The cemetery is not marked in this plan.

-The 1935 scheme of the Jewish cemetery—

Along the fortress moat, the eastern contour of the Jewish cemetery is marked on the present-day plan (pictures 5 and 6).

-The 1832 plan of the fortress and the Jewish community cemetery—

Along the fortress moat and the building A, the contour of the Jewish cemetery is marked on the present-day plan. Similitude between the 1935 and the 1832 cemetery borders shows that the plans can be trusted. The 1832 plan provides the contour of the Carmelite cemetery, as well (pictures 8 and 9).

-The 1816 and the 1808 plans—

The fortress is not yet present as a reference point in these plans. The site of the Carmelite cemetery, the church, and the contours of the cemetery itself (which had not changed since then) are used instead. The borders of the cemetery before the construction of the fortress (pictures 10–13) were drawn by laying the territory of the Jewish cemetery marked in the 1816 and the 1808 plans over the later contours of the cemetery and using the principle of maximum coincidence.

The cemetery area in the 1808 plan is 4.3 hectares. The 1832 plan shows that 1.3 hectares of the cemetery fell under the territory of the fortress—practically the whole 40–45-meter-wide southwestern stretch of the cemetery.

The northern border of the construction site coincides with the fortress border, hence, the possibility of graves under the construction site is real, as proven by burials found in 1996.

-The 1737 Vilnius city plan—

To find out the scale on the East-West axis, reference points along the line Gediminas Castle–Church of St. George–the Green Bridge were used. However, there are space distortions in the plan on the North-South axis: the castle was moved around 20 meters to the South. Hence, although the right bank of the Neris coincides with its current position (even the slope by the power station coincides with its 1902 contours), according to the markings of buildings on the slope, one can suspect that the plots in the western part of Šnipiškės could have been moved around 15–20 meters to the South. On the eastern side of Šnipiškės, the Carmelite church remained the reference point.

Comparison of the plots on the right bank of the Neris marked in the plan with the situation in the 1808 plan shows the development of the territory and the cemetery (as confirmed by historical data, as well): in the early 18th century, the cemetery consisted of individual plots separated by a road (picture 14, A).

This way, a new plan was compiled; according to it, the remains of two children buried according to the Judaic tradition in the 16th century, found in 1996 next to the former swimming pool, without any doubt were located in the middle of a burial plot marked in the 1737 plan. Which could mean that the oldest part of the cemetery extended even further South. On the other hand, it is plausible that, if the plots were moved southward in the plan, the burials in question were found by the southern border of the cemetery as designated in the 1808 and the 1816 plans. This assumption was supposed to be checked by the 2004 archeological excavations.

Regarding the archeological excavations    Section I

Since 1996, there had been no exploratory studies conveyed in the part of the site that falls under the territory of the cemetery; all holes (shurfs) were excavated in the middle and southern parts of the construction site, i.e., 20؎40 meters away from the cemetery. The area of the burial territory around the remains found in 1996 had not been surveyed, either. The 3.2-meter cultural layer (2.2 meters of which were from the early period), stone pavement, and other possible burials were dug out with an excavator without even registering them. All registry requirements were breached: photo-fixation was insufficient, drawings non-existent, plans undrawn, and sections uncleaned, which could be the reason why burial hole contours were not visible, which is now presented as a proof that there had been no burials there. That burials could have gone unnoticed because of the quality of works is illustrated by the fact that an ancient brick kiln went unnoticed (and therefore demolished) and was only identified later, in photos.

Section II

Exploratory excavations were once again done only in the middle and southern parts of the construction site, where the possibility to find burials was minimal. This was done despite the fact that previous excavations (July 1, 2004; July 5, 2004; July 21, 2005) concluded that full archaeological survey was necessary in the eastern part of the site, i.e., in Section II; with no regards to the existence of an early (14th–15th century) cultural layer with building remains from the time, the foundation pit was dug with an excavator. For this act of vandalism, an urgent permission was issued by the so-called Scientific Archaeological Commission.

Claims that the cultural layer in this territory was mostly destroyed when laying underground cables are to be considered unfounded. These cables, mostly not deep enough to reach the early layers (child burials were found below the sewage level), destroyed only a small part of the cultural layer.

Regarding the drawing of SE “Vilniaus planas”

due to confusion of the border of the Jewish cemetery with the border of the 1949 construction site, an error was made: borders of the cemetery were moved to the North East by 13.5 meters (picture 15);

the contour of the cemetery was also artificially moved additional 5.4 meters to the North East;

due to changes to the southeastern angle by 30 and the southern (inner) angle by 20 in the 1808 plan, the site of the former cemetery was moved beyond the borders of the current construction site (thanks to the incorrect angles, errors of up to 16 meters were made in the relevant territory plans).

Historical research data (taken mostly from historiographic sources as well as from the Lithuanian State Historical Archives’ Old Documents Funds, the Lithuanian Metrica, the Vilnius County Archives, the Lithuanian Central State Archives, the Lithuanian Special Archives, the Archives of the Culture Ministry of the Republic of Lithuania, the Archives of the Urban Construction Design Institute, the Russian State Historical Archives in Saint Petersburg, and published sources) show the dynamics of the cemetery territory. The cemetery was established on state land in the Castle (Pilies) jurisdiction possibly in the late 15th century, whereas the earliest reliable historical data come from the late 16th century tax exemption documents. Comparison of historical, cartographic, and archeological data allows for a strong assumption that the earliest burials from the second half of the 16th century were to be found in the southwestern and central parts according to the 1808 plan (between the Palace of Sports and the former swimming pool). The cemetery developed gradually, by acquisition of individual plots of land in the state jurisdictions of Castle (Pilies; Horodnictwo) and Eiguva (Derewnictwo), previously rented by various owners, and taking over their tax burdens. The general situation of the cemetery of the time is marked in the 1737 Fürstehnof plan. The Jewish cemetery as a single continuous cemetery was formed by merging separate plots of land around 1790, when the list of city possessions (plots) was compiled. This situation is reflected in the 1808 plan (possession No. 1116). Plans to close the cemetery appeared in 1817 and the decision to close the cemetery was made in 1824, despite Jews’ requests for an additional plot of land since, allegedly, the whole area of the cemetery had been used up for burials. The cemetery was closed in 1831, after the construction of the so-called bridge redoubt of the Vilnius Fortress; a compensation was paid for demolished buildings and seized land. Judging by the length of the cemetery fence (around 922 meters), before its closure in 1831, the area of the cemetery was around 4.3 hectares. In 1831 and later, during the construction of defensive fortifications of the Vilnius Fortress, the southwestern part of the cemetery was partly destroyed, especially in the parts where moats, which remained until the mid-20th century, were dug; no data was found on what happened to the remains dug out during the works. After the construction of the fortress, the area of the cemetery shrunk by about 1.3 hectares and remained this way until its final destruction in 1950–1970 (3.25 hectares in 1940; 2.7 hectares in 1947). Although the cemetery was abandoned, around 200 tombstones (mostly where the Palace of Sports stands now) had remained up until the Second World War; its territory beyond the borders of the fortress had been fenced for most of the time.

Conclusions:

  1. The territory of the Jewish cemetery from its establishment to its destruction in 1950–1970 had always been changing.
  2. The cemetery took up the most land, as depicted in the 1808 plan, before the construction of the fortress in 1831.
  3. Mindaugas Apartments, currently under construction, are being built on the territory of the former cemetery, as proven by cartographic data and remains of children, buried clearly according to the Judaic tradition, found in 1996.
  4. The archaeologist who carried out the 2004, 2005, and 2007 surveys explored only the part of the construction site that did not coincide with the territory of the cemetery, and the whole territory was dug up with an excavator, against the methodology of archaeological surveys.
  5. The scheme of the territory presented by “Vilniaus planas” is inaccurate.

[page 10]

The 1935 scheme of the Jewish cemetery

[scheme]

Presented in the scale of M 1:2000                                                              Picture 4

Extract I–XII with gravesites marked (presented in the scale of M 1:500)

[page 11]

Facsimile of the 1935 Jewish cemetery scheme, laid on top of the present-day plan

[plan]

Scale of M 1:2000                                                                            Picture 5

[Star of David]: Remains                                [symbol]: Brick kiln

[lined-in area]: Early cultural layer                  [triangle]: Tile stove

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