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.
[21 June 2006]
5. (SBU) The Sports Palace property indisputably rests in the middle of the former cemetery. Archeological surveys from 1996-1998 show the existence of undisturbed graves in the immediate vicinity of the Sports Palace. During construction of a road adjacent to the Sports Palace property during 2001-2003, the scattered remains of some 700-800 individuals were unearthed and reburied in a Jewish cemetery just outside Vilnius. At the time of the roadwork, no international Jewish group questioned the act and Rabbi Krinsky presided over the reburial. Krinsky also said that Vilnius municipal authorities were conscientious in ensuring that the local Jewish community was able to relocate any disturbed remains.
6. (SBU) The Lithuanian Confederation of Trade Unions sold a majority stake in the Sports Palace property that it had held since Soviet times to private developers in 2004, a transaction financed by Ukio Bankas. Ukio Bankas, one of the country’s largest financial institutions, purchased a controlling interest in the site in April 2005. A Vilnius Court in November 2005 upheld an earlier ruling prohibiting the sale of trade union property for commercial purposes, effectively preventing Ukio Bankas from developing the property. Ukio Bankas has now signed an agreement to negotiate the sale of the Sports Palace site to the City of Vilnius. The Vilnius City Council approved the deal on June 8, and the City has until September 1 to sign the deal. The city has not presented any plans for new construction on the site.