International Opposition to 2024 Proposals for a Museum (/Memorial Complex), with Seating Capacity for 5000 People, in the Middle of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery

[last update]

See Note below

Videos Online

Written statements:

Rabbi Elchonon Baron

Ruta Bloshtein

Rabbi S. J. Feffer

Bernard Fryshman

Dovid Katz

Andrius Kulikauskas

Sid Leiman

Julius Norwilla (Norvila)

Proclamation by Four Litvak Tradition Heads of Yeshiva: Rav Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva Slobodka, Bnai Brak; Rav Reuven Feinstein, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva of Staten Island, New York; Rav Osher Eliyahu Kalmanowitz, Rosh Yeshiva, Mirrer Yeshiva, New York; Rav Elya Baer Wachtfogel, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva Zichron Moshe, South Fallsburg, New York

Defending History’s 17 July 2024 response to gov. news release

NOTE (representing Defending History’s position): This page, initiated in July 2024, is not to be confused with the earlier page summarizing the successful opposition to the 2015-2021 plan for a national convention center in the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery. This page refers to current plans, circulated from 2022 and announced in 2024 to restore the hated Soviet “Sports Palace” eyesore to a state-of-the-art museum cum memorial center (with potential seating space for over 5,000 people, in effect a convention center of sorts) — instead of demolishing it (as is routine for Soviet eyesores in free and democratic Lithuania), in order to make way for loving  restoration of one of the world’s major Jewish cemeteries. Given that the formal 2024 Proposals document indeed fully reflects those plans, this list includes 2023 writings opposing what was indeed effectively rubber-stamped by the 2023-2024 Working Group (commission), with the inspirational exception of Prof. Sid Leiman whose inspired writings will survive for posterity for their courage, integrity and elegance. 

The Defending History community itself believes that a combination of commercial interests (tens of millions down the road from renting a venue that can seat over 5,000 people), and East European antisemitism (considering a magnificently restored Jewish cemetery in a major city to be profoundly undesirable) both come into play, and have been enabled by some of the very elite and well-financed bodies solemnly entrusted to fearlessly defend Jewish interests in post-Holocaust Eastern Europe (including the buried who have no local descendants to preserve their graves, precisely because of the Holocaust). Defending History believes the right of the deceased to be included in Human Rights, with manifold effects on the living and those who will live in generations to come. Human Rights subsumes Equal Rights. Frankly speaking, if this were a cemetery including centuries-old Lithuanian Christian heroes of the nation, there would be no talk either of a convention center or a museum complex inside it. A cemetery is a cemetery for all peoples, whose graves were purchased freehold and in perpetuity by the families of those buried, whether or not the stones up above have been pilfered. In the case of Vilna’s Old Jewish Cemetery, a huge number of stones and monuments can be reconstructed from extant prewar transcriptions and photographs.

The allegedly implicated organizations here include the GWF (Good Will Foundation), the LJC (official state-sponsored Lithuanian Jewish Community), the AJC (American Jewish Committee), and the CER (Conference of European Rabbis) which sadly reversed its earlier principled position. Full details of the financial aspects, if any (and machinations re the cemetery), of the Dec. 2022 fragrant deal entered into by the CER, arranged by the GWF/LJC and the AJC, remain opaque. They need to be made public and published in full and subject to utmost scrutiny by the public and, no doubt, by those contributing funding to these entities.

These opinions do not necessarily represent any of the statements linked above. Indeed, all these eminent figures represent strictly their own views in their writings or videographed statements.


This entry was posted in Cemeteries and Mass Graves, Human Rights, Lithuania, Lithuania's Jewish Community Issues, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Opinion, Politics of Memory and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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