OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER PROJECT | PAPER TRAIL | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | CEMETERIES
TEL AVIV—The following is the text of the speech delivered by Julius Norwilla during the gathering earlier today at the Lithuanian Embassy in Tel Aviv where a delegation of major Litvak rabbis, joined at their request by Mr. Norwilla, who flew in from Vilnius for the event, was welcomed by Ambassador Edminas Bagdonas. Details of the event are here.
Your Excellency, Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania, Rabbi A. Gurwitz, Rabbi L. Kahaneman, Rabbi Shli’a, Member of the Knesset Yaakov Asher,
I will speak as a citizen of Lithuania, as one who signed the petition, signed by more than 39 thousand people from all over the world begging the Government of the Republic of Lithuania to move the Convention Center project away from the Piramónt cemetery. The petition was submitted to the Government on 21 st of March, 2017.
Lithuania has many friends all over the world. Israel is one of them. Numerous Israeli families have their family roots in Líte. Their ancestors lived in shtetls of Líte for ages from generation to generation contributing tremendously to the development of Lithuania and civilization more broadly.
The fate of the historical Piramónt cemetery in the Šnipiškės (Shnópishok) district of Vilna was, is and will forever be close to their hearts, as well as to our own hearts, the hearts of the citizens of modern and democratic Lithuania.
The “Sports Palace” was built in the seventies right in the middle of the historical Vilna Jewish Piramónt cemetery. It was built by the Soviet regime, under Soviet ideology and policy and with funds from the Soviet Union. Lithuania doesn’t need this building that is right on the old Jewish cemetery. Nowadays this monstrous edifice is abandoned, as one of many large abandoned objects of the Soviet period. The project to reconstruct the large abandoned object and add a big annex, also right on the cemetery, and the application for funds for it at the European Union funds seem inappropriate.
The government owns the building of the Sports Palace and the site around it. The ownership of the site is the ownership of once looted property, the looted cemetery site. Our current government is not responsible for the crimes of previous regimes, but is responsible to restore justice to their victims as best we can. In the case of Piramónt cemetery, it is the justice:
(1) to those who are buried there and are defenseless to speak for themselves;
(2) justice to their children and grandchildren who would be morally obliged to take care of their graves and cemeteries, but fell themselves to become victims during the Holocaust and were murdered at the killing pits in Ponary (Ponár, Paneriai) and other killing sites all over Lithuania;
(3) justice to the citizens of Lithuania, the present and future generations alike, by relieving them from participation in transgressions and curses of immoral acts of previous regimes and governments.
What to do with the Sport Palace? Take it down. Move the convention center project away from the cemetery.
Moving away the project, and the large abandoned object, from the cemetery will result in blessings from above, a worldwide wave of new affection for our country and relief from unnecessary hardships imposed on our reputation by greedy business interests, politicians and others. The idea of beautifully restored Piramónt cemetery will rapidly attract numerous enthusiastic supporters.
Let us enhance Lithuania’s prestige, and relieve our country, including our children and children’s children far into the future, from a shameful and troublesome burden of previous immoral regimes.
Thank you for your attention. It is real privilege to speak on the issue in such esteemed company.