Mr. Berel Fried of New York City, an Orthodox Jewish scholar and businessman, has authorized this publication of his letter, sent earlier today to Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, regarding plans for a convention center at the old Piramónt (Šnipiškės) Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. He is a frequent visitor to Vilnius, where he is known for his exquisite Torah readings at the Choral Synagogue. The most recent public response from the European Commission is here.
Hon. Frans Timmermans
First Vice President of the European Commission
My name is Berel Fried. I live in the United States and own a hotel and various properties in America. My ancestors lived in Vilna for many generations, and they were buried in the cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės). I heard the terrible news that shocked me to the core: a plan by the government of Lithuania to build on this holy place a conference center! It is unthinkable that anyone would dream of desecrating this holy place of the Jews after all that they suffered in the bloodbath of Europe.
I have a few questions that must be answered. First of all, is this not Jewish property? Who gave permission to use it for the purpose of desecrating holy Jewish graves? Secondly, if someone in the local Jewish community was somehow “convinced” to cooperate with this nefarious plan, this action is null and void because it is Jewish national property and not local ownership, long ago purchased and paid for in perpetuity to be used only for its holy purpose.
I understand that some so-called rabbis from abroad agreed to the plan of the Lithuanian government, perhaps by getting kickbacks for so-called “supervision.”
Their actions and voices are null and void, because the fact remains that no one has the power to change the original use, or ownership, of this property. If anyone uses the clause of “eminent domain” they are in store for a tremendous international lawsuit.
I hope and pray that you are receptive and understanding to the plight of the holy souls buried there and the cries and indignant pain of the living descendants and of the Jewish nation, and we will all wait to hear good news that you have changed and revised the location of the new conference center.
May you be blessed for your understanding and may G-d reward you.