OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO CONVENTION CENTER
In 2020, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė struck funding and thereby ended plans to convert the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace into a congress center. The Soviets had desecrated the heart of Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery at Piramónt (Šnipiškės) by constructing and utilizing this building there. 53,000 people signed Ruta Bloshtein’s petition asking Lithuania’s leaders not to desecrate it further. Many people from around the world wrote letters which convinced the Prime Minister to strike funding.
In 2022, the Prime Minister announced the formation of a Commission to develop a vision whereby the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace would be repurposed as a Jewish memorial and museum. Unfortunately, no compromise can make this building compatible with the cemetery it desecrates. Sadly, the Commission has yet to include any of the local Litvaks who opposed use of the building. International support is needed that their voices be heard.
On April 6th, as a member of Gerbkime kapines (Respect Cemeteries), I wrote to First Deputy Chancellor Rolandas Kriščiūnas to raise my concerns about this lack of representation. Sadly, he has been slow to reply.
Ruta Bloshtein, leader of Gerbkime kapines, agreed that I inform you through Defending History of our concerns, and ask that you write to the Prime Minister as soon as you can. I have written a sample letter below but you may change it as you like or write your own. Be sure to include the email firstname.lastname@example.org so that you receive an official response, and BCC email@example.com if you would like us to be aware of your efforts. We are grateful for your letters and they will be relevant for as long as the building stands.
SUBJECT: Please do away with the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace
Honorable Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė,
Thank you for saving Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery from further desecration, which you did by halting plans to convert the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace into a congress center.
I respectfully object to any plans to utilize the Vilnius Sports and Concert Palace for any purpose, and in particular, I object to its use as a Jewish memorial or museum. The current building is a symbol of the oppressive Soviet culture which desecrated our holy cemetery on which this building stands. We cannot allow this building to be justified. We cannot allow Soviet culture and Jewish culture to be equated. We must do away with this building. I respectfully ask you that the desecration of our cemetery and the construction of this building be recognized as a Soviet crime against humanity so that this building may be struck from the Registry of Cultural Heritage.
I understand that there is a Commission to develop plans for the future of both our cemetery and the building which desecrates it. I respectfully ask you to include as members in this Commission at least two or three Litvaks who live in Lithuania from among the many who encouraged you to forego the plans for a congress center.
Thank you for your concern for our shared heritage.