Updates & Aftermath to Lithuanian Gov’s Cancellation of Vilnius “Convention Center in the Cemetery”

[latest update]

Congratulations (16 Aug 2021) to Lithuania’s gov on cancelling convention center

Ben Cohen in The Algemeiner



16 AUG 2021—Defending History reports on the Lithuanian government’s cancellation of the “convention center in the cemetery” citing Alfa.lt and BNS and derivitate media reports. Congratulations are offered on the historic turnabout.

17 AUG 2021—The official state-sponsored “Lithuanian Jewish Community,” in a shock to many Jewish people, reported the news with this headline: “Almost Half Million Euros Wasted on Palace of Sports Reconstruction Project” (as PDF)

17 AUG 2021—In a tweet out of Orwell, “documented” by self-releases from London’s CPPJCE and US affiliate “Admas Kodesh” these organizations, that have fought alongside builders and politicians in Vilnius for the convention center for years, and been implicated in financial benefit for “selling” Jewish cemeteries, claim the credit (!) for the cancellation in PR for their woefully misinformed and disrespected readers (as PDF).See for example how “Admas Kodesh” referred to Prof. B. Fryshman, a leading human rights advocate for minority cemeteries. Follow the CPJCE Vilnius saga from 2015 onward (with “Admas Kodesh” highlights). In the Orthodox world, these corrupt cemetery-selling groups have been courageously exposed by Rabbi Chaim Burshtein (then chief rabbi of Lithuania), Prof. Fryshman, and the Conference of European Rabbis, among others. Their secret payments were revealed by Wikileaks in 2009, and reported in 2015 by JTA and the Jerusalem Post.

18 AUG 2021—Prime Minister confirms cancellation but  misses opportunity for historic reconciliation, claiming reversal is purely economic and reversible: BNS news report appears in Lrt.lt  (also: in madeinvilnius.lt and in

18 AUG 2021Agudath Israel’s comment: “We commend the government of Lithuania for making the right decision on this important matter,” in a statement issued by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America (in Hamodia of 23 Aug; in London Jewish Tribune of 30 Aug.). Sources in Vilnius report that this public letter, and others like it, strengthen the hand of gov. elements who understand the need to rapidly restore the old Vilna Jewish cemetery and repel the machinations of those who still dream of reversal so they can profiteer from a “convention center in the cemetery.” Vilnius Jewish sources, believing that the major advance of 16 Aug. needs to be recognized and publicly congratulated, consider public congratulations to be in order at this stage, to cement and secure the achievement, and see this major milestone, after all the years of tenders and building start-dates, as distinct from other discussions down the road….

19 AUG 2021Turto Bankas (state property bank) reacts, in denial on reversal and claiming it must still carry out works, noting triumphantly that it enjoys the full support of the London “CPJCE” consortium (days after the CPJCE rushed to take credit for the opposite stance, see above at 17 Aug; Will they now take to Twitter to contradict the Turto Bankas assertation that they are still in tow for the convention center? Don’t hold your breath.). The Turto Bankas statement reappeared in another publication on 22 Aug. and was republished as sacred gospel, with no comment, as Jewish news on the website of the statqe-sponsored “Lithuanian Jewish Community” on 26. Aug. (as PDF).

23 AUG 2021—An article in Baltimore Jewish Life contains an interview with Dov and Chaya Fried. The article includes the view (not entirely clear if of its author, the Frieds, or both) that: “While some Jewish leaders expressed gratitude and hailed this as a triumph, they ignored two key factors: first, that the Lithuanian government announced the short-term halting of the conference center because of the financial impact of covid, not out of respect to the living and deceased Jews; also, since the Lithuanian government has not repealed the 2015 resolution that allows for the desecration of the conference center, they can re-start construction plans at any time.”

23 AUG 2021—An editorial in Lithuania’s leading business publication, Verslo žinios, argues for reversing the prime minister’s decision and reverting to the planned convention center, not mentioning the Jewish cemetery, but citing various business and tourism proponents of the convention center in the cemetery.

25 AUG 2021—BNS reports that the mayor of Vilnius, Remigijus Šimašius, with his City Council behind him, rejects the prime minister’s (ergo the government’s) cancellation of the convention center and calls for it to be reinstated, citing his view that a dump with some Jewish memorial posters does not do the cemetery’s memory credit. Led by the mayor the council issues a resolution expressing demands for reversal and construction of the convention center in the Jewish cemetery. The opposition Lithuanian Freedom Union (Liberals) oppose the resolution. It is “Resolution 41” that was adopted and posted  by the Council (available as PDF). Defending History has posted a full English translation. A presumably complete video of the City Council meeting is available on youtube. [background: section on twists and turns in Mayor Šimašius’s record on Jewish issues]. Continued silence from the London grave-trading rabbis’ CPJCE, who had just triumphantly claimed credit for the cancellation in an array of forums. Arvydas Jockus reports in Alfa.lt on the Vilnius City Council’s resolution, providing further information on reactions to the PM’s decision and attempts to overturn it.

Question: Is this really how the mayor wants to go down in history: bringing perpetual shame on his city, with its glorious multicultural history, on the eve of the 2023 celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of Vilna?

26 AUG 2021—The Save Vilna group distributes an international petition addressed to the mayor of Vilnius.

3 SEPT 2021—Three illustrious deans of top Lithuanian (Litvish/Litvak) rabbinical academies in the Unite States and Israel, all named for their historic Lithuanian cities of origin, issue a statement of appreciation and admiration to the prime minister of Lithuania for suspending indefinitely the “convention center in the cemetery” while expressing hope for the return of the cemetery to its rightful owners, and wishing the Lithuanian people and state all blessings on the eve of the Jewish new year.

23 SEPT 2021—On Lithuania’s national holocaust Memorial Day (23 Sept.), Turto Bankas announces that it is going to proceed with architectural designs and plans for the convention center despite the government’s decision to abandon the project, listing the names of four specific architectural and design firms in Vilnius. Defending History provides a rapid response.

24 SEPT 2021Turto Bankas follows up with a further statement, reported on Alfa.lt, declaringit is proceeding with application for the buildingpermit aswell as paying designers and architects to complete work, in spite of the government’s decision to cancel funding. The statement cites the spectre of “wasteland” in central Vilnius, not mentioning the projects submitted for restoration of the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery (see e.g. visualization below).

“Piramontas Restitutas”

The Lithuanian artist who created the cartoons that so powerfully helped the campaign against the convention center domestically, for years, also produced an idealized, non-scale visualization of Piramont Restored (with versions in Yiddish, English, and Lithuanian). Its title (top) derives from a major essay by Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas (Eng. summary). Its text (to the right) is based on writings of Julius Norwilla. On the solution proposed (the “Frankfurt model”), see Prof. Shnayer Leiman’s essay.

This entry was posted in "Admas Kodesh", Cemeteries and Mass Graves, CPJCE (London), Human Rights, Lithuania, Litvak Affairs, News & Views, Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery at Piramónt (in Šnipiškės / Shnípishok), Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
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