Grave Concerns Over Jewish Cemetery

This news story is long overdue, we know. The fact is, this issue has been idling for months and we're all waiting for...something to happen. Well, nothing has except for further protests which have successfully brought this very local issue worldwide attention. Last week was London, where hundreds of Orthodox Jews gathered outside the Lithuanian embassy; next week it's New York, next month Washington and then onto Melbourne, Australia.

So what's all the fuss? Well, earlier this month Jewish groups raised their concern over the proposed construction of apartment blocks on what may or may not be/may or may not have been a Jewish cemetery in Vilnius. The proposed construction creeps dangerously close to Snipiskes cemetery, which, by virtue of its Jewishness, is obviously a part of Israel making an international territorial dispute out of the matter. Rest assured, the Israeli government and Jewish diaspora at large have brought the issue to the attention of the EU. US presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton (yeah her) has even written a condemning letter to the Lithuanian government.

Forgive us, but what seems to have gone overlooked in all the demonstrations and Foreign Ministry meetings on the matter is this: On the site of the Jewish cemetery where construction has been proposed...there is no Jewish cemetery.

Allow us to explain. Snipiskes cemetery was closed by Tsarist Russian authorities in 1831. No one has been laid to rest there since the mid-19th century. In the 1950s, Soviet authorities built a stadium and concert hall on what borders Snipiskes cemetery, and it is assumed that there are Jewish remains beneath that site, because isn't it just so Soviet to build over part of a cemetery? Needless to say, that 1950s stadium doesn't see too many kickoffs these days and it's a bit of an eyesore, not to mention a bad memory. That space could be better served to help Vilnius' housing problem. But hang on, how can we move forward without first digging up the past?

Jewish groups claim that the site is still sacred despite the fact that it's a Soviet stadium - one of the least sacred sights in Vilnius today. Now the Lithuanian government is being criticised for wanting to build over a site that may or not have been sacred at one time; and, if so, was desecrated first by Tsarist Russia, second by the USSR, now by them? We're sure they just love that...

To address the issue (which is currently on a world tour of Lithuanian embassies, and earning top-dollar endorsements from the Jewish community), Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has formed a task force to decide the future of the controversial plot of concrete. We're guessing there'll be a monument somewhere by the end of the year. Whether it will be enough to appease the Jewish community is unclear.

Recently Chaim Burshtein, Chief Rabbi of Lithuania, made the media-savvy proclamation, There is no such thing as a former Jewish cemetery.

Sadly, anyone who's been to Europe in the last 50 years knows that, actually, there is.


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Jewish people thinks they own the world. They claimed about Israel and now they are over the world claiming for more and more land. This history about a former cemetery in Vilnius is ridiculous. Let's leave this new European country grow. Letting jewish interfe there is absolutely crazy. Lithuania is one of the most cristhian countries in the world and do not need any jewish disturbing its progress.

Reply Aug 17th, 2008
United States

It is quite obvious that the author of this article writes with an anti-semtic pen. Jealousy existed of the Jewish people centuries ago, it exists today, and unfortunately, it always will. It's a shame that cultures, religions, genders, etc. can't live their lives without blaming others for their misfortunes.

Reply Feb 29th, 2008
Vilnius Life

According to a recent news article, two skeletons have been found at the construction site neighbouring the Jewish cemetery. Due to the protection of this information by the authorities, however, it is unclear where exactly the remains were recovered, when they were found and if they are Jewish. A British organisation (called 'The British Organisation' in said article) has started a row over the issue, demanding the return of the two skeletons so they can be given a proper Jewish burial (reburial, right?). This would seem to suggest to us that the remains are British; does that make any sense? Certainly not, in fact it's unconfirmed that there were bodies found, but the Jewish community obviously contends that there have been. In the future, we'll get better information before we attempt to pass it along to you via these comments...

Reply Jan 21st, 2008
United States

The construction is close to but NOT in the place of the former Jewish cemetery. There is a monument at that place for more than a decade - with inscriptions in Lithuanian and Hebrew. What elso do you want?

Reply Jan 18th, 2008