Revealing relics of a lost Jerusalem

Lithuania's prime minister Andrius Kubilius has visited the newly revealed remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius.

The house of worship, built in 1633 on the site of an older synagogue, was heavily damaged by the Germans during World War II, and then levelled by the Soviets during the 1950s.

The excavation by leading Lithuanian archaeologists is part of a wide-ranging, government-backed programme set under way this year, aimed at restoring the capital's ancient Jewish quarter.

Vilnius was once known as the 'Jerusalem of Lithuania' owing to its importance for the Jewish community in Central Europe.

About 80,000 Jews still lived in the city during the 1930s, when the city was a part of Poland.

However, the community was all but entirely decimated during the Nazi occupation. Although some locals attempted to save Jews, others helped the Germans in their policy of extermination. Others turned a blind eye the death penalty was imposed on those who aided Jews.

For us it is very important to bring back an authentic part of Lithuanian history that included the history of the Jewish community, the Lithuanian premier reflected, after visiting the Great Synagogue.

He added that the excavations are important not only for Lithuania, but for the global Jewish community.

It is a powerful symbol of both a great Jewish heritage and a great tragedy when the entire Jewish community was destroyed.


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