Jewish cemeteries of Vilnius

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Jewish Cemetery in 1922
Memorial in the site of the former New Cemetery in Užupis

The Jewish cemeteries of Vinius are the three Jewish cemeteries of the Lithuanian Jews living in what is today Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, which was known to them for centuries as Vilna, a principal city of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the 19th Century the Pale of Settlement in the Russian Empire. Two of the cemeteries were destroyed during the Soviet occupation and during Lithuanian SSR times and the third is still active.

The oldest and the largest Jewish cemetery was established in Šnipiškės (Yiddish: Shnipishok) suburb, now in Žirmūnai elderate, on the opposite bank of the Neris River than Gediminas Tower in the 15th century.[1] In Vilna Jewish culture, the location of the cemetery was designated as Piramont as opposed to Shnipishok (Snipiskes) used for the adjacent residential area. It was closed by Tsarist authorities in 1831. It was destroyed by the Soviet authorities in 1949-1950 during the construction of Žalgiris Stadium. The Palace of Concerts and Sports (Lithuanian: Koncertų ir sporto rūmai) was built in 1971 right in the middle of the former cemetery. In 2005, apartment and office buildings were built on top of another part of the site, incurring condemnation from international Jewish organizations and resulted in a motion being passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008, condemning Lithuania for its "failure to protect the historic Jewish cemetery in Vilnius." In August 2009 Lithuanian government reached agreement with Jewish organizations on the boundaries of the cemetery and granted it protected status. Buildings already on the site will not be demolished.[2]

The second cemetery was located in Užupis. It was active from 1828 to 1943 or 1948. It was also destroyed by the Soviet authorities in 1960s following the Great Synagogue of Vilna. Tombstones from the two old cemeteries were used for staircases in various construction works around the city.[3] Currently a memorial constructed of them marks the location of the former entrance to the cemetery. Moreover, there are plans to build a monument in place of the old cemetery in Užupis.

The new Jewish cemetery was opened in Šeškinė district near Sudervė Cemetery. Some graves of famous people, including that of the Vilna Gaon, were relocated to the new place from the old cemeteries before the destruction. Currently it has about 6,500 Jewish graves.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Venclova, Tomas (2006). Vilnius: City Guide. translated by Aušra Simanavičiūtė (6th ed.). Vilnius: R. Paknio leidykla. p. 198. ISBN 9986-830-48-6. 
  2. ^ "Lithuania retracts plans to build on old Jewish cemetery". Haaretz. 
  3. ^ (Lithuanian) Samavičius, Romualdas (1997-03-12). "Žydų kultūros netektys okupacijų metais". Voruta 14 (295). Retrieved 2008-01-10. 

Coordinates: 54°41′31″N 25°17′28″E / 54.692°N 25.291°E / 54.692; 25.291