NEW YORK – The world Jewish community including the Vilnius Jewish community has responded with shock, anger and horror at the Lithuanian government’s decision to develop a conference center on the grounds of a 500-year old cemetery. The Jewish cemetery located in Piramont (Shnipishok), Vilnius, Lithuania is the same cemetery where the famous Torah scholar, the ‘Vilna Gaon’ was buried.
Media reports indicate that the government and Turto Bankas acted illegally to secure paperwork so that they could green light the initiative.
In 2005, the country as a newly established sovereign state authorized the desecration of a 500-year old Jewish cemetery (Piramont in Shnipishok) in Vilnius, where two apartment blocks were constructed on the site.
In 2008, the U.S House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the Republic of Lithuania’s government for the desecration and human rights violation.
Despite world outrage at Lithuania’s antisemitic action, Lithuanian officials recently announced approval of their plan to develop an International Conference Center on the 500-year old Piramont cemetery, where the famous Torah scholar, the ‘Vilna Gaon’ was buried.
Rabbi Elchonon Baron, a leading Jewish activist who is involved in a number of causes, expressed dismay at the Lithuanian government’s decision. “The government has reneged on previous undertakings with us that it would not proceed with the development. We feel betrayed and badly let down,” Rabbi Baron stated.
Independent media reports have ignited concern that the Lithuanian government and Turto Bankas, conducted illegal monetary transactions to secure the support from a rogue Jewish interest group to rubber stamp their conference development plan, so that it could receive automatic approval.
An official investigation by the STT, (the Special Investigations division dedicated to prosecute corruption), into the alleged illegal transactions could not be confirmed. A spokesperson for STT said that they as matter of policy, they do not comment on a matter if it is under investigation.
The full extent of the Lithuanian government’s desecration of the old cemetery in Vilnius can be viewed in a short YouTube video.
The latest antisemitic action, which is considered a consequence of systemic racism and antisemitism in the Lithuanian government, places Lithuania’s membership with NATO in jeopardy. Additionally, relief funding earmarked for the coronavirus fallout from the EU, is expected to come under reconsideration.
About the writer: Jonus Norkus is a human rights activist who is fighting the battle against human rights violations. He is currently focused on combatting cemetery desecration.