Vilnius Mayor Calls Crematorium in Jewish Cemetery Inappropriate


Vilnius, February 20, BNS–A plot of land next to the old Jewish cemetery on Olandų street is inappropriate for a crematorium and Vilnius residents will be asked their opinion on the need and location for such an operation, Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius said.

“It has to be acknowledged that this is the territory of a Jewish cemetery and it’s obvious that in Vilnius, where 40,000 Jews lived before World War II, because of the association, a crematorium in the Jewish cemetery is simply inappropriate. For that reason alone there should be no crematorium at that location,” the mayor told BNS. He confirmed the council would be presented with the decision not to approve a crematorium on Olandų street in the Lithuanian capital. The mayor also said results of a poll of public opinion on the issue of the need for and location of a crematorium in Vilnius would be presented soon. “I think there is a need among some residents of Vilnius. We ordered a poll of residents of Vilnius to identify what sort of locations are most likely, where residents would like to see a crematorium,” mayor Šimašius said. He said a final decision would be made following the public opinion poll on “where to encourage investments” in the city.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS Judaism expressly forbids any destruction of human remains through any means, and that “to build a crematorium in the middle of an historic Jewish cemetery would be unethical and a bad decision.”

Meanwhile Vidas Urbanavičius, the head of the so-called Columbarium Commission entrusted with solving questions involving crematoria as well and a conservative city council member, said the liberals led by mayor Šimašius, having failed to convince their coalition partners on the possible crematorium on Olandų street, are now planning for a different location, on Žirnių street next to the Liepynė cemetery.

Urbanavičius said liberal deputy mayor Linas Kvedaravičius had ordered the administration to draft a detailed project specifying this area as slated for the construction of a crematorium rather than for graves.

“Regarding Žirnių street, there was an instruction from Kvedaravičius to the administration which our commission does not approve, because that territory is allocated for the cemetery. We considered the issue and decided that location is completely inappropriate.” he said.

The chairman of the commission also said it was the commission which, in consideration of the law on local administration, had initiated the public opinion poll regarding a location for a crematorium as well. The commission later withdrew that proposal.

“We withdrew that issue because it no longer has any meaning after the adoption of the decision not to approve a crematorium on Olandų street. But what the mayor is doing is more of a public relations campaign, the poll has to be conducted in a different manner for it to be credible. If he wants to conduct a study of residents’ opinions, fine, but then don’t call that a poll,” the city council member said. He said for the survey of public opinion to be recognized legally and for it to allow the council to adopt a decision, the format of the questions and the method of polling would have to be approved by the council, sufficient time would have to be allocated for carrying it out and the results would also have to confirmed by the council.

“In this case there was none of that,” he said.

The company Vilnius Burial Home expressed the intention to build a crematorium on Olandų street. It would house the operation for burning human remains inside the premises it occupies. The Lithuanian Jewish Community opposes a crematorium on Olandų street, as does the opposition on the Vilnius City Council, who called upon the ruling party to put a halt to preliminary procedures for setting up the crematorium.

Currently the only operating crematorium in Lithuania is in the city of Kėdainiai.