Lithuanian and American Jewish Reps: Museum at Palace of Sports Impossible

Vilnius, April 27, BNS–The Palace of Sports, built above old graves in the old Jewish cemetery in the Šnipiškės neighborhood of Vilnius, is not an appropriate place for a museum of Jewish history, according to Lithuanian and American Jewish representatives.

“There’s agreement the Jewish cemetery is not an appropriate site for a museum,” American Jewish Committee representative Andrew Baker, who is a leading executive in a fund for disbursing compensation for Jewish property, told reporters Thursday.

“We believe there should be a kind of presentation of the history of the cemetery and of the people buried there,” he added. Baker is a chairman on the executive board of the Goodwill Foundation which supervises monies paid in compensation for Jewish religious community property. Under a law adopted in 2011 Lithuania is obligated to pay out 37 million euros over ten years in compensation for property seized by totalitarian regimes.

The AJC rep said he hoped the cemetery territory would be protected as a memorial site or park.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said there was unanimous consent on the issue. “In our understanding this site is not appropriate as a venue for a museum of the history of the Jews of Lithuania,” she said.

During the Soviet occupation the Palace of Sports was built on top of the destroyed old Jewish cemetery in Šnipiškės. The cemetery operated until the 18th century. Many important Jewish cultural figures were buried there.