Alanta Synagogue Hosts Memory Exhibit

by Vaidotas Žukas,

Jews constituted the majority of the population of the towns of the Molėtai region before World War II. In 1941, however, the Nazi regime issued a verdict against the Jews, the descendants of David were to be abused, tortured and shot… And only God knows how many people from this beautiful lake country contributed to the rescue of their neighbors and vice versa, informing upon them, betraying and shooting them. The Nazis only sent a few Germans to Molėtai. Lithuanian lowlifes performed all of the arrests and shootings of Jews.

There is a bright side, though, to this tragedy: there were also several hundred rescuers of Jews in the Molėtai area, since it took the conviction, daily work and risk-taking in the face of death of several dozen people to hide and protect one Jew. Respect to them!

The Alanta synagogue is one of only several surviving wooden synagogues in Lithuania; it hasn’t been destroyed and wasn’t burned down, but it’s still not in good order and unrestored. During the Soviet era grain and fertilizer were stored there. The cut-up wooden walls of the synagogue and the tin roof still with bullet holes from the war witness to both the Holocaust and the continuing reluctant position taken towards Jewish religious and historical heritage in Lithuania.

Although the synagogue has been propped up with supports and is a patch-work, the Alanta town community have cleaned out the interior and laid carpet, and the Menų Tiltas Gallery from Vilnius has loaned two large collages by Parisian artist Pranas Gailius (1928-2015) with a biblical theme (according to the Psalms of David), and also an exhibit commemorating Jews has been hung on the eroding walls and rafters.

The synagogue and exhibit are open from June 10, 2018, and will stay open until October.

Photos: Vaidotas Žukas

Full story in Lithuanian and more photographs here.

Note to readers: The synagogue in Alanta belongs to the Lithuanian Jewish Community and there are currently plans by the Goodwill Foundation and the Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department to finance tests on the building and to draft a program for renovation. Those who wish to visit the synagogue and view the exhibition should contact Alanta alderman Aidonas Užubalis by telephone at +370 652 16106.