Lithuanian Governments Sells Great Synagogue Ruins to Goodwill Foundation

Lithuanian Governments Sells Great Synagogue Ruins to Goodwill Foundation

The Lithuanian Government has sold the remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilnius to the Goodwill Foundation which administers compensation from the Lithuanian state for Jewish property seized in the Holocaust.

Lithuanian culture minister Dr. Mindaugas Kvietkauskas reported the remains of the building were sold to the Goodwill Foundation by reducing compensation paid to that organization by 1,244 euros. “These are the ruins, the foundation, uncovered during archaeological digs. The buildings were damaged during World War II and razed during the Soviet era,” Kvietkauskas said. The minister reported the Goodwill Foundation requested the sale indicating the ruins would be used to commemorate the former Great Synagogue, “to fulfill Jewish cultural and religious goals.” In 2017 the ruins were listed on the registry of cultural treasures. Annual archaeological digs at the site have uncovered spectacular and unique finds.

Last spring the Government transferred administration of the site to the Cultural Heritage Protection Department.

Archaeological digs have been taking place regularly at the Great Synagogue complex since 2011, with partial financing from the Goodwill Foundation. In July last year two rooms were discovered containing old books, and exploration of the mikvot or ritual baths continued. There has been discussion on how best to commemorate the site for many years. Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius said the former synagogue complex will be commemorated in 2023 when Vilnius marks its 700th birthday. The brick-and-mortar synagogue was built in the 17th century, replacing an earlier wooden one. It has been said the Great Synagogue of Vilnius was the largest and most decorative synagogue in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Full story in Lithuanian here.