Statement by Lithuania at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism
Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism
October, 12-13, 2021
Pledges by Lithuania for 2021-2025
The Lithuanian government is engaged in a number of initiatives on Holocaust remembrance and education, which are to be implemented within a 5-year perspective. The most significant of them include opening new museum spaces and updating existing school curricula incorporating modern teaching recommendations on the Holocaust. This is an important contribution to raising awareness and educating society not only about the Holocaust but also the ages rich history of Jews in Lithuania. It was extensively presented during the year 2020, which was officially dedicated to the Vilna Gaon and saw a significant increase of interest in Jewish life, history and heritage in Lithuania.
Development of museums and memorials
Currently two museums devoted to Lithuanian Jewry are undergoing renovation to be completed in 2023-2024. Both will become branches of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History which is a state museum under the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture.
The Memorial Museum of the Holocaust in Lithuania and the Vilna Ghetto will be located in the building which housed the Mefitsei Haskala (Education Disseminators) society library before World War II. The library was nationalized during the first Soviet occupation in 1940. After the establishment of the ghetto in 1941, the library found itself enclosed in the ghetto area and functioned there until the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943. The library witnessed cultural activities as well as the activities of the underground armed resistance organization in the Vilna Ghetto. Survivors of the Holocaust (among them writers Shmerke Kaczerginski and Avrom Sutzkever) founded the Jewish Museum there in 1944. It was closed by the Soviet government in 1949.
The new Memorial Museum of the Holocaust in Lithuania and the Vilna Ghetto will replace the current Holocaust exposition. The museum is expected to be opened at the end of 2024. It is funded by the state budget.
The Museum of the Culture and Identity of Lithuanian Jews is to be opened in 2023 in the building of the former Tarbut Gymnasium in Vilnius. It will be a modern interactive exposition with authentic exhibits on Lithuanian Jewish history and culture. The project is funded by the European Union.
Paneriai (Ponar) killing site
An action plan for the re-arrangement and accessibility of the Paneriai (Ponar) Memorial for 2019–2024 was approved by the Government in 2018. The plan stipulated that the project should be fully implemented in mid-2024. Its implementation will be extended, however, due to several reasons, first and foremost, due to the process of choosing a location for the new visitor center.
Other killing sites
The central and local governments in cooperation with the Lithuanian Jewish Community continue to re-arrange, maintain and mark the sites of mass killings of Jews by 1) putting up memorial plaques and erecting monuments; 2) putting up directional signs on roads leading to the sites of killings and burial; 3) installing information stands telling the history of the Holocaust. While most of the Holocaust killing sites in Lithuania are marked, the priority for the near future is the identification of the names of the Holocaust victims and their commemoration in Lithuanian towns and villages, which has already started. Currently, information stands with the names of the victims are installed at the killing sites of Jews in five towns.
Currently, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports is reviewing all current educational curricula for grades 1 to 10 adopted in 2008. The review process aimed at the modernization of the educational system should be completed in 2022. In the new curriculum of history, IHRA Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust will play an important role. The Holocaust will be taught in the context of World War II. The contents will be more detailed and developed by introducing a better explanation of specific terms such as ghettos, pogroms, collaboration, anti-Semitism and so on. It will include the individualization of the Holocaust narrative through personal stories as well as study visits by students to the Holocaust memorial sites. The genocide of the Roma will also become an integral part of the curriculum for the first time. One of the important objectives is to stimulate critical thinking of students and to ensure a more precise understanding of the consequences of anti-Semitism.
The Secretariat of the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania plays an important role in non-formal Holocaust education. It was on the initiative of the Secretariat that starting from 2003 Tolerance Education Centers were established in 151 schools, local museums and educational centers. Teachers who work at these centers support the International Commission’s initiatives and are active participants in its educational program about the Holocaust. The Commission together with Tolerance Education Centers, local Jewish communities and other partners have been inviting people to unite on the Memory Road initiative across Lithuania for over a decade now. The participants (most of them schoolchildren and teachers) retrace the paths that the Holocaust victims were forced to walk from central parts of towns and settlements to the sites of their massacre. There are about 260 such killing sites in Lithuania. The Memory Road initiative visits from 100 to 150 sites every year. Two hundred to three hundred schools have joined the campaign and the total number of participants exceeds 10,000. The Prime Minister, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Education as well as MPs walked the Memory Road in 2021, which marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania and is held in cities and towns across the country from June to December.
A unique private museum of the history of Jewish towns (shtetlakh) has been launched in the town of Šeduva in 2015. The project is funded by private sponsors from Lithuania and the RSA in cooperation with the local municipality. It will tell the story of Jews in Šeduva before the Holocaust, about the traditions, businesses and culture life of all Lithuanian shtetlakh. It will be a state-of-the-art museum designed by US and Finnish architects. The museum is expected to open in 2023. The Lost Shtetl Museum is a segment of a broader project, the Lithuanian Jewish Culture and Heritage Project implemented since 2012. The other segments of the project: restoration of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Šeduva; three monuments on the sites of mass killings; monument in the center of Šeduva; historical monograph about the Šeduva Jews; documentary film “Petrified Time.”
Artistic means of expression to fight against modern forms of anti-Semitism
To commemorate the Holocaust, one of the most promising composers of the younger generation in Lithuania, Jievaras Jasinskis, and shofarist Tadas Daujotas presented a music project “Symphony from Jerusalem of the North” this September. This contemporary symphony is unique. It showcases classical music intertwined with Lithuanian and Hebrew folklore motifs. The music project honors the memory of Jews living in Lithuania, expresses solidarity to the Jewish community, and uses artistic means of expression to fight against modern forms of anti-Semitism. The symphony has started its journey across Lithuania, witnessing the most important moments of Israel’s and Lithuania’s history.
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