Vilnius cemetery is saved

By Leon Symons, September 3, 2009

A long-running international row over the future of a 700-year-old cemetery in Lithuania has been settled.

The disused Snipiskes cemetery in Vilnius was found when developers began setting the foundations of an office block in 2007 and uncovered the remains of graves.

Protests were lodged by the London-based Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe (CPJCE), the American and British ambassadors in Vilnius and the Board of Deputies, who demanded that building stop until the exact boundaries of the cemetery were determined.

Rabbi Hershel Gluck of the CPJCE said: “It has taken a long time but we have been very successful. We met the Lithuanian prime minister, foreign minister and other government representatives for the signing ceremony.

“All parties have agreed it is a cemetery and must be treated with due dignity. There will be no new building, a car park there will be removed and the area will be landscaped.”

Board of Deputies vice-president Paul Edlin, who is also chairman of the international division, said: “Vilnius is of tremendous significance to world Jewry and the prospect that its cemetery might be lost in the annals of history was simply unacceptable to us.”

Last updated: 1:47pm, September 3 2009