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Restored Old Jewish Cemetery in Olandų street is becoming a widely-visited place

Užupis Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius has changed dramatically in recent years:  new alleys and paths have been laid out and information boards have been put up in the territory of 11 ha. Vilnius municipality in cooperation with the Jewish Community began restoration works at the cemetery in September last year:  trees, shrubs and bushes, which covered the area and thus kept the inhabitants of Vilnius from knowing that there was an Old Jewish Cemetery somewhere in Olandų street, were removed, the forest was cleaned up and the landscape was formed in order to make the area suitable for walking.

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It is expected that the Old Jewish Cemetery will become increasingly popular with tourists in the near future.  The restored cemetery has turned into a beautiful calm place of commemoration where you will learn more about the history of Vilnius and the Jewish people who lived here. Information boards located in the cemetery enlighten the visitors about the history of the Old Jewish Cemetery and the changes it has undergone since 1831.

As one of those boards says, “Cemetery lots were divided into 8 categories.  Rabbis and rich Jews were buried in expensive lots of the first, second and third category. Headstones of special artistic value were erected for the wealthier and most honoured members of the community”.

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The 11-hectare territory was a working Jewish cemetery until 1946, but was destroyed during the Soviet period and over the years became engulfed by a tangle of overgrown bushes and trees. While it was functioning, as many as 70,000 people were buried  there, including many prominent Jewish intellectuals, scientists, artists and public figures who have contributed to the enhancement of Jewish culture in Vilnius region.

A monument with inscriptions in Jewish characters was built in the Jewish cemetery more than a decade ago. The monument incorporates the tombstones that Soviet authorities had once removed from the cemetery and used to construct the stairs to Tauras Hill and that were dismantled and restored to the cemetery.  There are approximately 70 concrete tombstones and their fragments at the site.

Alongside with Užupis Jewish Cemetery Vilnius municipality maintains other Jewish memorial places: a small graveyard in the forest in Titnagio street, the place of the execution of Jews in Naujaneriai forest, Jewish cemetery in Sudervė, Jewish cemetery in Olimpiečių street.

Jewish Olandy Street Cemetery has been listed as protected cultural heritage. The cemetery has been included into the territory of Pavilniai National Park.

Marketing and communication department, vrt@vilnius.lt