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Jewish gravestones used by Soviets to build generator returned to cemetery

Recovered Jewish gravestones from the generator on Olandu gatve

August 23, 2016, saw Vilnius Municipality return the gravestones used to construct an electricity and heating generator during the Soviet-era, to the hill of the old Jewish cemetery on Olandų Street.

The generator was built between 1965-1968 when Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union. The stones used to build the generator were plundered by the local Soviet authorities from the Jewish cemetery on Olandų Street.

The Lithuanian capital began dismantling the generator in June 2016 with the help of the Cultural Heritage department, the city’s Jewish community, and other city representatives.

The work was completed this week, and the municipality ensured that all stones used in the generator’s build have been returned to the cemetery irrespective of size.

“It has been a long wait to see the Jewish gravestones used to build this generator returned to their original resting place, but I am glad that with the cooperation of the Jewish community and other institutions, that we have managed to achieve this” said Vilnius Mayor, Remigijus Šimašius. “Even with a minimal budget, it shows that we are able to find solutions that pay tribute to our dead with the highest level of respect. This represents the values and culture of the city.”

While the municipality is currently discussing the gravestones’ future with architects and Vilnius’ Jewish community, it has confirmed that the names inscribed on the stones will be identified by members by a group of experts who are able to read Hebrew.

It is expected that the group will be made up of staff from Vilnius University’s history department, and members of the city’s Jewish community.

Olandu Kulansky

Following their identification, the largest stones could be used to create a memorial to the city’s deceased Jewish community near the Vilnius Palace of Concerts and sports in Šnipiškės. Another potential for the future memorial could be the Tuskulėnai Peace Park.

Smaller and unidentifiable fragments will be buried in the Olandų Street cemetery.

All photos by Saulius Žiūros.