VILNIUS, Jun 16, BNS – Lithuania's parliament on Thursday took yet another step regarding compensation of 128 million litas (EUR 37.1 mln) for Jewish property nationalized by totalitarian regimes.
The bill on Good Will Compensation for Real Estate of Jewish Religious Communities was approved for discussion by 77 votes in support, seven against and eight abstentions. The parliament is yet to vote on adoption of the draft legislation.
Under the bill, the compensation would be transferred to a special foundation, the governing body of which would represent the Jewish Community in Lithuania, the Religious Jewish Community of Lithuania and other Jewish religious, health, cultural and education organizations.
Jewish organizations have not reached a unified position on the government-initiated law - a few Jewish rabbis have asked the Lithuanian Seimas to vote down the proposal, stating disapproval to the payment of money to a foundation that would involve Jewish organizations operating in Lithuania.
The presented draft has also come under criticism from an organization that called itself the Jewish Religious Community of Kaunas. It is not satisfied with the fact that a compensation would be paid, in its opinion, to "a mystical fund comprised of institutions and organizations that have nothing to do with the continuity of Judaism traditions, the
history of Lithuanian Jews and Jewish religious communities. Meanwhile, the Jewish Community of Lithuania backs the draft law stipulating that the Lithuanian government would pay 128 million litas in compensation for nationalized Jewish property in 2013-2023. The sum amounts to about a third of the value of all appropriated properties.
Authors of the draft said the law would demonstrate Lithuania's good will to restore historic justice, improve the relations between Lithuanian and Jewish nations, as well as state respect to human rights and commitments before the global Jewish community and international organizations. Furthermore, handover of relevant real estate would provide Lithuania with politically stronger positions in its talks with Russia on compensation of
damages caused by the totalitarian regime.
Jewish reps thank Lithuanian administration for respect to old cemetery VILNIUS, Jun 16, BNS – Representatives of the Jewish community on Thursday thanked the administration of Lithuania and Vilnius for the respect to the old Jewish cemetery. “This is a day of triumph of democracy, when we see that negotiations and dialogue can solve conflicts by way of good will and understanding. This has been done between nations with different opinions, attitudes and religions," Rabbi Elyokim Schlessinger,
chairman of the Rabbi Council of the Committee for the Preservation of Cemeteries in Europe, said at the ceremony of unveiling a memorial plaque at the former cemetery. The ceremony next to the old Jewish cemetery of Snipiskes, a neighborhood in central Vilnius, was attended by Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, Vilnius City Mayor Arturas Zuokas, other officials, foreign diplomats and representatives of the Jewish community.
Schlessinger expressed gratitude to Lithuania's government, embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom, the capital city's administration and residents. In his words, it is a historic event when Vilnius can be recalled as a once center of Jewish life.
Faina Kukliansky, deputy chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, said that, regardless of a far smaller population of Jews in Lithuania now, as compared with the pre-WWII era, "the independent state of Lithuania has preserved respect and understanding of the Jewish nation." "On behalf of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, I want to thank all those who helped solving the long-term clash between the Jewish religious community and the state. (...)
Today I want to deliver special thanks to director of the Cultural Heritage Department Diana Varnaite who translated into reality things that some wanted to see in theory," she added. The Lithuanian prime minister said that Lithuania had succeeded in settling the disagreements.
"We are gathered here today to remind ourselves and the future generations about presence of a Jewish cemetery here 180 years ago, their importance to the Jewish community of Vilnius and the rest of the world. A few years ago, the Snipiskes Jewish ceremony was subject to heated discussions, however, together with the international Jewish community Lithuania was able to find ways of solving the conflicts and pay due respect to the important place," Kubilius said.
"For this I am thankful to (…) Rabbi Schlessinger and all those who brought us to the day of respect and memory," said the head of the government. A few years ago, Lithuania was locked in a new scandal amid suspicions that new commercial building were constructed in the location of the old Jewish cemetery. The cemetery had been cleared by the Soviet administration, however, historians noted lack of clear evidence about removal of all remains. In response to the criticism, Lithuania's administration had invited Jewish representatives
to perform tests at the site in 2008. Following international tests and cartographic clashes, the vague outline of the cemetery was reborn in a green lawn. Lithuania's government approved the boundaries of the cemetery in 2009. Cabinet representatives said Jews had agreed with the government-approved boundaries and did not object leaving the apartment buildings and the Sports Center located in the questionable territory untouched, although historic sources showed them within the cemetery boundaries. The Jewish cemetery in central Vilnius were functional from the 16th century before they
were closed in the 18th century. Lithuanian PM to attend unveiling of memorial plaque at old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius VILNIUS, Jun 16, BNS – Lithuania's Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius will attend a ceremony to unveil a memorial plaque next to the old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius on Thursday.
In the framework of the Year of Holocaust, Lithuania will complete immortalizing the memory of one of Europe's oldest destroyed Jewish cemetery. Lithuania came under international criticism a few years ago over protection of the site. Kubilius said that the memorial plaque would send yet another sign of respect to the Jewish nation amid Lithuania's efforts to restore historic justice. "Lithuania's history cannot be imagined without the Lithuanian Jewish community, which had left a deep imprint in our heritage since the era of Vytautas the Great," the prime minister told BNS via his spokesman.
"Holocaust undermined the Litvak community, however, Lithuania is today working to return the moral debt by restoring historic justice. The memorial plaque next to the old Jewish cemetery in Snipikskes is yet another small sign of respect to the Jewish nation amid the commemoration of 2011 as the year of memory of the Holocaust," Kubilius said.
Lithuania was locked in a new scandal a few years ago amid suspicions that new commercial building were constructed in the location of the old Jewish cemetery. The cemetery has been cleared by the Soviet administration, however, historians note lack of clear evidence about removal of all remains.
In response to the criticism, Lithuania's administration had invited Jewish representatives to perform tests at the site in 2008. Following international tests and cartographic clashes, the vague outline of the cemetery was reborn in a green lawn. Lithuania's government approved the boundaries of the cemetery in 2009.
Cabinet representatives said Jews had agreed with the government-approved boundaries and did not object leaving the apartment buildings and the Sports Center located in the questionable territory untouched, although historic sources showed them within the cemetery boundaries.The Jewish cemetery in central Vilnius were functional from the 16th century before they were closed in the 18th century.