Foreign experts may wade into Vilnius cemetery debate

The Baltic Times
April 6, 2007
From wire reports

Lithuania’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee has suggested contracting international experts to solve an ongoing disagreement between Jewish organizations and scientists regarding a construction site in central Vilnius which some believe infringes on the former Jewish cemetery in Snipiskes.

“We suggest that every party concerned should mutually agree to rally the most competent Lithuanian specialists, contract recognized foreign experts who would present their opinion on the boundaries of the former Jewish cemetery in Snipiskes to the work group set up by the prime minister,” the FAC’s declaration reads.

Several weeks ago, the Cultural Heritage Department requested the prime minister suspend construction of the apartment and office building, which some data shows could reach the territory of the former cemetery. Lithuanian and international Jewish organizations have repeatedly expressed their outrage with the construction.

At the same time, Lithuanian scientists refer to various historical sources to prove that there has never been a cemetery at the construction site, but said that there was one where the Vilnius Concert and Sports Palace now stands. This opinion has been supported by representatives of various institutions – employees of the Vilnius county chief’s administration, the city government, members of the Lithuanian Jewish community, archaeologists, architects and others.

Deputy Chairman of the FAC Audronis Azubalis told the media on Wednesday that the dispute over the construction site in the centre of Vilnius, near the former Jewish cemetery in Snipiskes had started damaging Lithuania’s foreign relations.

“The issue started harming international relations of Lithuania because the US, Sweden and Great Britain have reacted to the problem with declarations of their ambassadors and the interest from the US Congress and Senate is especially immense, so it is necessary to solve said issue as fast as possible,” Azubalis said.

In the words of the FAC committee’s members, based on the findings of the scientists, the work group would have to prepare an objective and non-disputable opinion on the territory of the former Jewish cemetery.