Effort Being Made to Exhume Six Remaining Graves in Ancient Jewish Cemetery Near Vilna

Rabbi Pinhas Teitz said today he had requested permission to exhume the six remaining graves in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Radin, near Vilna, which is being leveled along with five non-Jewish cemeteries, for shipment to the United States for re-burial.

Rabbi Teitz, a former member of the Presidium of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada, said he had made the request through Ephraim Kaplun, head of the Moscow Jewish community. The remaining graves include that of the Chofetz Chaim, regarded as the greatest Talmudic scholar of modern times, who died in 1933.

Rabbi Teitz had reported previously that he had learned from a Moscow source of a visit to the Radin cemetery recently indicating that a tractor had devastated the cemetery, leaving pieces of headstones and monuments strewn over the cemetery area. According to that report, the grave of the Chofetz Chaim had disappeared.

SOVIET MINISTRY STARTS PROBE

Rabbi Teitz made contact with Kaplun by telephone on Aug. 20 to inform him of the report. Kaplun subsequently informed Rabbi Teitz that, at Kaplun’s request, the Soviet Ministry of Cults had sent a commission to Radin to investigate the reported destruction.

Rabbi Teitz said today he had received a telephone report of the findings of the commission which said that the Jewish cemetery had not been in use since 1942 and the Radin government decided to liquidate it and the five other burial grounds. Kaplun told Rabbi Teitz that the commission was informed that a notice had been placed in the local press in Radin on May 12, announcing plans for the cemetery liquidation and requesting friends and relatives to come to the cemeteries and exhume bodies for re-burial.

However, Rabbi Teitz said, the announcement attracted little attention and no persons came to the cemeteries to reclaim any bodies, and the Radin city government began the leveling of the cemeteries. Nevertheless, Rabbi Teitz said, when he visited the Jewish cemetery two months ago, he found six graves still untouched. He said Kaplun had informed him those graves remained undisturbed and then he asked Kaplun to seek permission for removal of the six bodies for re-burial.

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