Vilnius Jewish cemetery dispute settled


(JTA) — A long-running dispute over construction on the site of a  historic Jewish cemetery in Lithuania was settled.

The agreement signed Aug. 26 will give protected status to the Snipiskes cemetery in the center of Vilnius, the capital city.

Much of the cemetery was destroyed during the Nazi occupation, and a sports center was built over part of it during the Soviet era. The cemetery had active burials between the 16th and 19th centuries.

The construction of an apartment and office complex on the site in 2005 set off worldwide Jewish condemnation. The U.S. House of Representatives in a motion condemned the Lithuanian government for allowing the construction.

Buildings already up on the site will not be demolished, according to the agreement, which set official boundaries for the cemetery.

The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Vilnius Cultural Heritage Protection Department agreed to the plan, according to Ha’aretz.

The Jewish community has rejected a compensation plan offered by Lithuania for Jewish communal buildings seized by the Nazis, held by the Soviets and never returned. The Lithuanian government offered $53 million to be paid over 10 years beginning in 2012, but the community in rejecting the plan said the amount equals merely one-third of what the buildings are worth.

About 220,000 Jews lived in Lithuania before the Holocaust, but only about 5,000 Jews now live there.

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