Vilnius, Lithuania – The first meeting of a Lithuanian Government-designated joint commission, bringing together various governmental officials and Jewish representatives from the Lithuanian Jewish Community and international Jewish organizations took place today in Vilnius.
During the course of this meeting, four topics were addressed:
- The long term protection and preservation of Jewish cemeteries and mass graves of Holocaust victims must be assured. Not all the sites of mass murder are clearly identified and properly memorialized. Many Jewish cemeteries are also uncared for and unprotected. Government authorities proposed a series of steps to address the registration, documentation and preservation of these sites, noting the legal obligations of municipalities. A working group will be created to follow through on this.
- The Jewish heritage in Lithuania encompasses buildings notably synagogues, books, newspapers and other archival documents, Torah scrolls and other ritual objects. They represent the shared cultural patrimony of Lithuania and world Jewry. Today’s discussions focused on specific plans underway to restore a number of synagogues and other places of Jewish heritage, noting the importance of including information on Jewish life and history. The conversation also highlighted the cooperative program underway between YIVO and the Lithuanian National Library and State Archives.
- Members of the joint commission agreed that more must be done to teach Lithuanian children about the history of Lithuanian Jewry, including its contribution to Lithuania and to world Jewish thought, and also about the Holocaust in Lithuania. This will entail a thorough examination of the current school curricula and textbooks as well as other activities such as school visits to museums and historical sites.
- Jewish representatives pointed out that there are significant gaps in Lithuanian law on private property restitution and its subsequent implementation that have precluded some number of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their heirs from being able to file property claims or to have them successfully addressed because of residency or citizenship requirements at the time. At today’s meeting it was agreed that a more thorough examination of this problem will be undertaken with the goal of determining what appropriate remedies might be taken to address it.
Those participating in today’s meeting included representatives from the American Jewish Committee, the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, the Lithuanian Jewish Community, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and the World Jewish Restitution Organization.
The Lithuanian officials participating represented the following ministries: Justice, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Culture, Education and Science as well as the Association of Municipalities in Lithuania. The Joint Commission is chaired by the Chancellor of the Government of Lithuania.