Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lithuania: In Search of the Hidden Holocaust Monument of Vilnius

 Vilnius, Lithuania. Flame of Hope. Photo from Foundation for the Arts

Cross posted from Defending

The Hidden Monument of Vilnius

In response to several requests from the United States, this week asked three separate Westerners who found themselves in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, to try to see the “Flame of Hope” monument, by sculptor Leonardo Nierman, in memory of the victims of the Lithuanian Holocaust, located in the heart of the Old Town, in a yard that was in the Vilna Ghetto between September 1941 and the ghetto’s liquidation three years later.

The story of the monument got underway nearly thirty years ago when the idea first came to the person who made it happen, Shelly Rybak Pearson of Florida, USA, who contributed a comment piece on the subject last December.

The seemingly interminable saga has been the subject of a number of American media outlets, including a feature article in the Palm Beach Post and a television interview for the Miami Herald. For many years, the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington DC and the American Embassy in Vilnius have participated in the conversation concerning the monument. Discussions in different periods have dealt with agreeing a text for the inscription (see box at the end of this article), the venue for the monument, and above all — accessibility of the monument to the general public, Lithuanians and foreign visitors alike.

What is agreed by all sides is that the monument is located in the courtyard of the building that housed one of interwar Vilna’s prime Jewish educational institutions, the Yídishe reál-gimnàzye. During the Holocaust, the building tragically became the headquarters of the Nazi-established Judenrat, or “Jewish authority” within the ghetto. Like the other ghettos in major Lithuanian cities, the Vilna Ghetto continued to incarcerate the shrinking remnant of Lithuanian Jewry for several years after the majority were shot in the summer and fall of 1941, mostly by local perpetrators volunteering to kill the civilian Jewish population for the Nazis, at hundreds of mass grave sites across Lithuania.

Read the entire post here

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