2019-08-07 20:39:00

Vilnius synagogue closes due to local Jews' safety fears

Moscow, August 7, Interfax - Senior members of the Lithuanian Jewish community have decided to close its office and the synagogue in Vilnius for safety reasons.

"Amid the escalating tension, neither our community nor the synagogue have the possibility to ensure the safety of the people coming here, some of whom were victims of the Nazi during Holocaust," the community was quoted by the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper as saying in a statement.

The surge in anti-Semitism occurred after a plaque commemorating "forest brother" Jonas Norejka was removed from the facade of the Lithuanian Sciences' Academy library. It was removed at the behest of Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius who said there was evidence of Norejka's involvement in the creation of a Jewish ghetto. The move prompted mixed reactions, the country's president called for a moratorium on the "erasing of historical memory."

"That the anti-Semitic comments and posts (even the Christians' Saint Mary was called a Jew), published by parties and their chairmen on their accounts open to the general public, remain unpunished makes one think twice if we are safe. We would like to hear the opinion and clear position of Lithuanian leaders, whether Lithuania will continue to connive in public propaganda in support of the veneration of the people involved in the extermination of Jews," the community said.

The authors of the statement have asked for protection from potential vandal attacks at the local Jewish cemetery.

The newspaper cited archival data which said that the extermination of Lithuanian Jews began before the Nazi came. In the first five months of 1941 over 200,000 women, old people and children, or 98% of the Jewish population, were killed. After the war experts recognized that this proportion was highest among Nazi-occupied countries.

In recent years Russia's Jewish community has expressed its protest against nationalist marches in Lithuania with placard photos of recognized war criminals.