Work has begun to remove part of an electric transformer station in Vilnius which was built during the Soviet era using gravestones from Jewish graves of the once-vast Užupis Jewish cemetery on Olandu street, which was almost totally razed. The Viilnius city web site, and the Lithuanian Jewish community web site, said Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius personally surveyed work begun this week to dismantle the electric substation on Olandų street and posted a video of him (see below).
After consulting with the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the decision was made to remove the headstone fragments to the site on Olandų street where a Jewish cemetery memorial is being constructed
We reported last Septermber that the city had been carrying out some clearing and restoration work in the cemetery site.The municipal web site stated that “It’s clear that 26 years after the declaration of Lithuanian independence, it has long been time to get rid of such symbols of disrespect for our history.”
Today the Jewish headstones are being removed from the substation and will be used for a Jewish cemetery memorial on Olandų street. We consulted with the Lithuanian Jewish Community on how to return the fragments of gravestones in the most honorable manner, showing due respect to the memory of the dead,” Vilnius mayor Šimašius said.
As many as 70,000 Vilnius Jews were buried in what was a huge, hillside cemetery. When it was destroyed in the 1960s, gravestones were removed and used as building material. Among the sites constructed with the stones was a grand staircase — 380 steps leading up to the huge headquarters of the state trade union. The stairway was dismantled and the stones returned to the Jewish community in the 1990s, and some were used to create a monument at the site.