The Arty Semite

Vilnius Grave Stones in Middle School Walls

By Samuel D. Gruber

  • Print
  • Share Share

Crossposted from Samuel Guber’s Jewish Art & Monuments

Eleven years ago I visited the Uzupis Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius, Lithuania, or rather, what remained of it. In the dark light of winter I climbed the hill of the cemetery to look for traces of gravestones and walls. Where there were approximately 70,000 burials from 1830 through 1948, only a few hundred stones were visible. These were the ones embedded in the hillside. The cemetery had been “liquidated” in the 1960s, when Vilnius was under Soviet rule. No marker told the story of the site, or the history of the dead.

Richard Schofield

Over the next few years I worked with the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, of which I was Research Director, to tell that story. Commission Members Harriet Rotter and Steven Some led the Commission’s contributions to the project. The result was a wall and a monument dedicated in November 2004.

Over the years I wondered where all the stones had gone. The site was only cleared by the Soviets in the 1960s, but all anyone would say was that the matzevot had been removed for building material.

Now we know where some of the stones ended up.

Richard Schofield and Dovid Katz write on the website defendinghistory.com that thousands of fragments of Uzupis Cemetery gravestones are were used to construct walls on the grounds of the Lazdynai Middle School in Vilnius, built in the early 1970s. Richard visited the school last week, took pictures, and posted a report.

They write, in part: “The school grounds’ outside walls comprised of the pilfered Jewish gravestones have nothing to do with the structure of the school’s building and removing the stones and finding a culturally respectful home for them would not touch the school building with so much as a hair. Moreover, the walls made from the stones extend well beyond the school’s grounds to surrounding parts of Lazdynai, where a large supply of Jewish gravestones were brought from the cemetery site after the city’s Soviet-era administration destroyed the cemetery.”

See more of Richard Schofield’s photography here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Dovid Katz, Richard Schofield, Samuel D. Gruber, Samuel Gruber's Jewish Art and Monuments, Vilnius

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.