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!
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • 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.