VILNIUS - Russian officials are concerned that a new gravel quarry near Pagegiai might extend onto the grounds of the historic Buchenwald concentration camp. The quarry allegedly will include part of the Oflager 53 branch of the camp, where bodies are buried.
The foreign ministry has asked the municipality of Pagegiai, adjacent to the Kaliningrad region, to inform the public of the details.
"Situations like that can probably be avoided if the public is provided with information on time and in a clear format," the Foreign Ministry's Undersecretary Lai-monas Talat-Kelpsa told BNS on July 18.
The Pagegiai municipal government had not commented when The Baltic Times went to press.
Prima Parte, the company building the quarry, says that all the furor is baseless. Stepas Telecius, the company's director, claims that the accusations stem from a personal dispute with someone who "did not receive the money he wanted." He declined to give the person's name.
"All this mess is organized by some people who are protecting the forest," Telecius added.
Telecius said that if archeological studies turned up human remains, his company would call off the operation. "We are not animals," he said.
Russian diplomats in Klaipeda, including Vice Consul Anatoly Muzychenko, and former concentration-camp prisoners went to Pagegiai looking for explanations of the situation, the local newspaper Taurages Kurjeris reported.
Muzychenko told the paper that he was alarmed over the quarry plans in the graveyard site. He said such a move would be an enormous injustice. Muzychenko said he'd seen maps of the future quarry provided by officials of the Pagegiai municipality.
"I am not a construction worker and could not understand them well. The good thing is that they plan additional tests [to] find out whether there are remains of the dead in the quarry territory," Muzychenko said, adding that the Russian consulate would keep a close eye on the situation in Pagegiai.
Currently Prima Parte has two licenses for the area, one for a smaller plot and another to investigate a larger area for quarrying. Jonas Satkunas, Deputy Director of the Lithuanian Geological Survey, said that he expects no trouble from Prima Parte. "Currently they are only investigating, but if they wanted to quarry a larger area, we would need to make a contract with them on behalf of the government," Satkunas said.
Satkunas added that construction on the Buchenwald site would not be permitted. "An area of historical importance would be absolutely and without a doubt out of bounds," he said.
Telecius told The Baltic Times that his company, which is engaged in numerous sites across Lithuania, is complying with all laws regarding environmental and archeological studies. You can't go within 150 meters of the camp, and it is clearly marked in the forest," Telecius said.
Prima Parte claims deforestation would be minimal. "Our quarry will only be about six to eight hectares per year. The forestry department clears about 150 hectares of forest annually," Telecius said.
"We are paying for an ecological survey and if there are animals or insects that are interesting there, we won't build," Telcius added.
The open-air camp Oflager 53 was the 53rd branch of the Buchenwald concentration camp and served as a transfer point for prisoners. More than 10,000 people are believed to have died there.
Exploration in the camp's territory in 1964 revealed scores of human remains. On the 60-year anniversary of the end of World War II, the Lithuanian government allocated 87,000 litas (25,200 euros) for renovation of the memorial complex of the Pagegiai concentration camp. In 2005, a memorial plaque was unveiled for Oflager 53.