Vilnius sports palace could become Jewish history museum, memorial – PM

  • 2022-01-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The now derelict Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports in central Vilnius could become a museum or memorial dedicated to the history of Lithuanian Jews, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte says.

In her interview with the public broadcaster LRT, published on Thursday, the prime minister said such an idea was being considered following last year's consultations. Meanwhile, the previous government planned turning the palace into a convention center.

"For the whole past year, we have held consultations on ways to change the attitude and agree that that place, which has special value for Lithuania's Jewish history, should be dedicated to the history of Lithuanian Jews and it should be told there. Be it a museum, memorial or a specific object for that purpose," Simonyte said.

She also reminded that the ongoing public discussions with the representatives of the international Jewish community are raising challenges for the building's adaptation. Moreover, the building has the cultural heritage status.

"We will try going that way and look into whether we could offer the public a good solution of the use of that space to make it dedicated to the history of Lithuanian Jews. Not only to the Holocaust, but just to tell the whole story what we known for centuries and what we lost, and for those little things we still have to be protected and grow," Simonyte said.

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius on Thursday welcomed the prime minister position on the future of the Palace of Concerts and Sports. In his words, the previous government's decision to terminate the convention center project was a mistake "but the commemoration of the history of the Jewish people in this sensitive place is a very good choice".

"I do expect from the government not only words but specific financial commitments related to these decisions. Trough dialogue with the community about the use of this palace (which I have already started), we will definitely find the best solutions," the mayor posted on Facebook.

There were plans in Lithuania to make the palace into a convention center since 2015 when Turto Bankas (Property Bank), the state-owned property manager, took over the building. It wanted to reconstruct the building in 2016 already but a tender called that year was eventually terminated.

Since then, the start of the reconstruction has been postponed several times.

The reconstruction project also faced resistance from some Jewish communities since the complex is situated in the territory of an old Jewish cemetery that dated back to the XVI century.