Viewing cable 06VILNIUS945
Title: PLANS FOR SNIPISKES CEMETERY - A CHANCE FOR

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06VILNIUS9452006-10-13 13:42:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
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DE RUEHVL #0945/01 2861342
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131342Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0675
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000945 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR EUR/NB AND EUR/OHI 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2016 
TAGS: SCUL PREL LH
SUBJECT: PLANS FOR SNIPISKES CEMETERY - A CHANCE FOR 
PROTECTED STATUS, BUT MUCH WORK TO BE DONE 
 
REF: VILNIUS 909 AND PREVIOUS 
 
Classified By: Political and Economic Section Chief Rebecca Dunham for 
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary:  The GOL's working group on the Snipiskes 
cemetery recently finished its work and submitted its 
conclusions to the Prime Minister.  At the group's 
recommendation, the Prime Minister issued a decree calling 
for the establishment of a committee of experts to research 
the boundaries of the former cemetery.  Unfortunately, he has 
not placed anyone in charge of the process. So far at least, 
no Ministry seems willing to take the lead.   End summary. 
 
¶2. (C) For several months, an intra-ministerial working group 
met to find a way forward on the Snipiskes cemetery issue. 
The process was marred by two factors.  First was the desire 
on the part of the Vilnius municipality (in the person of 
Mayor Arturas Zuokas) to move forward quickly with 
development of the site, without regard to religious or 
cultural concerns.  Second was the unwillingness of any 
governmental organization to take the lead in finding a 
solution. 
 
¶3. (C) Post has made tremendous headway on the first problem 
by convincing the Mayor of the need to work with the 
international Jewish community to find a way forward that 
will be acceptable to most, if not all, parties (reftel). 
During a meeting with the American Jewish Committee's Rabbi 
Andrew Baker on September 28, Zuokas even agreed to invite to 
Vilnius two experts in the preservation of and development 
around Jewish cemeteries.  Post is working to facilitate that 
visit, which we hope will take place in the coming weeks. 
 
¶4. (C) The second problem was compounded by a change in 
government this summer, and the resultant change in ministers 
and vice ministers (one of whom chaired the working group). 
The Foreign Ministry, out of frustration that no other 
ministry would take the lead, recently sent a paper to the 
Prime Minister outlining the work and conclusions of the 
working group.  Inter alia, the group requested that the 
municipality halt any development of the site until the GOL 
has determined a solution; researched similar situations in 
other European cities; and requested the assistance of the 
Israeli government in solving the problem.  Its conclusions 
suggest the following course of action: 
 
-- First, form a committee of experts to determine the 
precise borders of the former cemetery.  This group would be 
comprised of people from Lithuania's Cultural Heritage 
Protection Department, Justice Ministry, History Institute, 
National Museum, and other organizations.  It would review a 
wide range of archives and maps, and might request that the 
Israeli government provide relevant experts to assist them; 
 
-- Second, prepare a map of the cemetery's boundaries in 
order to be able to represent the GOL in talks with the 
international Jewish community; 
 
-- Third, define a status for the former cemetery's grounds 
under existing Lithuanian laws regarding sites of cultural 
value; and 
 
-- Fourth, register the site under this status, so that it 
can benefit from the protections provided by Lithuanian law. 
 
¶5. (C) Based on the MFA's report, on September 21 PM Kirkilas 
directed the Environment Ministry, the Culture Ministry, and 
the Vilnius county government (which reports to the central 
government) to work with the municipality to form the group 
of experts.  So far, the response has not been encouraging. 
According to the Prime Minister's Assistant Vilius 
Kavaliauskas, the Ministry of Culture replied to the decree 
on October 11, saying, essentially, that because the site 
does not have any formal cultural status now, there is 
nothing that the Ministry can do to assist.  (Culture 
Minister Jucas was unaware of the issue when the Ambassador 
raised it during an October 3 courtesy call.) Kavaliauskas 
told us October 13 that neither the Environment Ministry nor 
the county government had replied yet. 
 
¶6. (C) Jolanda Kriskovieciene, a Counselor in the MFA who has 
responsibility for Jewish Affairs, told us on October 12 that 
the PM had not designated any one person or Ministry as the 
lead on this issue.  She speculated that Kavaliauskas, who 
has handled Jewish affairs in the PM's office for at least 
two administrations, might be named to oversee the experts' 
committee.  Kavaliauskas later told us that no one had been 
appointed, but that the PM might do so in the future.  He 
pleaded for our understanding, saying that the PM has not had 
time to focus on this issue yet.  He hoped to be able to 
 
brief the PM fully soon. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
¶7. (C) The news from the Prime Minister's office is 
disappointing, but this story is far from over.  For the time 
being, no new construction can begin at the site, due to the 
protection provided to the Sports Palace, which stands on it, 
by the Cultural Heritage Protection Department.  Ukio Bankas, 
the current owner, is appealing that decision, but that 
process will take time.  The municipality still badly wants 
to buy the property, but needs to find the money to do so. 
This gives us time to continue to work the issue.  The 
mayor's office seems to have seen the light, and we will 
continue working with them to bring experts in who can advise 
them on a course of action that would likely be acceptable to 
most interested groups, including much of the international 
Jewish community.  At the same time, it is now clear that we 
will need to urge the Kirkilas government to address the 
problem in a more organized way: by appointing someone with 
authority to oversee the committee of experts, and convince 
the relevant ministries to cooperate fully. 
KELLY