Monday, May 4, 2009

Lithuania -- Pakruojis wooden synagogue burned down?

Pakruojis synagogue, 2006. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

More depressing news. Lithuanian news sources say a possible arson fire has partially destroyed the historic wooden synagogue in the village of Pakruojis!

I have asked for details and will post what I find out.

Meanwhile, Sam Gruber has been in touch with colleagues in Lithuanian who report that:

Anti-Semitism in the country is reaching a "fever pitch" with many repeated articles claiming that Jews (especially George Soros) are wrecking the Lithuanian economy. There is also the "widespread belief that Jews and America prevent the prosecuting of 'Jewish Partisan war criminals.'"
I posted in October about the deteriorating condition of the synagogue, which was built in 1801 and is the oldest surviving wooden synagogue in Lithuania. Click HERE. Whatever the reasons, the destruction of this building would represent a tragic loss of a rare and remarkable Jewish heritage site.


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    Assertations of anti-Semitism in Lithuania reaching "fever pitch", as reminiscent of the murderous pogroms during June 1941, are NOT accurate. Lithuania is a developing country but in my own experience of being in Lietuva, it is safe and generally friendly to Jews.

    Lithuania has a beautiful, sentient and hospitable people, and while small pockets of anti-Jewish sentiment do exist across many communities in Eastern Europe, many Lithuanians, especially young Lithuanians, understand and respect the significance and enormity of Jewish life in Lithuania before the Holocaust.

    My Lithuanian friends living in Pakruojis, Kasiadorys and Vilnius are saddened and shocked by the unfortunate destruction of the Pakruojis Synagogue, one of the few remaining pre-War Jewish artifacts in Lithuania.

    The residents of Pakruojis were proud of this beautiful old building which survived the Holocaust for 64 years, right through the anti-Jewish policies of Communism. I can personally attest that the building was in a natural state of decay, and it was only a matter of time before an accidental fire or vandalism damaged or destroyed it.

    As a Jew and grandchild of Lithuanian citizens, I am grateful to the people of Lietuva for my countless positive experiences in this wonderful country.

    Nolan Menachemson

  3. Hi,

    I was in Pakruojis last week and have taken some photos of the synagogue after the fire. Would you like me to email them to you? My email address is, I would be happy to send them.
    Best wishes,