Jewish Heritage Europe

Lithuania: high-level ceremony breaks ground for Šeduva Lost Shtetl museum

Architect’s conception of Lost Shtetl Museum, seen from the Seduva Jewish cemetery

Work to construct the state-of-the-art Lost Shtetl museum in Šeduva, Lithuania is under way.

Ground was broken and the symbolic cornerstone laid in a ceremony Friday attended by Lithuania’s Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, Foreign Minister, senior diplomats, Jewish leaders, and other VIPs.

“It was a busy and meaningful day,” Project Manager Sergey Kanovich told JHE.

Embedded in the cornerstone is a quotation from the novel Shtetl Love Song by the award-winning author Grigory Kanovich —  Sergey Kanovich’s father. The novel is a fictionalized memoir rooted in Kanovich’s family story in the Lithuanian shtetl Jonava. The quote reads:

It was bitter to realize the truth that from now on it was the fate of that dead tribe to be born and live only in the true and painful words of impartial memory in which it was impossible to drown the echoes of love and gratitude towards our forebears. Whoever allows the dead to fall into oblivion will himself be justly consigned to oblivion by future generations.

Project Manager Sergey Kanovich at the symbolic cornerstone of the Lost Shtetl Museum in Šeduva. Photo © Algirdas Mikutis (used with permission)

Designed by the Finnish company “Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects,” which also designed the award-winning POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the museum complex, slated to open in 2020, will be a key component in the unique Lost Shtetl memorial complex, which includes sites in and around the town, located in north-central Lithuania, 175 km northwest of Vilnius.

The museum will be sited next to the sprawling Jewish cemetery at Šeduva, which was completely restored and opened in 2015 as part of the memorial.

The complex also includes monuments at three separate sites of Holocaust mass executions and burials, and a symbolic sculpture in the middle of the town. A historical study about Šeduva Jews also was carried out as part of the project, as well as a documentary film, “Petrified Time,” directed by Saulius Berzinis.

The Lost Shtetl web site says the museum

will tell the story of the life of what was once the largest European Litvak Jewish population living in shtetls. Lifestyle, customs, religion and the social, professional and family life of the Jews of Šeduva will serve as the centerpiece of the museum exhibition. Museum visitors will be taught the tragedy of Šeduva’s Jewish history, which ended in three pits near the shtetl in the early days of World War II, concluding five centuries of the history of the Jews of Šeduva.

Memorial statue in the center of Seduva. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

In a statement read at the groundbreaking ceremony by an advisor,  Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said the laying of the cornerstone “heralds the reconstruction of an important part of Lithuanian history closely interlinked with the history of Lithuania’s large Jewish community and its tragic fate.” She added, “The Lost Shtetl Museum will bring back from oblivion the names and faces of many families, friends and neighbors, as well as their customs and traditions.”

“This unique museum will capture not only the memory of the Šeduva but also the Jewish communities of Lithuania as a whole,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister  Linas Linkevicius.

Lost Shtetl web site

See architect’s page on the museum, with  drawings of plans

See our earlier JHE story about the museum

See our November 2015 report on a visit to the memorial sites

4 comments on “Lithuania: high-level ceremony breaks ground for Šeduva Lost Shtetl museum

  1. “The Lost Shtetl Museum will bring back from oblivion the names and faces of many families, friends and neighbors, as well as their customs and traditions.” They wouldn’t be gone if the Litvaks had not been so appalling in their treatment in the first place. The only reason they got out was being saved by the Tsars Kossaks. The locals were quite happy to kill them. Situation not enhanced when the nazis came rolling through 50 years later, with enthusiastic support from the locals. All of a sudden its “the missing families”. When will the LItvaks stop and ask themselves why theyre missing ?. Memory keeper above got it exactly right.

  2. “Lost”? What an interesting euphemism for intentionally destroyed. “Lost” is passive; “burned,” “smashed,” “destroyed” communicate intention. Stop making it pretty. Tell the truth.

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