The Kaunas branch of the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture’s Cultural Heritage Department has called for an immediate halt to the demolition of a former wooden synagogue in the town of Kulautuva, near Kaunas. The synagogue was built in 1935 but had long lain hidden behind silicate brick walls erected in the communist period. (See history of the building and architectural plans of the original synagogue here.)
The wooden structure was revealed as the building was being torn down in recent weeks. Pictures of the partially demolished building were posted on Facebook January 23, sparking alarm over its fate.
“That it has survived is great news. We [cannot] allow its to be destroyed,” Svaigedo Stoškaus, head of the Kaunas Cultural Heritage Department, was quoted as saying. He said the future of the building would be discussed with town authorities.
He said he himself had learned about the discovery last Saturday morning, when he saw the photos on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the brick synagogue in Simnas, in Alytus district, was added to the Cultural Heritage Department’s registry of heritage sites. The synagogue was built in 1905 on the site of a former wooden synagogue. It has been used as a cultural center since the 1950s, but its exterior has remained unchanged.
According to the book Synagogues in Lithuania, A Catalogue, Volume 2
The synagogue in so-called “brick style” is built of red and yellow bricks and covered by an oblong hipped roof on a northeast–southwest axis. The structure consisted of a prayer hall in the southeast and additional rooms in the two-storey northwestern side. The prayer hall is broader than long, and a vestibule is situated at the longer side of the building. The façades of the synagogue building are crowned by a cornice with modillions; most elaborate are the façades of the prayer hall, while those of the two-storey part are more modest. The corners and the central bays of the street façades are stressed by lesenes, while “corbelled” lesenes divide the façades into even bays (Fig. 9). The bays are pierced by tall roundheaded windows, framed by a surround with a keystone. The walls are decorated with horizontal stripes of red and yellow brick; the lesenes are yellow. In contrast, the back façades are only of yellow brick.