The early 20th century synagogue in the town of Pušalotas and the building that housed the library and other Jewish institutions in the WW2 Vilnius ghetto are among four heritage sites newly placed under state protection by Lithuania’s Ministry of Culture.
According to information published January 28, the other two sites listed by Culture Ministry Mindaugas Kvietkauskas are the Petras Klimas villa in Kaunas, and the former Lithuanian Foreign Ministry building in Kaunas. The four sites were given protected status as heritage sites of regional significance.
The Pušalotas synagogue, built in 1913, is a brick structure that retains much of its exterior decoration.
But, according to The Center for Jewish Art, which posts a detailed documentation of the building, “the interior of the synagogue was destroyed while adapting the building to industrial purposes: after WW II it housed a dairy, later a mill, and a meat preserving plant.”
The synagogue was returned to ownership of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, and a memorial plaque for the victims of the Holocaust was installed on the southern exterior wall in 2005.
The building on Žemaitijos 4 street in Vilnius (formerly Strashuna 6) housed the Vilna Ghetto Library and other Ghetto institutions during World War II. It was also the center for resistance activities. (Before the war it operated as the Mefitzei Haskalah Jewish library.)
Long abandoned, it is now managed by the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum and will be the site of a planned Memorial Museum of the Holocaust in Lithuania and the Vilna Ghetto. The Museum is seeking funds to restore the dilapidated building and create the museum.
The building was already entered into the Register of Cultural Heritage in March 2017. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA writes that funds were secured by the Ministry of Culture from the State Investment fund to be used to stabilize emergency condition of the building.
The Ghetto library, which operated until the liquidation of the Ghetto in September, 1943, was managed by the Bundist activist Hermann Kruk, who kept an extraordinary diary of his experiences, recounting both the activities of the library and life in the Ghetto. It was published in English translation in 2002 as The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania.
The library included around 45,000 volumes and had 2,500 registered users. In his diary, Kruk wrote that there was a celebration in 1942 to mark the loan of the 100,000th book from the library.