Journalistic Provocation Didn’t Work Out: Kaunas Respects And Cherishes the Memory of Jewish People

Late last July the Israeli media published an article by Cnaan Lipshitz ‘This Lithuania’s concentration camp is now a wedding venue’. The article noted that the Seventh Fort has been turned into a popular venue for graduation parties and wedding receptions, complete with buffets and barbecues, as well as summer camps for children who enjoy the elaborate treasure hunts around the premises. The publication also critised the Lithuanian authorities by claiming that the ‘Kaunas Seventh Fort is below any level of decency and respect (to the Jews that were killed there)’.

Vladimiras Orlovas, Head of the Military Heritage Centre now in charge of maintaining the Fort denied the information. It is not only him personally, but also the entire city of Kaunas make great efforts to maintain and honour the memory of the victims of the mass massacres of Jews during the WWII.

Politicians and heads of Kaunas City administration with a number of like-minded people launched a community action at the compound of the old Jewish cemetery in Žaliakalnis. The participants of the action cleaned a number of old gravestones covered in lichen and damaged by time to make the inscriptions carved in them legible again. The action also intends to photograph the grave sites and the plaques on them a little later. Thus, each grave will be identified, eventually creating their register.

In the meantime, Kaunas City administration made a resolution to put in order the place of the Jewish massacre at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas. Later this autumn the stairs will be arranged close to the mass grave, a place to have a seat and rest. Due to the efforts of V.Orlovas and the Kaunas Jewish community, a memorial stone will be erected in the location to commemorate the massacres and the thousands of Jews killed.

– Mr. Orlovas, the publications in the media on wedding parties allegedly held at the Kaunas Seventh Fort caused rather controversial comments. What do you think about that?

– I fully understand the concerns expressed by people of Jewish nationality when responding to the information presented in the article, however, I just want to assure you that this is simply not true. The facts presented in the article are distorted and tendentious, they are specifically designed to shock the reader. The information thus disseminated can be named with one word only – a lie. No wedding party has even been hosted in the territory of the Fort. On several occasions newly-weds applied to with a request to arrange photoshoots at the Fort, in the museum, surrounded with historic items.

– A journalist told us having carried out an experiment, when he pretended to be a groom, and he came to you with his best male friend to agree regarding the wedding at the Kaunas Seventh Fort. Do you recall that visit?

-Yes, I remember two men coming to the place. They spent here about an hour, observing the surroundings and taking pictures. They asked for a permission to arrange a wedding party there for about 50 persons, and we replied with our standard phrase ‘please send us your inquiry by e-mail, and we will try to help you’. That’s our reply to all who approach us with some non-standard projects.

– What kind of entertainment do you arrange for children in the museum?

Most events that take place are accompanied with the educational programme, where the participants are introduced to the Fort, its history and the highlights in its development. There is a laboratory used by schoolchildren circles or their camps arranged next to the rooms available for lease. It is worth noting that the Jewish graveyard and the military barracks are two separate objects, with different purposes and usage possibilities. Despite attempts to blemish Lithuania, we respect the tragic fate of the Jewish nation and honour its historical memory. I assure you that we will not allow anybody to disrespect this memory and certainly will not allow anyone party on the graves.

May Kaunas City always remain the symbol of Lithuanian strength. 07/03/98

Former President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus

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