Jewish Holocaust Museum, Vilnius
One part of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum which, as the name spells out, presents an exhibition about the Holocaust
at large. It's also known as the Green House because it is housed in an old wooden building that is indeed painted a dark green.
In contrast to the high-profile Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights
(formerly "Museum of Genocide Victims", though it's really about the Soviet repression of Lithuania
up to 1991), the Jewish museum is a more modest affair – and not about any genocide, the Jewish Holocaust Museum is a more modest affair, despite its heavy subject matter. The small exhibition is said to be gripping, including rather graphic photos, but old-fashioned and low-tech in presentation style.
However, having been established by actual Holocaust
survivors it presents the Holocaust in such accurate terms that are very rare in Lithuania, including accounts of the large-scale, willing and even enthusiastic involvement of local Lithuanians in the brutal mass killings of Jews (to a degree that on occasions even stunned the SS
!). The latter is an issue that is normally rather swept under the rug in Lithuania
. So it is left to the surviving Jewish community to keep the memory of this unsavoury part of history in the Baltics alive.
Unfortunately, I was unable to check it out myself when I was in Vilnius
in April 2014. It was Easter and I knew that many places would be shut in devout Lithuania
, but I didn't really expect a Jewish museum to be affected by Easter. Nevertheless, just to make sure, I enquired with the museum beforehand and was indeed assured that the exhibition would be open as normal on Good Friday.
But when I turned up with well over an hour to spare within the normal opening times, they were already closing up. I mentioned that I had been explicitly assured they'd be open at this time but the stern woman locking the door in front of my nose would have nothing of this. I was simply told to come back on Tuesday (which I couldn't because I would already be in Riga
by that time), since they'd also be closed on Easter Sunday and Monday.
Disappointing, but there was nothing I could do. So I can't report anything first-hand about the exhibition. Oh well.
The officially published opening times (but take this with a pinch of salt!) are: Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays to 4 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Saturdays (obviously).
Admission: 3 EUR, various concessions apply.
just west of the Old Town of Vilnius
, a block and a half south of Gedimino pr., set back from the main road, but with an official address on it: 12 Pamenkalnio gatve. So it can be a little tricky to find. Keep looking for the address and then walk into the back yard to look for a wooden house painted green (hence its second epithet) – as in the photo above – at the top of a steep driveway.
Outside the museum is a small, rather abstract memorial monument to Chiune Sugihara
and 9th Fort
Also operated under the aegis of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum are the memorial site of Ponary
as well as a “Tolerance Centre
” (open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Sundays, admission: 2 EUR / 7 Lt – combined ticket for both the Holocaust exhibition and the Tolerance Centre: 3.40 EUR / 12 Lt).
The latter is located at 10/2 Naugarduko gatve a few blocks further to the south-east. This is mainly a cultural centre but also has an exhibition that touches on the subject of the Shoah. This too was closed when I was in Vilnius
, but through the large windows on the western façade one could see some text-photos-and-documents panels that were rather on the topic of Jewish cultural losses post-WWII
, i.e. during the communist Soviet
era (a theme generally more popular in Lithuania
than the even darker days of the Holocaust