Accessibility  Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum
Register of Legal Entities Code 190757374
Address:Naugarduko st 10/2, LT 01309 Vilnius, Lithuania
Tel: (00370) 5 231 2357
Faks: (00370)5 231 2358

Museums' News




Final Event of the Competition for Complex Re-arrangement of Paneriai Memorial Took Place 


On 16 December 2014, the final event of the competition for complex re-arrangement of Paneriai Memorial to victims of Holocaust and all victims of Nazism took place. Director of the museum Markas Zingeris awarded letters of thanks to the participants of the competition and the winners presented their project idea.

The architectural team of Jautra Bernotaitė, Andrius Ropolas and Paulius Vaitiekūnas lead by Ronaldas Pučka have been announced winners of the competition for complex re-arrangement of Paneriai Memorial.


From the left: Paulius Vaitiekūnas, Ronaldas Pučka, Jautra Bernotaitė and director of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum Markas Zingeris

Competition for the Best Paneriai Memorial Re-arrangement Idea is Over: Winner Announced

In June 2014, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum announced a competition for the best idea to re-arrange the Paneriai Memorial to victims of Holocaust and all victims of Nazism. Over a period of more than two months Lithuanian and foreign entities submitted 16 project ideas. On 28 November, winner of the competition was identified.

The project “Šnabždesių miškas” (Forest of Whispers, authors: architects Jautra Bernotaitė, Ronaldas Pučka, Andrius Ropolas and Paulius Vaitiekūnas) had been announced the winner of the competition. The authors of the project be awarded a prize in the amount of LTL 10,000. According to the museum’s director Jaša Markas Zingeris, this project represented the idea of the memorial best. “I would like to thank all the participants of the international competition, every single author, for accepting this, I may say, historical challenge. Many powerful projects were submitted for the competition, however, because of strict public procurement rules, they are not among the lucky ones”, said Markas Zingeris.

The museum director noted that the competition helped discover a wide range of architectural ideas and opportunities for comprehensive re-arrangement of Paneriai Memorial, which had been shared by local and foreign participants. “The need to re-arrange the site and to use it for educational purposes and in teaching the youth of Lithuania as well as with the aim to reveal the actual historic truth to foreign visitors had been discussed for many years in a row. Thank God that the Commission managed to finalise the public procurement procedure despite such an enormous time pressure.”

Markas Zingeris highlighted that one of the key duties of the museum is to pay due respect to every single group of people who fell victims to the Nazi heathenism. “Optimum access will have to be ensure to all and every single one of confirmed killing sites or monuments, and at the visitor centre personal stories will be told in their own historic context. At this site of mass killings that counts the biggest number of Nazi victims in Lithuania thousands of people perished. Among them were residents of Vilnius and surrounding areas, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish intelligentsia and participants of the anti-Nazi movement, solders of the Lithuanian National Guard and other Lithuanians who had no reason to be killed at all. However, first and foremost, Paneriai is the site of the Holocaust crimes that a peaceful mind cannot possible comprehend,” said Markas Zingeris.


The authors of the architectural idea “Šnabždesių miškas” suggest that the authentic environment be re-created to the extent possible. The existing old information boards with inaccurate information shall be replaced with new rust-like covered metal stands. The external and internal walls of the visitor centre will be decorated with burnt wood planks. The paths made of burnt wood are seen as a continuation of the wall decoration. The new system of paths is to be built in such a way as not to obstruct further archaeological excavations on the site of mass murder that could be performed by employing modern scanning technologies. According to the director of the museum, any archaeological excavations shall be performed with due respect to the dead as required by Judaism, which says that the bones of the dead shall rest undisturbed.

The architects suggest that the slopes of the seven mass killing and burial pits are restored and dark colours are used to form the bottom of the pits, bushes around the perimeter of the pits are removed and authentic space restored. The shoddy growths around the cultural valuables will also be removed. Vegetation will be used to highlight the pits of murder that were destroyed during the Soviet times.

The memorial will have a spacious visitor centre erected. It will host an interactive exposition on the history of one of the biggest mass killing sites in Europe. The centre will organise lectures and conferences with participation of Lithuanian and foreign lecturers and offer educational and other events with the aim to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, to realise and analyse the disastrous consequences of all Nazi crimes.

The only reconstruction of Paneriai Memorial took place in the Soviet times. It was back in 1985 that the memorial was reconstructed according to the plan developed by architect Jaunutis Makariūnas. It was then that the asphalt-bitumen paths were formed, places of pits marked, lighting systems installed and a small museum erected, which will be deconstructed as suggested by the winners of the competition. 

It is expected to implement the project in coming years with the help of the Lithuanian national budget and the European Union funds. According to preliminary calculations of the Ministry of Culture, some LTL 10 million will be needed to complete the comprehensive re-arrangement of the memorial.


13 November 2014, International Tolerance Day. The Tolerance Centre of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, together with other institutions, this year will celebrate International Tolerance Day, which was included on the UNESCO list of international days of commemoration in 1995 (16 November). The other institutions that will take part in the commemorative events are the Embassy of Poland in Vilnius, Migration Board of Vilnius County Police Headquarters, and the Polish Institute in Vilnius. We will start the day with an award ceremony for the finalists of Citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, a competition for school students attending comprehensive schools in Vilnius. The award ceremony will be followed by artistic presentations of schoolchildren. Secondary school students will take part in a quiz. The second part of the event is the opening of “Jan Karski. Man of Freedom”, an exhibition presented by the Embassy of Poland in Vilnius. Zygmunt Stępiński, deputy director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, and Ewa Wierzyńska, director of the board of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, will take part in the opening ceremony. After the official part, we invite you to the concert of the Reszów Klezmer Band as a celebration of tolerance.



Exhibition "The Jewish Museum In Lithuania: Past and Present"


Dedicated to the restoration of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum 25 years ago;

the opening of the post-war Jewish museum in Vilnius 70 years ago; and

the founding of the first Jewish museum in Lithuania 100 years ago.


Artistic works which were kept in hideouts and thus preserved during the war. These works belonged to the Jewish museum in Vilnius in 1944–1949.
From 1949 to 1989 they were in the possession of the LSSR Museum of Revolution and Art and were returned to the restored Jewish Museum in 1989.


The history of the Jewish museum in Lithuania is fragile and complicated, just like the history of twentieth century Lithuania itself. A small number of enthusiasts who wanted to bring the idea of the museum to fruition faced constant bureaucratic and ideological obstacles.

The first attempt to found a Jewish museum was made in the 1900s when Lithuania still belonged to the Russian Empire. At that time the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe became much more interested in their national art and the Yiddish culture.

Doctors Emanuel G. Kahn (Emanuelis G. Kanas) and Zemach Shabad wanted to establish a unique museum of teaching facilities in Vilnius and to exhibit various scientific tools and reproductions of paintings there. Tsarist Russia saw the museum as a threat promoting ideas hostile to Russia and refused permission for the museum. Eventually, it was Yakov Vygodski, the head of the Society of Lovers of Jewish Past, who succeeded with getting the museum opened.

The Jewish museum was opened in a solemn ceremony at E. Ožeškienės g. 7 (present day Kudirkos Square, the building no longer exists) in January 1914. The premises were specifically designed for the Jewish museum. It had four sections: Literature and History; Folk Music; Architecture, Applied Arts and Crafts; Painting and Sculpture. The museum did not last long. During WWI the entire Jewish cultural heritage it had in its possession was destroyed.

In the interwar period the Society of Jewish History and Ethnography cultivated the idea of having such a museum. Two separate institutions worked on this question – one founded in Vilnius occupied by Poland, the other in Kaunas, the provisional capital of Lithuania, both of them founded in 1919.

The Society of Jewish History and Ethnography, presided over by Solomon An-sky (Shloyme Zanvel Rappoport, 1863–1920) opened a new museum in E. Ožeškienės street in the same year. This society organised ethnographic expeditions to shtetls and collected Jewish heritage for many years.

After An-sky’s death the museum was named after him. Later the folklore archive was transferred to the Institute for Jewish Research (JIVO) founded in Vilnius in 1925.

In 1931, the Society of Jewish History and Ethnography established the Jewish ethnographic museum and archive in Kaunas. The goal of the museum was not only to collect Jewish heritage but also record the appearance of Jewish shtetls of the day. The museum was forced to cease its activity during WWII.

In 1944, a group of former ghetto prisoners and partisans, headed by writers Shmerel Kacherginsky and Avram Sutzkever, founded a museum, which became a meeting place for Jewish survivors. The museum was soon transferred to better premises at M. Strašūno Street, 6 (present day Žemaitijos Street.) where there had been a library before the war, and during the war it was both a library and a special prison of the ghetto. It was the only Jewish museum in the Soviet Union at this period.

The exhibits and valuables of former museums and JIVO, as well as works created in the ghetto were brought to the new museum from various hideouts in sacks and wheelbarrows. The museum succeeded in organising only one exhibition during its short existence. It was dedicated to writer Sholem Aleichem. The authorities did not give permission for the exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust to be opened. In 1949, during the anti-Semitic campaign, the museum was ‘reorganised’ which de facto meant it was closed. The exhibits were dispersed among other Lithuanian museums.

Half a century later, the Lithuanian Jewish State Museum was restored on 6 September 1989 in Vilnius thanks to the initiative of several enthusiasts. Many exhibits, which had been scattered among other institutions, were returned to the museum. M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art gave back the exhibits of the Kaunas Jewish Ethnographic Museum, which it had preserved during the period it had them in its possession. At first these exhibits made up the bulk of the new exhibition. When Lithuania commemorated the two hundred year anniversary of the Vilna Gaon’s passing in 1997, the museum was named the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum.

This exhibition, which might also be called “the travels of the exhibits”, contains items marked with stamp prints of various museums and communities made during different periods. A post-war museum stamp print is visible on the childhood drawings by Samuel Bak, which he created at the Vilna Ghetto. According to the present interpretation of the theory of heritage preservation, a stamp on the representative part of an exhibit is a harsh intervention. During the first post-war years, however, when there was grand scale looting of cultural heritage, this clearly visible sign helped preserve many valuables and perhaps saved them in order for them to find their way back to the restored Jewish museum.

Exhibition open from 6th of November until 30th of January


Works of Cornelia Gurlitt, who discovered Vilnius during WWI, donated to Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum

Vilnius, 31 October 2014. A selection of pictures and lithographs by the German expressionist Cornelia Gurlitt (1890–1919) are now part of the art collection of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. 

Dr Hubert Portz, owner of an art gallery in Germany, has donated sixteen pictures and lithographs by Cornelia Gurlitt to the museum. Most of them are dated 1917. During WWI (1914–1918), Cornelia, a member of the artistic Gurlitt family, became a Red Cross volunteer and worked as a sister of mercy in Vilnius Antakalnis hospital. At that time she was already well known as a great expressionist, and during her free time in Vilnius, Cornelia devoted herself to her art. Historical sources confirm that she organised an exhibition of her works in 1917. Cornelia met her beloved, Paul Fechter in Vilnius, and he recognised her special talent. Unfortunately Cornelia Gurlitt died by suicide at the very young age of 29, having failed to overcome the existential crisis that plagued her during WWI when she struggled for recognition in Germany as an independent artist.

Dr Portz succeeded in acquiring the works of the undeservedly forgotten artist from Galerie Joseph Fach in Frankfurt, which had received them from the family of Paul Fechter. Dr Portz acquired other of her lithographs from her friends who answered the newspaper advertisement he placed. Dr Portz himself discovered the artist as a result of his interest in Dresden’s history of art. In April this year, an exhibition of Gurlitt and artists from her environment “Rooms Reserved for Cornelia Gurlitt, Lotte Wahle and Conrad Felixmueller” was opened at his private gallery Kunsthaus Desiree in Hochstadt.

According to Dr Portz, the Gurlitt family history has it that Cornelia’s mother destroyed a large number of Cornelia’s works in attempt to wash away the stain of suicide. Others were saved by her brother, art historian Hildebrand Gurlitt. In spite of his Jewish roots (one of his grandmothers was Jewish) Hildebrand Gurlitt was one of 4 trustees assigned by the Nazis to collect exhibits for the Fuhrer’s museum, which was intended for his native Linz. Hildebrand Gurlitt received generous funding to acquire items of art for that purpose. He would also confiscate what was referred to by the Nazis as “degenerate art” (works in avant-garde style or created by Jewish artists) from German museums. After the war he succeeded in convincing post-war experts that he himself was persecuted by the Nazis because of his Jewish roots, and that most of the works he collected during the war years had vanished. However, the notorious collection of “degenerate art” was finally discovered at the flat of Hildebrand Gurlitt’s son Cornelius in Munich where he lived in complete seclusion. Not all of the works found there were publicly acknowledged, and Dr Portz has grounds to think that there may be some works by Cornelia Gurlitt in the list of undisclosed items.

Cornelia Gurlitt’s works donated to the museum, as well as her other works from Dr Portz’s personal collection, will be exhibited in spring 2015 in the Tolerance Centre. If Hildebrand Gurlitt’s collection, so carefully hidden from the outside world, is eventually made accessible to the artistic society, perhaps we will have a chance to present other, not yet discovered works of the painter in the exhibition. Whatever happens, the works of the gifted expressionist are gradually finding their “room” in the history of art.

For more information:
Ieva Šadzevičienė
Head of the Tolerance Centre of
the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum
Tel. + 370 5 262 9666

The Holocaust Exhibition was awarded by the well-known online review site with the "Certificate of Excellence 2014" in September 2014. We are very proud that our work is appreciated by our visitors and we will continue to keep the memory alive!



Changes await Paneriai Memorial, the site commemorating the most egregious Nazi crime in Lithuania. The Ministry of Culture of Lithuania and the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum announced a tender in June 2014 for the idea of a comprehensive rearrangement of Paneriai Memorial to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and all victims of Nazism. Sixteen projects from both Lithuania and abroad were submitted. Public evaluation of the projects took place on 9 October. 

We seek to make Paneriai an important centre of Holocaust commemoration and education by rearranging the memorial. A contemporary visitor, whether a Japanese tourist or a Lithuanian school student, must walk out of Paneriai a changed person. His spiritual world must acquire a clear moral and humanistic focus,” Markas Zingeris, director of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, said when greeting the participants of the event.


Welcoming speech by director Markas Zingeris Vice Minister of Culture Romas Jarockis speaking

The following experts expressed their opinions: Prof Marius Pranas Šaliamoras, chairman of the Lithuanian Union of Architects and head of the Department of Architecture at Vilnius Academy of Arts, Dr Tomas Grunskis, professor at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, and Jurga Silvija Večerskytė-Šimeliūnė, landscape architect and designer of the Bernardinų Garden reconstruction project. They evaluated how impressive and impactful each of the sixteen projects were from an artistic and architectural point of view, as well as how to preserve authentic elements and how to accommodate them with the natural and historical environment. 


Marius P. Šaliamoras, chairman of the Lithuanian Union of Architects,
discusses architectural projects
Evaluation by architect Tomas Gurskis
Landscape architect Jurga S. Večerskytė-Šimeliūnė reviews the projects Greetings by Martynas Užpelkis, LJC representative for heritage
Public address by the Member of Parliament of the Republic of Lithuanian Emanuelis Zingeris Public address by Dr Jacek Nowakowski, senior curator at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The projects were also discussed by foreign historians: Dr Jacek Nowakowski, senior curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Dr Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (Poland). 

Speech by Dr Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial
and Museum
Foreign experts: Dr Jacek Nowakowski and Dr Piotr M. A. Cywinski

According to Mr Cywinski, the greatest asset of the Paneriai memorial is its serenity and emptiness. It would be a mistake to fill it with objects: “Artistic solutions in places like Paneriai must be moderate in terms of their expression, restrained and subtle, and at the same time they must reflect the authenticity of the memorial. It is important that the voice of the architect does not break the silence of the victims,” Dr Piotr Cywinski said.

According to Dr Jacek Nowakowski, a great Holocaust memorial is both informative and respectful to the victims. It must not contain architectural elements that dominate the environment. He also said he agreed with the idea of using modern technologies at the memorial: “If used wisely, they would allow educational facilities to penetrate the environment without compromising the authenticity of the site”.

The three best ideas for the comprehensive rearrangement of the Paneriai Memorial will be announced in the near future, and reconstruction should be completed in several years with financing from the Republic of Lithuania and support funds of the European Union.

Commission members: director Markas Zingeris, deputy director Jūratė Razumienė and Zigmas Vitkus, head of Paneriai memorial exposition Public presentation of the ideas to rearrange Paneriai memorial

Public presentation of the ideas to rearrange Paneriai memorial 
After the presentation experts took part in discussion and answered questions from the audience



Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania together with the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum announced an international competition for comprehensive rearrangement of Paneriai Memorial to victims of Holocaust and all victims of Nazism. The deadline for the submission of bids was 20 August 2014, 1:00 pm.

On 20 August 2014, at 1:00 pm, the Commission opened the external envelopes of the bids that were submitted for the competition. As many as 16 projects have been received as a result of the call for bids and they will be displayed at the Tolerance Centre of VGSJM starting with 25 August 2014.

All projects that were submitted anonymously will be evaluated by the Commission for Evaluation.  Public discussion of the evaluation outcomes will be held after 23 September 2014. A separate notice on the exact date and time of the public discussion will be given later.

Paneriai Memorial is the biggest Holocaust site in Lithuania in terms of the number of victims who perished there, and is widely known on the international scale. Alongside with the Jews, solders of the Lithuanian Territorial Defence Force, Armia Krajowa, prisoners of war of the Red Army, including those who fought against Nazism, and other victims of the Nazi regime were killed in the forest of Paneriai.

The purpose of the concept for comprehensive rearrangement of Paneriai Memorial to victims of Holocaust and all victims of Nazism is to establish the principles for the rearrangement of Paneriai Memorial and its adaptation for visitors with the aim to best preserve the remaining authentic elements, to keep the recreation of the elements that were destroyed on this killing site to the minimum, and to commemorate all the victims who perished there, including the introduction of measures that would allow preserve the historic memory of the Holocaust in Paneriai for future generations.






The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum hereby presents to the society sixteen architectural ideas developed by Lithuanian and foreign authors in response to the announced international competition for comprehensive rearrangement of Paneriai Memorial.

Paneriai memorial has been erected to mark the place of the biggest “death plant” founded by the Nazis. During the post-war period, thousands of half-burned and mutilated bodies were unearthed there. It was there that the Nazis were killing mothers and children, old people and random civilians (dolls, combs, and other artefacts were excavated there). The new rearrangement projects, covering also the current buildings of Paneriai Memorial, are meant to mark the biggest site of the Nazi occupation regime in Lithuania and to commemorate thousands of civilians who weren’t subjected to forced labour, but fell victims to barbaric killings. It was impossible to escape from Paneriai and only one heroic attempt of the corps burners’ brigade to escape was a success (their story is told at the current Paneriai Memorial).

Paneriai Memorial is of great relevance for both Lithuania and the rest of the civilised world. First of all, it marks the historic end of a cultural phenomenon known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania. According to the existing data, as many as a hundred thousand people were killed there.The majority of them were of Jewish origin, including those who fought against Nazism, hostages, prisoners of war and other victims of the Nazi regime.

Second, it is one of the biggest sites of the Nazi crimes known as Holocaust by bullets located to the East from the River Nemunas and the River Bug, and not far from yet another similar site in Ukraine called Babij Yar.

Bearing in mind the importance of instigating humanistic values in modern Europe and the rest of the world, it is absolutely important to make sure that Paneriai Memorial leaves an indelible impression on its visitors, irrespective of where they come from. Thus, with the aim to educate the current and future young generations and to turn Paneriai into a centre of educational tourism of European importance, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania and the VGSJM announced an international competition for a design concept to comprehensively rearrange the current memorial, which is morally outdated, by placing emphasis on the authentic details found on the site.

We hereby present the submitted projects to the public at large for their review.

Markas Zingeris
Director of VGSJM

Chairman of the Commission for Evaluation of open design concepts for a comprehensive rearrangement of
Paneriai Memorial to victims of the Holocaust and all victims of Nazism


The public procurements Commission on the Ideas of the Comprehensive Re-arrangement of Paneriai Holocaust
and Nazi Victims Memorial
gathered on its first session on the 25th of February, 2014.



Upcoming events at the Tolerance Center:


Modified: 1/21/2015


If you wish to order the guided tour, while visiting the VGSJM please call
by phone
(+370) 262 9666 (Tolerance center), (+370) 212 7083 (Holocaust exposition)
or write




If you wish to order the educational programme, please call
mob.+370 616 55 123;

or write




 Tolerance Center
(Naugarduko St. 10/2) working hours:
Monday-Thursday: 10:00-18:00,
Friday: 10:00-16:00,
Sunday: 10:00-16:00




Holocaust Exposition
(Pamėnkalnio St. 12) working hours:
Monday-Thursday: 9:00-17:00,
Friday: 9:00-16:00,
Sunday: 10:00-16:00





Memorial Museum of Paneriai
(Agrastu St. 17)

From October till April the museum is opend by appointment
working hours:
Tuesday–Sunday 9:00-17:00



If you wish to order the guided tour, while visiting the Paneriai Memorial Site
call +370 662 89 575 or contact us by email
At least one day to the planned tour


© Penki Kontinentai 2006. All rights received.