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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus


The Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History was honoured by a visit from special guests – Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium

Published: 2022-10-27
On 24 October 2022, the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History was honoured by a visit from special guests – Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of Belgium, the First Lady of Lithuania, Diana Nausėdienė, and the Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, Rudi Vervoort. 
The honourable guests were greeted by the Minister of Culture for the Republic of Lithuania, Simonas Kairys, who gave the welcome address.
In the presence of Her Majesty Queen Mathilde, the Director of the Belgian Museum of Jewish History, Barbara Cuglietta, and Acting Director of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, Ieva Šadzevičienė, signed an international cooperation agreement that will provide for multifaceted cooperation between the museums, including the organisation of joint exhibitions, the exchange of expertise, and ensuring historical documents are open to museum specialists.
‘The cooperation between our museums has been achieved through cultural diplomacy. It is symbolic that we are signing this agreement as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic cooperation between the Republic of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Belgium. We hope that it will mark a new era of research and joint effort by the historians, holocaust researchers and Jewish communities of the two countries’, noted Ieva Šadzevičienė during her welcome address delivered as part of the royal visit.
The occasion was marked by the opening of an exhibition of artwork by Kopel Simelovitz, who comes from Šeduva in Lithuania. In 1939, just one year before the Nazi occupation of Belgium began, Simelovitz was granted Belgian citizenship. He was arrested in December 1942 and kept imprisoned in Ghent until 30 June 1943, when he was sent to the Kazerne Dossin transit camp in Mechelen. Six weeks later, the artist was deported to Auschwitz, where he perished.
‘Today we pay tribute to the artist Kopel Simelovitz, who was born in Šeduva in 1900, lived in Belgium for 16 years and was tragically killed in Auschwitz. We believe that today’s event is a very important and symbolic moment for both countries,’ said Barbara Cuglietta, Director of the Belgian Museum of Jewish History.
At the event, guests watched the documentary The Paper Brigade (Belgium) by director Diane Perelsztejn, concerning the efforts of some of the prisoners within the Vilna Ghetto in preserving culture and history for future generations.
The exhibition of works by Kopel Simelovitz will stay open for visitors to the Samuel Bak Museum of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History (Naugarduko St. 10, Vilnius) until March 2023.
Photographs courtesy of the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania/Eitvydas Kinaitis

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