• The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum
The Jewish Museum in Vilnius (Polish: Wilno, Yiddish: Vilne) is considered to be the social and cultural centre of Lithuania's Jewish community today. The museum attempts to reconstruct Jewish life in Vilnius, which was destroyed under Soviet and national socialist occupation, in parts of its exhibition. Since 1991, the museum has been displaying a permanent exhibit on the Holocaust in Lithuania.
Image: Vilnius, before 1939, Arched gateway in the historic Jewish Quarter, Tomasz Wiśniewski
Vilnius, before 1939, Arched gateway in the historic Jewish Quarter, Tomasz Wiśniewski

Image: Vilnius, 2004, Entrance to the »Tolerance Centre« which was opened in 2001, Stiftung Denkmal
Vilnius, 2004, Entrance to the »Tolerance Centre« which was opened in 2001, Stiftung Denkmal
Vilnius, the »Jerusalem of the East«, was home to one of the most important centres of Jewish learning worldwide since the 18th century. Several Talmudic academies and synagogues were part of the city's landscape. One of the most famous Talmudic scholars, the Great Gaon of Vilnius, lived and taught in the city in the 18th century. The museum is named after him.
In 1920, Vilnius and surrounding areas were incorporated into Poland; in September 1939, after the invasion of Poland, Vilnius was integrated into Lithuania again. Jewish life in Vilnius suffered severe restrictions under Soviet occupation - Jewish culture was suppressed and Jewish property confiscated. After the German invasion in the summer of 1941, the new occupiers shut down all Jewish schools and destroyed nearly all of the city's approximately 100 synagogues. At the beginning of September 1941, the authorities ordered the establishment of a strictly closed off ghetto for all the Jewish residents of the city.
German and especially Lithuanian members of the SS murdered around 60,000 Jews from Vilnius in the nearby town of Paneriai (Polish: Ponary). Located there was one of the largest mass shooting sites in national socialist occupied Europe.
Image: Vilnius, before 1939, Arched gateway in the historic Jewish Quarter, Tomasz Wiśniewski
Vilnius, before 1939, Arched gateway in the historic Jewish Quarter, Tomasz Wiśniewski

Image: Vilnius, 2004, Entrance to the »Tolerance Centre« which was opened in 2001, Stiftung Denkmal
Vilnius, 2004, Entrance to the »Tolerance Centre« which was opened in 2001, Stiftung Denkmal
60,000 Jewish children, women and men from Vilnius perished in the ghetto or were shot by German and Lithuanian members of the SS in Paneriai.
Image: Vilnius, 2004,  The »Green House« which is home to an exhibit about the Holocaust in Lithuania, Stiftung Denkmal
Vilnius, 2004, The »Green House« which is home to an exhibit about the Holocaust in Lithuania, Stiftung Denkmal
Vilnius had been home to a Jewish museum since 1913. The museum was nationalised under Soviet occupation in 1940 and from 1941 used by the Germans as a storage facility for looted goods of cultural heritage. In 1944, Holocaust survivors re-established the museum, only for it to be closed again by the Soviet authorities in 1949. In the following years there were no Jewish institutions in Soviet-annexed Lithuania. Only forty years later did the authorities gave permission for the re-opening of the Jewish museum.
In 1991, after the Lithuanian state regained independence, a permanent exhibit about the Holocaust in Lithuania entitled »The Catastrophe« was opened in the »Green House« in Pamėnkalnio gatvė 12. Apart from the Holocaust exhibit, the Jewish museum has four branches: the Tolerance Centre in Naugarduko gatvė 10/2, a further exhibition about synagogues and testimonies of Jewish life in Lithuania housed in the former Jewish gymnasium in Pylimo gatvė 4, the Paneriai Memorial Museum as well as the Museum of Jacques Lipchitz in Druskininkai.
The Tolerance Centre was inaugurated in 2001 in the building of the former Jewish theatre in Naugarduko gatvė 10/2. It regularly hosts cultural and educational events. The educational programme of the Centre primarily deals with fighting against anti-Semitism and racism. Its aim is to make tolerance a fundamental value in society.
Image: Vilnius, 2004, Entrance to the »Green House«, Stiftung Denkmal
Vilnius, 2004, Entrance to the »Green House«, Stiftung Denkmal

Image: Vilnius, 2009, View of the exhibition in the »Green House«, Ronnie Golz
Vilnius, 2009, View of the exhibition in the »Green House«, Ronnie Golz
Name
Valstybinis Vilniaus Gaono žydų muziejus
Address
Naugarduko gatvė 10/2
01114 Vilnius
Phone
+370 (85) 262 073 0
Fax
+370 (85) 212 708 3
Web
http://www.jmuseum.lt
E-Mail
jewishmuseum@jmuseum.lt
Open
Holocaust exhibit: Monday to Thursday
9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tolerance Centre: Monday to Thursday
Friday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Possibilities
Tours of the exhibitions and through the former Jewish Quarter in the Old Town (by appointment), newsletter (appears regularly and is available online), educational programmes of the Tolerance Centre