Archaeologists uncover remains of Nazi-burned Great Synagogue of Vilna

A model of the Great Synagogue of Vilna at the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

( A team of Israeli and Lithuanian archaeologists has uncovered the underground remains of the Great Synagogue of Vilna using ground-penetrating radar technology. 

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), “the results of the ground penetrating radar survey showed significant remains of the synagogue below the surface, including sections of the Great Synagogue and possible remnants of the miqva’ot (ritual baths).”

The Great Synagogue was built in Renaissance-Baroque style in the 17th-century on top of a site used for Jewish prayer dating back to the 15th century. Eventually, the synagogue became the center of a vibrant Jewish community that included other synagogues, a library, kosher meat markets, ritual baths, and other community institutions. 

The synagogue was burned and ransacked by the Nazis during the Holocaust and was later completely demolished by the Soviets during the 1950s. Today, a school partially sits over the site. 

Excavation is planned for next year, with archaeologists hoping to uncover the remains and put them on public display as a memorial to the Jewish community of Vilna. 

“Jewish built cultural heritage is seen as an important and inseparable part of Lithuanian heritage that needs to be celebrated by all and preserved for perpetuity,” the IAA said.

Posted on July 29, 2015 .