Archaeologists Find Historic Synagogue Ruined by Nazis

Remnants found beneath a school in Lithuania
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2015 8:06 AM CDT
Updated Aug 2, 2015 6:31 AM CDT
Archaeologists Find Historic Synagogue Ruined by Nazis
This October 26, 1943, photo show Jews gathered at an assembly point in the Kaunas ghetto in Kanuas, Lithuania for a deportation action, most likely to Estonia.   (AP Photo/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

The Great Synagogue of Vilna dated all the way back to the 1600s and was what the Jerusalem Post calls one of "the most historic and treasured landmarks of European Jewry." But that synagogue, in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, was all but destroyed by the Nazis during World War II; YNet reports the Germans overtook Vilnius in 1941, burned the synagogue that year, and killed most of the city's Jews. In fact, the Nazis killed all but 5% of the country's 200,000 Jews during their three-year occupation, reports Slate, which brands that "a more complete destruction than befell any other European country." Now, some 70 years later, archaeologists say a ground-penetrating radar survey conducted in June has likely revealed remnants of the synagogue buried beneath a school.

They plan to begin excavating the site in 2016 with the hopes of learning more about how Jews lived in the capital city prior to WWII. Built in the city's dominant Renaissance-Baroque style, the Great Synagogue became the epicenter of Lithuania's Jewish population, and was eventually surrounded by several community buildings—including twelve shuls, a community council, kosher meat stalls, the Strashun library, and mikvahs (Jewish baths), reports Yeshiva World News. "We are very excited about this discovery, as this synagogue stands as a grand memorial to the Jewish community of Vilna," the researchers said. (A chilling discovery involving Jews in Lithuania was recently made.)

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