The Great Synagogue of Vilna, located in Lithuania, was a victim of the crossfire of Hitler's Nazis and the Soviets. It was supposed to be obliterated, but some parts of the holy place still exist. Uncovered were precious remnants from the site by archaeologists after the end of the war.
Despite the ruined state of the building, scientists discovered some parts survived the destruction, which was thought to be complete. Even being a part of a war, what was thought lost can be dug up and preserved for future Jewish generations to marvel at.
Salvageable parts of the synagogue
As the German and Soviet war machines trample over the legendary synagogue, it was not enough to erase its remnants. The archeologists were fortunate to retrieve the ark and bema remnants, a raised playing platform for worshippers, and the Yad, a silver pointer used when reading the Torah scroll, reported the Daily Mail.
An unknown discovery by the scientists is an undocumented 'terrazzo' floor, which comprises a sun motif right in the ark's frontal portion. The excavators also found intricate stairs in the diggings seen in old photos before the subsequent destruction in the war.
Friends of Israeli Antiquities, its lead Dr. Jon Seligman, made a statement in the joint Israeli-Lithuanian dig. He said that the old Vilna synagogue and its Jewish worshippers were victims of the Nazi holocaust and later the Soviet Red Army. It was looted of its valuables by the two forces and burnt to the ground.
History of Vilna
Erected in the 1600s but was a victim of the Nazi juggernaut in WWII, it was utterly destroyed when the Soviets rolled in 1956. The scientists have been excavating for six years, earlier finding the table for Torah reading.
A new find in the dig is the mosaic floor, dual staircases, and the vast pillars that held up the synagogue's roof. More amazing revelations are the Torah ark containing scrolls and the Bimah, a raised platform and reading desk in the Jewish worship place.
The Nazi occupation
In 1941, it was occupied by the Third Reich, herding all Jews into two ghettos, and committing genocide by slaying them.
Close to the end of the year, a total of 40,000 Jews were killed. They were massacred in the Ponary forest, which The Nazis built to dispose of Jewish people in the outskirts of Vilnius. By this time, Germans had burned portions of the temple. Seligman remarked they wanted to dig the Aron Kodesh and Bimah as significant remnants over 300 years old. It was impossible to do after the Soviets destroyed it, cited the Times of Israel.
But finding the magnificent staircases seen in old photos preserved, showing the temple in pristine condition, and proving they still exist. Findings other than the Bimah are also the complete pillar, one of four that supported the ceiling. The scientists found more items like coins, tiles, and parts of the ritual baths. The ruins of the Great Synagogue of Vilna yield a treasure from 1796, a Hebrew stone inscription. It holds history to be discovered further.