Capital of Lithuania, Vilnius was renowned as a center for the study of rabbinic law. At the beginning of World War II its more than 55,000 Jews accounted for a quarter of the city’s population. The country and city were annexed by the Soviet Union in July 1940, then conquered by the Germans in June 1941. By the end of the year well over 30,000 Jews had been murdered, often at the forest site of Ponary (Paneriai).
The Green House, a small Holocaust museum, is a branch of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum. Outside the Green House is a memorial honoring Chiune Sugihara, Japanese diplomat stationed in Kaunas, who risked his life by issuing visas to Jewish refugees in 1940. He was declared to be one of the “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem in 1984.