Lithuanian university grants degrees to Jewish students expelled during WWII

Following the request of an Israeli doctor and the Israeli Embassy in Lithuania, Vilnius University is to award bachelor degrees to hundreds of Jewish students who were expelled from the university during the Second World War. Many of these students were later murdered by the Nazis.

This project was initiated by Professor Moshe Lapidot. After visiting Lithuania to connect with his family roots, Lapidot contacted the Rector of Vilnius University, Professor Artūras Žukauskas, and Israel’s ambassador to Lithuania, Amir Maimon.

He asked them to recognise the academic studies of his uncle, who had not completed his course and was murdered by the Nazis. The rector immediately accepted the request and decided to extend the gesture and grant degrees to all the Jewish students and lecturers who had been forced to leave the university due to Nazi decrees.

A few days after Maimon met with Žukauskas, the university administration in Vilnius announced that it was launching an initiative to locate those students who had been expelled from the institution because they were Jews.

Recently, a ceremony took place at the university, where Lapidot’s cousin was awarded a bachelor degree. In addition, three of the university’s former professors were awarded diplomas in memoriam. Lapidot attended the ceremony along with one of the memorialised professors’ granddaughter, Moriah Shahaf.

Maimon described the ceremony as “unprecedented” and added, “We intend to encourage the applications of the relatives and descendants of those Jewish students and lecturers whom the university was not able to locate.”

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