Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem has said the Lithuanian authorities were “very culpable.
A derelict shul in Vilnius (Getty Images)
The Lithuanian parliamentary ombudsman, Augustinas Normantas, has refused to open an investigation into a complaint that his country’s Genocide and Resistance Centre presents a revisionist version of wartime history.
Instead, the ombudsman said that the centre itself must address the issue first, and “if its answer is disputed, then in a court of law”.
The complainant, Grant Gochin, has challenged the Genocide Centre’s description of Lithuania’s wartime treatment of its Jews, calling it “a distortion of history and an insult to the Jewish citizens of Lithuania”.
Mr Gochin, who is from Los Angeles but has taken out Lithuanian citizenship, has singled out the centre’s portrayal of two wartime leaders, Jonas Noreika and Kazys Skrpa.
Noreika, who is depicted as a hero by the Genocide Centre, took part in the mass murder of Lithuanian Jews in the summer of 1941, when he was the local commandant, Mr Gochin said. The Jews were first rounded up and locked in synagogues, then taken in groups every night to the forest and shot. Noreika, said Mr Gochin, gave orders for the shooting — but the Genocide Centre argued there was no documentation to link him with such massacres.
Just as damning, said Mr Gochin, was the Genocide Centre’s depiction of Skrpa, founder of the antisemitic Lithuanian Activist Front. He headed a provisional government in Lithuania in 1941 and in its six weeks of activity, more than 5,000 Jews were murdered in pogroms and mass murders. The Genocide Centre claimed Skrpa, who denounced Jews in speeches, was trying to save Jews from deportation.
Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem has backed Mr Gochin, and said the Lithuanian authorities were “very culpable. They have glorified individual activists involved in Holocaust crimes because they are heroes of the anti-Soviet resistance. There are statues, and streets named after these people. Should they be honoured? One hundred per cent, not.”
Mr Zuroff added that the Lithuanian government and the Genocide Centre were “leading the effort to promote the theory of double genocide — by the Soviets and the Nazis against the peoples of eastern Europe. There is no one investigating collaboration with the Nazis, and some of them have been described as Righteous Gentiles — but they are people that Yad Vashem has rejected.”
An angry Mr Gochin said that Lithuania had what he called “a circular process.”
He added: “I complain to the President, who says I have to ask [the director of the Genocide Centre] Terese Birute Burauskaite. Then I complain to Parliament: it says I have to complain to Buraskaite or the President, so Burauskaite is in the sole position to determine her own truth, in the name of the government.”
The Genocide Centre said: “There is no information showing Noreika was connected with organising or carrying out the mass murder of Jews.”
Groups provide Passover assistance to Jewish needy in Israel, former Soviet Union
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jewish organizations are providing assistance for Passover to Jewish needy in Israel and the former Soviet Union.
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee will deliver more than 50,000 boxes of matzah to elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union through its partnerships with the Claims Conference, and through the IFCJ Food and Medicine Lifeline, its operational partnership with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
JDC also will sponsor seder meals, and holiday activities such as cooking workshops and cultural performances, through its Hesed social welfare centers and Jewish community centers.
Russia recognizes western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, eastern Jerusalem for Palestinian state
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Russia said that just as it believes eastern Jerusalem is the capital of a future Palestinian state, it views the western half of the city as the capital of Israel.
The qualified statement issued Thursday by the Russian Foreign Ministry makes it one of the first countries to recognize any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.
“We reaffirm our commitment to the U.N.-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, which include the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state,” the statement said. “At the same time, we must state that in this context we view West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”
The statement deals with Russian concerns over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and expresses concern that “Palestine and Israel have not held political negotiations for nearly three years, and the situation on the ground has been deteriorating.”
“Moscow reaffirms its support for the two-state solution as an optimal option that meets the national interests of the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom have friendly relations with Russia, and the interests of all other countries in the region and the international community as a whole,” it said.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the recognition of western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will take effect immediately and not be contingent on the establishment of a Palestinian state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem.
Russia’s ambassador to Israel will meet with Foreign Ministry officials in the coming days to discuss the announcement and what it means, according to the Post, which also reported that there is currently no intention of moving Russia’s embassy to Jerusalem.
The U.S. Congress recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as part of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which called for the United States to move its embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, and also called for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city. But the subsequent administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama and now Trump have not recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital nor authorized an embassy move.