yad vashem 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Yad Vashem has rescinded an invitation to Lithuanian officials to attend a
memorial service in response to the Baltic state’s request that Israel
investigate a Holocaust survivor for defaming the country’s national
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The state Holocaust museum on Thursday said Lithuania’s Culture
Minister Arunas Gelunas and ambassador to Israel Darius Degutis were not welcome
at next week’s ceremony in Jerusalem commemorating Lithuanian Jews killed during
World War II.
The announcement came after Lithuania had asked Israel to
probe Joseph Melamed, the chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in
Israel, for allegedly defaming Lithuanian national heroes by accusing them of
collaborating with the Nazis.
“Two people came from the Ministry of
Justice who usually work with the Interpol following a request by the
Lithuanians,” Melamed told The Jerusalem Post
on Saturday. “It was not an
investigation, but they asked about a list of Lithuanian murderers we had put
out 15 years earlier.”
According to Melamed, the list which was recently
uploaded to the Internet, contained the names of 5,000 Lithuanians who killed
Jews, nine of whom are recognized by the government in Vilnius as national
“They claim nine of them are Lithuanian heroes that did not kill
Jews but this is a lie,” he said. “Not only were they murderers but they are
mass murderers. So they are preparing to sue for libel.”
head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, said Yad Vashem’s action was
significant in efforts to remember the Holocaust in the Baltic
“This is a very important step taken by Yad Vashem because it
makes clear Israel will no longer countenance the efforts by the Lithuanians to
prosecute former Jewish partisans,” Zuroff said.
“Hopefully, it will mark
an end to tolerance of Holocaust distortion activity.”
Of the estimated
210,000 Jews living in Lithuania before the war only about 15,000 are believed
to have survived, one of the lowest survival rates in Europe.
operating on Lithuanian soil were closely aided by Lithuanian nationalists who
instigated pogroms against Jews on their own initiative.
independence in 1991, Lithuania sought to distance itself from communism by
embracing nationalist forces which had fought the Soviet Union during WWII,
including some who carried out attacks against Jews.
In 2007, Lithuania
asked Israel to extradite partisan fighter and former Yad Vashem head Yitzhak
Arad for allegedly killing Lithuanian civilians during WWII.
Lithuanian-born Israeli rejected the allegations made against him and said he
was being persecuted because he had called on Vilnius to bring Nazi
collaborators to justice.
Melamed on Saturday said he did not want to
provoke an argument with Lithuania. He said the controversial list was
removed from the Web even though he stood behind its veracity.
Lithuanians should think twice before they sue us because it will open up a
hornet’s nest,” Melamed said.