Lithuanian Holocaust shrine dedicated despite vandalism

Jewish, Lithuania dignitaries gather in town of Plunge for dedication of memorial for more than 2,200 Jews murdered by the Nazis in 1941.

Lithuania holocaust memorial vandalized 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Lithuania holocaust memorial vandalized 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A number of Jewish and Lithuanian dignitaries gathered on Sunday in the northwestern Lithuanian town of Plunge for the dedication of a memorial wall for the more than 2,200 Jews from the town who were murdered by the Nazis in 1941.
The monument, built in the nearby village of Kausenai from the bricks of the ruined Plunge synagogue, was vandalized last week and was badly chipped and scratched, but it was decided to go ahead with the ceremony anyway and for the damage to be left as it was.
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Lithuanian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and former ambassador to Israel Asta Skaisgiryte-Liauskiene was in attendance as was Jakob Bunka, the only remaining Jewish resident of Plunge. Abel Levitt, an Israeli of Lithuanian origin who initiated the construction of the memorial, was also at the dedication service along with a number of people from the Jewish community of Vilnius.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel director, said that while he was happy that the dedication had taken place, the vandalism is a sign of deep-seated resentment in Lithuania at being reminded of Lithuanian complicity in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.
The memorial for the Ponary massacres near Vilnius was also desecrated last week, with swastikas and offensive slogans daubed on the monuments. One of them bore the words “Hitler was right” in Russian, while the central memorial was spray painted with a picture of a penis, a phrase about oral sex and the words “128 million,” referring to the sum of money (in Lithuanian litas, $52 million) approved by the Lithuanian government in June for the compensation of Jewish property lost during the Holocaust.
Approximately 100,000 people, including 70,000 Jews, were murdered in the village of Paneriai between 1941 and 1944.
In a statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center pointed to a recent international conference sponsored by the Lithuanian government at which violence launched by Lithuanians against Jews in at least 40 incidents before the arrival of Nazi troops in 1941 was denied.
“If as was claimed at the recent historical conference held at the Seimas [Lithuanian parliament], Jewish historians… purposely lied about the scope of Lithuanian criminality during the Shoah, such desecrations of Holocaust memorials become almost understandable,” said Zuroff.
“The ongoing government-sponsored and -financed distortion, minimization and downplaying of the critical role played by Lithuanian Nazi collaborators in Holocaust crimes has created an anti-Semitic atmosphere in which slogans such as “Hitler was right” seem natural.”
Also last week, a synagogue in Moscow was firebombed, causing minor damage and no injuries. The president of the Russian Jewish Congress, Yury Kanner, told the Russian news agency Interfax that the attack had been carefully planned. “The synagogue is in a place far away from metro stations and public transport stops. Those people knowingly chose the place and arrived there at night, bringing along incendiary bottles,” he said.
It has been speculated that the attack was linked to the life sentences handed down by a Moscow court last week to five Russian neo-Nazis, although Kanner said he did not think the two should be linked or that it was evidence of growing anti-Semitism.