lithuania uk 311.
(photo credit: courtesy)
LONDON – Parliamentarians and scholars are calling on Lithuania to combat
anti-Semitism and distortion of the Holocaust as its London embassy begins a
series of Jewish cultural events this week.
RELATED:Student leader suffers anti-Semitism over fee hikesAnti-Semitism figures down from 2009 high
A delegation led by MP Denis
Mac- Shane and Lord Greville Janner, both leading campaigners in the UK against
anti-Semitism, handed in a letter to the embassy on Monday. It was signed by 20
MPs and academics, and called on Lithuania to crack down on anti-Semitism and
reverse a court decision declaring the swastika part of the country’s “historic
legacy,” thereby allowing its use by anti-Semites at political
The letter also highlights that while the Lithuanian government
is sponsoring events abroad that promote Jewish life, it is engaged in an
increasingly energetic campaign to stop the full the truth about the Holocaust
and events of the Second World War from being discussed.
concern about “the irony of the Lithuanian Embassy in London hosting an
exhibition about pre-World War Two Jewish life, titled ‘The Sounds of Silence,’
when debate about the Holocaust is being silenced and distorted in
The signatories call on the government in Vilnius to tackle
anti-Semitism in the media, following headlines accusing “the Jews” of
expropriating money from the country, and castigate it for failing to
investigate and prosecute those responsible for anti-Semitic acts.
year, a pig’s head was left outside the Kaunas synagogue during a Sabbath
Lithuania is at the forefront of a right-wing European campaign
saying that the Holocaust was no different from the crimes of communism. The
signatories said this “double genocide” campaign was aimed at devaluing the
centrality of the Holocaust and was supported by “anti-Jewish political groups
in the Middle East and other anti-Semitic politicians.”
The letter also
accused the country of failing to prosecute a single Lithuanian Nazi war
criminal since 1991 while instead threatening war crime prosecutions against
Lithuanian Jewish resistance fighters who fought the Nazis.
Lithuania is not alone in East European and Baltic states, where nationalist
populist politicians have made anti-Jewish themes part of contemporary political
discourse,” said MacShane, former minister for Europe and former chairman of the
All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Anti-Semitism.
politicians like Michal Kaminski, who recently resigned as chairman of the
Conservatives for European Reform group in the European Parliament because he
said it was too extremist, are notorious for refusing the apologize for attacks
on Jews by Poles in wartime Poland,” MacShane said. “In Hungary, the openly
anti-Semitic Jobbik Party got 15 percent of votes in the last
The letter called on the Lithuanian government to take a
number of steps to correct the situation and help repair Jewish-Lithuanian
relations. This included ending without delay the pretrial “war crime”
investigations against Jewish resistance fighters and recognizing the role that
Lithuanian organizations played in the mass murder of Lithuanian
“The Jewish community in Lithuania is being humiliated and the
atmosphere of free speech eroded. Jewish history, particularly that of the
Holocaust, is being untruthfully rewritten, and anti- Semitism is espoused,”
said British academic Danny Ben-Moshe, a signatory of the letter.
Lithuanian government may think they can have it both ways – intimidating Jewish
life in Lithuanian while maintaining a philo-Semitic image elsewhere – but this
letter puts them on notice that the charade is over,” Ben-Moshe said. “As the
Lithuanian government seeks to export their policies across the EU, it is clear
that this is not just a Jewish concern, but a concern for all those who cherish
freedom of debate and oppose ultra- Nationalism.”
Other signatories of
the letter included Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s
Jerusalem office; Joseph Melamed, chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews
in Israel; Uri Chanoch, a board member of the Claims Conference; and descendents
of Lithuanian Jews killed in the Holocaust.