President Shimon Peres is due to leave on a four-day official visit to Latvia and Lithuania, departing Israel Sunday afternoon.
Lithuania, which has been favorably disposed toward Israel, holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which will give Peres certain leverage in Israel’s ongoing campaign to ensure the EU continues its sanctions against Iran to prevent it from becoming nuclear.
While in Lithuania, Peres will recite Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning, at the entrance to the Valley of Slaughter in Ponar where approximately 100,000 people – mostly Jews – and members of the Polish intelligentsia along with several thousand Russians and gypsies were massacred during the Holocaust.
The killings began in July 1941 and continued until the spring of 1944.
The commemoration ceremony will take place in the presence of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
Peres will also pay tribute to 25,000 Latvian Jews murdered during the Holocaust at a ceremony to be held at a monument near Riga in the presence of Latvian President Andris Berzinjs.
The two presidents will then launch the Janis Lipke museum. Lipke, recognized as Righteous among the Nations, was a wharf laborer who rescued scores of Jews from ghettos and labor camps and secured havens for them in which to hide.
Peres will also meet with leading political figures in both countries as well as members of the Jewish communities.