US gov't committee condemns Lithuanian lawmaker's antisemitic remarks

In a letter from the United States' Committee for the Preservation of Heritage Abroad Commission, Chairman Paul Packer said that Valdas Rakutis' comments were "false and reckless."

A BARBED-wire fence along Panrow Street, separating the two parts of the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania. (photo credit: COURTESY: YAD VASHEM PHOTO ARCHIVE)
A BARBED-wire fence along Panrow Street, separating the two parts of the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania.
(photo credit: COURTESY: YAD VASHEM PHOTO ARCHIVE)
The United States' Committee for the Preservation of Heritage Abroad, led by Chairman Paul Packer, has condemned comments made by Lithuanian Seimas member Valdas Rakutis, after he claimed that Jews had a hand in the perpetration of the Holocaust. 
During a speech on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, Rakutis said that “There was no shortage of Holocaust perpetrators among the Jews themselves, especially in the ghetto self-government structures,” implying that Jews (likely a reference for Kapos) were responsible for the Holocaust themselves, rather than being put in a difficult position in the context of the time. 
“We need to name these people out loud and try not to have people like them again,” Rakutis added. 
In a letter from the commission, Chairman Paul Packer said that Rakutis' comments were "false and reckless," while also noting that Rakutis' role as Chair of the Seimas' Commission on Historical Memory make them all the more disturbing. 
"Lithuania played a particularly harmful role in this moral atrocity, as more than 95 percent of the country's Jewish population was murdered during the German occupation. Scholars attribute this massive death rate to eager collaboration between Lithuania's non-Jewish population and the Nazi regime," the letter continued. 
Beyond his comments on the Holocaust, Rakutis said that two wartime collaborators, Kazys Škirpa and Jonas Noreika, were not to blame for the atrocities that took place in Lithuania. 
Late last week, the US ambassador to Lithuania Robert Gilchrist also condemned Rakutis' comments, saying in a statement that “It is shocking that on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, of all days, a member of Seimas should espouse distortions regarding Holocaust collaborators in Lithuania and shamefully seek to accuse Jews of being the perpetrators.” 
The letter from the commission also made note of the condemnations from Israeli Ambassador Yossi Levy and German Ambassador Matthias Sonnalso. 

Cnaan Lipshiz/JTA contributed to this report.