Yad Vashem protests probe of partisan

Holocaust Authority blasts "so-called legal proceedings" in Vilnius as "historical revisionism."

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority on Wednesday launched a protest with the visiting Lithuanian foreign minister over his country's criminal investigation into the wartime activities of a Holocaust partisan who later served as a chairman of Yad Vashem. Lithuania opened the probe of Dr. Yitzhak Arad, 81, a year ago on suspicion that he took part in the murder of Lithuanian civilians during the Holocaust. The investigation came to light when the Lithuanian prosecutor's office turned to the Justice Ministry in Jerusalem with a request to interrogate the Lithuanian-born Arad on the basis of his memoir, The Partisan, in which he describes his experiences as a partisan in Nazi-occupied Lithuania. "It is clear that initiating criminal proceedings into Dr. Arad's involvement in Lithuanian partisan activity during World War II is tantamount to a call for an investigation into all partisan activity," Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev wrote in a letter that he presented to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas during the latter's visit to Yad Vashem on Wednesday. "Any attempt to equate those actions with illegal activities, thereby defining them as criminal, is a dangerous perversion of the events that occurred in Lithuania during the war," the letter read. The head of Yad Vashem wrote that Lithuania had provided little more than "meaningless explanations at best, or more frequently silence," into the "so-called legal proceedings" under way against Arad, adding that they smacked of historical revisionism. Most of the Jews of Lithuania were murdered by local citizens. The "Order Police" began to massacre Jews as soon as the Soviets left in 1941, before the German occupation began. Out of a prewar population of 220,000, only a few thousand Jews survived the war in Lithuania - representing the largest proportion of Jews murdered in any country during the Holocaust. "I respectfully urge you, as Lithuania's foreign minister, to do your utmost to bring this subject to a rapid end, and thus facilitate the cessation of historical revisionism and distortion in Lithuania," the letter concluded. Arad, a retired IDF brigadier-general, was chairman of Yad Vashem for 21 years until his retirement in 1993. His comprehensive study on the Holocaust in Eastern Europe was published three years ago. Arad has said that the allegations against him are a vendetta for his having painstakingly listed atrocities committed by Lithuanian collaborators. "This is a Lithuanian attempt to rewrite history," Arad said. "It is convenient for them to say today that just as there were Lithuanians who killed Jews, there were Jews who killed Lithuanians."