Lithua­nia’s Shoah white­wash project

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY JENNI FRAZER

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THE LITHUA­NIAN par­lia­men­tary om­buds­man, Au­gusti­nas Nor­man­tas, has re­fused to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a com­plaint that his coun­try’s Geno­cide and Re­sis­tance Cen­tre presents a re­vi­sion­ist ver­sion of wartime his­tory.

In­stead, the om­buds­man said that the cen­tre it­self must ad­dress the is­sue first, and “if its an­swer is dis­puted, then in a court of law”.

The com­plainant, Grant Gochin, has chal­lenged the Geno­cide Cen­tre’s de­scrip­tion of Lithua­nia’s wartime treat­ment of its Jews, call­ing it “a dis­tor­tion of his­tory and an in­sult to the Jewish cit­i­zens of Lithua­nia”.

Mr Gochin, who is from Los An­ge­les but has taken out Lithua­nian cit­i­zen­ship, sin­gled out the cen­tre’s por­trayal of two wartime lead­ers, Jonas Nor­eika and Kazys Skrpa.

Nor­eika, who is de­picted as a hero by the Geno­cide Cen­tre, took part in the mass mur­der of Lithua­nian Jews in the sum­mer of 1941, when he was the lo­cal com­man­dant, Mr Gochin said. The Jews were first rounded up and locked in syn­a­gogues, then taken in groups ev­ery night to the for­est and shot. Nor­eika, said Mr Gochin, gave or­ders for the shoot­ing — but the Geno­cide Cen­tre ar­gued there was no doc­u­men­ta­tion to link him with such mas­sacres.

Just as damn­ing, said Mr Gochin, was the Geno­cide Cen­tre’s de­pic­tion of Skrpa, founder of the an­tisemitic Lithua­nian Ac­tivist Front. He headed a pro­vi­sional gov­ern­ment in Lithua­nia in 1941 and in its six weeks of ac­tiv­ity, more than 5,000 Jews were mur­dered in pogroms and mass mur­ders. The Geno­cide Cen­tre claimed Skrpa, who de­nounced Jews in speeches, was try­ing to save Jews from de­por­ta­tion.

Efraim Zuroff of the Si­mon Wiesen­thal Cen­tre in Jerusalem has backed Mr Gochin, and said the Lithua­nian au­thor­i­ties were “very cul­pa­ble.”

He added: “They have glo­ri­fied in­di­vid­ual ac­tivists in­volved in Holo­caust crimes be­cause they are he­roes of the anti-Soviet re­sis­tance. There are stat­ues, and streets named af­ter these peo­ple. Should they be hon­oured? One hun­dred per cent, not.” Mr Zuroff added that the Lithua­nian gov­ern­ment and the Geno­cide Cen­tre were “lead­ing the ef­fort to pro­mote the the­ory of dou­ble geno­cide — by the Sovi­ets and the Nazis against the peo­ples of eastern Europe. There is no one in­ves­ti­gat­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nazis, and some of them have been de­scribed as Right­eous Gen­tiles — but they are peo­ple that Yad Vashem has re­jected.”

An an­gry Mr Gochin said that Lithua­nia had “a cir­cu­lar process. I com­plain to the Pres­i­dent, who says I have to ask [the direc­tor of the Geno­cide Cen­tre] Terese Birute Bu­rauskaite. Then I com­plain to Parliament: it says I have to com­plain to Buraskaite or the Pres­i­dent, so Bu­rauskaite is in the sole po­si­tion to de­ter­mine her own truth, in the name of the gov­ern­ment.”

Ms Bu­rauskaite, did not re­spond to the JC’s re­quests for com­ment, claim­ing she had to wait for the om­buds­man’s de­ci­sion.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

A derelict shul out­side Vilnius; Skyrpa (top

and Nor­eika

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