Ashkenazi, Lithuania FM slammed for not addressing ‘Holocaust distortion’

Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center‘s Israel office and Eastern European Affairs Dr. Efraim Zuroff has strongly criticized a recent display of amity between Israel and Lithuania despite what he described was the latter’s attempts to minimize its history of Nazi collaboration in the Holocaust.In a recent op-ed published in The Jerusalem Post last week by Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, the two ministers lauded the shared history of Lithuania and the Jewish people, and the flourishing diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries. Zuroff has however castigated what he describes as Lithuania’s distortion of the Holocaust narrative, including its failure to come to terms with the high numbers of Nazi collaborators in the country who participated in the genocide of Lithuanian Jews and its glorification of anti-Soviet fighters who also committed atrocities against the Jews.Zuroff points to a monument in the middle of the city of Ukmergė to Juozas Krikštaponis, a colonel in a Lithuanian battalion which was responsible for murdering thousands of Jews, as well as a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika, a district chief who oversaw the murder of thousands of Jews between 1941 and 1943, at the Library of Academy of Science in Vilnius.Although the plaque was placed without authorization, it has yet to be removed. In an op-ed for the Post, Zuroff says that Lithuania has become “a leader of the post-Communist Eastern European initiatives to distort the narrative of the Shoa,” and has “brazenly promoted the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes.”

Zuroff said that Israel does indeed enjoy excellent relations with Vilnius, but said that it was based on Israel’s “failure to condemn Lithuania’s false narrative of the Shoah.”He noted in particular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Lithuania in 2018 where he praised Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis for taking “great steps to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.”Said Zuroff, “This is like saying to Ku Klux Klan that they improve race relations in the US.”

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