Letters to the Editor

Lithuania committed to Holocaust memorial

In response to Yossi Melman's article, "Expelling the ambassador," September 7

The Lithuanian government is committed to rehabilitating the heritage of Lithuanian Jewry, preserving the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust, and developing one of Europe's best educational programs on the subject of the Holocaust. To this end, 2011 has been proclaimed by the Lithuanian government as the Year of Remembrance for Holocaust Victims, with 25 national memorial initiatives on the agenda.

Despite the global economic crisis and stringent austerity measures, this year, the Lithuanian parliament enacted the Law on Compensation for the Property of Jewish Communities, allocating $53 million to this objective. The historic Jewish Quarter in Vilnius is being restored and a new Jewish library will be established there.

A few months ago, in cooperation with Yad Vashem, reconstruction work began on the Paneriai Memorial. The war crimes are never to be forgotten and never to be forgiven. Lithuania follows this path - all cases of genocide are meticulously investigated.

Lithuania does not ignore its history. We act against villains but honor our heroes. In 2009, a website (www.lithuanianjews.org.il ) administrated by the Association of the Lithuanian Jews in Israel published a list of individuals who purportedly took part in the genocide of Lithuanian Jewry. Nine people on the list, who are no longer alive, were leaders of the post-war Lithuanian resistance movement against the Soviet occupation. These people have been falsely accused of serious crimes. One of them was Lithuanian freedom fighter leader Juozas Luksa, whose good name has been undermined.

Understandably, therefore, their families have asked the state prosecutors to begin an investigation into alleged libel and defamation. Without accusing Mr. Melamed of anything, prosecutors simply wished to ascertain which documents and sources the website used to garner the information that the nine were involved in the murder of Jews, and to request that copies of these documents be forwarded to the Lithuanian authorities.

I wish to make it clear, too, that the displaying in Lithuania of Communist and Nazi symbols is illegal, and that Lithuania has never granted pardons to Nazi collaborators.

Lithuania has never denied that there were those among us who collaborated with the Nazis and committed crimes against Lithuanian Jews. We know that we owe an immeasurable debt to our Jewish compatriots. Therefore, on September 23, we are marking a national memorial day for the genocide of Lithuanian Jewry. Lithuania bows its head in silent respect to the memory of the thousands of our Jewish brothers and sisters who perished in the Holocaust.

Some 2752 teachers have participated in special seminars in the framework of the national educational program on the Holocaust in Lithuania, and some 20,000 pupils have taken part in initiatives dealing with Holocaust studies. In addition, 77 Tolerance Centers have been set up in the country.

Despite the tragic experiences of the past, Lithuania and Israel are successfully rebuilding the bridges between them.

Darius Degutis

Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel