Yad Vashem Shuns Lithuania Over Demand to Probe Holocaust Survivors

Participation of Lithuanian culture minister, ambassador in conference on Lithuanian Jewry canceled; Lithuania has policy of asking Israel to investigate Holocaust survivors on claims of committing war crimes, among other suspicions.

Yad Vashem has canceled the participation of Lithuania's culture minister, Arunas Gelunas, and of Darius Degutis, Lithuania's ambassador to Israel, in a conference on the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry, which is scheduled for next week in Jerusalem. The move is a protest against Lithuania's policy of asking Israel to investigate Holocaust survivors on claims of committing war crimes, among other suspicions.

Last week Haaretz published an opinion piece by this reporter calling for the expulsion of the Lithuanian ambassador. Following the column, Yad Vashem received calls for it to cancel the invitations - and even cancel the conference.

Hall of Names
AP

Joseph Melamed, 86, a survivor of the Kovno Ghetto and a partisan who fought in the forests and the chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel said he would boycott the conference. He now says he will attend.

The Lithuanian government has accused Melamed of slandering nine Lithuanians who were executed by the Soviet government for collaborating with the Nazis.

"When we read the Israel Police investigated Melamed at Lithuania's request we were shocked. We decided to cancel the participation of the culture minister and Lithuanian ambassador in the conference," said Yad Vashem's spokeswoman, Iris Rosenberg. "The conference will take place as planned."