February 23, 2020

Lithuania’s Ruling Party Drafting Bill Exonerating Nation from Holocaust crimes

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - FEBRUARY 16: People dance next to the bell tower of Vilnius Cathedral as it stands illuminated in the colors of the Lithuanian flag to mark the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuanian statehood on February 16, 2018 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Celebrations are taking place throughout today in Lithuania to mark the day on February 16, 1918 when, as World War I was grinding towards its end, signatories launched the Act of Reinstating the Independence of Lithuania. Once a Kingdom and later a Grand Duchy, Lithuania in recent centuries had been divided between its neighbors, Poland and Russia. In World War II Lithuania was occupied by Soviet forces and then Nazi Germany. Afterwards it was absorbed into the Soviet Union until independence in 1990. Today Lithuania is a member of the European Union and NATO. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(JTA) — A committee of the Lithuanian parliament is drafting legislation declaring that neither the Baltic nation nor its leaders participated in the Holocaust, a lawmaker working on the bill said.

Arūnas Gumuliauskas, chairman of the Freedom Fights and State Historical Memory Commission at the Seimas, said this at a conference last month, the 15min.lt news site reported on Dec. 28.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Eastern Europe director, Efraim Zuroff, protested the planned legislation, calling it an “outrage” and the “final stage of a long attempt to whitewash massive complicity by Lithuanians” in the murder of more than 95 percent of about 250,000 Jews who had lived in Lithuania when the Nazis invaded in 1941.

The bill will be titled “The Lithuanian state, which was occupied in 1940-1990, did not participate in the Holocaust,” according to Gumuliauskas. He is a member of Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union party.

“The Lithuanian state did not participate in the Holocaust because it was occupied, just as the Lithuanian nation could not participate in the Holocaust because it was enslaved,” Gumuliauskas was quoted as saying at the conference. “But individual representatives are obviously involved and it is up to the court to decide.”

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has a different view of the Holocaust in Lithuania.

“The Lithuanians carried out violent riots against the Jews,” it writes. “In June and July 1941, detachments of German Einsatzgruppen, together with Lithuanian auxiliaries, began murdering the Jews of Lithuania.”

Zuroff said he hoped “common sense will prevail and the legislation is dropped.”