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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Lithuanian Jewish leader seeks delay on naming alleged Nazi collaborators

The leader of Lithuania’s  Jewish community supported a proposal to delay publishing the names of suspected Holocaust perpetrators out of concern for their families’ reputation and privacy.

Faina Kukliansky, a former prosecutor and president of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, made this assertion following discussions in Lithuania on publishing a list of 1,000 names that historians from the state-owned Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania have spent years compiling.

The center’s director, Terese Birute Burauskaite, said on Tuesday that her institution would publish the list this year in a book, but later said it would transfer the list to state prosecutors instead.  “I have it complete,” she said of the list, “but how will the families [of those named] react if this violates their rights, if their guilt is not proven? I will convey it to the prosecutors.”

Burauskaite said she transferred a list with 2,055 names to the government in 2012, but it was neither published nor used in criminal investigations. The center then eliminated more than 1,000 names from that list.

According to the Baltic News Service, Kukliansky supported Burauskaite’s suggestion, explaining the degree of guilt of those named is not sufficiently clear. “It can lead to confusion,” she said.

The issue of local complicity during the Holocaust is divisive in Lithuania, where many consider nationalists who fought along Nazis heroes because of their actions against Russia. The discussion on the list came following the publication last week of a book on this subject by Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi-hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, and the best-selling author Ruta Vanagaite.

Zuroff has long accused the Lithuanian government of harboring war criminals and failing to confront wartime complicity.

Following Kukliansky’s statement, Zuroff accused her of “selling out” and “switching over to the side of the government.” Contacted by JTA, Kukliansky declined to answer questions, lest her words “be presented in another way” than intended.

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