Lithuania’s ruling party drafting bill exonerating nation from Holocaust crimes

Historian Efraim Zuroff slams bill as 'attempt to whitewash massive complicity' in murder of Jews.

Cnaan Liphshiz, JTA ,

Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff saying Kaddish, a mourning prayer, for Holocaust victi
Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff saying Kaddish, a mourning prayer, for Holocaust victi
Cnaan Liphshiz/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.”

In 2018, Poland passed a similar controversial law making it illegal to suggest Poland was responsible for Nazi atrocities. The law, violation of which could lead to up to three years in prison, took effect in March 2018.

The law drew heavy criticism from the Israeli government, with the US State Department also expressing opposition to the bill. Polish opposition parties also criticized the law, and proposed to amend the bill.




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