WWII memorial to Lithuanian Jews (Archive)
Photo: Yoav Friedman

Jews protest as Lithuania set to rebury WWII leader

Jewish groups condemn Lithuania for plans to rebury Juozas Brazaitis, head of WWII-era government accused of siding with Nazi Germany

Jewish groups have condemned Lithuania for plans to rebury Juozas Brazaitis, head of a short-lived WWII-era government accused of siding with Nazi Germany after it ousted the Soviets from the Baltic state.


Brazaitis died in the US in 1974 and his remains are to be flown to Lithuania on Thursday for burial on Sunday in the central city of Kaunas.


"Official institutions should not support this ceremony, as it discredits Lithuania in the eyes of the world," Simonas Alperavicius, the leader of Lithuania's Jewish community told AFP Wednesday.


"The Jews suffered from the policy of the provisional government which in fact supported the Nazis," he added.


Between June and August 1941, the literary critic headed an administration seen at home as an attempt to restore Lithuanian sovereignty after Nazi Germany drove the Soviets out of the Baltic state, ending their brutal year-long occupation.


Jewish rights groups and Holocaust survivors however allege Brazaitis was a Nazi collaborator whose cabinet did too little to stop a wave of anti-Semitic pogroms that erupted at the time.


Efraim Zurroff, head of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center was equally blunt in a recent Jerusalem Post article.


"To honor such individuals is to falsely rewrite the history of the Shoa in Lithuania and insult the memory of its victims," he said.


Lithuania's centre-right government is defending its decision to allocate 30,000 litas (8,688 euros, $11,000) for the burial, but no high ranking officials are to attend the ceremony.


"To condemn Lithuania for paying tribute to Brazaitis, who, by the way, was also actively persecuted by the Nazis, is rather easy," Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa, an advisor to Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, told AFP Wednesday.


He also suggested burial would be "yet another reminder of the Holocaust tragedy in Lithuania" and "an opportunity of further reconciliation."


The official also noted that in 1975 the US Immigration found no evidence of Brazaitis being involved in anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi activities.


Pre-war Lithuania was home to 220,000 Jews and its capital Vilnius was a cultural hub known as the "Jerusalem of the North."


But 95 percent of the Jewish community perished during the 1941-1944 German occupation at the hands of the Nazis and local collaborators.


Today, some 5,000 Jews live in Lithuania, a 2004 EU entrant of three million people which broke from the Soviet Union in 1990.



פרסום ראשון: 05.23.12, 07:43
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