For the JC posted March 30 2017
The Lithuanian parliamentary ombudsman, Augustinas Normantas, has refused to open an investigation into a complaint that his country’s Genocide and Resistance Centre presents a revisionist version of wartime history.
Instead, the ombudsman said that the centre itself must address the issue first, and “if its answer is disputed, then in a court of law”.
The complainant, Grant Gochin, has challenged the Genocide Centre’s description of Lithuania’s wartime treatment of its Jews, calling it “a distortion of history and an insult to the Jewish citizens of Lithuania”.
Mr Gochin, who is from Los Angeles but has taken out Lithuanian citizenship, has singled out the centre’s portrayal of two wartime leaders, Jonas Noreika and Kazys Skrpa.
Noreika, who is depicted as a hero by the Genocide Centre, took part in the mass murder of Lithuanian Jews in the summer of 1941, when he was the local commandant, Mr Gochin said. The Jews were first rounded up and locked in synagogues, then taken in groups every night to the forest and shot. Noreika, said Mr Gochin, gave orders for the shooting — but the Genocide Centre argued there was no documentation to link him with such massacres.
Just as damning, said Mr Gochin, was the Genocide Centre’s depiction of Skrpa, founder of the antisemitic Lithuanian Activist Front. He headed a provisional government in Lithuania in 1941 and in its six weeks of activity, more than 5,000 Jews were murdered in pogroms and mass murders. The Genocide Centre claimed Skrpa, who denounced Jews in speeches, was trying to save Jews from deportation.
Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem has backed Mr Gochin, and said the Lithuanian authorities were “very culpable. They have glorified individual activists involved in Holocaust crimes because they are heroes of the anti-Soviet resistance. There are statues, and streets named after these people. Should they be honoured? One hundred per cent, not.”
Mr Zuroff added that the Lithuanian government and the Genocide Centre were “leading the effort to promote the theory of double genocide — by the Soviets and the Nazis against the peoples of eastern Europe. There is no one investigating collaboration with the Nazis, and some of them have been described as Righteous Gentiles — but they are people that Yad Vashem has rejected.”
An angry Mr Gochin said that Lithuania had what he called “a circular process.”
He added: “I complain to the President, who says I have to ask [the director of the Genocide Centre] Terese Birute Burauskaite. Then I complain to Parliament: it says I have to complain to Buraskaite or the President, so Burauskaite is in the sole position to determine her own truth, in the name of the government.”
Ms Burauskaite did not respond to the JC’s requests for comment, claiming she had to wait for the ombudsman’s decision.