Lithuanian Holocaust Memorial Day Marked by Successful Launch of New Commemoration Initiative by Ruta Vanagaitė and Wiesenthal Center

September 25, 2016

Vėliučionys, Lithuania - A new project to encourage Lithuanians to visit mass graves of Holocaust victims in their vicinity, which was initiated by popular author Rūta Vanagaitė, with the active assistance of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was successfully launched here on Friday afternoon, Holocaust Memorial Day in Lithuania.

In Vėliučionys, 1,159 Jewish men, women and children were murdered on Sept. 21-22, 1941 by Lithuanian volunteer murder battalions. Vanagaitė and Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center's director for Eastern Europe, first came across the murder site in the summer of 2015, in the course of research for their book Mūsiškiai, on Lithuanian complicity in Holocaust crimes, and were appalled by its neglected state, lack of reasonable access, and by a nearby active garbage dump.
According to Vanagaitė:

"We purposely chose to launch our project at the mass graves of Vėliučionys to direct attention to those mass murder sites which are not properly marked, are difficult to find, are grossly neglected, and almost never visited. The participation of 80 people in the march and memorial ceremony augur well for the future of this initiative."

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).