Wiesenthal Center Outraged By Seimas Chairman of Historical Memory Committee Exoneration of Leading Lithuanian Nazi Collaborators in Holocaust Crimes and His Outrageous Reference to "Jewish Participants" in Shoa; Call for His Removal or Resignation
January 27, 2021
Jerusalem and New York-Senior officials of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel and the United States today called for the resignation of MP Valdas Rakutis from his post as Chairman of the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) Committee of National Memory, in the wake of his baseless exoneration of leading Lithuanian collaborators in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry and his outrageous reference to "Jewish perpetrators" of the Holocaust in a speech delivered to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The Lithuanian heroes whom he denied bore any blame for the Shoa were Kazys Skirpa, who openly proclaimed his allegiance to Hitler and the Third Reich and incited Lithuanians to attack Jews upon the advent of the Nazi invasion, and Jonas Noreika, who was the Lithuanian liaison with the Nazis in northwestern Lithuania and played a key role in the annihilation of the Jewish population. The supposed Jewish perpetrators mentioned by Rakutis were those serving in "the ghetto self-government structures," whose plight was in no way equivalent to that of the Lithuanians during the Nazi occupation. And if that was not enough, he also denounced the Jews who served in the Soviet occupation, as if that justified the murder of practically every Jew living in Lithuania when the Nazis took over.
According to Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who is the Center' chief Nazi-hunter and Director of Eastern European Affairs: "I cannot imagine more inappropriate, fallacious and offensive comments to be made on a day set aside to commemorate the Holocaust. Rakutin has clearly demonstrated that he is totally unsuited to head the Seimas committee on national memory, unless lying about Lithuanian history is the main requirement for the post."
Mark Weitzman, the Wiesenthal Center's Director of Government Affairs and Chair of the Museums and Memorials Working Group of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) added that "Rakutin's statement is particularly unfortunate given Lithuania's membership in IHRA, which under the German Presidency has devoted this year to combating Holocaust distortion and just issued a publication on Recognizing and Countering Holocaust Distortion. Lithuania must act immediately to live up to its IHRA commitment by making it clear that there is no acceptance for the distortion of the Holocaust in the political sphere.” Weitzman was the lead author of IHRA’s Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion, adopted in 2013.
You can follow Dr. Zuroff @EZuroff. Websites: www.swcjerusalem.org; www.wiesenthal.com
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).