Wiesenthal Center Praises Call by German and American Ambassadors to Lithuania to Lithuanian Government to Remove Statues Honoring Holocaust Perpetrators
September 25, 2022
Jerusalem-The Simon Wiesenthal Center today welcomed the call by German ambassador Matthias Sonn and American ambassador Robert S. Gilchrist for the removal of statues honoring Holocaust perpetrators in Lithuania. Their appeal was made two days ago at the state ceremony at the Ponar memorial to mark Lithuanian national Holocaust remembrance day, observed every year on September 23, the day of the evacuation of the Vilna/Vilnius Ghetto.
The existence of monuments, statues and other honors bestowed on Lithuanians who fought against the Soviet occupation are legitimate steps to honor local heroes, but in many cases in Lithuania, these same persons were active participants in the mass murder of Jews during the Holocaust, a fact which should have automatically disqualified them as local heroes. The Wiesenthal Center has protested against these honors for many years, along with outspoken Lithuanian critics of such awards, such as Ruta Vanagaite, Silvia Foti, and American Litvak Grant Gochin.
Both ambassadors unequivocally criticized the honors bestowed on Holocaust perpetrators in their speeches at the state ceremony which was attended by Lithuania Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, and Ambassador Gilchrist specifically named Jonas Noreika, the liaison between the Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators in northwest Lithuania, who played a major role in the annihilation of thousands of Jews in that region, and Juozas Krikstaponis, an officer of the Lithuanian unit which murdered at least 20,000 Jews in Belarus.
According to SWC Director for Eastern European Affairs, Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff:
"It is high time that Lithuania's allies in NATO and the European Union demand that all the honors bestowed on Holocaust perpetrators be cancelled. No Nazi collaborator can be a national hero. Such honors are a disgusting insult to the victims of the Holocaust, and send the worst possible message to Lithuanian society. Thank you ambassadors Sonn and Gilchrist for openly and unequivocally criticizing this travesty."
For additional information please contact the Israel Office of the Wiesenthal Center: Tel: 972-2-563-1274 or Tel: 972-50-721-4156, follow the Center on Facebook, or @simonwiesenthal and @EZuroff for news updates sent directly to your Twitter feed.
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).