Lithuania dignitaries gather in town of Plunge for dedication
of memorial for more than 2,200 Jews murdered by the
Nazis in 1941.
A number of Jewish and Lithuanian dignitaries gathered on Sunday in the northwestern
Lithuanian town of Plunge for the dedication of a memorial
wall for the more than 2,200 Jews from the town who were
murdered by the Nazis in 1941.
The monument, built in the nearby village of Kausenai from the bricks of the
ruined Plunge synagogue, was vandalized last week and
was badly chipped and scratched, but it was decided to
go ahead with the ceremony anyway and for the damage
to be left as it was.
Lithuanian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and former ambassador to Israel
Asta Skaisgiryte-Liauskiene was in attendance as was
Jakob Bunka, the only remaining Jewish resident of Plunge.
Abel Levitt, an Israeli of Lithuanian origin who initiated
the construction of the memorial, was also at the dedication
service along with a number of people from the Jewish
community of Vilnius.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel director, said that while
he was happy that the dedication had taken place, the
vandalism is a sign of deep-seated resentment in Lithuania
at being reminded of Lithuanian complicity in the murder
of Jews during the Holocaust.
The memorial for the Ponary
massacres near Vilnius was also desecrated last week,
with swastikas and offensive slogans daubed on the monuments.
One of them bore the words “Hitler was right” in Russian,
while the central memorial was spray painted with a picture
of a penis, a phrase about oral sex and the words “128
million,” referring to the sum of money (in Lithuanian
litas, $52 million) approved by the Lithuanian government
in June for the compensation of Jewish property lost
during the Holocaust.
Approximately 100,000 people,
including 70,000 Jews, were murdered in the village of
Paneriai between 1941 and 1944.
In a statement, the Simon
Wiesenthal Center pointed to a recent international conference
sponsored by the Lithuanian government at which violence
launched by Lithuanians against Jews in at least 40 incidents
before the arrival of Nazi troops in 1941 was denied.
“If as was claimed at the
recent historical conference held at the Seimas [Lithuanian
parliament], Jewish historians… purposely lied about
the scope of Lithuanian criminality during the Shoah,
such desecrations of Holocaust memorials become almost
understandable,” said Zuroff.
“The ongoing government-sponsored
and -financed distortion, minimization and downplaying
of the critical role played by Lithuanian Nazi collaborators
in Holocaust crimes has created an anti-Semitic atmosphere
in which slogans such as “Hitler was right” seem natural.”
Also last week, a synagogue in Moscow was firebombed, causing minor damage and
no injuries. The president of the Russian Jewish Congress,
Yury Kanner, told the Russian news agency Interfax that
the attack had been carefully planned. “The synagogue
is in a place far away from metro stations and public
transport stops. Those people knowingly chose the place
and arrived there at night, bringing along incendiary
bottles,” he said.
It has been speculated that the attack was linked to the life sentences handed
down by a Moscow court last week to five Russian neo-Nazis,
although Kanner said he did not think the two should
be linked or that it was evidence of growing anti-Semitism.