-- Israel's official Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem on
Thursday rescinded an invitation to Lithuanian officials
to attend a memorial service, as a protest against their
country's call to investigate a Holocaust survivor.
The decision follows a Lithuanian accusation against a prominent survivor of
slandering Lithuanians who collaborated with the Nazis,
but are considered national heroes because they opposed
The German Nazis were greeted as liberators in many eastern European countries
that suffered under communism. Collaboration was rampant.
In recent years, Lithuania and others have sought to
highlight the activities of nationalist figures who opposed
the Soviets - even those suspected of atrocities against
Of the nearly 250,000 Lithuanian Jews before World War II, only a few thousands
survived. Many of their murderers were Lithuanians.
It's not the first time Israel
has clashed with Lithuania over its treatment of Holocaust
survivors. In 2007, Lithuanian authorities launched investigations
into the wartime activities of Holocaust survivors and
partisans in Lithuania. Among those accused of war crimes
was Yitzhak Arad, a former chairman of Yad Vashem.
The investigations prompted
Yad Vashem to publicly express concern over "the atmosphere of anti-Semitism and Holocaust revisionism in Lithuania."
The case against Arad was closed in 2008. But Lithuania recently targeted Joseph
Melamed, the 86-year-old survivor and a partisan who
fought in the forests.
Melamed, as chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, provided
Lithuanian authorities with documents allegedly implicating
thousands of Lithuanians of collaborated with the Nazis
and executing Jews and demanded they be investigated.
The authorities refused and
instead asked Israeli police to question Melamed in regards
to slandering nine of its national heroes.
In response, Yad Vashem said
it decided to cancel the participation of Lithuania's
culture minister and its ambassador to Israel in a ceremony
next week commemorating the World War II destruction
of Lithuanian Jewry.
Yad Vashem said the memorial
will take place with survivor organizations attending.
The Israeli police had no
immediate comment to the questioning of Melamed.
The Lithuanian embassy in
Tel Aviv did not respond to Yad Vashem's move Thursday.
But in a letter to the Haaretz daily earlier this week,
the ambassador, Darius Degatis, wrote that Melamed has
not been accused of anything and that prosecutors merely
wished to verify the documents on which he based his
Degatis said that nine of
the people accused of genocide were leaders of the postwar
Lithuanian resistance against the Soviets and had been "falsely accused of serious crimes."
In announcing the withdrawal
of its invitation to the Lithuanian officials, Yad Vashem
noted that it is "aware that Lithuania has announced steps this year to confront its Holocaust-era
past, including in opening archives, and educational
and commemoration activities."