groups condemn Lithuania for plans to rebury Juozas Brazaitis,
head of WWII-era government accused of siding with Nazi
Jewish groups have condemned Lithuania for plans to rebury Juozas Brazaitis,
head of a short-lived WWII-era government accused of
siding with Nazi Germany after it ousted the Soviets
from the Baltic state.
Brazaitis died in the US in
1974 and his remains are to be flown to Lithuania on
Thursday for burial on Sunday in the central city of
"Official institutions should not support this ceremony, as it discredits Lithuania
in the eyes of the world," Simonas Alperavicius, the leader of Lithuania's Jewish community told AFP Wednesday.
"The Jews suffered
from the policy of the provisional government which in
fact supported the Nazis," he added.
Between June and August 1941,
the literary critic headed an administration seen at
home as an attempt to restore Lithuanian sovereignty
after Nazi Germany drove the Soviets out of the Baltic
state, ending their brutal year-long occupation.
Jewish rights groups and Holocaust
survivors however allege Brazaitis was a Nazi collaborator
whose cabinet did too little to stop a wave of anti-Semitic
pogroms that erupted at the time.
Efraim Zurroff, head of the
Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center was equally blunt
in a recent Jerusalem Post article.
"To honor such
individuals is to falsely rewrite the history of the
Shoa in Lithuania and insult the memory of its victims," he said.
Lithuania's centre-right government
is defending its decision to allocate 30,000 litas (8,688
euros, $11,000) for the burial, but no high ranking officials
are to attend the ceremony.
"To condemn Lithuania
for paying tribute to Brazaitis, who, by the way, was
also actively persecuted by the Nazis, is rather easy," Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa, an advisor to Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius,
told AFP Wednesday.
He also suggested burial would
be "yet another reminder of the Holocaust tragedy in Lithuania" and "an opportunity of further reconciliation."
The official also noted that
in 1975 the US Immigration found no evidence of Brazaitis
being involved in anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi activities.
Pre-war Lithuania was home
to 220,000 Jews and its capital Vilnius was a cultural
hub known as the "Jerusalem of the North."
But 95 percent of the Jewish
community perished during the 1941-1944 German occupation
at the hands of the Nazis and local collaborators.
Today, some 5,000 Jews live
in Lithuania, a 2004 EU entrant of three million people
which broke from the Soviet Union in 1990.