head of Lithuania’s national youth association (ULNY)
has denied that the country’s wartime puppet leader authorised
the transportation of thousands of Jews to the Kaunas
ghetto — and maintained that Jews cannot join his movement.
Youth leader Julius Panka claimed that Juozas Ambrazevicius, the acting prime
minister of the provisional government of Lithuania for
six weeks in 1941, was not responsible for the imprisonment
of 30,000 Jews despite the existence of documentary evidence
to the contrary.
“Documents have been falsified
and there are false statements on the internet. Certain
groups are using them to make trouble,” said Mr Panka.
The ULNY is one of the organisers
of the annual march in the centre of Vilnius on the nation’s
independence day, which is attended by a large number
Mr Panka said that his group
would not admit Jews or other minorities as members.
“To be a member, you must be a full Lithuanian,” he said.
He denied that this is a Nazi
policy: “They were National Socialists. We only seek
to defend Lithuania. The threats are emigration and immigration.
With one million Lithuanians living abroad and immigration
by other groups, we are threatened.”
His comments come after last
week’s four-day commemoration of Ambrazevicius, whose
remains were repatriated from the US and reburied at
the state’s expense. The urn holding his remains was
placed on the altar at the Church of the Ascension of
Christ in Kaunas.
Foreign Minister Audronius
Azubalis defended the memorial in parliament, saying
that Ambrazevicius was entitled to full honours because
he was posthumously given Lithuania’s highest national
award. Culture Minister Arunas Gelunas — whose office
in Vilnius used to be a Jewish bank, confiscated during
the Holocaust — also personally supported the use of
Prominent anti-Nazi campaigners,
including Weisenthal Centre Israel director Efraim Zuroff,
have expressed outrage at the state’s involvement in
How does Mr Panka feel about
the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were
wiped out? Can he not understand how these ceremonies
offend Jews? He replied: “There are just a few activists
trying to make trouble, that is all.”
However, Mr Panka defends
Ambrazevicius, painting the late prime minister as a
resistance fighter: “Ambrazevicius was prime minister
for only six weeks… When he realised that the Nazis would
not allow Lithuanian independence, he went into the woods
with the resistance.”
So why has this new version
of events emerged only now, in 2012?
“Politically, this time is
right. For some time since 1991 [the end of Soviet rule]
we had a left-wing government. Now is the right time.”
Meanwhile, in the wake of
the Ambrazevicius events, the only remaining active synagogue
in Vilnius was vandalised with green paint this week.
There is significant resistance
to the revisionist tendency in Lithuania. A conference
on Ambrazevicius’s achievements was scheduled to be held
on Thursday at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas,
but many members of the university staff have objected
and were due to hold their own counter-conference this