(AFP-EJP)---The Lithuanian government surged ahead with
plans to rebury the ashes of WWII leader Juozas Brazaitis
in a state-funded ceremony in Kaunas, in the face of
protests from the Jewish community who claim he “collaborated”
with the Nazis during the war.
Brazaitis died in exile in the United States in 1974, having assumed power in
Lithuania in 1941, when Nazi Germany drove out the Soviets,
following their year-long brutal occupation of the country.
He was buried in a Cathedral in central Kaunas on Sunday,
with the national anthem accompanying the ceremony.
Whilst the Lithuanian state
claim Brazaitis’ government tried to restore national
sovereignty, Jewish groups insist he was a Nazi collaborator
who refused to halt anti-Semitic pogroms and contributing
to the climate with a wave of anti-Semitic legislation.
The Lithuanian Jewish community
expressed “deep hurt” at the decision to hold a state
burial, which it said amounted to “disrespect for Jewish
citizens killed here and Holocaust survivors”.
Lithuanian MP and Chairman
of the International Commission to Evaluate the Crimes
of the Nazi-Soviet Occupations of Lithuania, Emanuelis
Zingeris, issued the following statement:
“The Lithuanian Provisional
Government (PG, led by Brazaitis) played a controversial,
if less direct role, in the process of persecution and
destruction...The PG’s ambiguous position emanated from
the paradoxical political morass in which it found itself:
the regime, such as it was, claimed sovereignty, but
never effectively exercised power.”
“The PG, which claimed to
speak on behalf of the nation and more than once insisted
on its own moral authority, did not publicly disassociate
itself from the murder of Lithuania’s Jewish citizens”,
he went on to say.
Lithuania was home to 220,000
Jews before WWII, but 95% perished during the war at
the hands of the Nazis and local collaborators. Today,
approximately 5,000 Jews are thought to live in the country.