(JTA) — Yad Vashem rescinded invitations to two Lithuanian officials to an annual commemoration of Lithuanian victims of the Holocaust.
The Israeli Holocaust museum asked Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel Darius Degutis and Minister of Culture Arunas Gelunas not to attend Monday’s event after Yosef Melamed, chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, pulled out. Melamed said he did not feel comfortable attending in light of the Lithuanian government’s recent decision to attempt to prosecute him for investigating the actions of anti-Soviet partisans during the Holocaust.
The partisans, alleged by many to have contributed to the deaths of Jews, are being celebrated this year in Lithuania for their fight against the Soviet occupation.
The Yad Vashem commemoration honors the memory of the nearly 200,000 Lithuanians killed in the Holocaust.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, praised the decision by the Jerusalem museum.
"Yad Vashem, which serves as the primary custodian of Shoah remembrance and the key guardian of the accuracy of the Jewish narrative of Holocaust history, is to be commended for fulfilling its historic function in a very courageous manner," he said. "Its decision is a crucial blow against the ongoing efforts of the Lithuanian government to distort the history of the Shoah in Lithuania and the role played by local Nazi collaborators in the mass murder of local and foreign Jews in Lithuania, as well as Jews in Belarus and Poland.”
The Lithuanian government has dubbed 2011 the Year of the Holocaust — a distinction that has invested itself in commemoration ceremonies and funding for restoration projects.