(JTA) — Lithuania’s Parliament passed an amendment recognizing Holocaust-era rescuers of Jews as freedom fighters.
The amendment, which entitles the families of rescuers to special state pensions, passed Tuesday by a majority of 72 lawmakers present, the news site 15min.lt reported.
The Jewish Community of Lithuania praised the vote. “Finally, the Lithuanian government has expressed its positive attitude toward fellow Jews,” a statement said.
“It has taken them many years to consent to a request to show greater attention and support for the people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust thorough their humane and heroic act, which they performed while looking death in the eye in disregard to their own safety,” the Baltic News Service quoted a community spokesperson as saying.
The change to Lithuania’s Law on the Legal Status of the Participants of the Resistance to the 1940–1990 Occupations could make several dozen people eligible for state pensions reserved for freedom fighters. In addition, a one-time grant will be paid retroactively to families of Lithuanians who died while saving Jews, according to 15min.lt.
The total cost of the pensions and grants are estimated at $730,000. The amendment will take effect next month.
Lithuania’s government has faced harsh criticism from Jewish groups, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for a number of laws and monuments that draw parallels between Communist-era crimes and Nazi war crimes in Lithuania, where Nazi troops and local collaborators murdered 95 percent of the country’s 250,000 Jews.