(JTA) — In an unusual move, the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania accused a local senior lawmaker of distorting the history of the Holocaust and blaming Jews for it.
Robert Gilchrist, who took up the post in February last year, made the accusation following a speech Wednesday by Valdas Rakutis, a member of the Seimas, Lithuania’s parliament, and chairman of its commission on historical memory.
“There was no shortage of Holocaust perpetrators among the Jews themselves, especially in the ghetto self-government structures,” Rakutis said in the speech, which took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We need to name these people out loud and try not to have people like them again.”
Rakutis also said that two wartime collaborators with Nazi Germany, Kazys Škirpa and Jonas Noreika, were not to blame for the fact that more than 95% of Lithuanian Jewry was murdered, mostly by locals and often by followers of the two leaders.
The speech prompted rare recrimination from the U.S. ambassador, as well as from advocates who monitor anti-Semitism in the region.
“It is shocking that on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, of all days, a member of Seimas should espouse distortions regarding Holocaust collaborators in Lithuania and shamefully seek to accuse Jews of being the perpetrators,” Gilchrist wrote on Twitter under the official account for the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius.
Efraim Zuroff, director of Eastern European affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a statement said: “Rakutis has clearly demonstrated that he is totally unsuited to head the Seimas committee on national memory, unless lying about Lithuanian history is the main requirement for the post.”