(JTA) — Lithuanian soldiers and officials attended the unveiling of a plaque honoring the late chaplain of what Nazi hunters say was a local unit of Holocaust-era murderers of Jews.
The municipality of Vitkija hosted the unveiling of the plaque for Zenonas Ignatavičius, who was born in that town and served in 1941 in the 12th Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalion. In October that year, its troops were responsible for the murder of more than 15,000 Jews in Belarus, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“Ignatavicius served as their chaplain and administered to their religious needs, including taking confessions,” Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, the Eastern Europe director for the center, wrote in a letter earlier this week to the Lithuanian ambassador to Israel. “There is no indication anywhere that he ever expressed any opposition or revulsion regarding the horrific murders of innocent Jewish men, women and children by the men of this battalion.”
At least 20 uniformed men and women from various branches of the Lithuanian security and armed services, attended the ceremony and posed for a picture next to the plaque, according to the Kauno Diena paper.
The paper does not address directly the murder of Jews by Ignatavicius’ unit, but unusually for Lithuanian media, it does mention unspecified “ambiguity” over his service. It also offers a defense in asserting that “the Catholics were buried by the Soviets east of Minsk, and the Nazis ended the extermination.”
In Lithuania, multiple individuals implicated in mass murder of Jews are celebrated as fighters against communism.