Lithuania’s honoring of a man who killed Jews during World War II is anti-Semitic, ambassador says
There should be no place in Lithuania for any glorification of Holocaust participants, especially with anti-Semitism currently on the rise in the world, the newly-appointed US ambassador to the Baltic state has told local media.
The thorny issue of suspected war criminals being honored as heroic freedom fighters in modern Lithuania was raised by Baltic News Service (BNS) in an interview with Ambassador McDonald published on Tuesday.
BNS specifically asked about a monument to a military officer named Juozas Krikstaponis, who stands accused of the mass killings of Jews and other civilians on behalf of Nazi Germany.
“I will continue to speak out strongly against the glorification of individuals who are known and documented to have participated in the Holocaust,” the ambassador, who arrived in Vilnius last month, told the news agency.
She added that such practice was inherently anti-Semitic and thus personally important for her, since her previous role at the State Department included heading its office for tackling anti-Semitism.
Krikstaponis was a defector from the Red Army who served in the Lithuanian military when the Baltic states were occupied by the Nazis in 1941. In 1942, his unit was deployed to Belarus. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, at least 20,000 Jews were killed by Lithuanian troops.
He then became part of an anti-Soviet insurgency and was ultimately killed by Soviet security troops in a firefight in January 1945. This part of his biography was highlighted in independent Lithuania. More recently, he was accorded an honorary posthumous promotion to the rank of colonel, while a monument to him was erected in the city of Ukmerge, the administrative center of the district, where he died.
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Former Ambassador Robert Gilchrist, McDonald’s predecessor in Lithuania, was among foreign officials who have urged Vilnius to remove statues honoring Holocaust perpetrators, including Krikstaponis. The BNS asked Washington’s new envoy why she believed the call had fallen on deaf ears.
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