The Lithuanian ambassador in Washington recently told a Jewish genealogical conference that the investigations against Holocaust Survivors who joined the resistance were “closed”. One questioner wanted to know why, in that case, is there no clear public announcement by a leading official to that effect, as these Holocaust survivors continue to be defamed by prestigious voices in Lithuanian society.
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The saga took a bizarre twist this morning in Tel Aviv, when Israeli police, on demand of Lithuanian prosecutors and police, and referring to international police agreements to which both nations are signatories, felt obligated to hold a meeting with 86 year old Holocaust survivor Joseph Melamed, the long-time and widely beloved director of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel. It is the world’s last active Litvak organization.
Mr. Melamed is a survivor of the Kovno Ghetto, a veteran of the anti-Nazi partisans in the forests of Lithuania, and of the Israeli War of Independence. A retired Israeli diplomat, he is a prominent Tel Aviv attorney and the author of numerous works about Lithuanian Jewry.
The very friendly Israeli police explained to Mr. Melamed that the Lithuanian police were demanding his extradition on charges not related to (unexplained) “war crimes” as in the “investigations” of Dr. Yitzhak Arad of Tel Aviv (born 1926), Vilnius resident Fania Yocheles Brantsovsky (1922), and Rechovot resident Dr. Rachel Margolis (1921). Those “investigations” have met with extensive international condemnation.
This time the accusation is of “libelling national heroes” — nine named Lithuanian militia members who were cited (among many others) for 1941 Holocaust crimes in the January 1999 edition of Crime and Punishment, which Mr. Melamed edited. Back in January 2010, Vilnius prosecutors visited the Jewish Community of Lithuania with similar questions.
Contacted by DefendingHistory.com, Mr. Melamed said today:
“When the journal was published, in January of 1999, I sent all the names of the alleged local killers to the chief prosecutor’s office in Vilnius, asking them to investigate urgently, because time was running out. We were facing the disappearance of witnesses and survivors as well as the remaining perpetrators. They never got back to us about a single name. It is extraordinary that now, in August 2011, when the witnesses and others have died, they have chosen now to use Interpol to try to accuse me. I am not afraid and will fulfill my sacred obligation to our annihilated people, as the elected chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel.”
He added that one of the officers amicably advised him not to go to Lithuania because he would be “arrested immediately” by police.
Some consider it astonishing that the Lithuanian government would launch another campaign against a Holocaust survivor in the midst of its new “Jewish PR” offensive, entailing various schemes to enhance “Jewish Affairs” credentials while pursuing some blatantly antisemitic politics. The most sensational “Jewish coup” is the recent announcement that the Lithuanian foreign minister would be the “guest of honor” at the Vilna-founded Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York City, at an evening to honor the victims of the Vilna Ghetto. In Lithuania, public swastikas were legalized in 2010. This was followed in 2011 by the largest-ever neo-Nazi march on the capital’s main boulevard, with a legal permit, the participation of a member of parliament, and of an official of the state-sponsored Genocide Center.