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Lithuanian Director of Genocide Research Claims Ghettoes Were Safe for Jews

The head of Lithuania’s Genocide and Resistance Research Centre, which investigates crimes against humanity by Soviet and Nazi regimes during their occupation of the country, has been fired for “whitewashing” the actions of a Nazi collaborator who was responsible for the deportation of 12,000 Jews to ghettos and confiscation of their property.

Prof. Adas Jakubauskas was dismissed by the Lithuanian parliament in a secret ballot held Thursday after he was accused by some of the state-run center’s employees of politicizing historical research, including making the claim that the ghettoes were relatively safe for Jews.

Jakubauskas was found also responsible for polarization within the center that harmed its public image, the parliament said.

But Jakubauskas said he was removed from his position for political reasons and slammed Israel’s Ambassador to Lithuania Yossi Levy for the move. He said Levy had tried to impose his own views on how the research was to be conducted.

The research center focuses on crimes perpetrated by the Soviet Union with emphasis on the deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia.

It was also tasked with researching Nazi war crimes, but describes Lithuanians who were responsible for the murder of Jews as anti-Soviet national heroes, including Lithuanian partisan Jonas Noreika, who collaborated with the Nazis to deport the country’s Jews.

A number of papers published by the center have drawn public and academic criticism and even caused a boycott of the center by the country’s association of historians.

Its critics claim the center has become a tool in the service of the Lithuanian right-wing, to record a bogus version of history instead of an accurate recount of the events that befell Jews from 1941 to 1944.

Noreika’s granddaughter uncovered his actions during research for a book she had planned write in celebration of his life, which instead became an expose of his crimes during the war.

Critics of the research center, including Ambassador Levy, slammed what they called a forgery of history and an attempt to conceal the role of Lithuanian police, military and civilians in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

Some 230,000 Lithuanian Jews,- 95% of the country’s pre-1941 Jewish population – were shot to death in forests and fields by the Nazis and their collaborators.

The current Lithuanian government has been attempting to educate its population on that dark period in its history.

A member of parliament was censured in January after he published an article alleging the Jews were responsible for their own deaths because they were pro-Soviet.

After Ambassador Levy and the German and U.S. ambassadors issued a condemnation of the article, the MP apologized and was removed as head of a parliamentary committee.

Lithuanian nationalists hit back by saying that the three ambassadors had intervened in internal affairs of the country with their criticism of the research center.

Jakubauskas made a similar complaint.

“The ambassadors of Israel and the United States were quick to attack me soon after my appointment” last year, Jakubauskas said.

“They tried to pressure me to change the way we study our history and I told the Israeli ambassador that he would not succeed. I said we have 17.5km of archival material and we would study it… causing him to go red. All he said in response was ‘Aha,'” Jakubauskas said.