In June 1941, Lithuanians began murdering their Jewish neighbors even before Nazis arrived in Lithuania. Their putative Prime Minister, Kazys Skirpa, operating from Berlin, was one of the first to suggest eliminating the country’s Jews in the course of supporting the Nazi invaders. He presented his recommendations to the Nazis well before the Nazis decided to embark upon the Holocaust throughout Europe.
Lithuanians were tireless in their quest to eradicate Jews. Nazis themselves found that their own forces found it psychologically difficult to murder innocent women and children, and to be splattered by Jewish brains and blood. Seemingly impervious to the inhumanity, the Lithuanians continued with a religious zeal. And, they were, by their diabolical calculus, very successful. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered in short order – 96.4% of the country’s Jews were slaughtered. By comparison, it was safer to be a Jew living in Nazi Germany than it was to be a Jew in Lithuania, which had the highest proportion of its Jewish population murdered of all the countries in Europe.
This was the work considerable administrative organization. Interim Prime Minister Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis (“Brazaitis”), another star in modern Lithuania’s pantheon of heroes, showed remarkable efficiency and effectiveness in implementing Skirpa’s plan. Brazaitis was somewhat more circumspect — he urged his fellow Lithuanians not to murder Jews “so publicly.” After that, the Jews were typically taken to woods close to their home villages before being shot or clubbed to death at the edge of prepared pits.
After the annihilation of Lithuanian Jews, both Skirpa, Brazaitis and many other architects and perpetrators of the Holocaust in Lithuania fled to the West, abandoning their country to the Soviets.
In 1995, the newly re-established Lithuanian state, seeking to find heroes to glorify, claimed and repatriated Skirpa’s remains, which were reburied with full State Honors. This egregious act of glorifying a principal character in Lithuania’s infamous past demonstrated that Lithuania had not recognized – or was oblivious to – its Nazi past.
In 2012, Brazaitis’s remains were similarly repatriated from America and re-buried with national honors. One brave member of the national parliament had the temerity to question whether this is appropriate given the country’s ostensible desire to accept modern European values. Two historians from the Lithuanian Institute of History agreed that Brazaitis was a Holocaust perpetrator and advised the government not to honor him. Nonetheless, the compulsion to honor Holocaust perpetrators remains strong, and the government chose to ignore the warnings. Brazaitis was reburied in the country’s most prestigious Church, with full State honors. Unfortunately for Lithuania, the media took greater notice. The American Congress issued a formal condemnation of the reburial, and simultaneously, the Mayor of Los Angeles boycotted a meeting with the Lithuanian Foreign Minister. Some Lithuanian citizens also objected.
I discovered that the murderer of my own Lithuanian Jewish relatives was also a prominent Lithuanian national hero – Jonas Noreika. Skirpa, Brazaitis and Noreika are but a few of the many Holocaust perpetrators who have been glorified and honored by the state as part of a systemic effort to deny the country’s historical truth.
In 2013 I launched an academic investigation of Noreika and other Nazi-era Lithuania leaders, such as Brazaitis. When the Lithuanian Government has found that the facts provided by those objecting to its revisionism cannot be ignored, they have tried various subterfuges to indefinitely avoid confronting the truth. The Lithuanian Government persists in its goal of protecting its Holocaust perpetrators with the same determination that its Nazi-era heroes persisted in ruthlessly murdering their fellow countrymen.
One government tactic was to dismiss me as possible Russian agent. The government has also threatened to prosecute me for reasons as-yet unstated. In a latest twist, the government is falsely alleging that the U.S. Justice Department “rehabilitated” Brazaitis. American law does not have a concept analogous to the very Soviet term “rehabilitated”. Perhaps the closest American comparison might be a US Presidential pardon. In fact, the Justice Department’s 1975 investigation to determine if Brazaitis was wrongfully admitted to the U.S. was terminated only because Brazaitis had died and could not be deported. The Justice Department by no means concluded that Brazaitis was not a war criminal.
The Lithuanian government reported to their Parliament that both Brazaitis and Skirpa had been “completely exonerated” by the US Congress. In support of this contention, the government produced a 1975 letter from the U.S. House of Representatives stating the fact that U.S. immigration authorities terminated their investigation since Brazaitis had died in 1974. The Lithuanian government’s insinuation that the U.S. Congress had pardoned Brazaitis was nonsense. Under American Federal and state law, the power to pardon a criminal is vested exclusively in the executive, not in the legislative branch of government. The Congressional letter was simply a statement that the immigration investigation had become moot because the target of the investigation had died.
To compound its misstatement of fact, the Lithuanian government attempts to leverage the 1975 letter concerning the Brazaitis investigation into an a “complete exoneration” of others not named in the letter, such as Kazys Skirpa. Lithuania has never explained how they arrived at this conclusion and, indeed, it cannot.
Four American lawyers were asked to study the 1975 Congressional letter and explain its actual legal meaning, specifically with regard to the claim that the letter constituted a “complete exoneration.” They all agreed that the government contention was baseless. The lawyers’ responses characterized the government’s claim as “preposterous”, “absurd”, “improper”, “misusing”, “misleading”, “illogical”, “false”, “deceptive”, a “cover up”, “willfully deceptive in an effort to distort historical truth”, a “misstatement of fact”, having “no legal viability”, and more.
The Lithuanian Government’s crude attempts to distort the facts of its country’s leading role in the Holocaust have strayed beyond the realm of Holocaust distortion to out-and-out fraud. To my knowledge, this is the first time that a foreign government has attempted to predicate a Holocaust deception on an item of American legislative correspondence.
On January 15, 2019, the Lithuanian Government will plead in the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court that the Holocaust crimes of Jonas Noreika should not be a consideration in the hero status accorded him by Lithuania. One claim presented by Lithuanian officials is that there might have been two people named Jonas Noreika, one who was leader of about a quarter of Lithuania and the signer of the documents perpetrating the Holocaust, and another Jonas Noreika, who might have possibly stood in his place and impersonated him in committing the crimes. The lengths to which the Lithuanian government will go to deny the culpability of its Nazi-era leaders knows no logical limits.
The “invisible person” theory of Jonas Noreika is as absurd and dishonest a claim as Lithuania’s claim that American officials pardoned and completely exonerated two of their primary Holocaust perpetrators. Given the lack of independence of Lithuanian Courts, we wonder if the Judge will also see invisible people in order to protect the national ideology?