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Holocaust victims commemorated at massacre site near Vilnius

BC, Vilnius, 23.09.2020.Print version

A commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust was held at Paneriai Memorial, the site of a mass killing of tens of thousands of Jews during World War II, on Wednesday, informs LETA/BNS.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said during the ceremony in Paneriai, which is now part of Vilnius, that the Holocaust was a tragedy for the Lithuanian state.

"Here in Paneriai alone, we, the state of Lithuania, lost tens of thousands of our citizens who took part in the creation of an independent state of Lithuania," Nauseda said.  "We lost talented scientists, artists, poets, doctors, businessmen and craftsmen, teachers and clergymen; we lost elderly people who kept the memory of hundreds of years spent together; we lost children who were the future of this country," he added.

It was difficult for Lithuanians to admit that Jews died "from the hands of Lithuanians as well, but we found the strength to look history in the eyes", Nauseda said. "During his visit to Israel in 1995, the Lithuanian president asked for forgiveness for those Lithuanians who took part in the disaster," he noted. 

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius says that while it is very important to remember the victims, it is equally important to prevent such tragedies from happening again.  "This can't be either forgotten or forgiven, but it's no less important to think about preventing it from recurring," he told BNS. 

Linkevicius added that the killing of Jews in Lithuania "is that page that will never be erased, both as a shame and as a disaster."

Gabriele Lisauskaite, granddaughter of a survivor of the Paneriai massacre, says Jew rescuers must be remembered.  "She was lucky; the bullet hit her hand; she got out of the pile of bodies, ran through the woods and found people who helped her," the 28-year-old woman told reporters in Paneriai. "Then she had to return to the ghetto, but her Lithuanian language teacher helped her a lot. He organized a hideout in the St. Catherine's Church where 12 Jews had already been hidden", Lisauskaite said.

"My grandma used to say that there were good people who saved (Jews), too. These people are angels, so we have to remember them," she added.

Faina Kukliansky, head of the Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC), also underlined the need to prevent any form of hatred. "As long as we are alive, through our testimony of the victims of the Holocaust, we must work together to ensure that the tragedy does not happen again and that it does not take new, insidious forms of hatred," she said at the ceremony.

Other Lithuanian political leaders, ministers and foreign diplomats were also present at the event held on the occasion of the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews that is marked on September 23 to commemorate the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto on September 23, 1943. 

Over 90% of Lithuania's pre-war Jewish population of over 200,000 were killed during World War II. 

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