search

Lithuanian PM introduces bill to set aside $38m for Holocaust survivors, their heirs

World Jewish Restitution Organization calls Ingrida Šimonytė’s bill ‘an important step to providing a measure of justice’ amid country’s checkered history reckoning with Holocaust

Members of Lithuanian parliament give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation before he speaks in a virtual address to Lithuanian parliament in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, April 12, 2022.(AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
Members of Lithuanian parliament give Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a standing ovation before he speaks in a virtual address to Lithuanian parliament in Vilnius, Lithuania, Tuesday, April 12, 2022.(AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

JTA — Lithuania’s prime minister made what one Jewish organization called an ”important step” earlier this month by introducing legislation to allocate more than $38 million as restitution for Holocaust survivors and their heirs.

Ingrida Šimonytė has introduced the bill to the Seimas, Lithuania’s legislature. If passed it would nearly double the money the government had already set aside for restitution claims in a country where 90% of Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Today only 5,000 Jews remain in the country.

“Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė’s proposal is an important step to providing a measure of justice to Lithuanian Holocaust survivors and their families for the horrors they suffered during World War II and its aftermath,” the World Jewish Restitution Organization said in a statement.

“We look forward to the opportunity to review this new legislation that would continue the process of property restitution and support Jewish life in Lithuania,” the organization said.

Lithuania has a checkered history when it comes to reckoning with its Holocaust history. The Nazis’ Lithuanian collaborators were involved in many atrocities, including the massacres at Paneriai, a present-day suburb of the capital of Vilnius, where 70,000 Jews were killed between 1941 and 1944. Lithuanian battalions also performed guard duty and organized deportations at the Majdanek death camp in Poland and the Warsaw ghetto.

Jewish leaders objected in 2020 when Lithuanian lawmakers considered a law that would have declared that neither Lithuania nor its leaders could be blamed for participating in the Holocaust because the country was occupied. And amid the rise in nationalism across Eastern Europe, streets, schools and monuments have been named for Lithuanian collaborators.

Mourners attend a symbolic ‘March of the Living’ at the Paneriai memorial, in memory of Lithuanian Jews killed by Nazis during World War II, in Vilnius, Lithuania, April 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

The Lithuanian government has previously acted before to compensate Holocaust victims.

Over a decade ago, the parliament passed legislation to allocate 36 million Euros, then worth about $72 million, for a Good Will Foundation that funds projects to benefit the country’s Jewish population. The money was considered restitution for communal property seized from Lithuania’s Jewish community under the Nazi occupation.

”This payment represented only partial value of the properties,” the WJRO explained. However, “it provided much-needed funds to support Jewish communal life in Lithuania, restored several Jewish heritage sites, and offered modest payments to needy survivors.”

The new bill would allow survivors and their heirs to apply for restitution for personal property as well, according to an AFP Report, and also continue to fund the Good Will Foundation.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
image
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: example@domain.com
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.