“Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
On 23 September 1943 the Vilnius Ghetto was liquidated by the Nazis and their local collaborators. Some of the victims were sent to various concentration camps and the rest to their death in Paneriai (Ponar), the biggest killing site in Lithuania.
In 1994, the 23 September was declared the National Memorial Day for the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews. Since then every year on the 23 September a solemn
“The aim of all of us, parents and teachers, is to prevent the black periods of the history from being forgotten, periods which brought tragic losses for the Jewish nation and for the whole of Lithuania. Together we have to educate the young generation in the spirit of humanity, to strengthen tolerance in our society, and prevent the flourishing of ethnic hatred. I am glad that today Lithuania looks to the future with a hope. The stories of the Righteous Among the Nations give us the hope that together we will be able to create more beautiful, better and fairer world.”
Members of the Seimas, officials, diplomats and the members of the diplomatic corp residing in Lithuania, members of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, secondary schools’ students attended the ceremony. Photoright : (from r-l) Mr. V. Gedvilas, member of the Seimas, Mr. A. Butkevičius, Prime Minister of Lithuania, Mr. R. Motuzas, the first deputy Chancellor of the Government.
Lithuanian diplomatic missions also had held the commemorations of the victims of Kaunas and Šiauliai Ghetto and organized presentations of the Jewish history and culture in Israel, the U.S.A., the United Kingdom, Japan, Belgium and in other countries.
This year Lithuania commemorated the victims of the Kaunas and Šiauliai Ghettos which were liquidated in July 1944. A comprehensive programme of events was prepared and successfully implemented.
The commemoration of the victims of the Šiauliai Ghetto was held on 18 September. The monument to Chaim Frenkel, the famous industrialist of Šiauliai, was unveiled in Šiauliai on the same day.
On 19 September the President of Lithuania, Mrs. Dalia Grybauskaitė, awarded the Life Saving Cross to those who saved Jewish people from the genocide carried out by the Nazis during World War II, despite placing their families and themselves in grave danger.
On the same day the “Bagel Shop” project tolerance awards ceremony was held at the Lithuanian Government building for the first time. The event was sponsored by Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius.
Photo left: the unveiled memorial plaque to doctor Tsemakh Shabad. Photo right: During the unveiling of the memorial plaque for doctor Tsemakh Shabad: (from r-l) Mr. M. Bekešius, Viceminister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Faina Kukliansky, Chairperson of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, the former Lithuanian Minister of Health.
The commemoration of the victims of Kaunas Ghetto was held on 22 September at the Kaunas IX Fort. The Yaarit Glezer film “Courage in confrontation with death” was presented to the public. Mr. Mantvydas Bekešius, the Vice minister of Foreign Affairs attended the ceremony in the Kaunas IX Fort.
There were more events dedicated to the commemoration of the victims of the Kaunas and Šiauliai Ghetto which were organized throughout the whole of Lithuania during the week from 18-23 September.
On 23 September the victims of the Kaunas and Šiauliai Ghetto were commemorated at the Seimas. In a speech Mrs. Loreta Graužinienė, the Chairperson of the Seimas stated:
“We have to look forward hopefully, to exorcise stereotypes and superstitions, to destroy the wall of intolerance, we have to know and understand the history of the Jewish Community and alongside the history of Lithuania.”
Photo: Wreath-laying ceremony at the Kaunas IX Fort. From the right: Mr. Mantvydas Bekešius, Viceminister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Simonas Gurevičius, the executive director of Lithuanian Jewish Community, Mrs. Maša Grodnikienė, deputy Chairperson of Lithuanian Community.