Lithuanian War Crimes Investigation :

Former Chairman of Yad Vashem under Investigation
Jewish Telegraphic Agency : 02/27/2008    

Lithuania is investigating a former chairman of Yad Vashem on suspicion that he murdered civilians during the Holocaust.

Yitzhak Arad, a noted historian and partisan fighter who served 21 years as the chairman of Israel's national Holocaust museum, is suspected by Lithuanian prosecutors of being ivolved in the wartime killing of Lithuanian civilians. The issue came to light when Lithuanian authorities sought to question Arad, a request Israel has refused.

On Wednesday, the current chairman of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, delivered a written protest of the matter to visiting Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas. Shalev urged he minister to bring the matter to a speedy resolution.

"It is clear that initiating criminal proceedings into Dr. Arad's involvement in Lithuanian partisan activity during World War II is tantamount to a call for an investigation into all partisan activity", Shalev wrote. "Any attempt to equate those actions with illegal activities, thereby defining them as criminal, is a dangerous perversion of the events that occurred in Lithuania during the war."

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Lithuania wants to grill leading Israeli Holocaust historian Yitzhak Arad over his alleged role in war crimes against civilians and prisoners during World War II, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

"We have despatched a request to Israeli prosecutors for legal help", prosecutor Rimvydas Valentukevicius told AFP.

"We want to contact Mr Arad ... and to question him as part of the preliminary invetigation into his possible participation in crimes against humanity in Lithuania during the Second World War," he said.

The 81-year-old Arad, who served as the director of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Authority for 21 years, rejected the allegations in an interview to Poland’s Rzeczpspolita newspaper.

A probe launched in May 2006 showed that Arad, who was a member of the Soviet NKVD secret service, may have been involved in the killing of Lithuanian resistance figures at the end of World War II.

Lithuanian-born Arad, who was active in the underground movement before joining the Soviet partisans to fight the Germans, has rebuffed suggestions that he was guilty of the cold-blooded murder of civilians.

"I have never killed a civilian", he said. "It could have happened during battle but I have never killed a civilian or a prisoner of war in cold blood."

Arad said the allegations could be part of a vendetta campaign as he had painstakingly listed atrocities committed by Lithuanian collaborators. But Lithuanian prosecutor Valentukevicius said suspicions against Arad are based on his own memoirs and documents provided by the Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Center.

"We have many documents, which allow us to think that Arad participated in criminal activities", Valentukevicius said.

Lithuania was home to some 220,000 Jews before the war and was known as the "Jerusalem of the North."


Investigation Dropped

2008.09.26, The Baltic Times - VILNIUS – The Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office has officially dropped the investigation into war crimes allegedly committed by Yitzhak Arad, a Soviet partisan with Jewish heritage.

"In connection with the lack of collected evidence to prove initial allegations, the Prosecutor General's Office discontinued, in a pretrial investigation into crimes committed during the years of WWII by the ‘Vilnius’ soviet partisan unit, the section regarding Yitzhak Arad",...[no surprise there then!].

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