Viewing cable 05VILNIUS155

05VILNIUS1552005-02-17 09:17:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REF: A. 04 VILNIUS 22 
     ¶B. 04 VILNIUS 105 
     ¶C. VILNIUS 58 
¶1. Summary.  Ambassador Edward O'Donnell, Special Envoy for 
Holocaust Issues, discussed property restitution, Holocaust 
education, and anti-Semitism with GOL officials and Jewish 
community leaders during a January 31-February 2 visit to 
Vilnius.  Ambassador O'Donnell commended the level of 
Holocaust education in Lithuania, and recommended that the 
GOL and Jewish community work together to develop a timeline 
for the restitution of property.  GOL interlocutors affirmed 
Lithuania's willingness to work quickly to settle restitution 
claims and combat anti-Semitism.  End summary. 
¶2. Ambassador O'Donnell discussed property restitution, 
Holocaust education, and anti-Semitism January 31-February 1 
with senior GOL interlocutors, including MFA Vice-Minister 
Zenonas Petrauskas, Ministry of Justice State Secretary 
Paulius Koverovas, Ministry of Education State Secretary 
Alvydas Puodziukas, and Vilius Kavaliauskas, Senior Advisor 
to the Prime Minister.  He also met with Simonas 
Alperavicius, Chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, 
and Ronaldas Racinskas, Executive Secretary of the 
International Commission to Investigate the Crimes of the 
Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.  The 
Ambassador conducted an interview with the weekly news 
magazine "Veidas" and toured the Tolerance Center. 
Holocaust Education 
¶3. Ambassador O'Donnell commended interlocutors on 
Lithuania's strong Holocaust-related education program and 
the GOL's work as a member of the Holocaust Education Task 
Force.  Interlocutors detailed how the GOL, local NGOs, and 
the international community work together to implement 
Holocaust education throughout Lithuania.  MFA Vice-Minister 
Petrauskas, who will likely lead Lithuania's delegation to 
the 2005 anti-Semitism conference in Cordoba, Spain, said 
that "Lithuania is indebted to the Jewish community," and 
commented that the GOL is working to bring more attention to 
Jewish culture and history.  Kavaliauskas, Senior Advisor to 
the Prime Minister, noting that some 2,000 Lithuanian 
collaborators participated in the killing of approximately 
280,000 Lithuanian Jews (93 percent of Lithuania's pre-war 
Jewish population) told the Ambassador that "we cannot lie 
about history."  Holocaust education in Lithuania, he opined, 
should reflect the "whole truth," since it is important that 
"if we are guilty, we say that we are guilty." 
¶4. Ministry of Education State Secretary Alvydas Puodziukas 
told the Ambassador that the MOE formed a commission in 2002 
to develop a Holocaust-focused curriculum.  Lithuanian 
students receive instruction about the Holocaust in the 
fifth, tenth, and twelfth grades.  The curriculum includes 
classroom instruction and extracurricular educational 
activities.  Puodziukas spotlighted a project called "The 
Jewish Neighbors of My Grandparents and Great Grandparents" 
(ref A), a student writing competition launched by the House 
of Memory, an organization that studies and commemorates the 
Holocaust and Jewish Heritage in Lithuania.  The project 
compiled student interviews with WWII survivors about the 
Holocaust.  To date, two books have resulted from the oral 
histories the students gathered.  Hilda Griskeviciene, MFA 
Counselor for Jewish Community Affairs, also highlighted 
seminars and community outreach activities of Vilnius 
University's Yiddish Institute. 
¶5.  Ronaldas Racinskas, Executive Secretary of the 
International Commission to Investigate the Crimes of the 
Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, described 
for Ambassador O'Donnell ambitious community education and 
Holocaust teacher/training programs it has undertaken through 
its 38 Tolerance Centers throughout Lithuania.  The 
Commission is also at work with the MOE to develop additional 
Holocaust-related teaching materials.  Racinskas lauded the 
contributions to the development of Lithuania's program that 
U.S. Holocaust education programs have provided, especially 
in training Lithuanian educators (ref B). 
¶6.  Acknowledging occasional anti-Semitic remarks in the 
media, interlocutors uniformly maintain that there is a 
general tolerance toward Jews and significant efforts to 
combat anti-Semitism in the country.  Petrauskas said he had 
personally appealed to the Prosecutor General to initiate 
criminal proceedings against authors of anti-Semitic comments 
published in the local press and on the Internet.  Simonas 
Alperavicius, Chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, 
said that there are few incidents of intolerance toward the 
Jewish community in Lithuania.  Desecrations of cemeteries, 
he said, were not directed solely at Jewish graves. 
Property Restitution 
¶7.  Interlocutors highlighted the goodwill between the GOL 
and the Jewish community in the restitution process.  GOL 
interlocutors confirmed Lithuania's commitment to resolving 
the outstanding restitution of Jewish communal property. 
Petrauskas confirmed that the MFA had received the January 19 
letter of Rabbi Andrew Baker, Coordinator of the 
International Committee to Represent Jewish Communal Property 
Claims in Lithuania, to Prime Minister Brazauskas indicating 
that the Committee had compiled a list of 437 properties for 
which it believed the Jewish community was entitled to 
restitution.  Petrauskas said that the Government would send 
the list to the National Archives' researchers upon receipt. 
(As of February 17, Lithuanian Jewish Community leader 
Simonas Alperavicius has yet to transmit this list to the 
GOL.)  Koverovas noted that the process of restituting Jewish 
communal property can only move forward once the GOL and the 
Jewish community agree on a final list of properties. 
Koverovas reaffirmed the commitment of the Justice Minister 
(ref C), who serves as the chairman of the interagency 
Restitution Commission, to overcome existing hurdles to the 
restitution process as rapidly as possible.  Ambassador 
O'Donnell stressed the importance of establishing a timeline 
in order to keep all actors fully informed, and to provide 
impetus for, the restitution process. 
Division in Local Jewish Community 
¶8.  GOL interlocutors cited the different factions within the 
Lithuanian Jewish community as a potential impediment to the 
restitution process.  Confirming that Rabbi Baker and Simonas 
Alperavicius were the official negotiators for the Jewish 
community, Kavaliauskas expressed concern that 
intra-community bickering over whom controls restitution 
proceeds could threaten the restitution process.  He 
observed, in particular, a divide between the Jewish 
communities of Vilnius and Kaunas, and noted that plans for a 
foundation to manage the restitution process and funds 
envision no Kaunas representation.  The GOL, he said, does 
not want to complete the restitution process and then face a 
series of lawsuits from disgruntled members of the Jewish 
community.  (Embassy has encouraged Alperavicius to work more 
closely with local community leaders in Kaunas and other 
Legal Amendments 
¶9.  GOL interlocutors confirmed that Lithuania will need to 
amend existing laws to finalize the restitution process, but 
will begin to do so only after reaching agreement on the 
final list of properties to be restituted.  Petrauskas noted 
that the GOL will need to ensure that all legal amendments do 
not discriminate against other minorities.  Noting the 
powerful influence of Prime Minister Brazauskas within the 
governing coalition and his personal commitment to 
restitution, Kavaliauskas said he thought the necessary 
amendments would quickly receive parliamentary approval. 
¶10.  The GOL and Jewish community are working hard to 
restitute property, combat anti-Semitism, and educate 
Lithuania's youth about the Holocaust.  Lithuania's efforts 
in Holocaust education and in combating anti-Semitism have 
been exemplary.  Progress on property restitution has been 
slow, however.  We do not attribute this to GOL 
foot-dragging.  In our view, the main culprits for delay 
include miscommunication between the Jewish community and the 
GOL, disagreements within the Jewish community, and 
difficulties in coordinating with the large number of 
interested international partners.  Despite these challenges, 
however, the government has the necessary political will to 
overcome existing hurdles and complete communal property 
restitution sooner rather than later. 
¶11.  Ambassador O'Donnell cleared this cable.