Attack on Righteous Gentiles as Lithuania Celebrates 100th Birthday

The Lithuanian Jewish Community for many years now has been posing the question: does Lithuania even know and is she able to name her true heroes? As we begin to celebrate 100 years since the founding of the Lithuanian Republic and look back over all the people who contributed, we cannot forget the noble Lithuanian Jews and the noble rescuers of Jews from the Holocaust who managed to keep the flame of hope alive during the most shameful passage in Lithuania’s history. The Sondeckis family who saved Lithuania’s honor are now forced to defend their own.

At the start of Lithuania’s 100th birthday celebration, the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter Center) has on their webpage published a journal containing a registry of files on people from the KGB archive.

This list includes Saulius Sondeckas, the son of Jackus Sondeckis, a well-known Lithuanian public figure, a member of the independence movement over 100 years ago and a Righteous Gentile who saved Jews. On February 3, 2018, we marked the three-year anniversary of the death of Saulius Sondeckis, a true aristocrat of the spirit who represented Lithuania and put Lithuania on the world map with his exceptional musical talent and noble deeds. That these allegations of possible criminal activity leveled against Saulius Sondeckis, who is now dead and unable to defend himself, and against his family fall on the 100th anniversary of the modern Lithuanian Republic makes graver the circumstances surrounding the charges and increases the harm done to the family who so rightly deserve the honor of the Lithuanian nation for their contributions. This accusation treads upon the title Righteous Gentile and also inflicts damage on the Lithuanian Jewish Community, which considers Saulius Sondeckis an honorary member.

The Center’s aforementioned journal included an introductory article which stated:

“It is not known under what principle or for what reason this journal was compiled. Studying carefully additional archival and other sources about the people named in the list, it was determined some of those listed as recruits did not work as agents. Most likely they agreed to cooperate simply in order to get out of the clutches of the agents. Neither can the possibility be rejected that some of the people were included on the list for operational reasons or to compromise them.”

The Center also notes that based on article 5, point 23 on the Lithuanian law governing the creation and operations of the Center, they are supposed to “collect, analyze and publish documents from the special services of the USSR.” Apparently the Center forgot to mention their task is to restore historical truth and justice (article 4 of the law). At the same time article 8, part 1 of the same law prescribes: “The genocide and persecution of residents of Lithuania is to be researched through the collection and analysis of all materials and documents from archives throughout Lithuania and outside Lithuania, of testimonies and recollections of eye-witnesses, participants and victims. The study of genocide and the restoration of historical truth may not be stopped based on any justification.”

The LJC believes the Center is not adhering correctly to the articles of law regulating its own activities; it has published a list from the special services of the USSR without adequately examining, analyzing and assessing this material, thus violating the basic task assigned this institution, the restoration of historical truth. If it had conducted itself properly in this case, the public would have been informed that the case-file concerns not just Saulius Sondeckis, but his spouse Silvija and their son Paulius, which forces us to really question the veracity of the contents of this document. The case also says his father, once the mayor of Šiauliai, fled abroad and became an active member of anti-Soviet organizations. It does not mention the Sondeckis family hid Jews during the war. The case-file does not contain a single signature from Saulius Sondeckis, not even on the so-called Task sheet for travelling to the United States. The file contains no evidence the information in the file actually pertains to Saulius Sondeckis. By omitting these significant details and by publicizing openly without a factual basis and in a one-sided manner this unobjective information presented to the Center that Saulius Sondeckis is listed on a registry of KGB agents, the Center misinformed the public and the name of this member of this family of Righteous Gentiles, this grand figure in the music of Lithuania, had his good name, dignity and legacy libeled.

The LJC brings attention to the fact that the sole institution with the right to determine whether an individual secretly worked with the secret services of the USSR is the Lustration Commission. What has gone unmentioned completely is the law on the protection of people of Lithuania who have admitted to working for the secret services of the USSR, have been listed as working for them or have been registered as having done so, adopted in late 1999 and promulgated in the State Gazetteer, issue no. VIII-1436 on November 11, 1999. This law defines the procedure legally required for a determination someone has worked for the KGB. The public doesn’t know where this journal and associated documents have been hiding before amendments to the law on publication of KGB files were adopted in 2010, nor why this material was not handed over to the interagency Lustration Commission for scrutiny.

In light of this, the Center’s actions regarding Saulius Sondeckis are clearly of a libelous nature and fall under article 154, section 2 of the criminal code of Lithuania, and possibly also expose the Center to criminal prosecution under article 293 (independent seizure of authority) and article 228 (abuse of office).

The principle of the rule of law means policy may not became an alternative to the law, and all enterprises, institutions and agencies operating in Lithuania must operate without violating the Lithuanian constitution, to adhere to legal principles and jurisprudence. This case brings into real question the competency and institutional independence of the Center.

If no official apology or explanation is received from the Center on this situation, the LJC reserves the right to approach the appropriate law enforcement institutions for initiating a pre-trial investigation in the manner laid down by the laws of the Republic of Lithuania.