Yad Vashem Publishes What Would Have Been Lithuanian President’s Speech

Yad Vashem Publishes What Would Have Been Lithuanian President’s Speech

Lithuanian public radio and television posted an article on their news website containing what appears to be the speech Lithuanian president Gitanas Nausėda would have delivered at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum commemoration at Yad Vashem in Israel Thursday. The Lithuanian president canceled his trip there at the last minute apparently in solidarity with Polish president Andrzej Duda, who declined the initial invitation to the event saying it was strange he wouldn’t be allowed to speak there while Vladimir Putin would. Lithuanian public radio and television or LRT quoted the Lithuanian president from “a book published by Yad Vashem.”

“I want to express the deepest respect for the millions of Jews murdered in the Shoa. I bow my head in honor and memory of the two hundred thousand who were my countrymen. The tragedy of the Jews of Lithuania is Lithuania’s tragedy.

“We don’t have the power to raise from the dead the innocent victims, the men, women and children. We probably cannot ease the pain of those who lost their family members and loved ones. Even 75 years after the suffering is still felt, it is alive. There is only one thing which we can and must do. That is honoring the memory of the victims of the Shoa. Each of us can do that in his own way, by lighting a candle and saying a prayer. We can pledge to discover the historical truth. The only way to come to terms with history is to find the truth and to proclaim it loudly.”

The president then reportedly would have said Lithuania had been forbidden from telling the truth for many long years after World War II, and that even after the Soviet occupation ended it still hard for people to talk about the Shoa and to try to understand how that tragedy had happened.

“Silence on that period–whether real or forced–casts a shadow on Lithuanian and Jewish relations. A crucial change of direction in this happened in 1995. The president of Lithuania then visited Israel to apologize for the actions of Lithuanians who together with the Nazis brutally murdered, persecuted and degraded Jews. The truth, although it might have been hard to accept, had been spoken. Democratic independent Lithuania recognized its historical responsibility regarding the Jewish community. Work began on historical memory. This work must be continued and concluded.”

In the setting of the olive trees planted in Yad Vashem’s Garden of the Righteous, the Lithuanian president would have said he was proud of the Lithuanians who risked their lives to rescue their Jewish neighbors. The president also would thanked Yad Vashem for the Righteous among the Nations program.

“The painful lessons are difficult for all of us. But the better we learn them, the more valuable they’ll be. The destruction of the Jews of Lithuania in the Shoa is my country’s and all of Europe’s greatest loss. We will only learn this lesson by fighting resolutely against anti-Semitism, both the old and the new kind. That means by educating a tolerant citizen in an open society. That means by restoring justice. That means by making sure this tragedy of humanity never repeats itself. Never again,” the Lithuanian president would have concluded his speech.

Full article in Lithuanian here.