Israel opens first embassy in Lithuania

Israel opened its first embassy in Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius, where one in four residents was Jewish before the Holocaust. The event was celebrated during a March 12 ceremony, the Baltic News Service reported.

Lithuania used to have 250,000 Jews but the vast majority were killed by German Nazis and their local collaborators.

Lithuania opened its embassy in Israel shortly after the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992, a year after Lithuania regained its independence from the former Soviet Union. Israel, however, refrained from opening an embassy in Lithuania. The Jewish state was represented in Lithuania by Israel’s embassy in the capital of neighboring Riga.

“Flying a flag here in Vilnius carries a special significance. This is a country which is a cornerstone in Jewish heritage, where some of the great Jewish thinkers came from,” said Dan Ushpizin, a senior Israeli diplomat who attended the March 12 ceremony.

In recent years, the Lithuanian state’s equating of Nazism and communism has damaged the country’s reputation internationally and in Israel, where many perceived the claim as a means to exculpate Lithuania from its wartime government’s deep complicity in the Holocaust. Lithuania is the only country claiming that its people were the victims of a genocide that it said was perpetrated by the Soviet Union — jta


Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.