Ambassador Gilchrist’s Remarks at the International Holocaust Remembrance Commemorative Event and Panel Discussion
January 27, 2023
National Gallery of Art, Konstitucijos pr. 22, Vilnius
VM of Foreign Affairs, Mantas Adomėnas,
Ms. Faina Kuklianksy,
Director of Vilna Gaon State Museum, Simonas Strelcovas
Distinguished guests and friends,
I’m deeply honored to have the opportunity to gather with you today and commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I’d like to extend my gratitude to the Embassies of Israel, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the European Commission’s Representation in Lithuania, and the Lithuanian Jewish Community who helped create a space to convene and reflect, and who worked with my team to make this event possible. Thank you all, for choosing to spend this afternoon together, in honor of human life and perseverance, in honor of Holocaust survivors, and in the memory of the genocide of six million Jewish lives.
Shortly, we will see a story about a young Lithuanian Jewish poet from Rokiškis, Matilda Olkinaitė, whose life was abruptly and horrifically taken during the Holocaust. Like many stories from that terrifying time, this one is about a life that could have been. Yet the film “Finding Matilda” is also about our collective responsibility to remember, memorialize, and educate future generations about the dangers of prejudice, discrimination, antisemitism, and dehumanization. Matilda’s story, like the ones of roughly 200,000 Jews murdered in Lithuania, is part of Lithuania’s national heritage. I encourage all educators and leaders gathered here today to seek out a way to show this film in your communities.
Among the lessons of the Holocaust is that of our future as democracies. This future depends on our willingness to critically reflect on and seek reconciliation with our past, by rightfully naming the perpetrators and collaborators, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable. We owe it to the six million Jews, and millions of Roma, disabled persons, LGBTQI+ persons, Slavs, and many others, whose murders should never be forgotten, questioned, trivialized, or manipulated.
I would like to express appreciation to the Speaker, the government, and the Seimas for the recent passage of legislation to provide symbolic compensation for heirless and pending claims on private property lost by Jewish Lithuanians during the Holocaust. I also commend you for the passage of legislation that would direct removal of monuments to totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, which includes Nazi collaborators who participated in the Holocaust. I hope this will lead to the swift removal of such monuments, including to Juozas Krištaponis in Ukmergė and Jonas Noreika here in Vilnius.
At the request of the filmmakers, I wanted to share Dr. Freund, who is featured in the documentary, passed away in 2022. His archaeological work uncovered the legacy and vibrancy of the Jewish community in Lithuania, and I am proud to have had the chance to call Dr. Freund a wonderful partner to the U.S. Embassy.
I want to thank you all once again, for being here today and marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day with us. I hope we all have a meaningful afternoon, reflecting on what we can do to actively counter hate, antisemitism, and Holocaust distortion, and stand up for our shared democratic values.