Ambassador Gilchrist’s Remarks on Yom Hashoah at Paneriai Memorial

Ambassador Robert Gilchrist’s Remarks on Yom Hashoah
April 28, 2022
Paneriai Memorial, Vilnius, Lithuania

Chairwoman Kukliansky, Ambassador Levy, Ambassador Sonn, guests and friends:  Thank you for the opportunity to join you to mark Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust.  It is especially meaningful that today’s ceremony includes participation by a delegation of representatives of the American Jewish Committee, led by CEO David Harris. 

It is fitting that we observe this somber occasion at Paneriai, where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered.  The memorial behind me is a place for us all to reflect on the profundity and pain of this loss.

It is therefore particularly odious that, as we gather here at this moment, Lithuania continues to experience an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, a wave that has included the vandalization of this very site.  I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, these hateful acts that tarnish the image of this country and represent an attempt to willfully distort the history that we work to protect.

Today, Lithuania is having conversations about the proper role of monuments.

In that context, I must reiterate: it is time for monuments in honor of Nazi collaborators to be removed.  A short drive from where we solemnly stand today, in the heart of downtown Vilnius, there is a plaque in honor of Jonas Noreika, an officer who signed an order that sent thousands of Jews to their deaths.  In the city of Ukmergė, there is a monument to Juozas Krikštaponis (Yo-Aaz-Aas Krik-Schta-Pone-Iss), a man widely documented by historians to have personally murdered Jews in Belarus. 

No country’s history is without dark moments; these events must be studied, analyzed, and presented without bias.  The objective analysis of history honors Lithuania’s democracy.  The distortion of history, including the events of the Holocaust in Lithuania and elsewhere, weakens the values of democracy and human rights. 

To truly honor the memory of the more than 200,000 Jews who were killed in Lithuania, words aren’t enough. Action is required. 

The United States will continue to speak out and stand up for the democratic values that bind our countries. 

Thank you.