The Russian embassy is among critics saying a Chicago monument honoring a Lithuanian hero seemingly ignores that that hero rounded up Jews during the Holocaust, a horror only 4% of Lithuania's Jewish population survived. Before he was executed by the Soviets in 1957, Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas became a national hero for leading Lithuania's resistance to Soviet occupation after World War II. Under Nazi occupation in 1941, however, Ramanauskas also led a vigilante gang that persecuted Jews in the town of Druskininkai, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which does Holocaust research. The Center's Israel head, Efraim Zuroff, tells the BBC he complained to Lithuania's parliament in 2017 but "they were determined to honor [Ramanauskas]. It didn't matter he helped persecute Jews: that didn't seem to bother them."
Indeed, Lithuania's foreign minister saw the monument unveiled Sunday in "the hub of the Lithuanian community in the US," per the BBC. Ramanauskas' relatives also attended. The Russian embassy pointed out the timing, around Holocaust Remembrance Day and Victory in Europe Day, while accusing Lithuanian groups of "massacring and pillaging the Jews and the Poles before the German forces entered Lithuania in 1941." In response, Lithuania on Tuesday demanded Moscow stop spreading disinformation in an attempt "to deny the fact of the Soviet occupation," per the Baltic Times. Lithuanian researchers, meanwhile, say Ramanauskas—who wrote of Soviet efforts to discredit freedom fighters, "hoping that perhaps some people will believe that we were fighting for Nazi affairs"—only led a group that protected homes and shops for two weeks in 1941. (Read more Chicago stories.)