Vilnius – Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party, has given a “very negative” opinion about the statement of his party fellow MP Bronius Bradauskas who said that state pensions to Lithuanians who rescued Jews during the World War II should be paid by Israel, not Lithuania.
“My opinion about the statements by the party’s member Bronius Bradauskas about the state pensions to rescuers of Jews is very negative. It is not the party’s position,” the Prime Minister said in a communiqué sent to BNS.
The Social Democratic Party expressed support to the proposal to grant the rescuers of Holocaust victims the status of participants of freedom fights, which would make them eligible to state pensions.
“Lithuania has long been known as a multinational tolerant country. The Social Democrats support equal rights and responsibilities for all before the law. Any manifestation of anti-Semitism is a factor that disintegrates the society and it cannot be tolerated. The statements promoting disrespect can become a spark starting a huge flame, therefore, we urge politicians and citizens to speak and behave in a responsible manner,” the party said in a communiqué.
Earlier on Monday, Bradauskas, the chairman of the parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee, stated that state pensions to the Lithuanians who rescued the Jews during World War II should get state pensions from Israel, not Lithuania.
“I do not see why the Lithuanian state should be paying. It would be logical for us to turn to Israel so that it could pay. But no, Jews do not want to pay and are just looking for what they can take from Lithuania,” Bradauskas told BNS.
He spoke in comment of the committee’s decision to disapprove the bid to grant the status of freedom fighters and state pensions to about 150 surviving individuals who risked their lives during the World War II to rescue Jews from the Nazis.
“So much time has passed, and now someone somewhere wants money. Such things should not be done at the expense of the state. Well, they did take the risks but there are other ways of thanking them, why should we do it? Let’s turn to Israel and let Israel pay them compensations,” Bradauskas said on Monday.
Earlier this month, the government backed the proposal to grant the status of freedom fighters and award state pensions to Lithuanian citizens who rescued Jews during World War II.
The Cabinet of ministers initially proposed to the Seimas to postpone the adoption of a special law due the a lack of funds but were forced to change their minds after coming under fire from the public citing the Cabinet’s decision to raise wages politicians and civil servants.
According to calculations made by the Social Security and Labour Ministry, granting the 180 living rescuers of Holocaust victims the status of participants of freedom fight would require an additional of 860,000 litas (EUR 249,300) for state pensions every year. Additionally, lump sum benefits to families of 65 persons who died during efforts to save Jews would amount to about one million litas, read accompanying documents.
During World War II, the Nazis often assisted by their Lithuanian collaborators killed about 90 per cent of the pre-war Jewish population of more than 200,000.
The Israel-based Yad Vashem centre of Holocaust studies has recognized 865 Lithuanians Righteous Among Nations for rescuing Jews, with new names added to the list.