Lithuania drops war crimes probe of Israeli historian

Historians in the News

Lithuanian prosecutors said Wednesday they are dropping a war crimes investigation of an Israeli Holocaust historian who served with Soviet forces in the Baltic state.

In a statement, the prosecutor's office cited a "failure to collect sufficient data grounding primary suspicions" as its reason for halting its investigation of Yitzhak Arad, 81, who worked with Soviet security forces in the wake of World War II.

"During the investigation, 83 persons were questioned as witnesses (and) 14 of them were acknowledged as victims. None of the interviewed persons confirmed knowing anything and being able to witness the involvement of Y. Arad in a criminal act," the prosecutor's office said.

However, it said it was continuing to look into the activities of the Vilnius Battalion, the wartime partisan unit with which Arad had served, and which was accused of killing civilians and anti-communist activists alike.

Lithuanian Jewish community leader Simonas Gurevicius welcomed the decision.

"This is a fair decision, and one we've been waiting for impatiently," he told AFP. "It's a very positive step for the development of relations between Lithuania and Israel, and between Lithuanians and the Jews of Lithuania."

Lithuanian and international Jewish groups were outraged when the prosecutor's office in 2006 began its investigation of Lithuanian-born Arad, based partially on his memoirs.

Arad rejected allegations of murdering civilians and suggested the legal probe was a vendetta for his own painstaking efforts to record atrocities committed by Lithuanians who collaborated with Nazi Germany during the war.

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