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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lithuania Mourns Past

TALLINN, Estonia -- National flags adorned with black ribbons flew at half-mast throughout Lithuania on Friday to mourn the deaths of 200,000 Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators.

Friday marked the 51st anniversary of the Nazi-led liquidation of Vilnius' Jewish ghetto, one of the largest settlements in Eastern Europe.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius, in a televised national address Thursday, urged his countrymen to acknowledge their country's "painful past" and ask the Jewish people's forgiveness.

"The fact that several hundred Lithuanians were directly involved in the Holocaust demands that we express words of repentance and apologize to the Jewish people for the pain of deportation to concentration camps and the slaying of our innocent citizens," he said.

"We've been waiting for a statement like this for a long time," said Simon Alporovitchus, exective director of Lithuania's Jewish community. "We are very content that this happened eventually."

Alporovitchus said Friday that the only disappointing thing was that the government insists only a few hundred Lithuanians were involved in the killing of Jews.

Alporovitchus estimates that at least 9,000 Lithuanians actively participated in the Nazi efforts to exterminate Jews.

In his television address, Slezevicius promised to prosecute those who participated in the massacre.

On Thursday, Lithuanian officials said they would likely prosecute a Massachusetts man accused of Nazi war crimes if he is deported from the United States.

The U.S. Justice Department accused Aleksandras Lileikis of being "a senior-level perpetrator of the Holocaust" when Germany occupied Lithuania during World War II. Lileikis allegedly headed the Lithuanian Security Police for Vilnius and took part in the murder of Jews, including a 6-year-old girl, Fruma Kaplan.