Several hundred Litvaks granted Lithuanian citizenship after legal amendments
Several hundred applications for Lithuanian citizenship have already been approved since the country amended the law last June to ease the rules for descendants of Jews who left Lithuania in the interwar period to apply for a Lithuanian passport.
According to information from the Migration Department, Lithuanian citizenship was restored to a total of 223 people of Jewish nationality, including 209 Israeli citizens and 14 South African citizens, during the third quarter of 2016. No applications were rejected.
A significant part of the latest applications is still being examined, but Migration Department officials say that the trends remain similar and citizenship is likely to be restored to more than 200 individuals in the last quarter of the year.
The authorities restored citizenship to 36 people whose applications had been earlier rejected.
Before the new amendments took effect, 10 Litvaks were refused citizenship in 2014, 76 in 2015 and 105 in the first half of 2016. Some 528 people of Jewish nationality had their citizenship restored in 2014, 602 in 2015 and 125 in the first half of this year.
"We knew at the start of this year that some changes were coming and, therefore, we put potentially negative decisions on hold. We resumed these decisions when the new law was passed, and perhaps this is why the number of positive decisions increased. But there is no influx," Evelina Gudzinskaitė, director of the Migration Department, told BNS.
The Citizenship Law was amended in June to include the word "left", in addition to "fled", which means that applicants no longer have to prove that their ancestors were persecuted in Lithuania during the interwar years.
The Nazis, often assisted by their Lithuanian collaborators, massacred about 90 percent of the Lithuanian pre-war Jewish population of around 208,000 during World War II. Almost 900 Lithuanians have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to rescue Jews from the genocide.