KAUNAS—For the fifth year running, the Defending History team was the only Lithuania-based monitoring unit on site to observe and record the neo-Nazi march in the center of Kaunas, from start to finish, on February 16th, the anniversary of Lithuania’s 1918 declaration of independence. (DH has monitored the March 11th marches in Vilnius since 2008.) Once again, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office was the only foreign partner to attend, monitor and participate in our annual silent protest. There was no sign of any of the many well-funded human rights monitors in the region.
Yet again, the center of Kaunas, the interwar capital and modern Lithuania’s second city, was gifted by the city’s authorities to the neo-Nazis for their event, which drew hundreds, and was kept orderly by a highly professional, and by now experienced, police and state security presence (which, as ever, took every care to keep the Defending History team secure throughout the day).
This year’s theme was a front-of-march We Know Our Nation’s Heroes banner featuring six figures who share the following unsettling common denominator: all were alleged Nazi collaborators and/or Holocaust perpetrators (from left): Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, Jonas Noreika, Povilas Plechavičius, Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, and Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis. It is as if the marchers are celebrating the murder of the 30,000 Jewish citizens of Kaunas, the more than 95% of the over 200,000 strong Lithuanian Jewish population on the eve of the Holocaust, and the resulting “cleansing” of Lithuania’s Jewish minority.