OPINION | NEW BRITAIN’S PROPOSED MONUMENT FOR LEADER OF A 1941 HITLERIST MILITIA | GLORIFYING COLLABORATORS | USA | LITHUANIA | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | ANTISEMITISM & BIAS | HUMAN RIGHTS
The New Britain Progressive, a newspaper in New Britain, Connecticut today carried a report entitled “Council Petition Would Halt Ramanauskas Monument, Pending Investigation”. It begins with the news that
“Alderman Aram Ayalon has introduced a City Council petition requesting, ‘a temporary halt of the building of a monument to commemorate Lithuanian militant, Adolfas Ramanauskas, until further research has been conducted to help confirm the history behind the man being memorialized.’ Ayalon cites concerns regarding accusations about Ramanauskas and the parts of the Holocaust that occurred in Lithuania in 1941.”
The paper’s report cites the Simon Wiesenthal’s October 2017 protest concerning the Lithuanian parliament’s decision to name the year 2018 for the alleged Nazi collaborator, as well as Defending History’s January 2018 plea to New Britain Mayor Erin E. Stewart to halt the project to glorify in the United States a leader of one of the marauding Hitlerist militias of June and July 1941 whose main “accomplishment” was unleashing the Holocaust starting even before the Germans arrived or before they managed to set up their functioning occupational administration. As it happens, the wider complex of these issues in Lithuania today was the subject of a New York Times report last Friday, 30 March.
The more detailed history of Adolfas Ramauskas’s 1941 role in the first days of the genocidal phase of the Holocaust has been explored in two essays by the major (non-Jewish) Lithuanian ethicist Evaldas Balciunas. One appeared in 2014, and the other was his recent reaction to the parliament’s plans to honor the pro-Nazi militia leader by naming 2018 for him. Balciunas’s two essays are the two primary documents in English for gaining an understanding of Ramanauskas’s 1941 role. Balciunas, author of a series of essays protesting the state glorification of Holocaust collaborators in his country, was the subject of years of legal harassment by prosecutors and police before being found “not guilty”.
According to Defending History editor Dovid Katz,
“It would be a tragedy for American values for US soil to welcome on public grounds a monument to a leader of one of the marauding Hitlerist militias who were busy murdering, pillaging and humiliating Jewish neighbors even before Nazi forces managed to set up their administration. This is not about whether evidence survives about a specific crime; such evidence does not survive in this case.
“In his own memoir, published by his admirers in independent modern Lithuania, Adolfas Ramanauskas boasted: ‘During the days of freeing ourselves from the Bolshevik occupation I led a squad of partisans in and around Druskininkai.’ This is a clear reference to the week of 22 June 1941, and we know very well what these Hitlerist ‘squads of partisans’ were doing.
“The issue is about the ethics, purposes and inevitable effect of honoring a Nazi militia leader from the days of the Holocaust in Lithuania, a country where around 96% of the Jewish population was annihilated, one of the highest rates in Holocaust-era Europe. Coming as this does on the heels of a massive East European effort to turn perpetrators into heroes as part of a larger project to rewrite the history of the war according to the bogus Double Genocide model it would set a precedent with a message. That message is that the Holocaust was not really a big deal.
“Finally there is the potent issue of societal symbolism for today and for the generations to follow. Here in Lithuania, neo-Nazis regularly flaunt a huge banner glorifying six heroes of the fascist far right, four of whom are proven Holocaust collaborators, and two, including Ramanuskas, were “just” Hitlerist activists at the time of the Nazi invasion. The first image on the banner is that of the gentleman slated for honors in New Britain, Connecticut, Mr. Adolfas Ramanauskas.”
“We know who our nation’s heroes are” reads one of the most popular neo-Nazi banners in Lithuania, causing excruciating pain to Holocaust survivors and their families, as if to revel in the ethnic purity attained by the Holocaust. The six persons pictured, from left to right, are: Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, Jonas Noreika, Povilas Plechavičius, Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, and Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis. This image is from the 16 February 2018 torchlit neo-Nazi parade in the heart of Vilnius’s Old Town. At the parade’s conclusion, the keynote speaker, from Estonia, called for “one thousand years of ethnic purity”.
Approached by Defending History for her opinion, an elderly Holocaust survivor here in Vilnius, one who never heard of this particular Connecticut city and took great pains to learn to say its name, asked: “But is this really what the leaders of New Britain, Connecticut want their city to become known for?”