OPINION | LITHUANIAN JEWISH AFFAIRS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED | GENOCIDE CENTER
Lithuania’s conscience calls for volunteers. The January 24, 2019 newsletter is now available for the informal network called Lithuania’s Conscience (“Lietuvos sąžinė”). As editor and organizer, I wish to add some words in English for readers of Defending History. Our network is united by our resolve to take responsibility for the crimes against humanity committed in 1941 by various leaders in the name of the Republic of Lithuania and on behalf of the Lithuanian nation.
We will be meeting in Vilnius on Monday, January 28, 16:00-17:00, at the small conference room of the Tolerance Center, Naugarduko g. 10/2. The purpose of the meeting is to achieve preliminary consensus on basic principles, a list of demands, and next steps. The newsletter includes working drafts. Please alert me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (+3706 072-7665) if you’d like to attend or if you’d like to give input.
We currently need volunteers to help with the following:
1) We are following Grant Gochin’s example and writing queries to the Genocide Center about Jonas Noreika and other criminals against humanity who are honored in Lithuania. The Genocide Center is obliged to respond within 20 or 30 days. In particular, we can ask questions related to the many lies, falsehoods and distortions which they have made to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court in responding to Gochin’s complaint, and they will have to respond in writing before the next session on March 5. If you write a query in English, then we can translate it for you into Lithuanian. Or you could submit in your own name one of the many queries that we are writing.
2) We are writing Wikipedia articles about Jonas Noreika, his fellow perpetrators, their victims and the related events, especially in Telšiai District. Articles can be in any language. Wikipedia articles are at the top of search engine results and influence journalists, politicians and the public.
3) We need to speak up so that the Independence Day march on February 16 is free of any signs portraying Lithuanian criminals against humanity. Last year the crowd marched behind a menacing banner proclaiming, “We Know Our Heroes”, with five portraits that included Juozas Ambrazevičius (a leader in sanctioning ghettos), Kazys Škirpa (a leader in ethnic cleansing) and Jonas Noreika (a leader in genocide). As our research began on Noreika, I dashed a letter off to organizers of the March 11 march, and apparently they had the heart and mind to march without such banners. We need to engage Pro Patria and Kryptis, the organizers of this year’s march on February 16, as well as the Vilnius City Council, which has granted them permission, and Vilnius Archbishop Gintaras Grušas, whose Roman Catholic priest will bless our march at the Gates of Dawn. It is our country, our capital, our Independence Day, and it should be our march.
4) We need to connect with local and international historians so that our findings are discussed seriously. We need to organize public events with public institutions. We need to normalize the truth which the Genocide Center works to deny. This will then help us be heard by the media.
5) We need translators who know German, Yiddish, Latvian, Russian or English.
Thank you to Roza Bieliauskienė for summarizing many Yiddish documents about the mass murders of the Jews in Plungė and Telšiai. Thank you to the Vilnius Jewish Community for hosting my presentation and organizing discussion about Jonas Noreika’s crimes against humanity and Grant Gochin’s battle in court that the Genocide Center change its findings about Jonas Noreika. Thank you to “Žemaičių saulutė” for publishing Grant Gochin’s “Query Regarding Jonas Noreika’s Criminal Gang” in monthly installments. See the November 30 and December 28 issues.
I am very happy to report that we have rapidly achieved consensus from the most adamant activists for fostering Lithuanian and Litvak friendship. We agree that this is a Lithuanian problem, not a Litvak problem, and so we need to focus on Lithuanian outreach for a Lithuanian solution. From a Litvak point of view, it’s simply hurtful when perpetrators are held to be exemplary heroes. And there are many ways for us all to empathize. But from a Lithuanian point of view, it helps to realize that these are not accidents of history. Those alleged heroes of 1941 were our leaders who committed crimes in the name of the Republic of Lithuania and on behalf of the Lithuanian nation. That is ultimately why they are being honored, and that is why we, as Lithuanians, are obliged to condemn them unequivocally. From a Lithuanian point of view, it is helpful to emphasize that we are a nation-state, that our national will is the basis of our Constitution, and so we as a nation are responsible for those who spoke and acted on our behalf.
We have a strong base of support in Plungė, which was the site of Jonas Noreika’s most atrocious crimes. On February 8, Friday, 16:15, we are meeting at the Plungė Public Library to discuss these basic principles, our list of demands, and the actions we can take. I will come to Plungė on February 5 and stay for about one week to organize volunteers.
Our list of demands is the moral harmony of four voices: a bass which obliges us to account for state criminals, a tenor which challenges state lies, an alto which defends truth tellers, and a soprano which sings empathy for victims and their families. Our 33 demands are a musical work-in-progress. We include all 7 of the solutions elicited by the late Dr. Shimon Alperovich in close cooperation with Defending History. Our list will help us improvise. When the Genocide Center’s lawyer asks, “What material interest could Mr. Gochin have in Noreika’s historical certificate?”, our sopranos can remonstrate, “Desecrating Vilnius’s oldest Jewish cemetery with 30 million euros of construction would inflict injury for centuries!”
Please, please, please volunteer for our choir!
Andrius Kulikauskas is Curator of the Captain Jonas Noreika Museum and Archive.
Evaldas Balčiūnas’s 2012 Defending History essay, “Why is Jonas Noreika Considered a National Hero?” which brought the Noreika case to the outside world. Also: Balčiūnas section in DH. Scroll down to May 2014 to follow reports on the campaign by prosecutors and police to harass and discredit Mr. Balčiūnas (esp. reports of 22 May 2014, 4 July 2014, 9 July 2014, 1 Aug. 2014, 28 April 2015, 12 June 2014, 15 Nov. 2015, 17 Jan. 2016, 9 June 2016, 22 July 2016).