Yivo Director’s Statements on Legal Swastikas in Lithuania, Plus Some Facts

“One of the most important statements in the article is that the swastika is banned by Lithuanian law, something that Katz and others have refused to acknowledge.”

Jonathan Brent, Executive Director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, in a 9 September 2o11 memo sent to members of his staff


“Fact: It is illegal to display the swastika in Lithuania today.”

Jonathan Brent, Executive Director of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, in a 13 September 2o11 memo comprising the text of his proposed Public Yivo Statement, for which the support of Prof. Jeffrey Veidlinger (Bloomington) is claimed.

11 March 2008:   For the first time, authorities permitted a city-center neo-Nazi march on Independence Day, with police escort, at which the ‘Lithuanian swastika’ was widely displayed. Since then the march has been permitted on Gedimino Boulevard with increasing attendance.  By 2011, the march, featuring many ‘Lithuanian swastikas’, included a member of parliament, and was co-organized by a high official of the state-sponsored Genocide Center.

17 June 2008BBC News reports on the new law passed by the country’s parliament forbidding Nazi and Soviet symbols (equally). While the ‘Nazi symbol component’ of the law was to remain largely unenforced and in the case of the swastika overturned by a court (see below; here and here), the banning of Soviet symbols, at a time and place where there is zero interest in restoring the USSR, came as a bitter blow to (by then very aged) Jewish war veterans for whom old uniforms and war medals are a treasured memory of the struggle against Hitler here on ground zero of the Holocaust. The red-brown-symbol law came two weeks after the Prague Declaration, and the emphasis was on legally mandated ‘equality’ of Nazism and Communism as per the Double Genocide movement, in Europe and in Lithuania, that seeks to downgrade and obfuscate the Holocaust (responses here and here).

2008-2011:  Both before and after passage of the law, various forms and variations of the swastikas have been used in fascist demonstrations (protected by law enforcement), the best known being the ‘Lithanian swastika’ (with added lines). More information and images here.

17 February 2010:  Report on KaunoDiena.lt (English here) on the demonstration of ‘classic swastikas’ that led to the May 2010 court decision legalizing public swastikas.

8 May 2010:  Eyewitness report on the ‘modified swastika’ demonstration protected by police for eight hours outside the Lietuva (Reval) Hotel. The ‘literature table’ provided onlookers with this diagram, meant to ensure that the different varieties of swastikas are equally legitimate for the neo-Nazi (“patriotic”) cause.

19 May 2010Report on Delfi.lt on the court decision legalizing public swastikas.

19 May 2010:  Report on Baltic News Service (BNS) on the court decision legalizing swastikas.

20 May 2010Simon Wiesenthal Center press release on the Lithuanian court decision legalizing swastikasAlso available on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Operation Last Chance website (see at: 20 May 2010).

20 May 2010Mainstream news portal Alfa.lt reports on the Wiesenthal Center’s objections to the new law legalizing public swastikas.

21 May 2010:  Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) report on the court decision legalizing swastikas.

23 May 2010Hana Levi Julian, ‘Swastika: Symbol of the sun, not Nazi terror?’ in Arutz Sheva / Israel National News.

27 May 2010Mainstream news portal Balsas.lt carries an article on the legitimate uses of the swastikaEnglish translation here.

June 2010The Jewish Community of Lithuania responds in its official newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania [English version; also available in Lithuanian, Russian and Yiddish].

7 June 2010‘Swastika raised in Baltic country – Tribute to history or Nazi revival?’ on RT.com.

10 September 2010An alleged Gay Pride Swastika flag appears on the website of the mainstream LSDP (Lithuanian Social Democratic Party).

25 November 2010: Seven European ambassadors (Britain, Estonia, France, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden) include in their letter to Lithuania’s leaders the sentence: ‘A court in Klaipeda is able to declare it acceptable to display a swastika in public as a traditional Lithuanian symbol’ (BNS report here, DefendingHistory.com report here). Follow-up: On 13 December 2010, MP Denis MacShane asked in the House of Commons for the entire letter to be made public.

11 March 2011:  The ‘Lithuanian swastika’ (with added lines supposedly invoking a medieval symbol) is widely displayed in the Independence Day neo-Nazi parade on Gedimino Boulevard, protected by police. Eyewitness report.

20 April 2011:  To mark Hitler’s birthday, a series of swastikas and other fascist symbols were displayed in various locations. Most disturbingly, three swastika  flags were left to hang for eight hours on Tauro Hill, overlooking central Vilnius, before being removed. Report on Delfi.ltEnglish summary and photos here.

22 June 2011:  The 22 June premiere of a parliament-supported ‘documentary film’ glorifying the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) fascists, whose pre Nazi invasion leaflets called for murder of the Jewish citizens of Lithuania, featured a souvenir ticket which was stamped with a nostalgic replica of a 1941 Nazi stamp (with swastika, of course…) applied by an usher dressed up in LAF garb. The premiere was addressed by a former president of Lithuania. The same day, the chairperson/speaker of the parliament honored the film’s producers in her office in a scene chosen by the parliament’s website as Picture of the Day. Details here. Image of the ticket and stamp here. Review of the film by the editor of Lithuania’s last Jewish newspaper here.

8-10 July 2011:  Over this weekend, there was a desecration of the two major monuments at the mass murder site Ponár (Paneriai), where over 70,000 Jews from Vilna and its region were murdered: the smaller one with a swastika and an inscription translating ‘Hitler was right’ and the larger monument with an obscene drawing and text (details here; full image here). Authorities rapidly cleaned up the damage and tried to cover up the incident. Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books blog noted that the cover-up resulted in a lost educational opportunity. The Wiesenthal Center’s press release is here.

28 July 2011A bold young journalist, Eglė Samoškaitė, exposes on Delfi.lt extensive state funding for fascist organizations, including those that lead or participate in swastika-bearing neo-Nazi marches. English translation here.

9 August 2011A bold young journalist, Dovilė Tuskenytė, exposes in Lietuvos rytas the ongoing and successful endeavor by neo-Nazis in Lithuania to cover for their activities by claiming the swastika is just a historical or pagan symbol, with reference to authorities’ failure to act.  English translation here.

6 September 2011Lithuania’s Defense Ministry clears soldiers who participated in the 11 March 2011 neo-Nazi march featuring a large number of ‘Lithuanian swastikas’.

16 September 2011: The Leyzer Ran Family Protest includes an extensive appendix on the swastika issue with appropriate images.

3 October 2011:  A ‘chief specialist’ at the state-sponsored Genocide Research Center who helped organize the neo-Nazi march (featuring numerous swastikas) last March 11, and who has published antisemitic interviews and documents since then, has not been disciplined or disemployed to date. Details here, here, here, and here. Most recently, the neo-Nazi organization he leads in his ‘spare time’ published an ‘Enemies List’ including an official advisor to the country’s small Jewish community. Original here, English translation here, summary here.

3 October 2011:  All recent issues of the Lithuanian edition of Der Stürmer (put on line abroad but produced by native neo-Nazis who often refer to current domestic issues in Lithuania in the hate materials included), featuring numerous swastikas and other fascist icons, are freely available online, as of today’s date, with no intervention from authorities: No. 1 (November 2009); No. 2 (December 2009); No. 3 (January 2010); No. 4 (February 2010); No. 5 (March 2010); No. 6 (April 2010); No. 7 (May 2010); No. 8 (June 2010).

August-November 2011:  The current issue of the independent Vilnius in Your Pocket lists the 19 May 2010 legalization of swastikas as one of the two historic events in Lithuania in that year, regarding it as ‘a sinister U-turn’ in the aftermath of the celebrations marking the twentieth anniversary of independence on March 11. See penultimate paragraph on p. 9, PDF here.

16 November 2011:  Dissident political leader Algirdas Paleckis notes the legal status of swastikas in his comments at a conference held at the Tolerance Center in Vilnius.  Video here.

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Swastika Sanitization

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