BBC report, ‘Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols’. A legally imposed ‘equivalence’ of ‘Nazi and Soviet symbols’ came as a grave moral blow to elderly veterans of the war against Nazism, and their proud families (notwithstanding an addition to the law technically exempting veteran memorials).
Legal Ban on Nazi and Soviet Symbols in the Spirit of Red-Brown ‘Equivalence by Law’, a Blow to Freedom of Speech
Images (on delfi.lt) of the neo-Nazi paint attack on the central Vilnius building of the Jewish Community of Lithuania on the night of 9-10 August 2008; additional image (photos by Milan Chersonski, editor of Jerusalem of Lithuania). There have been no arrests.
In 2010, Uzgavenes coincided with February 16th Independence Day celebrations. In some areas, Nazi symbols were touted. Occasionally the practice is nowadays packaged as the reclamation of the prewar swastika as a proposed symbol of the nation. In this image, residents of Klaipeda celebrate ‘classic swastika art’. Photo courtesy of DMN. Report here. English translation. [Note: The Klaipeda swastikas led to the court case which legalized the public display of swastikas; see now entry for 19 May 2010.]
Neo-Nazi March again Escorted by Police on Lithuania’s Independence Day in the heart of Vilnius; White Armbands are Back
The fragile but proud Jewish community of Lithuania was again shaken to its core by a Neo-Nazi march in broad daylight through sections of downtown Vilnius on Lithuania’s March 11 Independence Day (see below at March 2008). Once again, the marchers, this time numbering around 500, were diligently escorted by police. Marking the twentieth anniversary of the country’s bold breakaway from Soviet tyranny and its inspiring transition to a modern democracy — a magnificent achievement celebrated by all the country’s communities — it is a cherished day all around. Its tainting by another police-escorted Neo-Nazi parade was all the more painful, especially for aged Holocaust Survivors.
Neo-Nazis, Protected by Police, flaunt Swasticals near Reval Lietuva Hotel During Baltic Pride Parade
BNS summary here. Video here. The state prosecution service that continues to ‘investigate for war crimes’ Holocaust survivors who joined the anti-Nazi resistance, and passes over neo-Nazi marches in utter silence, tried hard (but failed) to stop the May 8th Baltic Pride Tolerance march in Vilnius.
OUR EYEWITNESS REPORT:
After being refused entry into the actual Baltic Pride marchers’ area, on grounds that we did not have individual permits, we were directed to the plaza between the Reval Lietuva Hotel and the CUP department store where we were told the march’s concluding point could be observed. There, police eagerly directed visitors and sympathisers into an ‘observation area’ just below on a grassy hillside. It soon became evident that while limiting the formal numbers of Baltic Pride participants, the police were shepherding visitors into an area occupied by neo-fascists and bolstering their apparent numbers.
A Lithuanian court in Klaipeda approved the public display of swastikas on the grounds that they are ‘Lithuania’s historical heritage rather than symbols of Nazi Germany’. An ‘expert’ transported from Vilnius was easily able to persuade the court, which did not bother to ask a contrasting view of the Holocaust Survivor community, or the Jewish Community of Lithuania, in a European country with the highest proportion of Holocaust genocide on the continent. This sad distinction resulted from massive local collaboration and actual participation.
Lithuanian Court Legalizes Public Swastikas as ‘Historical Heritage’; 2008 Ban on ‘Nazi and Soviet Symbols’ now Excludes… Swastikas
A Lithuanian court in Klaipeda approved the public display of swastikas on the grounds that they are ‘Lithuania’s historical heritage rather than symbols of Nazi Germany’. An ultranationalist ‘expert’ transported from Vilnius was easily able to persuade the court, which did not bother to ask a contrasting view of the Holocaust Survivor community, or the Jewish Community of Lithuania, in a European country with one of the highest proportions of Holocaust genocide on the continent. This sad distinction resulted from massive local participation. Image from 16 Feb Klaipeda demonstration courtesy DMN atKaunodiena.lt.
BNS report on the court’s 19 May decision here. So much for the parliament’s 2008 ban on ‘Nazi and Soviet symbols’ which only caused pain to aged veterans of the anti-Nazi war effort, and which was ultimately part of the machinations in support of the Double Genocide movement in the European Parliament, in cooperation with the movement’s local power structures.
The United States Embassy has remained silent on the legalization of public swastikas.
While threatening prison sentences for persons holding the belief that the Holocaust is not equal to Soviet crimes, a sudden new trend of ‘liberalism’ appears regarding public displays of swastikas. A court in Klaipeda approved the Nazi symbols on the grounds that they are ‘Lithuania’s historical heritage rather than symbols of Nazi Germany’. The net result it that now the only illegal symbols are the Soviet ones, which are not used by anyone, other than aged anti-Nazi war veterans celebrating the Ninth of May. Hence, it is all part and parcel of the movement legitimizing a pro-fascist view of twentieth century history.
BNS report. Delfi report. Alfa.lt report following the protest of Dr Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office. JTA report on the court’s decision and Dr Zuroff’s response. More details here. See page on Swastikas.
In May 2010 a Lithuanian court legalized public displays of swastikas, with nearly no reaction from foreign embassies or human rights groups. Reports here and here. Jewish community’s reaction here. See also the page on Antisemitism. On the term swasticals, see our report for 8 May 2010.
11 March 2008
16 February 2010
A pig’s head, adorned with a black hat and makeshift hasidic style earlocks, was placed on the pavement right outside the door, within the courtyard of the main synagogue in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city, during Sabbath morning services. This caused profound grief to the very small congregation of survivors who pray at the city’s Choral Synagogue, the only prewar Jewish prayerhouse in town that still functions. The service was interrupted as police arrived to investigate. The Lithuanian Jewish Community described it as a neo-Nazi antisemitic attack. The police however told BNS that the incident ‘is still qualified as a disturbance of the public peace’. Moreover, the commander of the Central Police Commissariat Gintautas Dirmeikis told BNS that ‘There are no suspects so far’. Photo by Laimutis Brundza / Kauno diena.
Ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden protest Antisemitism in Lithuania; Red-Equals-Brown Movement is Noted
BNS reported today that the Vilnius-based ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, France, Finland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have written in no uncertain terms to the president and other major officials of Lithuania to express concern over the growing manifestations of antisemitism.
Two of the signatories confirmed privately to Defending History that the initiative had come from British ambassador HE Simon Butt, who also drafted the letter. Ambassador Butt had in 2008 organized a letter in moral support of Dr. Rachel Margolis, a walk through the Vilna Ghetto with Ms. Fania Brantsovsky, and had, together with other senior Western diplomats stationed in Vilnius, visited the decaying Jewish partisan fort in the forest.
“Spurious attempts are made to equate the uniquely evil genocide of the Jews with Soviet crimes against Lithuania, which, though great in magnitude, cannot be regarded as equivalent in either their intention or result.”
Excerpt from a letter to the president of Lithuania from the ambassadors of Britain, Estonia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, 25 November 2010
The governing establishments in Eastern European states sometimes produce red-brown symbols as part of the wider campaign to give the notion of red-brown equality an aura of official sanctioned status. The effects are obvious: People are being desensitized to the swastika, Soviet symbols are ‘artistically’ (i.e. via political kitsch) recombinated into the new Dual Equal Evil symbols making the revisionist history ‘true’. Severe pain is caused to families of Holocaust Survivors and anti-Nazi Soviet war veterans alike. The continued silence of the European Union, the OSCE and NATO encourages the drift toward the far right, which includes clean-up of the image of Nazi collaborators in elite circles, and glorification of Nazi symbols in more uncouth environments.
[updated to May 2013]
“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.”
“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.
Chronology of events, including the United Nations Human Rights Committee statement of 2012, provided below…
Photos by Richard Schofield (© R. Schofield). Text by Dovid Katz. From a visit on 18 November 2011.
Which is worse?
A Genocide Museum on ground zero of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe that does not mention the Holocaust,
One that, more than a year after being exposed in this journal in the summer of 2010, and a confluence of international pressures, has added, in October 2011, a single solitary cell in the basement, unannounced on the main floor, that distorts the Lithuanian Holocaust and actually glorifies (as ‘rebels’) the local killers who unleashed the Holocaust in the country, while failing to mention their Holocaust role in an exhibit on the Holocaust?
You decide. . .
O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
Photos by Richard Schofield (© R. Schofield)
The Lazdynai Middle School in Vilnius, built in the early 1970s, has an admirable reputation, inter alia for an excellent trilingual policy enabling Polish and Russian to flourish alongside the national language, Lithuanian, in a spirit of multicultural respect and harmony so fitting for the city’s history.
Updates to May 2013:
Updates to 15 December 2011
Antony Polonsky Returns to Brandeis ‘Knighted’ by Lithuanian President’s Cross of the Officer of the Order — for helping the Baltic State’s Holocaust PR Campaign
C O M M E N T
VILNIUS—Professor Antony Polonsky of Brandeis University, one of the world’s most accomplished scholars of Polish-Jewish history and the long time editor of the seminal Polish Jewish history series Polin, was at the Lithuanian president’s palace today to receive from her excellency the prestigious Cross of the Officer of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. The award, pinned on his chest by President Dalia Grybauskaitė, was not for a lifetime of sterling work on Polish Jewish history, but it seemed, for several years’ staunch and perhaps somewhat naive loyalty to the public relations program of the current government of Lithuania, organized by the local Holocaust revisionism elite’s alleged top handler of “important foreign Jews,” Prof. S.arunas Liekis. The presidential press release, reported in English by Baltic News Service (BNS), put it this way:
1500 Honor the Waffen SS at Riga’s Liberty Monument; Event is Praised by Latvia’s President, Condemned by Council of Europe’s Commission on Racism
E Y E W I T N E S S R E P O R T / O P I N I O N
by Dovid Katz
RIGA—According to most estimates, there were around 1500 participants today in the city-center ceremony honoring the Waffen SS, about 1000 police, and about one hundred protesters who turned out in opposition to the event.
The ongoing campaign by some East European governments to repackage far-right ultranationalist politics and policies (with concomitant antisemitic, racist and Nazi-glorifying undertones) as a wholesome British-conservative-style “center right” has suffered a major blow. The battleground of ideas has in recent weeks shifted to the annual Waffen SS commemoration ceremony held at Liberty Monument, the symbolic heart of the capital of Latvia, with the blessing of some of the nation’s top leaders.
O P I N I O N
by Milan Chersonski
At Taxpayer Expense
Memorial funeral events, dedicated to the moving of Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis’s ashes, were held in Kaunas for a week and a half from May 17th to 27th. He was the acting prime minister of the summer 1941 Provisional Government of Lithuania (PG); his ashes were moved to the former provisional Lithuanian capital, Kaunas.
His ashes were delivered by airplane from the distant state of Connecticut to the current Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, and then escorted with honors to Kaunas, where the ashes, originally buried in 1974, were re-buried, this time with full state honors.
Apparently, those who initiated the reburial were pursuing three goals of importance to them:
United Nations Human Rights Committee Notes Lithuanian Government’s Position on Public Swastikas and Authorized Neo-Nazi Parades
The United Nation’s Human Rights Committee in its 11 July 2012 report, issued in Geneva, included the following text concerning the Lithuanian government’s arguments regarding the legalization of public swastikas and the ongoing authorization of neo-Nazi parades: