GLORIFICATION OF HOLOCAUST COLLABORATORS | JONAS NOREIKA | DOUBLE GENOCIDE | FOREIGN MINISTRIES MANIPULATING HISTORY? | ANTISEMITISM | HUMAN RIGHTS
VILNIUS—A former foreign minister and current MP, Audronius Ažubalis, today published, in partnership with a younger right-wing MP, a public appeal (on the main news portal Delfi.lt), to the current foreign minister to revoke his 2019 agreement with the Western consensus that Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika should not be the object of state-sponsored glorification in a NATO or EU member state.
Mr. Ažubalis, a stalwart of the right-wing Homeland Union and Christian Democratic party, has a long history “with the Jews and the Holocaust.” In 2010, all 21 members of the board of the Jewish Community of Lithuania signed an official protest at the then foreign minister’s antisemitic remarks. Then, in 2012, when eight bold Lithuanian parliamentarians (six MPs and two MEPs) signed the Seventy Years Declaration (SYD), in opposition to the 2008 Prague Declaration that is the “constitution” of the Double Genocide movement, the then foreign minister issued his infamous remark about the only difference between Hitler and Stalin being the length of their moustaches. He rapidly accused the eight Lithuanian parliamentarians (all Social Democrats) of being Putinist lackeys.
A decade ago, Defending History published a selection of photos of offensive street names and plaques. In 2012, DH’s Andrius Balčiūnas brought the Noreika saga to the English-speaking world. Mr. Balčiūnas was harassed for years by prosecutors (see his DH section, esp. from May 2014 onward). In the years that followed, the painful truth about Noreika’s collaboration has been powerfully pursued by a number of campaigners. They include a Californian resident, financial adviser Grant Gochin, many of whose relatives perished in the part of Lithuania where Noreika operated. Mr. Gochin initiated the court proceedings that ended in the current Noreika impasse. Most poignantly, Noreika’s own granddaughter, American author and educator Silvia Foti, came out with the bitter truth in 2018. The historical component of her website is curated by Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas. It was Dr. Kulikauskas who brought details of the Škirpa saga to the outside world in his DH article in 2015.
Then came some major progress in high quarters. Over the past year, two major incumbent office-holders in Lithuania have boldly spoken out against state glorification, in each case concerning at least one of the collaborators honored by street names, plaques and museum exhibits. One of them is the current foreign minister, Linas Linkevičius, who finally came out against the ongoing heroizationn of collaborator Jonas Noreika. Last summer, Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius actually took executive action to remove a Noreika plaque in central Vilnius. Mayor Šimašius was, moreover, one of those responsible for the removal of a street name honoring Nazi collaborator and advocate of ethnic cleansing Kazys Škirpa.
Days later, last summer, a “bigger and better plaque” was affixed in a week of turmoil replete with antisemitism. The new plaque stands there today, a moment’s walk from the city’s Cathedral Square, on the facade of the prestigious Library of Sciences. The summer 2019 advances in overcoming glorification of Holocaust collaborators led to a backlash that resulted in the temporary shutdown of the capital’s one functioning synagogue.
As in other Eastern Europe countries, there lurks a Soviet-style state-financed “official history” unit manned by ultranationalists and (at times) racists, and turned to for “verification” of nationalist falsification of history, particularly regarding the Holocaust. The 2019 Noreika imbroglio led the Genocide Center in Lithuania (which runs the Genocide Museum), to issue an outrageous statement about the Holocaust in the country more generally, one that even the sometimes docile “official” Jewish community rapidly countered as “institutional antisemitism.” The same response included for reference the Genocide Center’s statement in full, including even the one “local Jewish sell-out” who, in a painful shock to Lithuania’s Jewish community, gave his name there for “support” (as PDF). Even the “red-brown commission” (officially “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania”), one of the engines of Double Genocide revisionism, came out with an unusually clear statement (signed, significantly, by not all its members).
Defending History’s statement today:
“While all segments of Lithuanian society have shown inspiring solidarity, unity and good will during the coronavirus crisis, it is sad that high authorities have taken the opportunity to rush through ever more actions that are an affront to the nation’s proud history and its annihilated Jewish minority. On April 1, the administrativeve supreme court affirmed a previous ruling affirming the glorification of brutal Holocaust collaborator Jonas Noreika. At the same time, the Defense Ministry continues to feature on its website its magazine cover (and table of contents/summary) glorifying Holocaust advocate Kazys Škirpa without the slightest disclaimer from the ministry (or the defense minister).
“Pouring salt on the wounds of the remnant Litvak community, here and around the world, a major economist has argued that constructing a new national convention center in the heart of the Old Vilna Jewish cemetery would be a first step in jumpstarting the economy once the pandemic subsides. The project has elicited major international protest and a petition signed by 47,000 people. The easiest gesture of all would be for the government to announce that the convention center project is being moved to another venue where all the historic peoples of Lithuania can celebrate together.”