VILNIUS—Jewish Community chairperson Faina Kukliansky, a prominent lawyer here in the Lithuanian capital, today released on the community’s official website the text of her letter to the mayor of Vilnius calling for the removal of a plaque honoring the notorious Holocaust collaborator Jonas Noreika. The letter follows her bold speech at the 23 September Ponár (Paneriai) memorial which likewise called on government officials to remove honors for Holocaust perpetrators, citing three prominent collaborators by name.
There was immediate speculation on which human rights, Jewish and Israeli organizations, here and internationally, would react with rapid public expressions of support for the chairperson’s letter. The charismatic young mayor of Vilnius has a colorful record on Jewish issues, which Defending History has been following for years, starting with his earlier stint as justice minister.
Defending History has, also, for years been exposing and calling for the removal of state-sponsored honors for Holocaust collaborators throughout Eastern Europe, with a focus on street signs, university lecture halls and plaques in Lithuania. The case of Noreika is one of many exposed by our veteran correspondent Evaldas Balčiūnas who has been harassed by police and prosecutors for years for his opposition to the glorification of local Nazi collaborators.
One year ago, a group of Vilnius Jewish students led by Amit Belaitė, the head of the Jewish student union in town, actively protested at the site of the Noreika plaque on the facade of the Library of the Academy of Sciences, the plaque recently referenced by Ms. Kukliansky’s letter to the mayor one year later.
Today’s letter did not mention the even more prominent shrine to Noreika in Vilnius, an inscription in stone high on the capital’s central boulevard, which has long offended Holocaust survivors and their families and many natives and visitors alike.
The full text of Ms. Kukliansky’s letter follows:
November 11, 2016
To: Mayor Remigijus Šimašius
Vilnius Municipal Administration
On Removal of the Plaque Commemorating Jonas Noreika
November 11, 2016
Currently there is a commemorative plaque on display on the façade of the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences building located at Žygmantų street no. 1/8 in Vilnius dedicated to the dubious fame of Jonas Noreika, [also] known by the pseudonym General Vėtra. Information has reached us the plaque commemorating this person on the building at Žygmantų Street no. 1/8 possibly was put up illegally, without required permission from the municipality of the city of Vilnius, and possibly in violation of the requirements of other laws as well. Please provide the Lithuanian Jewish Community with all documentation related to installation of the aforementioned commemorative plaque.
The honoring by commemorative plaque of this person with his undisputed role in committing genocide against citizens of Lithuania doesn’t make sense to the Lithuanian Jewish Community.
For information on and a copy of the order signed by Jonas Noreika seizing the property of Jews, please see http://www.anarchija.lt/component/content/article/81-istorija/38185-kodel-jonas-noreika-generolas-vetra-paskelbtas-vidvyriu and http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Will-Lithuania-continue-to-honor-Nazi-collaborators-412701
The municipality of the city of Vilnius needs to take a look at article 170 of the criminal code of the Republic of Lithuania (incitement against any national, racial, ethnic, religious or other group of people) in which section 2 defines as a criminal act the mockery, belittlement, encouragement to hate or incitement to discriminate against a group of people or a member of that group based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, language, origins, social status, religious belief or personal convictions and views.
The installation of a plaque commemorating Jonas Noreika in the city of Vilnius is wholly understood by the Lithuanian Jewish Community as a public mockery of the group of Lithuanian citizens who suffered the most during World War II, the Jews of Lithuania.
Please take measures quickly for the removal of the possibly illegal plaque from the building in Vilnius which commemorates Jonas Noreika and which publicly mocks the Jewish people.
[signed] Faina Kukliansky, chairwoman
Lithuanian Jewish Community