Lithuanian Jewish Community Issues Statement on Feb 16th 2015 March in Kaunas

The following statement appeared  today on the website of the Jewish Commnity of Lithuania:

The Position of the Lithuanian Jewish Community on the Slogan Chanted by the Lithuanian Union of Nationalist Youth, “Lithuania for Lithuanians”

The Lithuanian Jewish (Litvak) Community, deeply upset and concerned by recent anti-Semitic attacks in the Kingdom of Denmark and France and by the rise in neo-Nazi tendencies all over Europe, calls upon the government institutions of the Lithuanian state to take stock of the situation in Lithuania at the current time. By identifying the problem of ethnic hate early, we can prevent possible tragedy in the future.

The slogan chanted by the Lithuanian Union of Nationalist Youth, “Lithuania for Lithuanians,” although it might have made some sense in the past in a specific historical context, should have no place today in the modern person’s worldview. The negative subtext of the slogan–animosity towards other ethnicities–is obvious.

This and similar sorts of ideas are unjustified and unjustifiable, unacceptable and irreconcilable with contemporary principles of democracy. For this reason, we believe that public marches featuring these sorts of calls and slogans may be considered a form of incitement to ethnic hate and extremism. It is also odd that the Lithuanian Union of Nationalist Youth chooses to idolize the controversial historical figure of Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis, who was associated with pro-Nazi activities. This could be considered a public insult aimed directly at the Lithuanian Jewish community. According to the information at our disposal, the problem of incitement to ethnic hate at this time seems to be solely the concern of the Jewish community; there has been no visible reaction by the other communities, nor any official statements made by state institutions.

We are convinced that the progress of no state is based upon the exaltation of a single ethnicity, but rather upon the coexistence of ethnic communities, cross-cultural cooperation and cultural recognition and respect. Jews, Poles, Russians and people of other ethnicities who live in Lithuania should not be made to feel like strangers in the land where they live, which they love and respect, and with which they cast their past, current and future fortunes. Since ancient times Lithuania has been known as a crossroads of cultures and as a land home to many different peoples. Cultural diversity has been, is and hopefully will continue to be an integral feature of Lithuanian society, and therefore the state must respond appropriately, and condemn publicly and unreservedly any and all expressions of intolerance, in order to ensure the safety and welfare of citizens of all ethnicities.

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