VILNIUS—As the date (15 January) nears of what some have dubbed the Holocaust trial of the 21st century, an increasing number of observers request more information on the alleged Holocaust collaborator at the center of it all, Jonas Noreika (1910–1947). His case was brought to the English-reading world by Defending History’s Evaldas Balčiūnas in 2012 (as part of a series on Holocaust collaborators who are glorified with state funding). Mr. Balčiūnas was “rewarded” with years of legal harassment from police and prosecutors over his objections to state honors for Holocaust collaborators (see the Balciunas section, scroll down to May 2014 for start of the legal proceedings; while enjoying a modern freewheeling democracy on nearly all issues, Lithuania’s residents have run into troubles when challenging state policy on the Holocaust.).
But it was only after his granddaughter, American author and educator Silvia Foti, published her own piece in Salon last summer, that it reached The New York Times in September, in a follow-up to a more general survey of some contentious Jewish issues in the Baltic state that appeared in the paper last March. An American resident who is related to a number of Noreika’s victims, Grant Gochin, commissioned a history study that was presented to the state-sponsored Genocide Center with reference to the center’s continuing to regard Noreika as a national hero. Indeed, when confronted with the decision of what to do about the plaques in town — among them a stone slab on the capital’s central boulevard, a short way from its parliament — Vilnius’s mayor said he would be guided by the Genocide Center. The text of the complaint, drafted by Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, is available online, as is the Genocide Center’s response. Dr. Kulikauskas followed up with a report on developments in Defending History.
Contrary to some misconceptions, the issue of the day is not whether Mr. Noreika would have been found guilty of participation in genocide had he been put on trial. The question is a moral, ethical, political and inter-community quandary for some modern democratic states in Eastern Europe: Should the state be spending taxpayer money (or EU funds) on glorification of alleged Holocaust collaborators (or the related genre of WWII history revisionism known as “Double Genocide”)? This is naturally tied to deeper questions as often explained by the late Lithuanian philosopher Leonidas Donskis who pointed out that one cannot be sincere in bemoaning the Holocaust or honoring its victims if one is also honoring the perpetrators.
As a sample of a “Noreika document in translation,” Defending History has commissioned a translation of one document of many preserved in the archives (the original Lithuanian document is available as PDF). A collection is being put online at the Captain Jonas Noreika Museum curated by Dr. Kulikauskas.
Translation of the sample document, relating to the project to destroy the Jewish community of the northwest Lithuanian town Žagarė (Yiddish Zháger) follows:
- ŠIAULIAI CITY AND COUNTY
- G O V E R N O R
- August 22, 1941
- No 962
- TO ALL CHIEFS OF PRINCIPALITIES OF THE ŠIAULIAI COUNTY
- AND BURGOMASTERS OF SECONDARY TOWNS
- (Copy for Police Precinct Chiefs)
By decree of Šiauliai District Commissioner, all citizens of Jewish ethnicity, including half-Jews, must be removed from all principalities and towns of the county and settled in one district: the Ghetto. All Jewish property must be preserved and accounted for by municipalities.
In accordance with this decree:
1. Jews of all principalities, secondary towns, and townships must be moved to the town of Žagarė in the period of the 25th to the 29th of this month. Requisites for resettlement will be provided by respective municipalities.
2. Lists of abandoned Jewish property must be delivered to me in 2 copies by August 29. Resettled Jews can take the most necessary household items and clothes and up to 200 RM in cash for each Jewish family.
3. In Žagarė, all Jews will be settled in a separate district which has to be fenced off by August 30. Fencing off the Ghetto district will be taken care of by the Žagarė municipality. Every day, district Jews in the Ghetto will be convoyed to work and back to the Ghetto by guards.
4. Non-Jewish citizens of the district appointed for the Jews are allowed to choose other locations in the county. If any of those non-Jews who are resettled have to abandon their real estate, they are allowed to choose real estate of corresponding value abandoned by the Jews in Žagarė or other townships.
5. Chiefs and burgomasters are obliged to inform me on the execution of this decree by the 29th of this month, including information on what has been accomplished, and how, and how many Jews have been resettled. The Burgomaster of Žagarė must inform me how many Jews have been resettled to Žagarė.
- Jonas Noreika [signature]
- City and County Governor
- Sekretorius Tamašauskas [signature]