E Y E W I T N E S S A C C O U N T / O P I N I O N
February 16th in Kaunas. The Kaunas municipal administration was asked by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Efraim Zuroff and Defending History’s editor Dovid Katz not to allow this march for a number of reasons. The Kaunas municipality saw no problem and allowed the march to go ahead. As in earlier years, a Defending History team observed the march. The Kaunas Antifa organization decided not to hold a protest this year, so I was at liberty to be present as part of the DefendingHistory team.
Before it took place, at 11 A.M. a different march was held at more or less the same location, perhaps explaining why the march scheduled to begin at 1 P.M. was so late. As the appointed time came and went, there were only perhaps a dozen people at the staging area in Ramybės Park. A marching column only formed around 2 P.M., and began to move around 2:30. It wasn’t boring, though.
Occasionally the future marchers came by our group or greeted us from afar. Some made gestures intended to remind onlookers of their spiritual ties with the Nazis, others pretending to be journalists came to ask us what was wrong with their march. The funniest episode during the pre-march was a fellow who wasn’t really capable of pulling off his act of being a reporter, but who wasn’t able either to understand his lack of success in this endeavor, and continued to ply us with provocative questions. Of course there was no point in answering. But if a person tries hard enough, he might achieve something. I wish him great success in his future career.
Another “gem” was an elderly woman from Kaunas who tried to exclaim “here is that horrid monster again,” indicating Dovid Katz. I felt sorry for her and wanted to tell her to take her medicine before she had a heart attack upon seeing a living, breathing Jew. Instead, I ended up telling her she should look in the mirror.
The turnout was perhaps half or even a third of what it was last year. I’m not great at estimating crowd numbers, but it seemed to me there were less than 500 people there. Reviewing the press I saw figures ranging from the clearly too large 2,000 to the very conservative number of 200. The crowd was mixed, with some serious costume-players sticking out, dressed in some sort of mediaeval clothing and some dressed up as knights. One blew a horn to make proud the shaman of any tribe from the north, and the sound of the horn seemed to fill its owner with a childish delight. Several people beat drums.
A banner bearing a portrait of Brazaitis was used again this year. This Provisional Government he headed as prime minister has never caused any discomfort to the modern Lithuanian government. A few years ago they held a ceremony to rebury his mortal remains at one Kaunas church. The government of the Republic of Lithuania paid for the reburial, thus showing their support for the collaborationist government’s activities, which resulted in the people invited to serve the government by the Brazaitis regime murdering several hundred thousand Lithuanian citizens who were Jews and the complete destruction of Lithuanian statehood. The Catholic Church by allowing the reburial of such a figure on hallowed ground continues its deep traditions of antisemitism. The people carrying his poster at the head of the column are saying that his actions—the murder of his own citizens and collaboration with the occupier—are their ideals as well.
Perhaps the politicians in charge of Kaunas feel this is in keeping with independence day, but to me this is clearly a satire of February 16. Actually the Brazaitis banner was moved to one side of the vanguard this year so that another poster could be at the very head of the march, which declared “Neither for the East nor the West, Lithuania for Lithuania’s children.” One might think this is more neutral, except for the “decorative” fists smashing the Soviet and the euro symbols. The Soviet Union hasn’t existed for several decades now and it seems the young men are engaged in some sort of shadow-boxing here. There is such a method of training, but their other symbol of scorn worthy of the fist, the euro, is more current, having been adopted as the official currency of the Republic of Lithuania as of January 1 of this year. Again, I don’t see how the propagation of this sort of idea, of physically beating the nation’s currency, is in keeping with February 16, Lithuanian independence day.
I won’t go into the stylized and other sorts of swastikas this time. The marchers attempted to appear dignified and alternated the singing of Lithuanian folk songs with chants of “Lithuania, Lithuania.” These variations weren’t always articulated well and I laughed out loud as we came to the turn in the route near the church. But there were also chants which weren’t funny at all. “Lithuania for Lithuanians” really does seem almost innocent when compared to public calls to mass murder such as “…Communists [hanging on] a branch, cosmopolitans get out of Lithuania.” I heard this open call to murder several times. I checked the electronic media after the march and it turned out I wasn’t the only one who heard this.
Why the police didn’t hear it and stop the march, I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if the police don’t try to fine those responsible later. I have already seen a statement by police representatives saying the march went off without incident… Who in the opinion of the nationalists are the Communists worthy of murder? History has left us many examples. In 1941 they were the Jews, without regard to views or age. One could call a rabbi as well as a child a Communist and then murder either. After the war as well they called people Communists and murdered them, without regard to age or view. Now this sort of violence has been propagated in the 21st century in an EU state.
The blindness of Lithuanian officials is astounding. Once again the Lithuanian Nationalist Youth Union have vandalized the February 16th holiday and the country’s ideals of independence, have propagated Nazi symbols and Nazi collaborators and have called publicly for murder, but officials entrusted with keeping the peace believe everything is alright.
Translation from the Lithuanian by Geoff Vasil