Vilnius winter mystery: When the curtain comes down — Noreika or No Noreika? Have they gone over the top to bury the Noreika Question at Vilnius’s Library of Sciences? In freezing midwinter days, a city, and concerned observers internationally, wonder whether the brutal Holocaust perpetrator’s glory plaque is gone forever as Vilnius comes to embrace Western sensibilities, or whether a powerful clique of far-right antisemitic Holocaust-revisionist officials, academics and operatives will again stand in the way of Lithuania’s progress. Across the river, visible to the right of the Noreika Plaque Curtain are the “two green buildings” erected right on the Old Vilna Jewish Cemetery earlier this century in a drive to obliterate the storied cemetery, a drive that has now grown to include refurbishment (instead of demolition) of a hated Soviet ruin in its center. DefendingHistory.com photo by William Adan Pahl.
VILNIUS—In the years since DefendingHistory.com first alerted the English speaking world, on 1 March 2012, to the state-sponsored glorification of Holocaust collaborator J. Noreika in Lithuania, the insistence of Lithuanian authorities to maintain public glorification of the local Hitlerist leader, in spite of the harm to the democratic EU/NATO country’s deserved good name, has mystified many of the country’s citizens and friends internationally.
At the heart of the story has been The Noreika Plaque mounted at the front of the prestigi0us Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, a stone’s throw from Cathedral Square and the start of Gedimino Boulevard. The plaque’s trials and tribulations have included its being smashed by a maverick politician (who fled the country after three days’ arrest), glued together and restored by the a far right group, taken down by the then-mayor to wide acclaim, and then replaced by a bigger-and-better plaque with bas-relief that was an object of far right homage until it was taken down “for repairs” in the run-up to Vilnius’s highly successful NATO conference last July, where it would have been a national embarrassment. There are numerous public accolades to collaborators across Lithuania (including plaques, statues, street and school names, museum exhibits), but the central Vilnius Noreika plaque has become the defining symbol for national direction since Defending History’s 2009 illustrative photo gallery of such public-space shrines.
After a dozen years of hammering in Defending History, a major American truth telling book by Noreika’s American granddaughter, author Silvia Foti, a documentary film, and coverage in the New York Times and other major outlets, the plaque was “temporarily removed” for the NATO conference. Media reports indicated it was just for “urgent repairs” to the building (which somehow nevertheless looked in fine shape to most architecturally trained eyes).
Mark Blumberg’s challenge last May, in Defending History, made clear the question: Will the nation’s leaders — and Vilnius’s — have the courage to use the NATO conference take-down as a divine-gift opportunity to keep the Nazi-glorifying plaque far away from beautiful, historic Vilnius? Or, will they again cave into the antisemitic, racist, fascist-loving far-right politicians, academics and operatives, who continues to glorify and worship local Holocaust perpetrators as “national heroes” to the detriment of Lithuania, and the chagrin of all who truly love and admire the country.
Today, in mid-January, we went out to visit, and found the entire facade covered by a builder’s curtain.
Full frontal view of the Noreika Curtain. DefendingHistory.com photo by William Adan Pahl.
Coming back or not? Plaque with bas relief of the Holocaust collaborator, boasting his Nazi-era epithet “General Storm”… Photo: DefendingHistory.com.