Prior to 1915, (for approximately 700 years), Jews lived in Lithuanian territories and enjoyed relative peace. After a Russian expulsion of Jews, independent Lithuania realized their loss of human resources and invited economically active Jews to return to Lithuania, with promises of autonomous communities and full equal rights. This honeymoon period lasted until 1924, when Lithuania abolished their post of “Minister without a Portfolio for Jewish Affairs.”
After a coup in 1926 the Lithuanian Voldemarist movement arose, it conflated Jew hate with Lithuanian patriotism. A subsequent Jew hate movement arose called Verslas, so that, by the 1940s, Jew hate and Lithuanian patriotism were synonymous in many circles. Protectionism was legislated to suppress Jewish businesses, Jews were denied Civil Service jobs and were limited in University enrollment.
Lithuanian pogroms against Jews began prior to the arrival of Nazis; Lithuanians actively participated in the slaughter of their Jewish neighbors and joyously reaped the economic benefits of looting.
Lithuania’s Jewish population did not survive the Nazi occupation. Estimates reflect that 23,000 Lithuanians actively participated in persecuting their Jewish neighbors, and hundreds of thousands participated in the sharing of Jewish loot. Since Lithuania regained independence in 1990, not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice by the Lithuanian Government, rather, just the opposite: noted perpetrators have been transformed into revered heroes.
For example, Kazys Skirpa, the Lithuanian representative to Germany, who first proposed ethnic cleansing of Jews to Hitler, and one of the architects of the Holocaust, is celebrated with streets named in his honor in two major Lithuanian cities. Mayor Simasius of Vilnius says Skirpa raised the flag of independence on Castle Hill in 1919, Simasius has not shown much inclination in removing Skirpa's street name. Skirpa’s Jewish victims are clearly inconsequential. The same position was articulated on October 10, 2017 on Lithuanian National TV by Conservative MP Laurynas Kasciunas, who said Skirpa simply "miscalculated" in his attempt to curry favor with Nazi Germany by advocating for ethnic cleansing of Lithuania's Jews.
In 2012, Juozas Ambrazevicius Brazaitis, who was Prime Minister of the interim Lithuanian Government that promoted the persecution of Jews, was re-buried in Lithuania with full State Honors, despite his claims that Jews should not be murdered so publicly. Apparently, murdering Jews more privately was preferable. Brazaitis was also editor of a newspaper "I Laisve" which equated Jews and Bolsheviks, which provided justification for the slaughter of all Jews, including Jewish babies. This slander is still in existence in current Lithuania.
The grave of the genocidal murderer, Bronius Norkus, is considered a national cultural monument because, in 1941, he posted a flag on a hill at the Resurrection Church in Kaunas. No mention is made of the tens of thousands of Jews he butchered. Many other examples of defective honors also exist.
Currently, a monument to Jonas Noreika is affixed to the front the Vrublevski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in Vilnius. Noreika ordered the detention and concentration of the Jews from several communities, in addition to the plunder of their possessions. Despite the fact that no installation permit was issued, the monument was erected. Protests and appeals to the Mayor of Vilnius have been met with evasive and dismissive responses. He declined responsibility and deferred the matter to the Library‘s management. The Library in turn, declined to act. An appeal for action was then submitted to the Heritage Department, who owns the building.
Mayor Simasius referred the question of Noreika’s guilt to Lithuania‘s misnamed, “Genocide Center.”
This center has repeatedly demonstrated that no amount of proof of culpability will be sufficient for them to condemn a Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrator.
An appeal to Lithuanian President Grybauskaite followed. She claimed that her office checked with the Genocide Center, the Lithuanian Supreme Court, and the Lithuanian State Security Department and there were no concerns with honoring Noreika. A follow-up request to the President was met with the response that investigating the war crimes of Noreika was beyond the jurisdiction of her office -- the chief executive officer in Lithuania. She claims that she sincerely cares about the Holocaust.
An appeal to the legislative branch of the government was also politely sidestepped. An inquiry made to the Ombudsman of the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) was again referred back to the Genocide Center, which declared on Noreika‘s behalf, the infamous Nuremberg Defense asserted by Nazi war criminal Eichmann – “I was only following orders.“ That Nuremberg Defense was rejected by the War Crimes Tribunal then; in Lithuania, it remains as an acceptable defense.
After the failure of legal and moral appeals to the executive and legislative branches of government, a new appeal was lodged against the Noreika monument focusing on aesthetic values, rather than on human values. The Lithuanian Department of Cultural Heritage has specific aesthetic criteria for monuments, a request for review was submitted and denied.
A legal suit was filed in order to determine if the Heritage Departments’ refusal was lawful. This suit was rejected on a technicality by the Court, and declined. The declination was appealed to the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court who overruled the lower Court and returned the case for reconsideration. The lower court then found a new technicality in order to dismiss the case once again.
The ridiculousness of the tossing of the case back and forth between Courts created a purposeless vacuum.
Lower-level Lithuanian courts have historically demonstrated a lack of independence and susceptibility to political pressure. Therefore, the monument remains, with MPs like Kasciunas defending it.
Apparently, patriotism washes away the stain of Holocaust perpetration.
Fundamental to any democracy is an honest and thorough examination of its past. Lithuanian politicians strive to keep the population in a perpetual state of fear. Their pervasive method is a possible impending Russian invasion (Russian mischief making in the Baltics is a genuine concern). Dissention from their ideological orthodoxy is labeled a Russian plot. They see no reason for self-examination, therefore, questioning the honoring of Holocaust perpetrators constitutes opposing the ideological state. Public support for Soviet or Nazi crimes against Lithuania is criminalized, however, support for Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators is applauded.
A recent example is Dr. Darius Udrys, a Lithuanian-American currently living in Vilnius. Udrys is outspoken in his criticism of Lithuanian officials who honor Nazi collaborators and war criminals. He has proven to be a continual irritant to Lithuania's historical revisionists. In a recent online discussion, Udrys questioned the propriety of the killing of civilians during Lithuania’s partisan war against the Soviets, and as a result, was forced out of his position as head of the city's development agency. His ousting was preceded by a public slander campaign led by a Vilnius City Councilmember Adomas Buzinskas and his ideological colleagues. An appeal for redress was presented to the City's Ethics Commission, who ruled against Udrys, claiming that the slanderer was simply being “patriotic.”
Patriotism and honoring of Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators have become synonymous, as was Jew hate and patriotism in the late 1930s.
Lithuania‘s problems with truth will continue to plague it. These problems shock and dismay the Western world, the very bodies that Lithuania hopes will accept them as an equal nation, and come to their defense in the event of a Russian invasion.
Grant Gochin is a wealth advisor in Los Angeles, and the author of ‘Malice, Murder, and Manipulation: One Man’s Quest for Truth.’ He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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