Marius Ivaškevičius, the writer and organizer of a Holocaust commemoration march in Molėtai, Lithuania, has been named Man of the Year for 2016 by Lithuanian National Radio and Television.
Last May Ivaškevičius published an internet appeal for the public to attend a march in his hometown along the route Jews were taken to their deaths in 1941. He followed this appeal with an essay called “I’m Not Jewish,” a translation of which attracted the most visitors to any single item on the Lithuanian Jewish Community web site ever.
Ivaškevičius’s march in Molėtai attracted international attention and dominated the Lithuanian media on August 29, 2016. About 3,000 people from Lithuania and abroad marched from the town square to the mass grave site, the same route about 2,000 Jews marched to their deaths 75 years earlier.
Rūta Vanagaitė, author of a recent bestseller in Lithuanian about Lithuanian Holocaust complicity, called the march a turning point in Lithuanian consciousness. She attended with co-author Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem.
Besides Holocaust survivors and important Jewish heritage activists and Holocaust researchers, a number of Lithuanian politicians also attended, including the minster of defense and the mayor of Molėtai. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky spoke at the march, delivering her moving words in both English and Lithuanian.
Marius Ivaškevičius becomes the 13th person selected by Lithuanian state radio and television as Man of the Year.
More information in Lithuanian here.