Vilnius Neo-Nazi March 2015

Vilnius Neo-Nazi March 2015

About 1,500 people assembled and marched at 4:00 P.M., March 11, 2015–Lithuania’s second independence day–from the central Cathedral Square to the square next to parliament down Vilnius’s main street Gedimino prospektas.

As in previous years, marchers carried a black-and-white flag with a swastika and the inscription “Skinhead Lietuva” (Skinhead Lithuania) employing the lightning-bolt SS symbol, a flag which featured prominently as the marchers spoke at length and sang next to the parliament building.

 Witnesses including native Lithuanian speakers reported the marchers again used the offensive slogan “Lithuania for Lithuanians” as the marched up the main street.

The turnout was somewhat smaller than in previous “peak” years but was nonetheless impressive, since the march was rescheduled at the last moment when the Vilnius municipal authorities again caved in to fascist youth demands for a permit to sanction their public spectacle. It had originally been scheduled for 3 P.M. March organizers claimed they would go forward with it without a permit. The neo-Nazis had to squeeze in between other regularly scheduled events, and actually ended up pooling their forces behind the sound-stage on Cathedral Square where the combined martial orchestras of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were performing a concert for the public. 

The police presence was also somewhat reduced from the level of force deployed in previous years. There was only one report of a semi-violent incident, involving a woman who was apparently not part of the march and a member of the small team of anti-neo-Nazi observers who followed the march from the margins. Apparently the female attempted to hit the observer in the head for unknown reasons.

 Anti-gay activist/politician Petras Gražiulis attended the march and posed at the terminus for cameras. Neo-Nazi marchers greeted him on a first-name basis.

Whereas during the Kaunas 2015 march (on Lithuania’s other independence day, February 16) the Lithuanian news website Delfi was manipulated into publishing disinformation about the exact day of the march (claiming falsely it had been rescheduled for February 15), for the Vilnius march Delfi more or less got it right, publishing a day prior the correct time for the march to assemble and leave the staging ground, along with information about the permit issued by the Vilnius municipality for the march. Even so, Delfi engaged in a certain amount of fear-mongering by carrying quotes from march organizers claiming there would be heavy attendance by foreign “patriotic youth” elements who were allegedly coming to Lithuania specifically to take part in the march. These same organizers claimed they had been made into victims of stereotypes, and that the march was actually an event for families including small children.

In the event, Julius Panka, fascist youth organization leader, did show up with his young daughter and posed for photographs before the march began with her. Also in attendance was ultrantionalist youth leader and Lithuanian Genocide Center senior PR representative Ričardas Čekutis, but without his new child. He has reportedly taken paternal leave from the Lithuanian Genocide Center to care for his new child.

This attempt to paint the march as fit for children was repeated on facebook by march boosters, who claimed–correctly as it turned out–that there would be no Lithuanian Antifa protestors this year. The facebook post claimed Antifa members were hiding “with their tails between their legs” following some sort of exposé of their financing in the Lithuanian media.

The threat of heavy attendance by foreign fascists also turned out to be a bit of a tempest in a teapot: the promised foreign support consisted of one Estonian, one Latvian and one Englishman who spoke at the end-point of the march at parliament. The Latvian spoke in Latvian followed quickly by a Lithuanian translation. The Estonian spoke English with a goofy accent and praised some new pseudo-fascist Estonian political party which had gained 7 seats in the parliament there, and claimed it was making serious inroads into mainstream acceptance. The Englishman was inaudible despite his using the same public address system, but did say “BBC, or Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation” in a voice above a whisper at one point. The Lithuanian translation which followed was fully audible. There was also the English nationalists’ adopted flag of St. George on display, but with the words ENGLAND emblazoned in white on the horizontal red bar of the cross so as to cause no confusion with any other similar flag. Marchers also carried a Slovakian flag, without explanation, and a Ukrainian one as well. The “trinacria swastika” flag developed by nationalist youth leader Marius Kundrotas, who apparently did not attend, were the most abundant, even outnumbering the Lithuanian tricolor. The marchers did not carry their usual banner featuring Brazaitis, the Nazi Quisling self-declared prime minister of rump Lithuania in June of 1941 who acted to ease Nazi occupation of the country and established the ghetto in Kaunas, rump Lithuania’s temporary capital. The lack of Brazaitis worshipers was noted by observers, who joked they had buried him yet again, a reference to his repatriation and reburial with state honors several years ago.

Observers included Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, and Dovid Katz, former Vilnius University professor of Yiddish. For the first time ever this year the Lithuanian Jewish Community had high-ranking officials at the event to observe first-hand, including LJC chair Faina Kukliansky. Staff from the LJC also photographed the march and identified correctly the various factions represented by the flags being carried, including the black-and-white symbol of the White Power Worldwide movement. Police made no move to prevent the open display of swastikas on the flags, or their use as fashion accessories by the marchers. As noted earlier, there was no Antifa presence visible, nor was there any group of or individual Lithuanian political figure on hand to observe or protest. The only politician whose presence was noted was Petras Gražiulis, who turned out to support the marchers.

 The Skinhead Lithuania swastika flag flew over the Lithuanian parliament for over an hour on Lithuanian Independence Day, March 11, 2015

Some of the flags on display at the Lithuanian parliament, including the Skinhead Lithuania swastika flag. Fascist youth organization leader and march organizer Julius Panka told those assembled “We are working closely with Praviy Sektor,” one of the Ukrainian neo-Nazi parties.