Statement by Lithuanian Jewish Community Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky on Shrovetide

Parliamentary Culture Committee chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis on his social media page invites everyone to celebrate Užgavėnės [Lithuanian Shrovetide, or Carnival] in Naisiai, Lithuania. Event organizers used illustrations reminiscent of anti-Semitic propaganda used by the Nazis. This was reported on the internet site of the newspaper Lietuvos žinios on February 24, 2017.

“At the invitation of the most influential member of parliament R Karbauskis [Karbauskis is the chairman of the ruling Peasants and Greens Union party], the public is called upon to celebrate Shrovetide at the Naisiai location, associated with the politician, where, it seems, anti-Semitic ideas not only thrive, but are a part of everyday communication. Under the header of “Big Shrovetide in Naisiai” on social media, the invitation and publicity for the event provides more than just an events program, it also includes [anti-Semitic] sayings…”

It didn’t take long for the Lithuanian public to react. A wave of outrage appeared, as did anti-Semitic comments on the internet. One of the leaders of the governing coalition of the nation, after all, presented an invitation to celebrate Shrovetide using fascist propaganda from 1939. “Lithuanians know the Holocaust began soon after that,” LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky commented.

“Following the February 16 march in Kaunas where it was hard to tell the ultra-nationalists from the patriots, this is continuing now into Shrovetide,” chairwoman Kukliansky said. “Is this the policy of the new ruling party? How are we to understand this? An innocent holiday celebration is transformed in the Naisiai announcement into clearly anti-Semitic jingoism, a return to the pre-World War II era. How should Lithuanian Jews feel? The Shrovetide celebration is a holiday, we understand ethnology, but this is beyond Shrovetide and even its masks, these are anti-Semitic Nazi masks which arrived in Lithuania from Hitler’s Germany. We would like to hear from Mr. Karbauskis’s lips whether he is or is not an anti-Semite. I am the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community and I am requesting an answer to the question about what his views are regarding Jews, if he has the courage to display such masks in public. Existing Lithuanian laws criminalize the spreading of fascist propaganda,” Kukliansky said.