Lithuanian ForMin Linkevičius Calls for Immediate Removal of Noreika Plaque

BNS, September 19, Vilnius–Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevičius has called upon Lithuanian institutions to remove a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika from the city center in Vilnius after assessing his collaboration with the Nazis.

The foreign minister said an honest assessment of history will aid in countering propaganda against the small Baltic country and attempts to blacken the reputation of Lithuanian freedom fighters.

“We shouldn’t be helping the propagandists. We should respond in principle when undisputed facts are raised about immoral behavior and Nazi collaboration by separate individuals,” Linkevičius told BNS Wednesday.

“The case of Jonas Noreika is just such an example. His life was varied and it is true he was imprisoned in a concentration camp and fought for Lithuania. At the same time, I have copies of documents right here in front of me which testify to [his] clear collaboration with the Nazis, establishing Jewish ghettos and seizing Jewish property,” the Lithuanian foreign minister said.

“The municipality, the [Lithuanian] Academy of Sciences and the Vrublevskai Library [Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences] shouldn’t keep pushing responsibility from one to the other and should take measures to get rid of this plaque. We shouldn’t be waffling on this,” he continued.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community and certain intellectuals have been calling for taking down the commemorative plaque for years. It is on the outer wall of the Vrublevskai [Wroblewski] Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in the heart of the Lithuanian capital. Critics say it’s inappropriate to honor Noreika so prominently given his past as head of the district of Šiauliai district [during the Nazi occupation] and his orders issued for establishing ghettos and stealing Jewish property.

Noreika’s defenders point out Noreika was allegedly involved in anti-Nazi activities later in the war, was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Stutthof concentration camp in what is now Poland. They also claim Noreika made achievements in the anti-Soviet underground and that he and fellow travellers were preparing an uprising against the post-war Soviet government in Lithuania. Noreika was arrested in 1946, tried and executed in 1947.

Foreign minister Linkevičius said as long as Lithuania doesn’t deal with this issue it will be an area of fertile ground for propaganda claiming the entire partisan movement was guilty of collaboration with the Nazis.

“Specific individuals who have committed criminal acts need to be judged accordingly. Iff we don’t do this, we are contributing to the propaganda machine which seeks to ruin the reputation of all,” he said.

The Lithuanian Jewish Community earlier called for removal of the plaque by September 23, the day marking the 75th anniversary of the final destruction of the Vilnius ghetto. In Lithuania September 23 is marked as the Day of Remembrance of Lithuanian Jewish Victims of Genocide.

Full text available in Lithuanian here.