The Lithuanian Jewish Community, honoring the rule of law, has condemned the wanton vandalism which destroyed a memorial plaque owned by the Vilnius municipality honoring Holocaust perpetrator Jonas Noreika.
Despite our condemnation of violence and vandalism, we are left wondering by what system of values Liberal Party Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius on the day before the Jewish holiday of liberation, Passover, has “greeted” Lithuanian Jews with an order to create a facsimile plaque honoring the man who established the Šiauliai ghetto and to place it at the same location.
It seems the placement of memorial plaques in the Lithuanian capital corresponds to Šimašius’s personal likes and dislikes. In February of 2018 Šimašius criticized a commemoration of interwar pro-Zionist Lithuanian president Antanas Smetona, saying: “Vilnius is a cosmopolitan and open city and must symbolize these ideas. I am truly not a fan of the Smetona statue.” Apparently mayor Šimašius believes the multicultural legacy of Vilnius is much better symbolized by honoring a Lithuanian Nazi.
Furthermore, over many years of correspondence on the issue of the Noreika plaque, the Vilnius municipality has claimed in writing they have no information on the legal basis for the plaque, i.e., whether any permission was ever issued for it, who set it up and under what rules. Their responses gave the impression the plaque was possibly illegal.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community emphasizes the resurrection of this plaque is a thoughtless and inappropriate measure not in keeping with the aspiration to historical justice and completely at odds with the respect due the victims of the Holocaust and their descendants.
A whole series of documents testify to Noreika’s collaboration in the Holocaust, including orders to isolate Jews throughout the district of Šiauliai and orders for the removal of Jews and “half Jews” from Šiauliai district towns and villages and their placement in a ghetto in 1941. Noreika also administered property stolen from murdered Jews with specific orders regarding types of property.
The resurrection of the now-destroyed Noreika plaque sends an inappropriate and erroneous message to society, demonstrates disrespect to Holocaust victims and the pain of their relatives and contributes to the dangerous practice of normalizing anti-Semitism in Lithuania.