Some Lithuanians didn’t spend New Year’s Day recovering from the previous evening’s festivities and took to the streets to vandalize a street sign and the National Museum in an attempt to rehabilitate Lithuania’s leading World War II-era Nazi ideologue and activist Kazys Škirpa.
On January 1, 2020, vandals placed an adhesive sticker over the street sign for Vilnius’s small central Trispalvė (Tricolor) Alley proclaiming it K. Škirpa Alley, the name it had for a decade until the Vilnius city council changed it early last year in response to repeated requests over many years. The reason the street caused controversy was that Škirpa was the leading Lithuanian Nazi ideologue based in Berlin who created the Lithuanian Activist Front, notorious in the Holocaust in Lithuania, and its governing organ, the Lithuanian Provisional Government, with Škirpa appointing himself tin-pot dictator or “prime minister” of the pro-Nazi government in exile, the pro-Nazi underground in what was now Soviet Lithuania and the “prime minister” of a future semi-independent pro-Nazi Lithuania liberated by Nazi Germany and a belligerent fighting on the side of the Axis in World War II.
Škirpa’s proponents prefer to ignore all that messy stuff about World War II and the Holocaust and point instead to his one non-controversial action: on January 1, 1919, he and a group of Lithuanian volunteer soldiers hauled the newly-created Lithuanian flag, the tricolor, up Gediminas Hill, at the base of which the alley in question lies. It would be the moral equivalent of modern Germany erecting a sign proclaiming Alexanderplatz is now Adolf-Hitler-Platz to honor Adolf’s status as a German World War I veteran, never mind what came later. In fact the Vilnius city council in an act of very precedented obsequiousness did allow Škirpa’s apologists and would-be rehabilitators to post a plaque under the new street sign, Tricolor Alley, whitewashing Škirpa’s real biography in favor of his imaginary status as Lithuanian hero. A small group of picketers also held signs on January 1, 2020, reading: “Tauta savo didvyrius žino!” or, “The nation knows who its heroes are!”
Vilnius city administration director Povilas Poderskis told Baltic News Service the sticker was removed Thursday, January 2, and said the incident would be reported to police as an act of vandalism.
“The sticker has been removed, and we will contact the police because this is just an act of vandalism. At least from the administration’s point of view, this is wanton, and it is defined in several articles in the criminal code. This is in contempt of the decision made by the Vilnius city council and it’s the council who decided the names of streets, not just whoever wants to gets to decide,” Poderskis told BNS.
That same day, Thursday, January 2, the afternoon edition of the news program Reporteris on Lithuania’s Lrytas channel reported the city had contacted the police, and presented an interview with Antanas Kliunka who was called the chairman of the Šiauliai chapter of the Union of the Creators and Volunteers of the Lithuanian Military, dressed in full military uniform with medals and standing in front of Government House in central Vilnius. Kliunka said he and others would continue to vandalize the street sign, and he produced a rather large, rolled-up, professionally printed sticker from his pocket and unfurled it, revealing the inscription Škirpa Alley within the framework and to scale to the Tricolor Alley street sign, identical to the one the municipality had removed earlier that day.
Kliunka and his fellow apologists of Lithuanian fascism made good on that promise. According to the Lithuanian news website Delfi.lt, removed an identical sticker placed on the same sign on Friday, January 3, 2020. Delfi said the city municipality issued another complaint to law enforcement, and said the people behind both incidents had claimed on social media they placed the sticker there Thursday night. Delfi said the facebook page included photographs showing a portrait of Kazys Škirpa was also pasted on the wall of the National Museum and the Škirpa worshipers also left lit candles, flowers and a sign saying “There are many tricolors but only one Lithuania!” with miniature tricolor flags of different countries.
Rechristening Škirpa Alley Tricolor Alley took place in conjunction with the Vilnius municipality’s removal of another illegal Nazi shrine honoring Jonas Noreika, a granite plaque on the outer wall of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius. Noreika was active in the Šiauliai, Plungė and Telšiai areas during the invasion and consolidation of Nazi power in Lithuania. He was a local commander of the Lithuanian Activist Front, the pro-Nazi organization Škirpa established in Berlin under Abwehr instruction to ease the Wehrmacht’s invasion of the western territories of the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. Noreika, besides rounding up Jews, imprisoning them in ghettos he established and stealing their property including real estate, also, according to the most reliable source available, personally ordered the mass shooting of at least 1,000 Jews in Plungė. Following the removal of the plaque, modern-day Lithuanian Activists held a protest with signs accusing the Lithuanian Jewish Community of being a Kremlin front, and then simply erected their own new and improved Noreika plaque, as ugly as any Third Reich military monument ever to see the light of day, at the exact same location, in broad daylight, with no response from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences or the city of Vilnius.
The latest organized campaign to vandalize street signs and the National Museum in favor of a pro-Nazi version of history came just days after Lithuania’s Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania publicized their latest “finding” Noreika had actually been a Righteous Gentile who saved Jews and organized a network of Catholic priests to hide Jews from the ghetto, the ghetto Noreika most likely commanded. The new evidence: court testimony or deposition from a United States immigration trial in Chicago in 1986 from a single uncorroborated source who couldn’t remember dates, the names of any Jews supposedly rescued by the network he allegedly set up at Noreika’s request and who said Lithuanians never killed Jews in Lithuania.
In Grant Gochin’s ongoing series of complaints, trials and correspondence with and against this so-called Genocide Center, Center director Teresė Burauskaitė not only cast aspersions on historical research Gochin commissioned regarding the facts in Noreika’s case, but went so far to allege Gochin possibly violated Lithuania’s criminal code and even the Lithuanian constitution by conducting this research. She called two of his scholars dilettantes who lacked history methodology because they weren’t trained and qualified historians (one, Andrius Kulikauskas, is a philosophy professor at a Lithuanian university, and the other, Evaldas Balčūnas, a seasoned researcher and writer on Lithuanian war criminals who has butted heads with the Genocide Center numerous times).
The Genocide Center director appears to have contradicted her own claims regarding the discipline of history and who is allowed to practice it. The latest “finding” on Noreika was written by one of the Genocide Center’s PR specialists who holds no degree in history, but is a qualified geologist. Commenting on controversy surround her “Christmas Eve present” to Lithuanian Nazi apologists, Burauskaitė said in an interview on Lithuanian Public Radio and Television December 23: “I myself am not an historian so for me inner conviction is very important … I set for them the criterion: do you yourself believe in the results of your research?” (Lithuanian public radio and television, December 23, 2019). Apparently not just the director and PR specialist lack history credentials at the state-funded agency for determining the truth about history, which goes a long way towards explaining the shoddy material they’ve issued over the years as “research.”
And apparently you don’t have to dig very deep to discover the “Lithuanian Deep State” position of whitewashing the Holocaust is rather shallow, despite all the intellectual and fantastic trench warfare and fall-back positions. It turns out it’s paper thin, or at least, the thickness of a sticker, most likely printed using Lithuanian state resources.
There is a deeper problem here for the people involved in this modern-day “Lithuanian activism.” While the Genocide Center can’t really pursue Grant Gochin for thought crimes and violating the Lithuanian constitution, one thing the modern Lithuanian constitution currently in force does say is that the territorial integrity of the Republic of Lithuania cannot be questioned. That’s a problem for those seeking to rehabilitate Škirpa as some sort of national hero.
At 1:30 A.M. on March 23, 1939, Lithuanian foreign minister Juozas Urbšys and Lithuanian ambassador to Germany Kazys Škirpa acceded to Ribbentrop’s demand Lithuania turn Memel/Klaipėda over to Germany in time for Hitler to arrive there on the pocket battleship Deutschland in the afternoon of March 23. Urbšys and Škirpa annoyed their Nazi masters by refusing to sign over Klaipėda for some six to ten hours (they arrived at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin in the afternoon and had signed before 2:00 A.M. the next morning). Hitler was seasick. Urbšys and Škirpa came to his rescue and saved the day for Nazi Germany by capitulating on time, so the naval flotilla wasn’t forced to engage any token Lithuanian resistance. The entire Klaipėda region was handed over without any resistance. At the harbor in Klaipėda the local Memel Germans association turned out, their leader stood to the right of Hitler at the podium (to Hitler’s left), people gave the Nazi salute and proffered flowers to the Nazi invaders. The naval (Kriegsmarine) operation (three small battleships and three accompanying vessels) was concluded by a fly-over of Luftwaffe fighter planes.
Kazys Škirpa was instrumental in making this happen smoothly, so the sea-sick Hitler could land easily and on time, and in time for Kazys Škirpa and general Stasys Raštikis, former defense minister in independent Lithuania, to receive the ablative quo part of the proverbial quid pro quo, an invitation to Hitler’s 50th birthday party on April 20, 1939, which they both attended.
Holocaust negation and distortion is a crime under Lithuania’s criminal code, but while celebrating the person responsible for handing Lithuanian territory over to the enemy probably isn’t technically a crime in and of itself, directors of state institutions and seeming Lithuanian military officers standing in front of Government House doing so at the very least violates the spirit of the modern Lithuanian constitution.