Lithuania’s Genocide Center: A Bullhorn for the National Unification Party?

Lithuania’s Genocide Center: A Bullhorn for the National Unification Party?

by Arkadijus Vinokuras, Times of Israel, September 2, 2023

Director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania [hereinafter Genocide Center] Arūnas Bubnys in refusing to carry out the decision from the so-called De-Sovietization Commission to remove a monument commemorating murderer of Jews Juozas Krikštaponis, under pressure from public anger, has ordered the municipal administration of Ukmergės [Vilkomir] to remove the bas-relief image and name of Juozas Krikštaponis and to rededicate the monument to local Lithuanian partisans.

Finally, some initiative has been shown, although the law was grossly violated. Nonetheless, the issue of what influence the National Unification Party [Nacionalinis susivienijimas] and other interest groups have over Genocide Center commemorative policies remains unanswered.

The situation is absurd: Genocide Center director Arūnas Bubnys acting as sovereign has come up with his own pseudo-rules and has refused for months to follow the order from the De-Sovietization Commission, an order which, according to Lithuanian law, must be carried out within 5 days.

The general director of the Genocide Center, apparently out of fear of facing deserved criticism, refused to take part in a Lithuanian state radio program that posed the question “Should the Monument to Juozas Krikštaponis Be Removed?” Instead, the Genocide Center sent their senior historian Alfredas Rukšėnas to explain the strange paths taken by the general director. Without any irony at all, this historian honestly admitted to all of Lithuania the Genocide Center, despite its functions as defined in law and in its own internal regulations, is no longer a research center. Rukšėnas said the Genocide Center instead carries out the orders of political groups and organizations.

I quote: “In deciding this issue it’s necessary to take into account the opinions of political prisoners, partisans, and deportees, so that we don’t hurt their feelings, because Krikštaponis is dear to them.” What? A murderer is dear to someone? How does Rukšėnas even know that this murderer is dear to these groups? I highly doubt this is true. So maybe they should take into account the opinion held by Jewish organizations in Lithuania whose members still get the chills when they hear this murderer’s name? (Juozas Krikštaponis was part of Impuliavičius’s “Ypatingas” second battalion in Belarus in the fall of 1941 and took part with the Nazis in the extermination of 46,000 people, mainly unarmed Jews.) Yes, for many years now the so-called Genocide Center has tried to lionize people who saw Lithuania’s future as a fascist dictatorship, and is still trying to minimize the crimes of these “heroes.” Now it becomes very clear why the promise by the Genocide Center’s general director to form an agency of independent historians to advise the Genocide Center in order to put a stop to flawed practices was never kept.

The downfall of this academic institution has to be stopped as soon as possible because the Genocide Center issues findings of history that directly affect Lithuania’s cultural, educational, and commemorative policies. It’s entirely plain to see the Genocide Center with the Kremlin regime as an analog is intentionally and wantonly distorting and politicizing historical facts and lionizing war criminals in order to introduce confusion in the minds of the young, such that they no longer know whether moral and ethical norms, justice and trust in learning are even values any more to which we strive as a society.

How is the state responding? With silence, because elections are right around the corner. What does the parliament’s Commission on the Battles for Independence and State Historical Memory think of the Genocide Center director’s wanton actions? How much longer can this wantonness continue? Do the ruling majority not understand the chauvinist concept of a pure ethnicity is being cultivated by honoring Nazi collaborators and that their exaltation always leads to fascist and Nazi dictatorship? Unfortunately, they have no lack of supporters in Lithuania. Their most influential circle includes Lithuanian Conservative/Lithuanian Christian Democrat Union member of parliament Valdas Rakutis who has consistently used the Genocide Center to propagate his own narrative of a fascist nation. It’s impossible to interpret in any other way this constant worship of criminals as heroes and the macabre exhumation of new figures for worship, including fascist and Nazi collaborator Stasys Žakevičius.

Now about the Genocide Center as the bullhorn for the National Unification Party. Bearing in mind that Genocide Center general director Arūnas Bubnys was a member of this party who contested a mandate in parliament, it becomes clearer why he is repeating National Unification Party arguments regarding the removal or non-removal of the monument commemorating Krikštaponis. His colleague at the Genocide Center Gaudentas Aukštikalnis, currently the senior museum specialist at the Genocide Center, is also a member of that party’s board of directors and a former Soviet Army commander who completed sergeants’ school.

Full text here.