July 29, 2019 — New York
AJC praised Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius for removing a plaque on the Lithuanian Academy of Science building honoring Jonas Noreika, an anti-Soviet fighter who was responsible for the deportation of Šiauliai Jews and seizure of their property during the Holocaust.
Earlier this year the state-supported Genocide and Resistance Research Centre defended the plaque and claimed there was no conclusive evidence connecting Noreika to the persecution and murder of Jews. But the International Historical Commission, whose members were appointed by Lithuania’s president, issued a public rebuke of the Genocide Centre’s statement in April. At the time, the original plaque had been destroyed by a vigilante vandal and replaced shortly thereafter.
Removal of the plaque follows a Vilnius City Council vote last week to change the name of a street honoring Kazys Skirpa, founder of the wartime Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF), a resistance organization which also engaged in the murder of Jews at the outbreak of the war.
“Mayor Šimašius’ actions are courageous. Elected officials in neighboring countries should emulate them,” said Rabbi Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs and a founding member of the International Historical Commission.
For Central and Eastern European countries the process of confronting their Holocaust-era history has been long and difficult. The work of historians and researchers has clearly demonstrated the complicity of local officials and collaborators, but right-wing nationalists and populists still refuse to accept their findings.