Vilnius mayor orders removal of contested plaque honoring alleged war criminal


(JTA) — City workers in Vilnius, Lithuania removed a plaque honoring a Nazi collaborator that has been at the center of lawsuits and numerous protest campaigns.

Ordered by Mayor Remigijus Šimašius, the removal Saturday of the plaque honoring Jonas Noreika from an external wall of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences follow’s last week’s vote by the city council to change the name of a street honoring another collaborator, Kazys Skirpa, the website Defending History noted.

Both decisions reflect the mayor’s growing willingness to anger nationalists amid tenacious action by Jewish groups and individuals pressuring Lithuanian politicians over the glorification of alleged perpetrators of the murder of more than 90 percent of the country’s Jewish population during the Holocaust.

Skirpa, an envoy of pro-Nazi Lithuanians to Berlin during World War II who called for ethnic cleansing of Jews, and Noreika, a high-ranking police officer who is believed to have personally overseen the murder of Jews, are venerated in Lithuania as heroes for fighting the Soviet Union alongside the Germans.

In April, a Lithuanian left-leaning lawyer smashed the Noreika plaque, but it was repaired.

Grant Gochin, a Jewish US citizen of Lithuanian descent, has sued the government’s historical institute for facilitating the honoring of Noreika with the plaque. He’s lost in court several times in recent years but has vowed to take the issue to the European Court of Justice.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Defending History group and website have also monitored for years the glorification of war criminals in Lithuania.

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