Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius calls on authorities to take down a memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika, a Lithuanian military officer known as Generolas Vėtra (General Storm), over his collaboration with the Nazis.
Jonas Noreika - Generolas Vėtra

The plaque was placed on the facade of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius to honor Noreika as a prominent member of the anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania.

Linkevičius says that an honest accounting of history would help counter hostile propaganda that attempts to tar the memory of all Lithuanian freedom fighters.

"We should not help propagandists. We need to respond in a principled way when undeniable facts emerge about individual people's improper behavior or their collaboration with the Nazis," the minister told BNS on Wednesday.

"Noreika is one of such cases. He had a mixed life. It is true that he was imprisoned in a concentration camp and fought for Lithuania. But I also see copies of documents that give clear evidence of his collaboration with the Nazis in the formation of the Jewish ghettos and the appropriation of Jewish property," he said.

"(Vilnius') local authority, the Academy of Sciences and the Wroblewski Library should take steps to ensure that the plaque is removed, rather than shifting responsibility from one to another."

Lithuania's Jewish community and some intellectuals have for years demanded the removal of the plaque honoring Noreika who, as head of Siauliai County during the Nazi occupation period, signed documents on the establishment of a Jewish ghetto and on arrangements regarding Jewish property.

Those who oppose demands for the plague to be taken down underline that Noreika got involved into anti-Nazi activities during the war, was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Stutthof concentration camp. They also note Noreika's active involvement in the anti-Soviet underground resistance. The man was arrested by the Soviet authorities in March 1946 and executed a year later.

Linkevičius says that Lithuania's failure to solve this issue plays into the hands of propagandists, who accuse the partisan movement as a whole of collaboration with the Nazis.

"Individuals who were complicit in crimes must be given a proper assessment. If we fail to do so, we help the propaganda machine that wants to tarnish everyone," he said.

The Jewish Community of Lithuania earlier asked for the plaque to be taken down before the Lithuanian Day of Remembrance of Jewish Victims of Genocide on September 23.

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