Recently, members of the Vilnius City Street, Monument and Plaque Names Commission considered several different issues.
Sergey Kanovich
© Asmeninio archyvo nuotr.

Commission members had no lack of expertise and didn't need to ask the Language Commission for help in naming a square 'Washington' (after all, it wasn't Wrocław), they didn't need a public hearing for naming a square 'Ukraine', and they had enough expertise to deal with questions about the commemoration of Jonas Basanavičius.

Only one question received so many - how to put it more precisely - attempts at reasoned avoidance of responsibility. This was the issue raised by Vilnius city council member Mark Adam Harold who issued a statement listing the reasons why an alley named after Kazys Škirpa should be renamed after the Righteous among the Nations [Yad Vashem title for non-Jews who rescued Jews from the Holocaust].

What did the Commission do? The Commission said it didn't know what to do. They will ask another agency, one which, out of not knowing what to do, is publishing historical reports about Kazys Škirpa avoiding the question (he didn't take part in mass murder operations because Germans put him under house arrest, he didn't kill anyone personally, he was only the head of the anti-Semitic Lithuanian Activists Front and called for getting rid of the Jews in this manner: "After analyzing the anti-Semitic remarks encountered in texts prepared by the LAF organization in Berlin, we can say its members sought to solve 'the Jewish problem' not through genocide, but by means of driving the Jews out of Lithuania." This is a quote [translated to English] from a historical finding by T. B. Burauskaitė, director of the Centre for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania, given to the head of the city administration of Kaunas).

The director of the Centre for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania then goes on to suppose that calling for the Jews to be driven out of Lithuania wasn't such a great sin. Of course, she's silent about the fact that this "innocent" call to expel the Jews was immediately forgotten by Škirpa's parishioners. The white armbanders of the LAF, instead of driving the Jews from Lithuania, began murdering them in cold blood.

Some Commission members, knowing full well the "accomplishments" of Škirpa, one of the godfathers of the first murderers of Jews, and knowing full well the zig-zags of the Centre for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania and reasonably expecting more such meanderings, nonetheless will ask this centre for their "expert" opinion. As if to say, who knows whether the call to expel the Jews isn't worthy of having an alley named after you?

The Commission proposed asking politicians for their opinion. I can imagine how, just before elections, a dozen or so political suicides pop up and tell us how things really were. Well, perhaps someone who is not running for office will say something to the effect that "the temporary isolation of the Jews in ghettos" was no sin at all, or if it was, it was only a partial sin, and those who did commit sins were forced to do so by circumstances. Maybe the alley should be renamed Circumstances Alley? And look, Škirpa, before there was a LAF, before he wrote and censored his own anti-Semitic memoirs, carried the Lithuanian flag and planted it on the Tower of Gediminas. Even if his actions later greatly desecrated the honour of that flag, which they did. But does anyone care about that?

The Commission further proposes public hearings to know the public's opinion. Almost like in Switzerland. Not about Ukraine or Washington Square, or about Jonas Basanavičius, but only about the anti-Semite, godfather and leader of the Lithuanian Holocaust, LAF leader and Nazi collaborator Kazys Škirpa.

We are no Switzerland, unfortunately. We aren't even Norway, were any commission which dared to suggest to the public that Quisling might be honoured by naming an alley or a gateway after him would be thrown out. Somehow the Norwegians seem to understand that the trash of history has no place on city street façades and belongs in a museum if anywhere at all. As an example of what not to do.

Among other matters, the Commission decided that this discussion needs to be held in September. For now, Škirpa's name will remain on the street signs. Because common sense and conscience take a holiday during the Olympic Games, in the summertime of beer, discos and basketball games broadcast at unusual times of the day. And when we come back from vacation, we'll get yet another certificate rehabilitating Škirpa in the form of manipulative response from the Centre for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania's. And case closed again.

One can play-act democracy in all sorts of ways, one can pretend the Commission's competence does not extend to making decisions on the matter of Škirpa (and general Vėtra as well). You, dear Commission members, do not need competence for that. For that, the only thing that is required is a drop of conscience, a drop of honesty, which, according to the minutes of the meeting, only member Darius Kuolys displayed, who admitted there was a problem.

I, the founder of NGO Maceva, the catalogue of Litvak cemeteries, in answering the Commission's call for public discussion, ask the Commission to consider my proposal, which is to leave in place the name of Kazys Škirpa in the alley named after him. Not just as proof of your lack of competency. As a complaint against your conscience. Righteous Gentiles don't deserve this kind of bazaar. If they had to wait in line for more than 75 years, that means today, too, they should avoid publicity. And the Commission's resolutions do that well, protect them from publicity. Almost like the calls of the LAF. To whomever the shame belongs, let those people share it.

Authorized translation by Geoff Vasil

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