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The memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika, a controversial Lithuanian military officer known as Generolas Vetra (General Storm), which was reinstalled in Vilnius on Thursday night at the initiative of nongovernmental organizations, will damage Lithuania's image, says, Fainy Kukliansky, leader of the Jewish Community of Lithuania.
Jewish leader: reinstallation of Noreika plaque will damage Lithuania's image
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

"I have no doubt the events of that day will damage the country's image. In September alone, a top-level US delegation is due to come to Lithuania, and we will also mark the Lithuanian Day of Remembrance of Jewish Victims of Genocide. Are we going to welcome the year of Gaon and the Jewish history in Lithuania with this plaque?" Kukliansky was quoted as saying in a statement released on Thursday night.

"It’s a lawless act of a crowd. It demonstrates the weakness of the organizers of this action, those who installed the plaque, and they attitude to law and compliance with it," she added.

Kukliansky says the organizers chose the path of force and they imposed their opinion as the only true.

She expressed hope the country's leader would evaluate the reinstallation of the plaque and would take necessary action.

Supporters of Jonas Noreika on Thursday night reinstalled the memorial plaque removed from the facade of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius in July.

The unveiling of the reinstalled plaque was observed by several hundred people who sang patriotic songs and chanted "Noreika, Noreika!" Sound equipment was brought to the unveiling ceremony which also involved several speakers.

Differently from the old one, the new plaque features an inscription that Noreika was a prisoner of the Nazi concentration camp in Stutthof and was executed on February 26, 1947.

Jonas Burokas, the former honorary chairman of the Lithuanian Union of Freedom Fighters, told BNS Lithuania at the event that a nongovernmental organization, "Pro Patria", mainly took care of the production of the new plaque.

Over a dozen of police officers observed the reinstallation and filmed the whole process. Ramunas Matonis, spokesman for the police, told BNS Lithuania that police officers film events to clearly identify the persons who hanged the plaque.

"The material will be handed over to responsible institutions," he said, adding that those institutions will decide if the plaque was reinstalled lawfully.

As the plaque to Noreika was reinstalled, some 300 people took part in a protest in Simonas Daukantas Square outside the Presidential Palace against the local authorities' decisions regarding the commemoration of Noreika and Kazys Skirpa, a controversial 20th century Lithuanian diplomat and military officer, due to his declared anti-Semitic views, because of their alleged involvement in the persecution of Jews during WWII.

The controversial plaque to Noreika, which was in place for more than two decades, was removed in late July by the decision of Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius. He said he made the decision as Noreika, 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.

Public discussions on this plaque have been taking place in Lithuania for many years. 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.

Lithuania's Jewish community has for some time 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.

Noreika was later arrested for anti-Soviet activity and executed in February, 1947.

In 1997, Noreika was posthumously awarded a 1st degree order of the Cross of Vytis.

BNS
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