On Tuesday, Lithuania’s independence day (one of two), members of the Union of Nationalist Youth of Lithuania marched in the city of Kaunas behind a banner that read “We Know Our Nation’s Heroes.” On the banner were the faces of these “heroes”: Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, Povilas Plechavicius, Kazys Skirpa, Antanas Baltusis-Zvejas, Jonas Noreika, “who is believed to have helped murder Jews,” and Juozas Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis, “the leader of a local pro-Nazi government,” reported JTA.
This was the ninth time the ultra-nationalist group has marched. Last year, some 500 neo-Nazi demonstrators wore swastikas and were confronted by Jewish protesters, reported The Times of Israel. This year, fascist symbols were yet again on display, reported Defendinghistory.com, a watchdog for extremism in Lithuania, that was at the event. About 250 fascists participated in the demonstration.
It is as if the marchers are celebrating the murder of the 30,000 Jewish citizens of Kaunas, the more than 95% of the over 200,000 strong Lithuanian Jewish population on the eve of the Holocaust, and the resulting “cleansing” of Lithuania’s Jewish minority.
“Once again,” the Defendinghistory.com report stated, “the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office was the only foreign partner to attend, monitor and participate in our annual silent protest. Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told JTA that this march was the first time the aforementioned Holocaust “heroes,” (or, as the news agency puts it, the “Holocaust perpetrators and collaborators”) had been the main focus of the annual Kaunas march.
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Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.