Will we long hide our historical wounds in the name of glory?

Kazys Škirpa
Wikipedia.org

The historically necessary and courageous decision of Vilnius city Mayor Remigijus Šimašius to take down the commemorative plaque to Jonas Noreika General Vėtra (Storm) from the Vrublevskiai Library was ruined by the cowardly way it was done – secretly, at night, without warning the building supervisors, Valdas Bartasevičius wrote in lrytas.lt.

Those, who do not want to concede that the individual named General Storm, alongside his merits to Lithuania, was also marked with shame for his contribution to Jewish genocide, obtained an excellent pretext to be outraged with this step by the Vilnius city municipality.

It would have been more honourable to take down the plaque through a decision of the municipal council and to do it without hiding.

The Vilnius city municipal council probably needed more courage last week to dare change the name of Kazys Škirpa Avenue, which is near Gediminas Hill, to the Trispalvė Avenue [Tricolour Avenue] than to remove the monument to Petras Cvirka because K. Škirpa, just like J. Noreika, has supporters, who are both louder and more influential.

But however much certain historians and politicians may seek to whitewash the uniform of K. Škirpa, accusing their opponents of a lack of historical knowledge, you cannot escape the bitter truth – their hero, even if performing merit for Lithuanian independence, on the eve of the Second World War wrote or signed texts, which urged to persecute Jews.

Considering how quickly 92-94% of the Lithuanian Jewry was destroyed, based on the norms of international law, K. Škirpa, even if indirectly, contributed to this tragedy.

This is where a full stop should have been placed, rather than going on to discuss how he raised the Tricolour on top of Gediminas Hill, sought to recreate Lithuanian independence. Good intentions do not outweigh the crime.

On the other hand, K. Škirpa’s merits in seeking to recreate Lithuanian independence when the Second World War began are very dubious.

One just needs to imagine, of course, a completely impossible in reality situation that the Nazis allow the interim government to operate, which would have been led by K. Škirpa, who was arrested in Berlin, and that they recognise it. What sort of government would it be?

Of course, it would be a total puppet, more dependent on the Nazis than the regimes of the socialist prison camp of countries were in Moscow during the time of J. Stalin.

The puppet Vichy regime led by Marshall H. P. Petain could still operate freely for a time in parts unoccupied by the Germans, but Lithuanians couldn’t have dreamed of even such “freedom”.

Even the status of occupied Norway, which had the V. Quisling government operating, the Germans would not grant Lithuania. And if by some miracle they had, what then?

Both V. Quisling and H. P. Petain were sentenced to death after the war (H. P. Petain was sentenced to life imprisonment due to his age). Thus, it can be said that K. Škirpa was fortunate that the Nazis neither allowed him to lead the interim government nor recognised it because, after the war, he would have met with the same fate as H. P. Petain or V. Quisling.

Could you imagine there being a boulevard in Paris in the name of H. P. Petain or a V. Quisling square in Oslo?

Did French MPs, like L. Kasčiūnas, ever lament on why the First World War French Marshal H. P. Petain has not been honoured? And prior to his shameful collaboration with the Nazis, he performed more merit to France than K. Škirpa to Lithuania.

We want to match up to the West, but they’re perhaps only complete political fringes could even hint about the commemoration of an openly anti-Semite figure, regardless of their real or supposed merits to the nation.

Perhaps we meander so because of the endless efforts to employ history for our own ideological partisan purposes, ignoring or denying facts that contradict us?

I cannot forget a discussion a good month ago with a reader after a prior comment on Lietuvos Rytas, where I expressed doubts on whether the June 1941 uprising could be compared with February 16 or March 11, as the authors of the Seimas resolution glorifying the event proposed.

An elderly man from Dzūkija called, initially describing how the white ribbons killed off Jews in the area and how one of them, visiting a neighbour with a bottle of moonshine, drew a handful of rings and gold teeth and boasted how he had become wealthy from ripping gold from his victims’ mouths.

Later, the talk turned to the post-war years. There was much about the brutality of the time. Nevertheless, when listening to how apparently performing an execution, partisans shot a family to death and tossed sisters, aged one and two years old, into a well, still alive, it was shocking.

The man mentioned the names of the victims and also the names of the murderers from a group led by a famous partisan leader.

It was hard to believe this could have been. Perhaps the partisans were being smeared by a former istrebitel [members of soviet destruction battalions], a provocateur, a KGB agent? Just why can you hear so many such tales from people, who can still recall the post-war times? An old grandmother or another elderly speaking up really does not appear like a cunning agent of Moscow either.

Such tales should be investigated by prosecutors because there is no expiry date for crimes against humanity, but let’s not be naïve – it’s not realistic.

Perhaps there is none left to punish for with the killing of civilians by mistake or from personal vengeance, but historical truth of who was a hero and who – a murderer or his victim, to find out in the future, when they’re no longer is political dictate, we need the testimony of contemporaries. Even those, who are no longer heard by anyone now, who think that in free Lithuania, they see a macabre dance on the bones of the murdered.

In M. Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita, it is said that writings do not burn. But is human memory immortal as well? Perhaps witnesses will be no more, there will be no one left to recount the unfabricated suffering of peoples?

Why is the Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Centre not taking up to at least write down these tales?

Or perhaps it stands by the opinion that the blood of innocent people is a detail not worthy of attention, looking from the heights of the partisan war against the occupier?

lrytas.lt
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