It is easy to accuse a person. Especially so when they cannot answer. Especially when they are no longer among the living. Thus, all evaluations of the past must be weighed and justified not through the demands of our time, but common human values and the circumstances of the specific life, Ramūnas Bogdanas writes on lrt.lt.
To declare a deceased individual as unworthy of honouring because an influential foreign newspaper covered them negatively is to draw one’s imagined future, erasing all obstacles without care. However, this vision of the future will be left hanging half dead in the air, severed from the ripped apart and reconstructed past. There is no impetus without a foundation.
These were thoughts raised by Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius‘ public call to remove the memorial plaque for Jonas Noreika – Generolas Vėtra. Supposedly J. Noreika was a resistance figure, but this does not remove him from responsibility for “clear collaboration with the Nazis in forming Jewish ghettoes and appropriating Jewish property.”
L. Linkevičius is not the person, who has a moral right to condemn someone, who was placed under the will of an occupier and did not choose imprisonment or death because he himself chose to serve the union of the hammer and sickle during occupation conditions.
However, when challenges to stagnation arrived, L. Linkevičius showed himself a little impetuous and supported the March of the Rock Music across Lithuania, which took the long-banned Tricolour across the country, freeing people from fear of the Soviet government. After all, back then the first secretary of the communist party Algirdas Brazauskas also called the Tricolour a rag.
Differently than most minions of both the red and the brown, J. Noreika felt the limits of collaboration and had enough courage during wartime when lives meant nothing, alongside ten Samogitian intellectuals, to demand the German leadership to prohibit the genocide of the Jewish and Lithuanian nations. It was an open challenge to Nazi ideology under conditions of their unlimited power.
J. Noreika’s moral resistance was accompanied by works: the Germans accused him of sabotaging Lithuanian mobilisation into an SS legion. He refused to perform mobilisation as Šiauliai district chief. On February 23, 1943, the Germans arrested and imprisoned him, later sending him to Stutthof concentration camp. You can read on the hell experienced by those sent there in Balys Sruoga’s Dievų Miškas [The Forest of the Gods].
Documents gathered by historians prove that during the acts of Jewish discrimination and isolation in July 1941, when orders were signed, J. Noreika did not participate because he became the chief of Šiauliai district in August. A note signed by him in August 22, 1941 regarding the transfer of Jews and their property reports what was ordered by the Šiauliai district commissar and there is no further initiative in it – only a repeat of the occupying German government’s orders. Can you punish a typewriter for the content typed up on it?
Can you erase a person’s life for this note, which is simply the reporting of an already presented order? Erase the life of a person, who saved Jews himself? Who dared publically speak up against genocide during wartime, when the enactors of genocide were the superiors of the situation?
Neither personal relations with Šiauliai Jews and unceasing pain over a destroyed community of our citizens, nor the desire to erase obstructions in diplomatic work can be an excuse for the sacrifice of a person’s memory.