Dispute over Lithuania's culture of remembrance

Lithuania is currently debating the removal of a commemorative plaque for Jonas Noreika, who is considered a hero for fighting against the Soviet regime. Because Noreika signed orders for setting up ghettos and confiscating Jewish property when he was a district leader during the Nazi occupation, commentators argue that he doesn't deserve to be treated as a hero.

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Delfi (LT) /

Neither hero nor beast

Noreika certainly doesn't deserve to be treated like a hero, Paulius Gritėnas argues on the website Delfi:

“Noreika made the decision [to sign the papers] and assumed a historical responsibility with this step. I suspect that deep down he understood the tragedy of the situation. Yet his involvement in the actions of the occupying power against the Jewish citizens disqualifies him from being treated like a hero or even a tragic hero. Noreika was neither a hero nor a beast. He was a person who tried to navigate a path through the complicated historical events.”

15min (LT) /

Fellow travellers, accomplices and culprits

Historian Alvydas Nikžentaitis analyses in 15min the different criteria used for gauging responsibility for the Holocaust in Lithuania and in the West:

“The Lithuanian understanding of what it means to be a Holocaust perpetrator seems to be at the level it was in the West in the 1970s. The problem of the Lithuanian idea of responsibility for the Holocaust is that it only sees those who were directly involved in the killing of people as perpetrators. In the West, by contrast, all those who helped in - or who helped to bring about the conditions for - the killing are regarded as perpetrators. So in Lithuania Jonas Noreika isn't seen as having committed a crime against humanity. In the West, however, he's regarded as a criminal.”