Lithuania’s capital votes to rename street after antisemitic Nazi collaborator

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Lithuania’s capital votes to rename street after antisemitic Nazi collaborator

Council of Vilnius sees motion to honour Kazio Skirpos pass by 21 to 16, with mayor Remigijus Simasius saying he was pleased with the result.

The Old Town of Vilnius, Lithuania
The Old Town of Vilnius, Lithuania

Following years of protests, the city council of Vilnius in Lithuania voted to rename a street honouring a Nazi collaborator accused of inspiring Holocaust-era murders.

During Wednesday’s vote, which passed 21-16, a handful nationalist protesters picketed city hall in defence of keeping the name Kazio Skirpos Street. Mayor Remigijus Simasius said he was pleased with the result.

In “a city that is open and respectful to all people, we can’t display extraordinary signs of respect to someone” like Kazys Skirpa, the mayor said.

During World War II, Skirpa served as the envoy to Berlin of the pro-Nazi Lithuanian movement. He said then: “Let’s take the opportunity to get rid of all Jews and create an oppressive atmosphere so that they wouldn’t even think they could have rights in Lithuania.”

The nonprofit and website Defending History, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center had lobbied for years to have the street renamed.

Lithuania’s Genocide and Resistance Research Center said that Skirpa “elevated antisemitism to a political level” that “could have encouraged a portion of Lithuania’s residents to get involved in the Holocaust.” But Skirpa favored expulsion, not genocide, the center said in a 2015 position paper. It ultimately defended Skirpa for the gravest allegations against him.

The center is currently defending in court another Nazi collaborator, Jonas Noreika. Grant Gochin, a Jewish-American  citizen of Lithuanian descent, has petitioned the judiciary to order the removal of a plaque for Noreika from the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.

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