Vilnius City Council has on Wednesday backed the proposal to rename an alley in central Vilnius, named after WW2-era diplomat and officer Kazys Škirpa who "promoted Holocaust," according to Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius.
"The man had a plan to get rid of Lithuanian citizens, to send the Jews out, to do away with them when the chance comes. Obviously, a person who incited such discord and promoted the Holocaust cannot be honored in the city of Vilnius," Šimasius told journalists ahead of the council meeting. He is suggesting renaming it to Tricolor Street.
The initiator, Renaldas Vaisbrodas, said the Škirpa-led Lithuanian Activist Front brought anti-Semitism to the political level, and that could have encouraged Lithuanian resident to get involved in the Holocaust.
"This issue is complex and causing a lot of emotion," he said.
While 11 were against and nine abstained, 27 councilors gave their initial backing to the plan to rename the street. The final decision will be made at the next council meeting on July 24.
Critics protest outside the Vilnius municipality
Around one hundred people held a protest outside the Vilnius municipality in support of Škirpa. They stressed the need to take into account Škirpa's contribution to the creation and consolidation of an independent state, as he hoisted the Lithuanian tricolor on the Gediminas Castle Tower with a company of Lithuanian volunteer soldiers on January 1, 1919.
"Let's not allow the smearing of people who sacrificed their lives for Lithuania and freedom," Kasparas Genzbigelis, 70, told BNS during the protest.
"This person did a lot for Lithuania, and renaming the street would show huge disrespect for him and for the state," Tomas Kulesius, a 20 year-old student, said.
Jewish Community of Lithuania does not downoplay Škirpa's contribution to Lithuania
Faina Kukliansky, chair of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, told BNS after the vote she was satisfied with the result.
"I am also a bit surprised by many things, since this issue has been researched for so many years and there's so much literature. I have trust in this council," she said.
"The council considered the issue of the street name, not Škirpa's guilt. To name a street after someone, that person should be worthy. A controversial figure is not suitable for naming a street, and there's no point in arguing here," the leader of the Jewish community said.
She also added that the Jewish community does not downplay Škirpa's contribution to the creation and consolidation of an independent Lithuania.