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2019.07.24 18:09

Despite protests, Vilnius renames street dedicated to Škirpa 'who promoted Holocaust'

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Benas Gerdžiūnas, LRT.lt2019.07.24 18:09

After a tense session at the Vilnius City Council, decision was taken to change the name of Kazys Škirpa Alley to Tricolour Street.

Lithuanian Jewish Community (LŽB) and others have welcomed the critical look at Kazys Škirpa, whose memory along with the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) “damages the authority of all Lithuanian freedom fighters,” according to the head of LŽB, Faina Kukliansky.

Kazys Škirpa was a diplomat and an officer, who alongside military volunteers, raised the Lithuanian flag on the iconic Gediminas Hill in Vilnius in 1919. However, he was seen later to become an ardent supported of Nazi Germany, and issued anti-Semitic declarations while serving as an ambassador to Berlin before and during the Second World War.

Politicians and members of the public who protested the decision maintain that Škirpa was an integral part of Lithuania's independence movement and had to act under immensely complicated geopolitical pressures during the Second World War.

Around a dozen protesters on Wednesday claimed his anti-Semitic declarations were the result of either Nazi or Soviet manipulations, or outright falsifications. However, his memoirs written after the war in the US gives no evidence that Škirpa was forced into expressing views he did not hold, according to Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius.

Šimašius previously said that "a person who incited such discord and promoted the Holocaust cannot be honored in the city of Vilnius".

In Vilnius on Wednesday, 21 city council members voted in favour to rename the street, while 16 were against, and one abstained.