Neo-Nazis Given Central Vilnius Again on March 11th Independence Day

by Vilma Fiokla Kiurė  (with additional input and photos by Evaldas Balčiūnas, Milan Chersonski, and Julius Norwilla)

Once again, on our national holiday of March 11th, at 4 PM in the afternoon, neo-Nazis chanting “Lietuva Lietuviams” (Lithuania for Lithuanians) marched from the Cathedral up our capital city’s central boulevard, Gedimino, to the Seimas (parliament) at its far end. During each of the nine marches (they started in 2008), none of the country’s leaders spoke out to condemn the march. On the contrary there are many signs of both tolerance and support from very high places, including the permits to march granted by the municipality (no comment from the mayor?) and other relevant authorities.

Yet again, the Union of Nationalist Youth was able to boast that it occupies the center of the capital on the nation’s independence day: “Without any obstacles, we received from the municipality an official permit to march [this day] on the main boulevard of Vilnius.” The official march was concluded several hours earlier and the heads of state apparently rested quietly as the neo-Nazis proceeded to take over the city center, from Cathedral to Parliament, a route rich in symbolic power.

In contrast to the recent march in Kaunas on February 16th, where five of the six personages on the lead banner were of alleged Holocaust collaborators and perpetrators, “only” two of the ten on today’s lead banner in Vilnius are alleged Holocaust collaborators. The fifth from the left is Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas and the seventh is Vytautas Žemaitis, among the images above the words that translate “I am proud to be a Lithuanian.”
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Many parts of Europe have recently seen a rise in neo-Nazi activity in response to the migration and refugee crises, and Lithuania is no exception. They play on human fears, extant social problems and divisions, and here too there were anti-European Union placards.

The police counted 1,500 marchers, but there were many more participants at different points. Xenophobic and racist slogans could be heard, accompanied by young women dressed in national costume. This year, skinheads marched at front of the column of people. They were joined by British neo-Nazis, Ukrainian ultranationalists and others. Dressed in black, members of the “White Power” organization carried posters with antisemitic caricatures.

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Once again, one of the enthusiastic observers of the march from the sidelines was the neo-Nazi blogger “Zeppelinus” who has been alleged to be a high official in the Economy Ministry (some of his works here).

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Another leading personality of the neo-Nazi marches is Ričardas Čekutis, who for many years was a leading official at the state sponsored Genocide Center, a supposedly academic institution that currently forms part of the representation on the state’s “Red-Brown Commission.”

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The number of counter-marchers protesting the neo-Nazis was extremely low. There seemed to be just one fellow with a poster saying “Lietuva visiems” (Lithuania for Everybody). By standing in the path of the marchers he was able to halt the neo-Nazis for approximately one minute until the police grabbed him and took him away.

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Hopefully one day our society will muster a peaceful protest against these marches. Or even better, our government and municipality will ban them from the center of our capital city on our independence day.

 

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