Jerusalem – The Simon Wiesenthal Center today welcomed yesterday’s decision by the Vilnius (Vilna) city council to rename a small street in the center of the city, which had been named for controversial Lithuanian diplomat Kazys Škirpa, due to his anti-Semitic opinions and actions. The motion passed by a vote of 21-16 and was harshly criticized by right-wing nationalists.
In a statement issued here today by its director of Eastern European affairs, Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center praised the vote and expressed the hope that honors bestowed on other Lithuanians who played a role in the Holocaust would also be removed.
According to Zuroff:
“The decision is a very important first step in a process which we hope will facilitate true reconciliation. Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šumašius deserves credit for his role and his explanation of the decision which emphasized Škirpa’s call to his countrymen to “get rid of the Jews and create an oppressive atmosphere so that they wouldn’t even think that they could have rights in Lithuania.”
Background: Kazys Škirpa (1895-1979) Lithuanian ambassador to Germany. In 1940, he established the Lithuanian Activist Front in Berlin, an umbrella organization representing Lithuanian political parties, which expressed support for the Third Reich and incited violence against Lithuanian Jewry.
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