Lithuanian Court Rejects Lawsuit Against State Honors for Nazi Collaborator

A Jewish American man sued a state-funded center for erecting a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika, a local anti-Communist hero who died while in Soviet custody

Haaretz
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Jonas Noreika
Jonas NoreikaCredit: Silvia Foti
Haaretz

A court in Lithuania dismissed an American Jew’s lawsuit against a state museum’s glorification of a collaborator, citing the complainant’s “ill-based” intentions. The ruling Wednesday in Vilnius was on a petition submitted last year by Californian Grant Gochin.

He sued the state-funded Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of for erecting a plaque honoring Jonas Noreika, a local anti-Communist hero who died while in Soviet custody.

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“Me calling for truth against the government machine of fraud is ‘ill based.’ They have no interest in truth — anyone that speaks for truth there is labelled an “’enemy of the State’,” Gochin wrote on Facebook about the ruling.

Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Eastern director, for years has argued that Noreika became a mass murderer after his appointment in 1941 as head of Siauliai County under the German Nazi occupation.

Memorial plaque honoring Jonas Noreika, at the Library of Academy of science in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Memorial plaque honoring Jonas Noreika, at the Library of Academy of science in Vilnius, Lithuania.Credit: Alma Pater

"No decision which exonerates Nazi collaborators who actively participated in the brutal annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry can ever be accepted. In Lithuania Nazi killers are glorified and their bloody pasts ignored, as if the Jewish citizens who were murdered there are of no concern to the country of citizenship. It is high time that the European Union take stringent measures against those who distort the history of the Holocaust and World War II, which is basically a new form of pernicious anti-Semitism," said Zuroff.

The case is thought to be the first in which civil servants publicly defended in court the actions and good name of an alleged collaborator with the Nazis.

In documents submitted to the court, the center claimed Noreika’s actions cannot be judged posthumously and that in any case there is no evidence to suggest he perpetrated war crimes.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish Community of Lithuania, and one of Noreika’s grandchildren, , dispute this.

Gochin, who lost many relatives in -era executions attributed to Noreika and his men, said he would appeal all the way to the European Court of Justice.

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