Lithuanian ultra-nationalists marched near execution sites of Jews with banners celebrating a pro-Nazi collaborationist who called for ethnic cleansing and a symbol popular with members of the US alt-right movement.
Around 170 people attended Thursday’s annual march in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second city that is also known as Kovno, the Defending History website reported.
The main banner featured a picture of the collaborationist Kazys Skirpa modified to resemble Pepe the Frog — a cartoon figure which hate groups in the United States have increasingly been using during and since the 2016 presidential elections.
The banner also included a quote attributed to the Pepe-like portrait of Skirpa, an envoy of Lithuanian nationalists to Nazi Germany, which read: “Lithuania will contribute to new and better European order.”
Skirpa, who has a street named for him in Kaunas, “elevated antisemitism to a political level” that “could have encouraged a portion of Lithuania’s residents to get involved in the Holocaust,” the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania in 2015 asserted. But Skirpa “proposed to solve ‘the Jewish problem’ not by genocide but by the method of expulsion from Lithuania,” the centre said.
The procession passed near the Lietovus Garage, where in 1941 locals butchered dozens of Jews. Thousands more were killed in an around Kaunas by local collaborators of the Nazis and by German soldiers in the following months.
Lithuania is the only country in the world that officially defines its domination by the former Soviet Union as a form of genocide. The name of the state-funded entity which wrote about Skirpa in 2005 refers both to the Holocaust and to the Soviet occupation.
The Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius, which until 2011 did not mention the more than 200,000 Lithuanian Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust, was established in 1992 to memorialise Lithuanians killed by the Nazis, but mostly Soviet, states.