The recent decisions of Vilnius City Municipality have fuelled a heated public debate and have demonstrated once again that historical memory is not an issue to be addressed by a single municipality, but rather a matter to be salved at the national level.
In order to truly solve the problem without polarising the social groups that have diverging opinions on the matter, Mr. Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania, invites institutions and experts to join a debate that will inform the shaping of the principles and regulations on the national memory policy. These principles and regulation, in turn, will have to be adhered to by decision-makers when making decisions on the commemoration of particular historical events.
The work of the existing International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania is very useful and necessary, yet not sufficient for finding a constructive solution to the problem, as the current situation demonstrates. It is therefore proposed to ensure that the discussion involves a greater range of institutions and experts, including historians, political scientists, and cultural heritage experts. Their productive cooperation will ensure the creation of clear guidelines for the national memory policy.
‘Pending the development of such principles, I am calling for a moratorium on erasing the historical memory. In the meantime, more focus should be put on the presentation of the historical context in order for people to be able to form their own objective opinion by assessing different points of view rather than leaving it for politicians to decide what should be commemorated and what should be erased from the national memory,’ President Nausėda said.
The Office of the President is ready to play the role of a moderator in this process by bringing together institutions, including expert groups, and facilitating forums and events on the subject.
Mayor Šimašius’ reply to the President:
Thank you for getting involved in this debate. These are sensitive issues that need to be addressed at the highest level. All the more so that the eyes not only of Lithuanian citizens, but also of the world are on Vilnius as our capital.
I fully support your suggestion to rely on the authority and experience of the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania.
What is more, I have adhered to the conclusions of the Commission.
As far back as three years ago, the Sub-Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi Occupation Regime and the Holocaust of the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania stated that it condemned the commemoration in the public sphere of persons if there was reliable historical evidence that they had participated in any way in the persecution and/or murder of Jews and other victims during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania regardless of any other activities in which they had been engaged at that time or at a later date.
Such evidence exists in the case of Jonas Noreika, i. e. he was involved in the establishment of the Jewish ghetto.
We have done what the Commission mentioned by you, Your Excellency, advised us to do. I do acknowledge that it should have been done earlier and in a more subtle manner. Nevertheless, it had to be done.
We are eager to continue our work. I have already stated that the commemoration of the Soviet associates Petras Cvirka and Valerija Valsiūnienė is inappropriate and offensive to the victims of the Soviet regime.
I am willing to come to you, Your Excellency, at the time of your convenience and review the plans for carrying out the commemoration policy in Vilnius –– the policy that would provide our children with the best examples of sons and daughters of our nation.