The February issue of Karys (“the warrior”), Lithuanian Defense Ministry’s in-house journal, features a portrait of a Nazi collaborator on the cover, namely Kazys Škirpa, the leader of the anti-Soviet Lithuanian Activist Front. The journal can be found on the official Ministry of Defense web page. The publication contains no special editorial comment on Škirpa’s contribution to the crime of the Holocaust on the Lithuanian part.
The Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) led by Škirpa was created in Berlin in the autumn of 1940 to coordinate the activity of multiple underground cells on Lithuanian territory. For the LAF, the German invasion of the Soviet Union was like a starting gun for a massive insurgency warfare, which was organized by the LAF and included the mass murder of Jewish population. Those acts of murder committed by LAF militants had started long before Einsatzkommando 3 forward units entered the country. Those crimes were large-scale, sometimes turning into a real mayhem of violence and blood. The units formed out of LAF members escorted Jews to the notorious Seventh Fort concentration camp in Kaunas; LAF’s so-called “partisans” also took part in mass shootings arranged by the Einsatzkommando. According to historians, the fact that Jews were LAF’s victims was no coincidence. Hatred towards the Jewish population was an important element of the LAF propaganda, its leaders engaged in planning the solution of the “Jewish question” in the Lithuanian republic. LAF’s Instructions on the Liberation of Lithuania, dated March 1941, read: “It is also very important to get rid of Jews. This is why we need to create a climate in the country so harsh that no Jew would even dare to think of having any rights – or even a chance to live – in the new Lithuania. Our goal is to make all Jews flee Lithuania together with the Russian Reds. The more of them disappear from the country on the occasion, the easier it would be to get rid of them all in the future.”
In the summer of 2019, the Vilnius authorities gave the Kazys Škirpa Walkway a new name, related to the national flag of Lithuania. Vilnuis mayor Remigijus Šimašius, ex-city council member Mark Adam Harold and a number of other activists made that happen, allowing many to express hope that the state-level glorification of Nazi collaborators is no longer the core of Lithuanian policy. However, the above-mentioned publication in the Ministry of Defense magazine, as well as the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania regarding the historical expert evaluation of the activity of Jonas Norejka, a Nazi collaborator, show that this kind of hope is somewhat slim so far.