Lithuanian town plans to name street after priest who organized gang that murdered Jews
Naming flap exposes issues with dealing with Holocaust memory.
Jewish organizations and Holocaust historians have long complained that many countries of the former Soviet Union have failed to come to terms with the complicity of many of their leading nationalist figures.
Nowhere does this hold more true than Lithuania, which has been a frequent target of Jewish outrage since the fall of Communism.
In the latest scrap over historical memory, the small town of Moletai has come under fire for its announcement that it intends to name a street after Jonas Zvinys, a local priest accused of organizing a gang that murdered the city’s Jews in 1941.
Lithuanian writer Ruta Vanagaite launched an investigation into Zvinys at the behest of Simon Wiesenthal Center Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff, with whom she recently co-authored a book on Lithuanians and the Holocaust.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post from Vilnius on Thursday, Vanagaite said that after searching through KGB archives she discovered that the priest indeed set up the gang in question, one of whose leaders was his own brother, who would later confess to his role in the massacre.
At Vanagaite’s urging, local news portal delfi.it investigated the matter as well, discovering that Zvinys had been awarded a colonelcy in 2002 by the office of the president at the behest of the country’s state-sponsored Study of the Genocide and Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania.
Delfi asked the center about Zvinys and was referred to the president’s office and the Moletai municipality, with the local mayor, who is related
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