VILNIUS – The Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius did not give official permission to reinstall the memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika, a controversial Lithuanian military officer known as Generolas Vetra (General Storm), onto its faēade but it could stay, the library's deputy director for science Rima Ciceniene says.
Speaking with BNS Lithuania on Friday, she confirmed that the institution did not order the plaque and did not initiate its reinstallation on Thursday, and also did not give an official permission to do so. But the library believes the plaque could stay upon coordination with all institutions and its legalization since Noreika meets all the criteria for such a memorial sign.
"Personal opinions are one thing and the institutional one is a different thing. We must preserve the memory if the state establishes that a person deserves commemoration. As yet, this person is state-decorated and rehabilitated in all cases by court," Ciceniene said.
The Department of Cultural Heritage would also not object to the memorial plaque remaining in this place. Its director Vidmantas Bezaras told BNS Lithuania the action's organizers did not receive all necessary permits as they turned to the department on the day of the action and the situation is still under review. But in general the plaque meets cultural heritage requirements and could remain following its legalization.
"We did not give the permission, looking at it officially, and the plaque was installed not in line with the legal procedure, but such a plaque could be in place in terms of cultural heritage legislation," he said.
According to Bezaras, the plaque should not be removed "if the owner submitted a request shortly" but the final decision should be made by the municipality.
Memorial plaques need permission from the Vilnius authorities. Their representatives say they did not receive any request and call the actions unlawful.
Supporters of Noreika on Thursday night reinstalled the memorial plaque removed from the facade of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius in July.
The Jewish Community of Lithuania has already expressed its regret over this action.
The controversial plaque to Noreika, which was in place for more than two decades, was removed in late July by the decision of Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius. He said he made the decision as Noreika, as head of Siauliai County during the Nazi occupation period, signed documents on the establishment of a Jewish ghetto and on arrangements regarding Jewish property.
Public discussions on this plaque have been taking place in Lithuania for many years. The plaque was placed on the facade of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in central Vilnius to honor Noreika as a prominent member of the anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania.
Based on the information from the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania, Noreika, as head of Siauliai County during the Nazi occupation period, signed documents on the establishment of a Jewish ghetto and on arrangements regarding Jewish property.
He was detained by the Gestapo in February, 1943 and spent more than two years at the concentration camp in Shuthoff. Once it was liberated, Noreika was mobilized to the red Army as a private.
Noreika was mobilized into the Soviet army, and then worked as a jurist in Vilnius, where he was an organizer of the anti-Soviet Lithuanian National Council. He was arrested by the Soviets in March, 1946, and executed on 26 February, 1947.
In 1997, Noreika was posthumously awarded a 1st degree order of the Cross of Vytis.