About 500 Lithuanians, some sporting swastikas, attended a march in the country’s 2nd city of Kaunas.
Monday’s march was the eighth such event organized by the Lithuanian Nationalist Youth Union to coincide with one of Lithuania’s two independence days on February 16. According to the Jerusalem Times, the marchers met up in a local park, where around 20 counter protesters from the local Jews and anti-fascist groups also turned up to follow them in a silent counter-demonstration.
Although overt NS-iconography was only used by a select few, other symbols, including the Columns of Gediminas, which leftists charge have become "a symbol of the country’s neo-Nazis", were readily on display. Many also carried flags depicting a variation of a triskeilon or triskele, a pagan symbol consisting of three interlocked spirals.
The marchers, some of them dressed up in variations of medieval garb, banged drums along the route while others let off green smoke flares.
“This march is particularly offensive because it is taking place where locals and Nazis murdered more than 10,000 Jews in one day,” Dovid Katz, a US-born Jewish scholar who moved to the capital Vilnius 16 years ago told the daily.
A letter from the Kaunas Mayor’s Office to Katz, which gave the group a license for the event, says overt displays of NS symbols, leaders, or uniforms is illegal under Lithuania’s Law on Meetings. The office said that march organizers would face the appropriate criminal or administrative punishments if these or any other laws had been violated during the march.
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February 16 is the anniversary of the declaration of Lithuanian independence in 1918, when the republic was first created after the First World War.
According to Katz, many in Lithuania and other Baltic states consider Hitler’s local followers to be heroes for resisting the Soviet occupation. This has led to a climate where he says “the state allows neo-Nazis to dominate both independence days.”