Swastika – historical heritage of Lithuania
Swastika – a symbol of criminals and Nazis? Not at all, but anyone who feels the strength of this symbol wants to appropriate it (…) Hitler was not an exception. (…) The Lithuanian cemeteries on which there have been swastikas found date back to the 13th century. This is why we can say it to the whole world with all certainty that it is a symbol of our ancestors, Lithuanians, it is our history and our memory. And the fact that it has been used for criminal purposes, does not change anything. One can steal something and commit any criminal offence using the stolen object. Only those who have committed an offence will look for the guilty, no one but them,” reads one of the statements that can be found on the website of the Sarmatia group (http://www.sarmatas.lt/02/svastika-musu-proteviu-lietuviu-simbolis/).
The Court of Klaipėda is of the same opinion, and on the 25 January 2012, it ruled that promotion of swastika is neither prohibited nor punishable. The court justified the ruling stating that the symbol on the posters used on 16 February, 2010, during the Lithuanian Independence Day parade, ‘cannot be considered as the Nazi Germany’s symbol, even though it resembles it visually.’ According to the Court, the posters showed the symbol engraved on a 13th century ring, that was found during excavations in Kernavė, Lithuania.
During the trail, Milvydas Juškauskas, a social activist, stated that presentation of a symbol resembling swastika introduces Lithuanian history to the society. In his opinion, stereotypes need to be challenged and swastika should not be associated with the Nazi Germany, but, on contrary, with Lithuania, since it is a part of Lithuania’s heritage.
Henryk Mickiewicz, the head of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, disagrees with this opinion. He reminded that ‘swastika symbolizes an undemocratic state, the fascist ideas and a system in which human rights were violated.
European Foundation of Human Rights, has repeatedly warned that Lithuanian authorities should not turn a blind eye to the increasing nationalistic moods within the society. This, they claim, may lead to words and ideas being put into actions, as it was witnessed in the history. We ask the authorities to take appropriate steps so as to prevent this. Using symbols like swastika, that are particularly strongly associated with genocide, together with declarations against all the other nationalities, cannot be recognized as an element national interest.
The Klaipėda Court’s spokesperson, Eglė Baužienė, informed that no appeal in this case has been filed.
European Foundation of Human Rights
Tłumaczenie Eliza Łuszczewska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu Translated by Eliza Łuszczewska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu