Extremism and bigotry are on the rise in Europe, and there have been two recent instances of this trend in Lithuania. Appallingly, the Lithuanian Government has been preparing events to honour Juozas Ambrazevičius, who led the country’s 1941 Nazi puppet government:
In a controversial move, causing anguish among Holocaust survivors, Lithuania’s Jewish community and the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, the remains of Ambrazevicius, who died almost 40 years ago in the United States, will be reinterred from Connecticut to the Church of the Resurrection in Kaunas. En route, he will be honored in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, in a ceremony slated for Thursday.
Here is an extract from a letter written by MEP Leonidas Donskis protesting against this outrage:
As a citizen and patriot of Lithuania, I raise my voice and take a stand against the obfuscation of the Holocaust and against what I take as a slap in the face to all Holocaust survivors. As a citizen and as a Lithuanian academic, I apologize to all Holocaust survivors for this shameful, unpardonable, and deeply insensitive move of my country and its political elite. This is a disgrace. J’accuse.
Meanwhile a Lithuanian MP has been making hateful and threatening statements about Lithuania’s gay community. Yesterday was International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, and at a press conference set up to mark this event Petras Grazulis, a member of the Order and Justice party, interrupted the speakers, who included LGBT rights advocates and foreign ambassadors, with this outburst:
“How are homosexuals better than necrophiliacs or paedophiles?” he exclaimed. “I’m ashamed that the rotten West, coming from the European Union that is morally corrupted, propagates this to Lithuania and tells us how we should treat homosexuals. Gays should leave Lithuania, not dictate their terms to us.”
Later he added:
“It won’t be long before kleptomaniacs, drug addicts, necrophiliacs, or zoophiles start organizing their press conferences in the Parliament. There are many kinds of devildom – shall we give rights to them all? Could we have thought 10 years ago that things like that would be happening? In 10 years, they’ll be bringing goats to the Parliament.”
Although Grazulis is clearly a particularly extreme figure, back in 2007 50% of Lithuanian MPs saw homosexuality as a perversion, and concerns have often been expressed about LGBT rights in the country.