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Swastika: Symbol of the Sun, Not Nazi Terror?

A Lithuanian court has ruled that the swastika is a historic symbol of the sun, not a sign of Nazi terror.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 5/23/2010, 4:16 PM / Last Update: 5/23/2010, 7:34 PM

The Nazi swastika is apparently not considered illegal in the Lithuanian city of Klaipeda, despite former assumptions that the symbol was not to be displayed nationwide, a common legislative ruling in Eastern Europe.

A local court has ruled the sign is a centuries-old symbol that depicts the sun. The judge in the case, which lasted three months, justified his ruling by adding that the symbol is found on numerous historic artifacts.

The case involved four men who brandished swastikas at the city's national Independence Day parade.

“It is not a Nazi attribute, but a valuable symbol of the Baltic culture, an ancient sign of our ancestors, which had been stolen from them and treacherously used by other peoples,” said one of the witnesses for the defense quoted by RT, Russian television's English news channel.

According to the IA Regnum news agency, swastikas have been displayed at least twice before in Lithuania, both times without legal consequence – once on May Day, and the second time in front of the presidential palace in Vilna (Vilnius), the nation's capital.

Two years ago, on Lithuanian Independence Day, neo-Nazis marched down Vilna's central boulevard waving specially modified Lithuanian swastikas, and chanting “Juden raus!” (Jews out!”). This year, the slogan was “Lithuania for Lithuanians!”

Not one politician raised an eyebrow until a week later, when Norwegian Ambassador Steinar Gil pointed out that the Lithuanian parliament had protested a parade for homosexual rights, but had not objected to neo-Nazis. Lithuanian Prime Minister Adrius Kubilius replied five days later, according to Tablet Magazine, saying, “There are skinheads and neo-Nazis in every country, and they sometimes take a walk or chant something.”

Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its chief Nazi hunter, noted that “Lithuanian judges are again showing bias in favor of Holocaust perpetrators rather than victims,” and called on the Lithuanian courts to “overturn this outrageous and contemptible decision as quickly as possible.”

Local Efforts to Whitewash the Past

Lithuania has also been working to wipe out its Nazi Holocaust past.

According to the report published earlier this month in The Tablet, the Museum of Genocide Victims on Vilna's central boulevard “glosses over events at a place called Ponar in Yiddish” – 100,000 innocents were murdered mostly by local Lithuanian militiamen there. Seventy percent of the victims were Jews.

The report notes that Lithuania's Holocaust museum is “devoted entirely to Soviet crimes” and a concerted effort is being exerted to equate Soviet-sponsored warfare against the Nazis, and subsequent Soviet-sponsored warfare against others, with the Nazi genocide, in the theory known as “double genocide”. With that, Lithuanian authorities are slowly dimming the use of the words “Nazi Holocaust” in historic literature.

Perhaps the best example of how Lithuania views the Nazi atrocities is found in a recent exhibit on a famine in the Ukraine that featured a huge poster of a woman telling viewers, “In Auschwitz we were given some spinach and a little bread. War is terrible, but famine is even worse.”