Kazys Škirpa

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Kazys Škirpa

Kazys Škirpa (born February 18, 1895, Namajūnai, Kovno Governorate, Lithuania – August 18, 1979, Washington, D.C.) was a Lithuanian military officer and diplomat. He is best known as the founder of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) and his involvement in the attempt to establish Lithuanian independence in June 1941. His legacy is controversial due to LAF's anti-Semitic policies and later collaboration in the Holocaust.

Army career[edit]

During World War I he was mobilized into the Russian army and attempted to form Lithuanian detachments in Petrograd. After Lithuania declared independence in 1918, he returned and volunteered during the Lithuanian Wars of Independence. In 1920, as a member of the Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly of Lithuania. After that he decided to pursue a military education in Institute of Technology in Zurich, Higher Military School in Kaunas, and Royal Military Academy (Belgium).[1] Upon graduation in 1925, he worked as chief of the General Staff, but was forced to resign after the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état, because he was actively refusing it and was trying to gather military force to protect the Government.

Political career[edit]

Later he served as a Lithuanian representative to Germany (1927–1930), League of Nations (1937), Poland (1938), and again Germany (1938–1941). After Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in 1940, Škirpa fled to Germany and formed the anti-Semitic and anti-Polish Lithuanian Activist Front, a short-lived resistance organisation whose goal was to liberate Lithuania and re-establish its independence by working with the Nazis.[2] When Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, LAF cooperated with the Nazis and killed many Lithuanian Jews (see the Holocaust in Lithuania).[2] He was named prime minister in the Provisional Government of Lithuania; however, the Germans placed him under house arrest and did not allow him to leave for Lithuania.[3] From Berlin he moved to southern Germany and was allowed a short visit to Kaunas only in October 1943.[1] In June 1944, he was arrested for sending a memorandum to the Nazi officials asking to replace German authorities in Lithuania with a Lithuanian government. He was first imprisoned in a concentration camp in Bad Godesberg and in February 1945 moved to Jezeří Castle (de).[1]

Later life[edit]

After the war, he went to Paris and from there to Dublin, where he taught Russian language at the University of Dublin.[1] In 1949, he emigrated to the United States. He worked at the Library of Congress. In 1975 his memoir book about the 1941 independence movement was published. Originally interred in Washington, D.C., his remains were returned to Kaunas in June 1995, where he was reburied in Petrašiūnai Cemetery.[1] His re-burial was attended by then Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius.

Monuments and street names[edit]

A movement to remove street names in both Kaunas and Vilnius in honor of Skirpa was launched by British member of the Vilnius City Council Mark Adam Harold.

Skirpa was defended by Terese Birute Burauskaite of the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania (LGGRTC) [4].

A summary history was presented by Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas [5] however the Vilnius City Council declined to act.

Despite extensive foreign press [6] and a campaign led from Los Angeles by Grant Arthur Gochin [7] the street names remain in place.