Sister can mean more than just siblings. Cities can “sister.” A sister city relationship is a formalized relationship between two cities to promote cultural and commercial ties. These are normally relationships of mutual respect and similar values. However, sometimes cities can make huge errors through uninformed choices.
Pittsburg, USA publicly floated the idea of partnering with Kaunas in Lithuania. That is, until they discovered Kaunas’s comprehensive program of honoring Holocaust perpetrators. Somehow, Kaunas city officials just “forgot” to mention these “minor” details while selling the concept of becoming “sisters”.
Since Pittsburgh discovered the truth, we have heard no more about their proposal. Pittsburgh was saved from very damaging reputational damage.
So too, Kaunas sold a relationship to Brescia, Italy. I am certain that no city in Italy finds a systemic program of glorifying Holocaust perpetrators tolerable. Undoubtedly, this information was deliberately hidden from Brescia.
Four of Kaunas’s celebrated heroes are Juozas Ambrazevičius Brazaitis, Antanas Baltusis Zvejas, Jonas Noreika and Kazys Skirpa. Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Nazi Hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center describes these Lithuanian national heroes in this letter:
Kaunas also has sister city relationships with Bialystok in Poland, Brno in Czech Republic, Cava de’ Tirreni in Italy, Grenoble in France, Kharkiv in Ukraine and Linkoping in Sweden. Do these cities know what they have as a partner? It is certain none of these cities were informed of the honors, street names and monuments Kaunas bestows on Holocaust perpetrators.
Upon discovering Lithuania’s program of glorifying Holocaust perpetrators, my own city of Los Angeles passed a city resolution condemning Lithuania’s Holocaust revisionism. Neighboring cities of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood passed similar resolutions. Los Angeles also has a Sister City relationship with Kaunas which is currently under review.
When Lithuania solicits these image building relationships, I am certain they also do not mention the City Resolutions condemning their Holocaust glorification programs.
Lithuania is on an international charm campaign. They just negotiated a Sister City relationship between Herzilia and Anykščiai in Lithuania. Anykščiai has a population of 10,500 people and a Holocaust history which is not widely known. Did Lithuanian Ambassador Antanavičienė address the facts of the Holocaust in Anykščiai, or were these somehow neglected?
Perhaps Mayors and city councils around the world should perform deeper due diligence before associating their own image with Lithuanian “sisters’, and save themselves causing reputational damage to themselves?
A documentary currently in release, J’Accuse! dissects Lithuania’s Holocaust deception program. International partners should educate themselves before accepting any representations from Lithuania at face value.