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“You wouldn’t buy Nazi-themed clothing, would you?” the Baltic state’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, tweeted on September 7. “We trust @Walmart’s moral stance & call to withdraw products with the symbols of mass murders.”
The hammer-and-sickle symbol is banned in Lithuania, a nation of 2.9 million that was the first republic to secede from the Soviet Union as it began to fall apart in 1990 and has since become a European Union member.
A Walmart T-shirt with a Soviet hammer-and-sickle symbol
Vilnius estimates that more than 50,000 Lithuanians died in camps, prisons, and during deportations between 1944 and 1953, while another 20,000 were killed in anti-Soviet guerrilla fighting.
Some politicians in neighboring Baltic states Estonia and Latvia, where people also suffered decades of Soviet occupation, have joined the call for the world’s biggest retailer to stop selling Soviet-themed merchandise, which appears to be trendy right now.
It is not just Lithuania that is upset that Walmart is selling Soviet-chic apparel, Latvia, and Estonia are upset about it as well.
The only thing I could say to someone from the Baltic States is that if Walmart thought they could make a buck selling clothing featuring the Totenkopf Death Head Badge with SS lightning bolts, they would. That is the question that should be put to Walmart.
Walmart did not immediately comment on the matter, but guidelines posted on its website prohibit the sale of products related to “any historical or news event” that could be considered “offensive.”
There is good reason that residents of the Baltic States wish Walmart would actually follow their own guidelines:
Lithuania was a battleground between Nazi and Soviet troops during World War II.
It was seized by Moscow in 1940 under a secret pact with Adolf Hitler. Within a decade, some 300,000 Lithuanians had been deported, mostly to Siberia, or killed in insurgent fighting.
Lithuania joined both the EU and NATO in 2004.