The following is an English translation by Geoff Vasil of a book review by Valentinas Brandišauskas of Algimantas Liekis’s Lietuvos laikinoji vyriausybė (1941 06 22–08 05) that appeared in the Lithuanian publication Genocidas ir Rezistencija No. 8, 2000, and is posted online.
Review: A Doubtful Selection of “Frontists,” or, about One More in a Series of A. Liekis’s “Monographs”: Lietuvos laikinoji vyriausybë (1941 06 22–08 05) [Provisional Government of Lithuania, June 22—August 5, 1941], Vilnius, 2000, 428 pp.
The negative predictions have been fulfilled, unfortunately, even beyond expectations. That’s what can be said about a news item that appeared in the Lithuanian exile community’s monthly Akiračiai regarding preparations by Lithuanian historian Algimatas Liekis, who did some work at the Lithuanian Studies Research and Studies Center in Chicago, to write a book about the June Uprising of 1941 and the Provisional Government (PG). Recalling the historian’s past (“during the Soviet era […] he was the komsorg [Communist Youth Party minder] in the Soviet navy, Party secretary of the History Institute of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic…”) and doubting his reputation as an academic, it was said that “Frontist successors” to the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) had invited Liekis
“to write a book that would help the Lithuanian parliament push through the legislation needed to ‘legalize’ the Provisional Government and to proclaim the day of the uprising a national holiday.”
Based on an interview Liekis gave to the newspaper Draugas, Liekis has also been criticized for his conclusions regarding the activity of LAF and his superficial take on the Jewish tragedy. While it might have appeared politically partisan to stress Liekis’s past, and, before this book was even published, too early for adopting a skeptical attitude, now the book has reached readers, and the premonitions have turned out to be more than well-founded.
So let us begin with the presentation of the “monograph” (that’s what the author calls his book). Those who are impressed by the quality of publication won’t be disappointed: the book is a large volume and was done nicely. There is a significant and large biography of the author at the end, including impressive academic achievements: “he has published in total more than 650 articles in the Lithuanian and foreign press and has written 18 books on science, the evolution of technology and the Lithuanian struggle against occupiers.” There is a fine group of editors and known reviewers (although aviation veteran Viktoras Asmenskas is probably not well known to historians, but, on the other hand, non-historians probably won’t be able to distinguish the board of editors from the reviewers).
So then, everything would be fine, if not for one detail; the text — spanning almost 400 pages, was written interestingly, pertinently and professionally. Unfortunately, it’s not as irreproachable as one might wish, and so we will speak mostly about the arrangement of material, major flaws in the text and the need to follow work done by colleagues, about the elementary requirements for academic publication and elementary ethics for the historian, and last we will speak, unfortunately, about professionalism.
Initially in any monograph, there must be a comprehensive historiographical analysis. This holds even more true in this case, because sufficiently much has been written and is still being written, especially in the immigrant community, about the June Uprising and the Provisional Government. The introduction also should analyze the major problems, controversial questions, the diversity of interpretations and the reason for these. Unfortunately, we find none of that. Liekis provides only a few stereotypical evaluations, common enough in the Soviet era, and mentions a few names and works from the last decade, and a few articles by Friends of the Lithuanian Front. This might be enough for a bibliographic informational publication, if the text were corrected and expanded, but one expects to see analysis in a “monograph.” And it may be of different kinds: thematic, chronological, even ideological.
The archival material used in the work wasn’t discussed, either. The only attribution is that the author made use of the archives of the Lithuanian Central State Archive and the Lithuanian Archive of Public Organizations, although, to tell the truth, there were errors (archive collections are named in the footnotes which don’t exist). It would have been very interesting for Lithuanian readers to have more information about the American Lithuanian Cultural Archive (ALKA) and the documents it houses, and the materials collected at the LTSC. It’s not clear from the prologue to the book how much the author took from archives (and from which archives), and how much he took from the many memories of Lithuanian immigrants. The author tried to comment on these issues after the book was published. He answered a question from Gediminas Zemlickas, the senior editor of Mokslo Lietuva [Lithuania of Science] by noting that “the main archival material (was) collected and put in order in Lithuania at the Central State Archive,” and that the memories of witnesses was not his main source of information. He didn’t respond to the question on how much the memory of former PG members could be relied upon, because “human memory fades.”
Liekis formulates questions in the prologue whose answers readers are supposed to be able to find in the book. This would be natural if the author approached these questions consistently, but at times Liekis already knows the answer he wants beforehand. For example, one question is formulated like this: “To what extent was LAF a popular organization, to what extent did it express the aspirations of the Lithuanian nation?” (p. 8). This would be understandable if there was some conclusion made about the popularity of the Soviet underground in 1940-1941 or its system of values. But the author already knows the answer. A careful reader will not let slip unnoticed the assertion at the beginning of the prologue that the LAF “combined almost all Lithuanian underground organizations and extended across the entire country” (p. 4). In other words, why bother with evidence? And if it turns out that the facts don’t coincide with the truth (and through more serious analysis we’ll see that they do not), then, one must conclude, so much the worse for the facts. Have older readers not heard this before?! I think so. Only then it was called the party or class viewpoint, but now the number of words for it has expanded: political hit-piece, [willful] ignorance of elementary logic, lack of analytic thought and (or) etc.
There are more assertions at the beginning of the prologue which would fit more as conclusions following an analysis of the activities of the LAF or the PG. But, it seems, preconceived conclusions inform the text, rather than analysis leading to conclusions. It’s unclear how one is to understand the assertion that the insurgents planned to reestablish “the democratic state of Lithuanian” (p. 4). What does the assertion mean that the PG was formed “by common agreement of the insurgents” (ibid.)? It would be interesting to hear how a specialist in international law might comment on the thought that after the war began, the Germans invaded “the independent state of Lithuania” (ibid.). The ideas that the Soviet Union condemned the uprising and the PG, and that the Germans “forbade Lithuanians to take an interest in Jewish affairs” (p. 5) are interesting as well. Such assertions have to be demonstrated, but sadly…
The assertion that
“Lithuanians and the Catholic Church could do little to help them (Jews – V. B.), just as, when a year prior during the deportations of Lithuanians, the Jews and rabbis didn’t help, nor did the Orthodox or Protestant clerics…” (p. 5)
smells like immoral illogic. Without seriously analyzing this claim, we can ask jokingly: Is this a novel idea in our historiography about the ideational leadership by rabbis of Josef Stalin, or just the same old, slightly paraphrased, theory about the global Jewish Communist conspiracy?
I can’t agree with Liekis either when he goes from events of 60 years ago to today’s current events, saying “[…] the insurgents are incomparable [not equal, not comparable] to other Lithuanian independence fighters” (p. 8). That is not the case, and laws adopted show that it is not. According to the law On the Legal Status of Members of the Resistance to the Occupations of 1940-1990 adopted on January 23, 1997, the June Uprising insurgents are named as volunteer soldiers and equal [in status] to soldiers in the Local Command and Homeland Security forces as well as post-war partisans. So wouldn’t it be more accurate to formulate the question in another way: can we equate the partisans of June, 1941, who operated for a week or so then, who did not take part in any military operations, to post-war partisans who lived, fought and died beyond the law for solid months and often years?
Let’s turn from the prologue to the various chapters and the arrangement of material, and let’s start with some purely formal observations. The major thing we perhaps first notice is the use of older texts, and facts and assertions at odds with reality. For example, the discussion on participation in the election of the People’s Parliament in the summer of 1940 is based on former parliament member and chairman of the Siauliai election commission Pranas Mickus’s memoirs, published back in 1942. He said 30-50 percent of voters voted in the parliamentary elections and that just 16-18 percent of ballots were found valid (pp. 16-17, 20). But the newest research doesn’t confirm this. Liudas Truska researched the political situation in the summer of 1940 and concluded that a majority (around 85%) took part in the parliamentary elections, of whom about 55% voted for candidates from the Lithuanian Union of Proletarians.
In writing about the Lithuanian National Committee (LTK), I don’t think it’s sufficient to use Kazys Skirpa’s book about the June Uprising and Kazys Ambrozaitis’s article exclusively (p. 44). Liekis should know about the surviving, published protocol of a meeting of Lithuanian diplomats in Rome in September of 1940, and the newest studies done using valuable material from the personal archive of Stasys Antanas Backis [a deceased Lithuanian diplomat from the wartime era, ambassador in exile after the Soviet occupation].
In his attempt to demonstrate an important Jewish role in the Sovietization of Lithuania and active [Jewish] participation in Soviet organs of repression, Liekis mainly relies upon Juozas Prunskis’s article “Lithuanian Jews and the Holocaust” (p. 271). But the author must know that Professor Prunskis couldn’t access Lithuanian archives two decades ago when he wrote the article, so it’s not surprising that, based on the literature available to him, and first and foremost the “archive of Lithuanians,” he came up with the picture of a Jewish Soviet administration. Today this question has been researched sufficiently deeply, the best in works by Nijole Maslauskiene and L. Truska. I would like to remind colleagues that these studies show that Jews in the Lithuanian Communist Party and in Soviet repressive organs played different roles at different times. Although [that role] was fairly important at different moments (compared with the percentage of the Lithuanian population they comprised), it wasn’t Jews who caused the occupation and annexation of Lithuania, and later the Sovietization and deportations on the eve of war.
Neither is it accurate to use numbers provided by Adolfas Damusis in discussing losses of Lithuanian population in the initial years of Soviet occupation and annexation (p. 34). It’s unlikely one could find any current academic literature today that claims 35,000 Lithuanians were deported in June, 1941 (p. 274). Is Liekis dissatisfied with the figures Eugenijus Grunskis published in his dissertation? According to Grunskis, until June 19, 1941, a total figure of 17,000 people in all parts of Lithuania had been arrested and deported (this figure does not essentially contradict information presented by the Center for the Study of Repression in Lithuania or that of the Lithuanian Bureau for Information on Mutual Aid). And most likely no one can confirm the following figure: “the most important perpetrators of the genocide of the Lithuanian nation and state were the almost 200,000-strong Soviet occupation army…” (p. 390) (by the way, the author must have forgotten that earlier he wrote about the same army as 300,000 troops, p. 271); or that during the first years of the Soviet occupation more than 100,000 Lithuanians were “murdered, deported and sent to prison” (p. 390). Arvydas Anusauskas found that the army was smaller by a quarter and that victims of “Soviet genocide and terror” in 1940-1941 (including those arrested and imprisoned as well as those sent to camps and deported or killed at the beginning of the war) comprised just over 31,000 people in Lithuania.
The reader will find figures in the documents, memoirs and newspapers quoted demonstrating the popularity of the anti-Soviet underground in 1940-1941, and on losses in the first days of war: the activists front was made up of 36,000 soldiers (p. 305); the June Uprising, which resulted in more than 2,000 dead and wounded (p. 353), [in which] about 100,000 people took part (pg. 305). But in the texts [Liekis] copied we find other statistics as well: the number of insurgents is given as 120-130,000 (p. 353) and victims of the uprising as 4,000 (p. 305). It’s the author’s right to believe one or another set of unfounded numbers, but since they vary, it would be interesting to know which ones the author agrees with more, and why. His position on the popularity of the uprising is best revealed in an interview he gave after the book was published. He said calculating the number of insurgents in the June Uprising is that same thing as trying to say how many people took part in Sajudis [Soviet-era Lithuanian independence movement] over a decade ago. But he continues to attempt specificity: “the entire Union of Shooters,” and a large portion of officers and students, took part in the uprising.
It’s not clear where the author gets most of his false figures when speaking of rescuers of Jews. For example, in naming several Lithuanians shot for hiding Jews, he concludes that there were “hundreds” of such unfortunates (p. 274). If Liekis had looked at material in the Jewish Museum, he would’ve known that there were about 50 (and not all of them Lithuanians) who were shot for hiding Jews, and that the number of those who suffered, i.e., arrested, imprisoned and so on, was much greater. There is a lack of precision in the discussion of rescuers of Jews. It’s claimed that the priest Bronius Paukstys “rescued about 120 Jewish children hidden in the vicarage, church or among acquaintances” (p. 275), which isn’t true either, the number of Jews was 25. Clearly, by hiding 25 Jews Paukstys wasn’t risking anything less, but that’s a different matter. We’re talking about historical fact and the lack thereof. Liekis claims some intellectuals rescued “very many” [Jews] (Kipras Petrauskas, Vytautas Landsbergis-Zemkalnis) while others only rescued “many” (Kazys Grinius and others, p. 274). But documents show that the first two rescued one apiece, while former president Grinius rescued 2 Jews. We could cite more such inaccuracies, although they do not, as I noted already, detract from the sacrifice made by the rescuers. Unfortunately, that can’t be said about confidence in this book.
The “Jewish” issues in the book raise perhaps the most questions.
Let’s start with the “Resolutions on the Situation of Jews.” There has been much argument as to whether they were adopted by the Provisional Government or are counterfeit. Liekis says:
“This suspect document has been quoted constantly by people with an ax to grind against Lithuanians and independent Lithuania, especially by Jewish chauvinists and nationalists, and KGB [agents]. [It has been] published in all the languages of the world, as if it were a real document” (p. 232).
Liekis correctly notes the protocols of the sittings of the provisional government (PG), which “could also serve to establish the veracity of laws, resolutions and accompanying acts and their initiators,” haven’t survived (p. 212). But that doesn’t stop him from holding some PG acts as authentic while doubting the veracity of others. The author says doubts on the authenticity of the “resolutions on the situation of Jews” are raised because this document is allegedly “without any signatures and differs greatly from the other documents in typeface as well as composition, and most of all in essence it is different from other Government documents and the pragmatic behavior [of the Government] [PG] (pp. 231-232); that it was adopted on August 1, 1941, i.e., at the end of activity by the PG; and that former members of the government and organizers of the uprising denied to the author that the document existed (p. 236). Later, after his book was published, Liekis said in an interview that the signatures of the head of the PG Juozas Ambrazevicius and interior minister Jonas Slepetis were not present on the “Resolutions.” But in answer to a question on whether he had seen other documents by the same PG where there were several copies, some of which had signatures of members of the PG and others not, Liekis didn’t answer, and wiggled out of the question by saying there were “very few of these documents,” and began talking about the lost protocols of PG meetings. Still later he summed it up: “Categorically, I neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of this document.”
Liekis isn’t the first to doubt the provenance and authenticity of the Resolutions and his arguments are not new. They have been voiced in articles and memoirs in the exile community many times. One can only say that the final PG acts are dated August 4, i.e., the PG was operating on August 1 and hadn’t abdicated its right to legislate. On the other hand, a resolution to radically solve “the Jewish problem” did not contradict the ideological stances of the PG either (I’m thinking about the denationalization laws that limited the civil rights of Jews, i.e., Jews were not supposed to get back farms, houses and land nationalized during the Soviet government; the PG forbade by decree their right to engage in trade, etc.). The lack of signatures under the Resolutions is not a real argument either. After all, many researchers, including Liekis, rely on a publication published under the German civilian government called “Laws, Resolutions and Decrees of the Provisional Government of Lithuania (June 23, 1941-August 5, 1941)” and cite the denationalization laws therein without doubting their authenticity. But these also lack signatures. Here we’ll find the names of PG chairman Ambrazavicius and another official, most often the head of office affairs, J. Svelnikas, more rarely meeting secretary Juozas Sakalauskas. The names of members of government are found on only one or a few acts, i.e., on laws or resolutions touching upon their individual sphere: industry minister Adolfas Damusis on the Law on the Denationalization of People of Industry, transport minister Antanas Novickis on the Law on Denationalization of Lithuanian Marine and River Merchant Fleets, and so on. So it’s not surprising that we find the names of Ambrazevicius and interior minister Slepetis (without signatures), and not the names of oft-mentioned J. Svelnikas or some other official, on the Resolutions on the Situation of Jews.
One can agree that the massacre of Jews at Lietukis hasn’t been researched fully. There’s dispute over many things: the number of victims, their political and professional affiliation, even the date. But the claim that
“the main killer, a blond man with a metal crowbar in his hands (who murdered 45-50 Jews), is SS obersturtfuhrer Joachim Hamann” (p. 254)
is unbelievable and rather “original.” Although Liekis bases this on another author, his quotation without commentary is equivalent to agreement with him. Without going into different historiographical interpretations of the event, we will just say that Hamann arrived in Kaunas June 29th, i.e., after the events at the garage were over. Furthermore, if we are to believe one photo, Hamann wasn’t blond and was somewhat older than the young man whom we see in the well-known Lietukis garage photo. Writing about this tragic event, Liekis bases it incorrectly on a publication by Alvydas Dargis (and Dargis isn’t credited in the footnotes) printed in the newspaper Lietuvos Rytas. He writes that “many witnesses claimed there wasn’t a single ‘white-armbander’ among the killers'” (p. 254). But it was only witness to the event Henrikas Zemelis who said that among perhaps ten civilians who beat a group of about 30 Jews with iron crowbars, he “hadn’t seen a single [person] with a white armband.” The other witnesses didn’t speak about this detail.
One gets the impression the author has drawn a direct connection between the number of Jews in different countries and their ability to get along with the majority populations in those countries (p. 270). By this logic, it was best for Jews to live in Poland, where there 3 million, and worst in Estonia, because there were only about 4,000 Jews here. But it’s well known that Poland wasn’t noted for its tolerance of Jews before WWII.
Writing about the position of Catholic clerics regarding Jews, Liekis uses an article published more than 20 years ago by bishop Vincentas Brizgys (pp. 275-278). There’s a lot mentioned here: a letter by the bishop where he allegedly “reminds Lithuanians not to spill innocent blood, not to interfere with the fate of innocent people, not to make designs on the wealth of Jews who have been arrested”; a memorandum reminding the German authorities that “Jews are Lithuanian citizens, so that under international law the laws of the country remain in force [during] occupation, and he protested against the establishment of any sort of ghetto for Lithuanian Jews”; a conference of bishops in October, 1941, whose “first order of business was consideration of helping Jews” (p. 277). On the first two documents—the bishop’s letter and the memorandum—one would like to ask (the author has no doubts as to their existence and thus their contents), where can one find and study them? A bit of acquaintance with Lithuanian archives and intuition tells me I won’t receive an answer to this question. About the conference, one can only say briefly that Brizgyz there spoke “about his conversation (Oct 8th —V.B.) of the Jewish question with first general referent Kubiliunas, from whom it became clear that the Germans had reserved the Jewish questions for themselves exclusively to solve.” One would like to tell Liekis to do some work in the archives or at least become acquainted with the newest research in this area.
If the author wanted to make some kind of general conclusions about the political affiliation or ideological stance of Lithuanians who took part in the Holocaust in 1940 and 1941, he should have considered not ten, but probably several hundred criminal cases preserved at the Lithuanian Special Archive. Using facts provided by Albinas Graziunas (p. 279) is rather brave, since he doesn’t mention any sources for the information [he] provides.
The claim that the entire Lithuanian nation is being blamed for the death of Jews (p 293) needs to be based on newer sources. Not having found any, Liekis presents a resolution adopted by a congress of the Union of Lithuanian Jews in Munich back in 1947 (pp 294-295). A number published in a magazine published in Israel called “Lithuania: Crime and Punishment,” that allegedly “more than 23,000 Lithuanians took part in the massacres of Jews” (p. 297) is exaggerated, but, on the other hand, even if it were true, that’s not “the entire Lithuanian nation,” but only around one percent of the entire nation.
It’s not clear upon what the author based his statement that “during the entire Soviet era, the KGB could only count about 800 Lithuanians who had in some measure contributed, often through compulsion, to the genocide of the Jews, although for many of them even they [KGB] couldn’t find the required evidence (even those who were forced by the Germans to transport Jews and do similar things were put in the category of ‘Jew-shooter’)” (pp. 295, 397). If one wants to name even an approximate number and to determine the “degree” of contribution to the Holocaust, one must study more than one hundred criminal cases preserved by the Lithuanian Special Archive. And just in this archive alone, the number of cases of “people who collaborated with the Nazi occupational regime (civilian authorities, police, self-defense battalion soldiers and etc.)” is around 1,900. I wonder, how many of these did Liekis look at?
“The archive of the Rescuers’ Department of the Vilna Gaon Jewish Museum in Vilnius has collected data on almost 2,500 Lithuanian families who saved Jews,” Liekis claims (pp. 295-296). Now let’s look at what that museum’s and department’s employee Viktorija Sakaite wrote, having collected material for many years about people who rescued Jews: “… a list of names of [just] more than 2,300 families (and not just Lithuanians as Liekis claims – V. B.) who rescued Jews on Lithuanian territory;” “also a names-list of about 3,000 surnames and names of those who were rescued has been compiled…”
It’s not permissible for an historian to publish the text of a parody of the Lithuanian national anthem from 1942 without commentary. We can understand (but not justify) when politicians act like this. But an historian, as Saulius Suziedelis has correctly pointed out, must delve into the historical context and exchange emotions for intelligent language. This has been done already, but Liekis either didn’t notice or didn’t want to notice.
Some further assertions connected with the Holocaust sounded unconvincing and declarative, e.g., “many Lithuanians were discouraged from denationalization because the Germans wouldn’t allow returns to Jews” (p. 237). Or:
“It’s noteworthy that the accusations of genocide made by foreign Jews, mainly those living in the USA, changed according to USSR, Communist Party Central Committee and KGB policy” (p. 294).
It’s also unclear why Liekis, in writing about “bank and credit affairs” (pp. 218-219) failed to even mention the July 5 resolution of the PG on renewal of operations by the Bank of Lithuania, and on the PG’s appeal to the German military authority for restoring the Lithuanian currency, the litas. Vladas Terleckas, who studied the history of the Bank of Lithuania and its activities, stressed that “the aforementioned government resolution and appeal on renewal of the circulation of the litas has a principled significance as confirmation of specific goals and deeds for restoring and fortifying statehood and to have fully-fledged bank of issue and a national monetary system.” I would go so far as to say in this case the author truly hasn’t acquainted himself with the newest literature. And here’s why: in writing in the style Liekis does, he can “fail to notice” “anti-statist” or liberally thinking and critical authors, but in this case it is the patriotic feeling and national thinking of the PG that is emphasized.
Sadly, one can summarize what’s been written while mourning the fact that the newest literature and newest studies have been traded in for articles and memoirs several decades old, mainly by friends of the Lithuanian [Activist] Front. It’s a good thing that they are so abundant, after all, memoirs are also sources. I just think they should have been discussed more in the introduction, in the historiography section. The author didn’t think so: he barely made mention of them in the introduction, and rather put them in the [main body] text, and thus made them into a keystone of his work. The scenario of events for 1940-1941 provided in those articles and memoirs and even their judgments coincide with the “general line” of Liekis’s book. Again, old, oft-mentioned events were dredged up and presented as novel, events for which it is difficult to find any documents confirming their existence in the Lithuanian archives. I’m thinking about old assertions that a meeting of leading Vilnius and Kaunas activists occurred on October 9, 1940 (p. 39), that at the beginning of April in 1941 a union of the LAF and the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters (LLKS) took place and a joint center for preparing for the uprising was established (p. 92), that the broadcast of the songs “The little sun is red, evening is not far off…”, “Mama sent me…” “Turtle-dove the blue…” by radiophone was the signal for the uprising to begin (p. 124), that the PG was formed back in April of 1941 (p. 156) and so on.
We can pose the question in this way: why are memoirs which witness to the historic nature and large scale of the uprising used exclusively, while those which doubt these attributes do not come into Liekis’s range of vision? For example, on page 125, based on Damusis’s article (although we don’t find a reference to this article), Liekis asserts that the insurgents found “about 2,500 (25,000 in Damusis’s text – V. B.) automatic weapons, many pistols, grenades and tracer guns” at the Parade Square (Damusis’s text says “Parade Pavillion”) in Kaunas. But there are other testimonies that claim the partisans “pilfered a small warehouse of Bolshevik weapons at the parade square…” Here there is no mention of thousands of weapons.
There are further formal observations. The authors names the people comprising the LAF commissions based on K. Skirpa’s book “Sukilimas Lietuvos suverenumui atstatyti” [Uprising for Restoring Lithuanian Sovereignty], although this isn’t shown in the footnotes. Liekis should know that memoirs and arrest documents of captured activists sometimes show different compositions for the LAF council and its headquarters. Of course the author can use whatever sources he wants, but it would be interesting to know the reasons behind his selection. For instance, why he doesn’t use Zenonas Ivinskis, Algirdas Budreckis or others?
It’s not clear on what the author based his statement that the LAF ceased operating on September 22 (p. 326). I correct the date: the organization’s activities were halted and its assets confiscated by a commissar general’s order of September 26. Liekis becomes confused writing about the Lithuanian Nationalist Party (LNP) as well, he thinks it was established on December 29, 1938 (ibid.). This needs to be corrected: the date mentioned was when the Lithuanian Activists Union was established. Although there were people among the initiators who went on to become LNP leaders, it is better to call organizations by their proper names.
Liekis can be accused of plagiarism as well, although this accusation is stronger regarding his earlier 1996 book, the two-volume “LKP agresijos kronika” [Chronicle of Lithuanian Communist Party Aggression]. Since this work went uncommented upon by historians at the time, and because this work, four years old and essentially a compilation, is presented in the current “monograph” as the fruit of the author’s exemplary archival labors, I will endeavor to give firm basis to my accusation and to reveal some of Liekis’s working principles regarding archival documents. Let’s begin at the beginning. During the war, based on data from a “Questionnaire on people who died in the war or from Bolshevik terror,” and reports from chiefs of local police departments, lists of victims of the retreating Red Army and local Communists were compiled, indicating known vital statistics of those who died and the circumstances of their deaths. In District 21 (including Kaunas) there were 1,027 victims of terror registered. The summarized material, called “Revenge of the Fleeing” (the title in the archive file is “’Red Terror’ in Lithuania”) can be found in the Central State Archive and also at the Names Department of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents. Meanwhile, Liekis attempts to portray the data on those killed as his own fastidious work after performing research in the Lithuanian archives. He writes: “… the author of these lines (Liekis – V. B.) managed to collect data on more than 1,100 such people killed” (pg 153). The thing is, no collection was necessary because everything had already been collected. All he needed to do was publish the lists as documentary testimony, rather than as his own work. In this case Liekis simply copied material found in the archive (and, it seems, not just there) and published it under his own name.
We can find copying, not verbatim but intellectual copying, without footnote, reference or credit, in other places. For example, the author writes: “… its (Lithuanian National Committee’s – V. B.) members lived in different countries: E. Galvanauskas and K. Skipra in Germany, S. Lozoraitis in Italy, E. Turauskas in Switzerland and so on. Further, they were of different political persuasions: K. Skipra was pro-German, S. Lozoraitis and E. Turauskas were pro-English and etc.” (p. 49). We should compare that fragment with one fragment from my book [Valentinas Brandisauskas wrote a book about the June Uprising before Liekis’s work discussed here was published -GV]. Liekis’s only innovation is to include the “and so on” and “etc.” But even these are in principle impermissible because the Lithuanian National Committee was composed exclusively of the four people mentioned. There can be no “and etc.” because Ernestas Galvanauskas clearly did not demonstrate any pro-American, pro-Japanese or any other kind of “pro-” position.
There are many assertions demanding demonstration, but we find none. For example, what does the statement mean that K. Skipra had obtained “the authorization of the Lithuanian underground” (p. 8)? It is asserted that education advisor Pranas Germantas “accomplished much in preserving occupied Lithuania, especially her education and science” (p. 329) but whatever he did remains a well-kept secret. There is the assertion “a freely elected government after the war was to decide on the final system of government for the country” (p. 84). It’s an interesting thought, but the reader needs to be convinced by arguments. What is this conclusion based on? On which LAF “political program [political platform]” documents is the assertion based that the activists had planned for a system of governance for Lithuania, i.e., that “Lithuania will become democratic” (p. 391)? Liekis writes: “The ranks of the uprising in Kaunas were mostly filled by [university] students, gymnasium students, [public] servants and less by laborers. But in general 20-year-old youths dominated” (p. 128). In which part of this book do we find an analysis of the ages and social situations of the insurgents? There is none.
It’s not known what basis the author has for asserting that insurgents “laid down” weapons on June 27, or that that same day “the Germans announced the Lithuanian military no longer exists” (p. 164, 208). We will note that the insurgents in Kaunas had until June 28 to lay down their weapons, while in the countryside the disarming of the partisans took place at different rates in different places, and took longer than one week. It is a very interesting idea that the Provisional Government “not wanting to provide them (the German military – V. B.) a pretext for arresting or dissolving [the PG], gave tribute to the ideology pushed by the Nazis in certain of their laws and resolutions” (p. 200). The author claims that after Germany occupied Lithuania protests were made to the governments of Great Britain and Argentina (p. 328). But Liekis doesn’t indicate who made them or when. We also find a completely new date for the establishment of the Lithuanian Liberation Army, a whole year earlier, on December 26, 1940 (p. 329).
There are a number of declarative statements in the book:
“The entire nation created the LAF…” (p. 58); “LAF’s outlines for a political, economic, social, cultural and education program were understood by all Lithuanian people and awakened hope that life would be free, creative and happy in liberated independent Lithuania” (p. 123); “the majority of the Lithuanian nation…” took part in the uprising (p. 120); Lithuania’s “form of government had to satisfy the vital needs of the nation who created the state, the Lithuanians” (ibid.); “Laws and resolutions adopted by the Provisional Government would have facilitated the restoration of the independent, highly-cultured welfare [?] state” (p. 231) etc.
Several observations need to be voiced as well about a separate section called “Biographical Information on Certain June Uprising and Provisional Government Members” (these “data” are provided in separate text-boxes from page 59 to page 221). Liekis presents information on 39 people, most of them members of the PG and the Vilnius Activists headquarters [general staff]. Criteria for selecting names are not clear. For example, why isn’t a biography provided for one of the Berlin LAF leaders who was nominated for the post of foreign minister, Rapolas Skipitis? Why don’t we find the name of Kazimieras Palciauskas, member of the former National Defense Council and Kaunas city burgermeister [mayor] (there are biographies for the other four members of this council)? Only one PG vice-minsiter’s name appears—Pranas Padalis—and of the Vilnius municipal and regional citizens’ committee members, we only find the biography of the organization’s chairman, Stasys Zakevicius. Why, next to the names of Vytautas Bulvicius, Vladas Nasevicius and Antanas Skripkauskas, do we not find the names of their colleagues shot at Gorky Prison in 1941, Jurigs Gobis, Juozas Kilius, Aleksas Kamantauskas, Stasys Mockaitis and Leonas Zemkalnis? Why, from among all the dead insurgents, is there only one biography of Juozas Milvydas?
There is no doubt at all that Liekis used as his primary source of information for preparing his “biographical information” the Lithuanian Encyclopedia published abroad by Lithuanian immigrants. Unfortunately we find no references to this multivolume publication from Boston, and neither is Lithuanian Encyclopedia mentioned in the bibliography “Literature and Archive Sources” (pp. 401-413). Even so, I would say readers would do better to look up the biographies of the almost forty people [for whom Liekis provides biographies] in the Lithuanian Encyclopedia, because this work provides much more accurate data, the biographies are more informative, the information is more balanced and diverse and there is a stricter and more uniform structure. In places Liekis narrates, exaggerates and expands the 1940-1941 biographical portion (the encyclopedia doesn’t even mention underground activities or LAF membership for some of the people), and interjects memories, fragments from letters, articles, speeches commemorating the anniversaries of deaths, even obituaries, and this isn’t really appropriate for a section called “Biographical Information.” It is true that some of the facts Liekis presents, especially from the latter decades of the lives of the figures, are not found in the Lithuanian Encyclopedia. That’s completely understandable, since the last edition was released in 1966 (although two additional volumes were printed in 1969 and 1985, but clearly couldn’t cover everything). One of the most obvious examples of plagiarism from the Lithuanian Encyclopedia is the biography of Antanas Skripkauskas. This is the only biography of 39 which doesn’t provide a birth date. Neither does the Lithuanian Encyclopedia. This is understandable: Skripkauskas was shot in Russia in 1941 and the KGB then did not provide his biographical details to encyclopedia publishers. Of course Liekis could have at the very least used the criminal case file, which is housed in the Lithuanian Special Archive, and this little gap would have been covered. On the other hand, Liekis didn’t manage to copy all the biographical data from the Boston encyclopedia without error. For example, encyclopedia authors wrote that Juozas Ambrazevicius taught at the Ausra Gymnasium in Kaunas from 1927 to 1943 with a one-year break, whereas Liekis claims that he worked as a teacher of Lithuanian literature and folklore at Kaunas University during the very same years (p. 59). Whom to believe?
The author presents a number of documents in the book. When a [counterfeit?] is found in at least one, the question arises as to the veracity of the others. I’m thinking about the LAF program presented in the book (pp 68-73). This, and the [counterfeiting] of one of the articles [in the LAF program] has been written about more than once before. But Liekis behaves just like K. Skipra in his 1973 book “The Uprising for Restoring Lithuanian Sovereignty: Documentary Material,” i.e., both skip over §16, where it says that
“the LAF revokes hospitality to the Jewish minority in Lithuania.”
Skirpa and Liekis do the same thing: they do not note the [counterfeits], they rename §17 to §16, §18 to §17 and so on. But the references provided in the book show Liekis did not base this on Skirpa’s book, but rather on material from the American Lithuanian Cultural Archive. If so, then questions logically follow regarding the credibility of other documents preserved in this archive. Although, truth be told, other variations could be at work, one of which we already named: if the facts don’t fit the required conception, too bad for the facts.
Visual material provided in the book also raises questions. It’s understandable why photographs of LAF members, PG members and insurgents, and some document facsimiles were included. But what [is the author] trying to say by including a map entitled “The Lithuanian State at the Time of Vytautas the Great” (p. 46), a February, 1967 proclamation by the Chicago Lithuanian Council (p. 259) and photographs from the 1988-1990 period (pp. 325, 346-347)? It’s also unclear why a caricature [cartoon] is included that is clearly unconnected with the period discussed in the book, since it includes among the “enslaved nations” Czechoslovakia and Poland (p. 77). I couldn’t say that the map on page 47 was distributed by the Provisional Government, as Liekis claims. If so, Liekis is contradicting himself. Otherwise, how can his claim that “the member of the underground planned to restore the Lithuanian state on its ethnic territories” be understood (p. 120; according to my views, the underground and the PG were not identical, but Liekis is pushing the idea that the underground were essentially the activists, and the PG was composed of no one other than LAF members, so there isn’t much difference [for him], especially on such painful questions as the territory of the state)? Or perhaps a large part of the current territory of Poland (Suwalki, Augustow) and Belarus (Lida, Ashmena) really is ethnic Lithuanian land? Among the valuable copies of documents, attention falls on one, the facsimile on page 110. It says that the LAF announced “that the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania suspended by the Bolsheviks’ occupation on June 15, 1940, is again in force as of June 23…” This would be an important document demonstrating continuity of statehood if only, again, a “small detail” didn’t trip us up: there is no [official] source [historical provenance] for the document. That is also true about one of the author’s conclusions: “The parliament of Lithuania, elected by the entire nation of Lithuanians, was to decide on the form of government for Lithuania after victory was achieved, and until then, the Provisional Government will adhere to the 1938 Constitution of the independent Lithuanian state” (p. 392). This is a novel and interesting idea, and that is exactly why it needs to be demonstrated.
Uncritical treatment of “Frontists’” memories isn’t the only thing that diminishes confidence in the text of the book; the uncritical use of archival material, primarily Lithuanian Special Archive documents, also lessens credibility. For example, there is no doubt at all regarding statements made by arrested [radio operator] Antanas Valiukenas to Soviet security personnel (pp. 90-91). There is no critical assessment of plans by the organization led by V. Buvicius (although, it seems, the author in writing about these plans and activities doesn’t make use of the criminal case file at Lithuanian Special Archive, but rather an article by Dalia Sadzeviciete-Vabaliene from the Lietuvos Aidas newspaper) (pp. 88-89).
On the other hand, how must a student feel who has read this book and has gone to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania to look for documents documenting the activities of the Provisional Government? And this could happen, because on page 213, Liekis says he researched the PG’s activities by studying the laws, resolutions and acts it adopted which are housed at this court. The reference “ibid” repeats itself on pages 214-221 and 224-231. But the Constitutional Court began its activities just barely eight years ago and its archive houses material only from 1993 on, and only material related to the working of this institution. Being more or less acquainted with archival documents on this topic, it wasn’t difficult to determine that the Constitutional Court was named for material housed in the Manuscripts Department of the Central Library of the Academy of Sciences. Neither should the Lithuanian Central State Archive be confused with the Lithuanian State History Archive (LVIA), and [one needs] to use the correct name for the Lithuanian Social [Public] Organizations Archive (pp. 8, 178, 317). Its shouldn’t be news to Liekis either that, for several years now, the KGB archive has been called the Lithuanian Special Archive (pg 410).
We find similar mistakes in the footnotes where it is noted that the collections of the LCVA [Lithuanian Central State Archive] were used. In writing about anti-Soviet organizations from 1940 to 1941, Liekis indicates he based this on several documents from this archive (p. 36). But neither do the [archive] case files referenced nor the specific documents have anything to do with the anti-Soviet underground: these files contain a salary payment sheet for employees of the local Joniskis, Lithuania department of the Siauliai regional police department for August of 1941, protocol No. 7 of a meeting of a temporary committee in the Seiniai [Sejny] district that took place on July 2, 1941, and an order [decree] by the head of the Seinai region on July 4, 1941. There is no chance of typographical error here because a researcher even slightly acquainted with the archives would look for documents about the underground first at the Lithuanian Special Archive, not at the Lithuanian Central State Archive.
Speaking of references, Liekis should know that when an archive document has already been published, you need to indicate [prior publication] rather than presenting it as if it were being published for the first time. For example, the July 25, 1941 LAF leadership’s statement to the “Iron Wolf” leadership (pp. 177-178), the July 27 decree by PG defense minister Stasys Rastikis (p. 178) and the resolution of the meeting of the people of Reitavas district on August 10, 1941 (p. 317) have all been published before. All of these documents were published in a book which Liekis surely did have near to hand, because he mentions it briefly in the prologue (p. 7).
The author also completely ignores standard form for writing references: in one place the exact date of publication of a newspaper is given, in another only the number, in one place a book’s date and place of publication, in another only a page number. There is no lack of incomplete and incorrect references either, for example, the [archive] case file number omitted on page 36, the incorrect reference to the four-volume “Lietuviu Archivas: Bolsevizmo Metai” [“Lithuanian Archive: Years of Bolshevism”] on pages 30 and 402 (one gets the impression the author doesn’t know how many volumes were published, when they were published or the true name of the publication), and the incorrect title for A. Damusis’s recently published book on page 34 (although the title is correct on pages 133 and 401). Liekis also confuses Juozas Brazaitis’s 1990 book Vienu Vieni with the 1964 book of the same name by the pseudonymous N. E. Suduvis (see footnote 44 and page 268); we find references to the first and second part of the document collection Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje [Mass Murders in Lithuania] in four places (pp. 257, 268, 281 and 402), but no less than seven errors in them, and so on. But most often we find “naked” footnotes (i.e., the archive collection, shelf, case number and page number are indicated, but looking for a document title according to [intended recipient] and date would be hopeless [without more information]), or we find none at all (pp. 142, 150 and etc.). References are not just a necessary attribute of an academic text. Good references would somewhat diminish reservations while reading the book over the credibility of the information presented in it.
A few more notes on typographical errors, style and similar things. It would have been simple to avoid the elementary errors: it’s not difficult to calculate that in 1987 Antanas Maceina celebrated his 79th rather than 99th birthday (p. 109); it’s obvious that no Provisional Government was formed on April 22, 1942 (p. 93, doubtless meant to be 1941); all of us know the 1938 Lithuanian Constitution, but the text cites the nation’s fundamental legal codex adopted in 1338 (p. 48). Lack of attention turns Pranas Dielininkaitis into Dielnikaitis (p. 119), Jonas Dainauskas becomes Jonas Danauskas (p. 254), A. Graziunas becomes Gaizunas (p. 269) and Michailas Bakuninas [Lithuanian nominative form for Mikhail Bakunin] becomes Bakaninas and even Mykolas (pg 364). An incorrect Lithuanian Special Archive number is provided for the criminal case file for V. Bulvicius and associated files (p. 85). We could consider these mere typographical errors, but aren’t there too many of them? It’s unknown why Juozas Milvydas’s native [town] Telsiai became Zemaiciai (p. 125), how Augsburg became Ausburg (p.. 125), Regensburg became Rogensburg (p. 171) and Vajëčiai village became Vaječiai [dot over E missing] (pg 123).
Neither are names written uniformly: sometimes whole given names are provided, other times only the initial, and sometimes the given name is missing entirely, although the author clearly does know the given names.
He also should have made orthography of non-Lithuanian place names and surnames uniform [several systems exist for writing foreign names with Lithuanian declenations]: in some places we find them in their original form (for example, Karlsruhe (p. 133), Schwarzenbach (p. 137), Stahleckeris [sic] (p. 249) and so on), in other places with the Lithuanianized variant (for example Stutgartas (p. 133), Hamanas (p. 254) and others), and still in other places in both forms (for example, on page 255: Joachimas Biome (Bohm), Bernardas Fiseris-Svederis (Fischer-Schweder) and so on).
There are even more observations of a technical nature: the book shouldn’t have unexplained acronyms; there is often discussion of a person without introduction of the person: perhaps the reader learns who he is through his actions. There are Russian, German and English concepts, phrases and even longer narratives which should have been translated (pp. 24. 202, 284, 301, 370 and so on).
Extremely long quotes—sometimes spanning several pages—are inappropriate in this text. Liekis is right when he writes: “I would like to apologize to the reader for such long quotations, but there are no other documents which can recreate those days so significant for our nation and state as well as the person who was the cause and effect of those events and processes…” (p. 116). This is true, in part, but when quotes comprise the larger part of the text, one wonders whether it wouldn’t have been better to publish a collection of documents or articles by the “Frontists” about the events of 1940-1941. Another problem appeared: sometimes, having found the beginning of the quote, it was impossible to find its end (e.g., pg 122). In places it was difficult to comprehend where Liekis’s paraphrase of another author ended and where the author’s own words began. A lot of troublesome problems arose as a result of incorrectly ordered quotations and an incomplete indication of references. Here’s one example: on page 84 there is discussion of ties between the Lithuanian anti-Soviet underground and LAF in Berlin. There are neither quotes nor references. How should this be treated? If the author were older, we could consider it his memoir. In the best case at present, all it does is demonstrate Liekis’s sharp memory (but even in that case, it would be interesting to learn who wrote these thing). Of course, when during reading one finds no references for Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’s or SD chief Reinhard Heydrich’s quotes (p. 269), one could conclude that perhaps the author so liked the quotes that he has memorized them by heart. But when there are no references for dates, statistics, questionable assertions and long and not very picturesque quotes, such as those by the two Nazi leaders mentioned above, there’s no justification.
The insertion into the middle of the text of almost entire PG legislative texts (Trade and Public Feeding Enterprises, Denationalization of Industrial People, pp. 215-217) also seems dubious. If the idea were to present them to the reader, they could have been added as appendices to the back of the book. The publication of the statute of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (pp. 228-230) is even more questionable. Sometimes the author becomes so involved that he quotes the same document twice in the text. This occurred with the July 28 and July 31, 1941, orders by Kaunas city commissar Hans Cramer (pp. 257, 260, 300-301). Unfortunately, quoting them twice increases the probability for error, so that in one place these acts are called “orders” and in another “mandatory resolutions” and “announcements.” In a word, it’s left to the reader to decide which is more pleasant.
I’d like to bring up the style of the book as well, which in places is extremely lurid. This might be appropriate for a scenario in a film about the brutalities of war, but probably not for a monograph. But we’ll leave that for the reader to decide. Here’s one of the more graphic parts:
“The ranks of prisoners being shot fell in swathes like rye cut with a scythe. The moans of the wounded, the terrible shrieking of the living, the horrible oaths [profane words] of the Red Army and the constant rattle of machine guns combined in a hellish cacophony… After mowing down in swathes the lines of prisoners, they stopped shooting and finished off those still showing signs of life with bayonets and hand-grenades thrown in among the corpses” (p. 145).
We can find even more graphic expressions enriched by the characterizations of different personalities:
“… the true will of the nation was trampled upon by the [cloven hooves?] of the chekists [NKVD agents] …” (pg 20); “and so ended the unloading of the sun Stalin had brought [back], on the platform of the Kaunas Railway Station” (p. 28); “Strangler of Lithuanian independence, KGB [agent] Aleksandras Slavinas” (p. 232) etc.
Some of the thoughts expressed in the “final recollections” (pp. 389-400) have already been commented upon. But there are conclusions without facts that have not received comment yet. It’s not clear what basis the author has for claiming that 120 Lithuanians maintained ties between the Berlin LAF and annexed [Soviet] Lithuania. It’s not archival documents but probably recollections which serve as the basis for the statement that allegedly the only organizations which hadn’t merged with LAF by April of 1941 were the LLKS [Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Union] and the Black Swastika organization. Having presented dubious facts, dubious conclusions are drawn: the LAF “included almost all Lithuanian underground organizations,” received “the mandate of the captive nation—the authorization to lead, [and] to form the Provisional Government” (p. 392). There are no reliable data showing how many subunits comprised the LAF in Kaunas before the war and how many squares [forest clearing drop-sites] the insurgents in Kaunas had prepared for receiving weapons from German airplanes. Also at odds with the truth is the statement that “many of the future members of the Provisional Government had before the uprising prepared plans for restoring and operating their ministries and agencies, and had chosen personnel, so that after victory it would be possible to begin work immediately” (p. 393). The attempt to portray the June Uprising as organized (ibid.) also needs to be challenged. There needs to be a basis for the assertion that “in many places the insurgents liberated hostages” (p. 394). And who was it that counted the Kaunas insurgents? What is the thinking behind the statement that “the withdrawing Red Army occupiers left [behind them] about 4,000 murdered Lithuanians” (ibid.)? Are these civilians, or does the number include insurgents? Whatever the answer might be, the number is inflated. Neither is the idea convincing that the Germans did not dissolve or immediately arrest the Provisional Government because [so] many Lithuanian people placed their trust in it (p. 395).
No little space in the “final recollections” is dedicated to the “Jewish problem.” But alongside the conclusion that
“the PG approached the German occupational government many times in order to halt the murder of Jewish Lithuanian citizens” (p. 396),
one would like to find evidence of these efforts. The problem of people who shot Jews is dealt with quite simply. It turns out that these were most often people without morals or of a sadistic bent, and former [?] criminals. This is important to know, but it will be possible to perform sociological studies of this group of people later as well [sarcasm?].
Many readers who read the conclusion that
“as the Jews were unable to protect Lithuanians from deportations and extermination during the Soviet period, so also Lithuanians were not able to protect them during the German period” (pg. 397)
will probably think that there was no big difference between Soviet and Jewish government. One can agree with the statement that
“the Germans would have implemented their dark designs (against Jews – V. B.) in any case, even if Lithuanians hadn’t risen up and hadn’t formed their own Government” (p. 398),
but to not recognize at the least the moral responsibility of the Provisional Government is unfair historically and impermissible from the ethical perspective.
Neither is the polemic, where the PG is discussed with rebuke and reproach, appropriate for the conclusion (p. 395). In summarizing the conclusion, I can only say that it shouldn’t include declarative, dubious or unproven assertions, that it should consistently follow from the arrangement [argumentation] of the book and it should reflect the result of investigation [studies, research].
A few words on the “Literature and Archive Sources” (pp. 401-413). We find many less books in the bibliography than are quoted by the author, and the opposite is true as well: books are listed which do not appear in the text. In referencing archival sources (incidentally, they should come first), it’s usually sufficient [to indicate] the archive, collection and [document] name, but the author listed the titles of the documents which are supposed to appear in the references. Worse, they are listed in no comprehensible order, without any logical system. Archive documents are equated with [published] collections of archive documents and publications of documents in different publications. It’s a complete lack of understanding to insert lists of PG laws and orders (June 23, 1941-August 8, 1941) or inquiry protocols contained in Lithuanian Special Archive criminal case files among the documents. There is no bibliography for articles. In a nutshell, it would be simpler to confirm everything and rewrite it than to comment upon it.
On the index of surnames, I can say briefly: if it had been comprehensive, I wouldn’t have anything to say about it.
This is not by any measure everything that needs to said. The space for the book review (and it has already exceeded allowable limits) will not allow for expansion on even finer points. On the other hand [I] have no desire to argue too much with the thoughts of other authors which Liekis quotes quite extensively. Skirpa’s discussions with the Supreme Lithuanian Liberation Committee (VLIK), the leadership of the American Lithuanian Council, and with former colleagues [fellow combatants] on the legal status of the PG and recognition after the war (pp. 337-387) really are interesting, but this is another topic entirely.
At the close of the book the author says he has provided an analysis of the activity of the June Uprising and the Provisional Government (p. 388), but I didn’t find an analysis so much as reprinted texts and documents, and came up against the problem of their authenticity and of a lack of respect for [standards in handling] historical texts, together with a lack of respect for the reader.
Liekis did try to take precautions against possible criticism. he says the uprising and the PG were
“some of the most honorable pages in our Nation’s struggle for freedom and independence, although they are suppressed, blackened and being blackened, whether for lack of knowledge, or for political, economic or other ambitions, by the former occupiers and their servants, or by researchers who only rely on ‘their own’ criteria” (p. 388).
Or another vivid [imaginative] conclusion:
“To ignore, to blacken the June Uprising and the Provisional Government, is useful for many of the enemies of today’s independent Lithuania, desirous of ruining the most northerly Catholic country materially and morally” (p. 398).
Thus, if you criticize this unprofessionally written book, to put it politely, or even worse the romanticized vision of the “frontists’” June Uprising and Provisional Government, you become one of their servants, you belong to someone, having some sort of interests, an enemy of Lithuania and similar. In politics such “arguments” might be an effective measure sometimes, but in academia—not a chance.
It would have been possible to not pay much attention to the book being reviewed, if not for the great—and who knows what it’s based on—belief of the “Fronstists” in Liekis, if it had been the first attempt to present a popular book as an academic monograph, if not for the unacceptable—unacceptable to historians—way archive documents were treated, and finally, if not for the uncritical way the book was presented to Lithuanian society.
On the latter motif I’d like to say a few words as well. The book was presented to a respectable audience, and later an interview with the author appeared and was published in three issues of the newspaper Mokslo Lietuva [Lithuania of Science]. Here again Liekis demonstrated a lack of concern with concrete historical facts: the publication he mentioned as published by the Gestapo, which included the VLIK declaration, was not called Naujoji Lietuva [The New Lithuania], it was Laisves Kovotojas [Freedom Fighter]; and if the Germans had provided weapons to Poland’s Armia Krajowa, it would have been at the beginning of 1944, not in winter of 1941. In answer to a question, Liekis said the LAF sought to create “an organic state. That means not just social, but also political democracy—everyone was to have a guaranteed minimum wage, and extra professional pay and additions for bearing children were to be established.” Is this not a new and rather “original” explanation of “political democracy”?
It wouldn’t be worth even mentioning one more panegyrical and unqualified presentation of the book, if the newspaper Valstieciu Laikrastis [Peasants’ Newspaper] weren’t so popular in the Lithuanian countryside. Although the author of the article calls his reaction a “review,” and calls historian A. Liekis’s 18th book “a wonderful testimony to our past,” it is really only a small collection of euphonic phrases and an attempt to explain, based on a few quotes from Liekis’s book, what “good” the Jews have done and are still doing to Lithuania.
In closing, Liekis’s own words he gave in answer to G. Zemlickas’s question:
“Memoirs [as a genre] are useful and needed as another viewpoint of man. [But] a scientist needs to seek overviews [generalities, summaries], based on documents (these must be treated critically as well) and all other sources.”
It’s impossible not to agree. I can only ask: why is one thing said, but, to put it politely, not exactly the same thing done?
So I’d like to close with best wishes, wishes that deeds wouldn’t differ from words, and with the ever-burning hope that historians will not have to write so critically of their colleagues’ works in the future. That the book itself is atypical explains this atypical book review (especially the measure of criticism and total volume).
Revised: January 30, 2004