The Holocaust in Lithuania, and Its Obfuscation, in Lithuanian Sources
by Yitzhak Arad
C O N T E N T S:
Systematic Mass Murder: German Design and Command, Lithuanian Perpetration (late July–November 1941)
The Rewriting of Holocaust History and the Double Genocide Thesis — “The Jewish Holocaust and the Lithuanian Holocaust”
In Lithuania, as in other places in Europe conquered by Nazi Germany, a thorough and comprehensive inquiry into the tragic events that occurred compels consideration of three factors:
1) the Germans: their policies and their implementation;
2) the Jews: their reaction and struggle to survive;
3) the local population: their behavior during the period of the murder of their Jewish neighbors.
This paper relates to the local factor alone, and characterizes the behavior of the Lithuanians and their part in the implementation of the destruction, and this is done by relying, as a rule, on Lithuanian sources exclusively. It should be noted that in the early years of the present century extensive work was carried out in Lithuania, and this corpus lends itself to definition as both Holocaust historiography and as a subject for further research. This paper is based mainly on these studies.
Actions have been carried out in Lithuania since 2006, however, whose purpose is to obfuscate the events of the Holocaust during the period of German occupation, through which Lithuanians assume for themselves the role of also having been, allegedly, Holocaust victims at the hands of the Soviet occupiers. This phenomenon is observed to a certain extent in most of the countries of Eastern Europe that were under Soviet rule, but Lithuania is exporting this campaign to rewrite history to the institutions of the European Union.
In Lithuania the phenomenon in play is not Holocaust Denial as such. This is not feasible in a land throughout which the mass graves of tens of thousands of Jews are spread, mass graves such as Ponár (Paneriai) near Vilnius, the Seventh Fort and Ninth Fort in Kaunas, and other sites across Lithuania. Lithuanians have chosen to put forward a differing narrative, a different plot line. The purpose of the rewriting of the reality in Lithuania in the Second World War is to obfuscate and to strike at the uniqueness of the Holocaust and the part played by Lithuanians in a wide-ranging partnership with the Germans in the murder of the Jews of Lithuania and other lands; to place the suffering of the Lithuanian nation under Communist rule on one level with the Holocaust carried out on the Jews; and to call this “Holocaust” or “genocide.”
The concept of a “Red and Brown Holocaust” has been slipped into the proceedings. According to this new paradigm, the Brown Holocaust refers to victims who were primarily Jews with the Germans and a few hundred Lithuanians responsible for it; while the Red Holocaust refers to events whose victims were Lithuanians, and for which the allegedly Judeo-Bolshevik Communist regime is responsible. This position is not just the legacy of right-wing forces in Lithuania, including collaborators with the Germans among whom antisemitism would be expected, which would furnish indirectly the formulation of an excuse, a justification for their participation in the murder of the Jews. Rather, the slogan of two genocides is an official policy direction that has been cultivated and maintained since around 2006. To this end, Lithuania has been exploiting its status as a full member of the European Union and NATO.
This paper is concerned with aspects of the Holocaust and the German occupation, and examines the events in Lithuania that transpired under the Soviet regime upon which the rewriting of history and the concepts of “Brown Holocaust” and “Red Holocaust” are based. The paper is based on research carried out by Lithuanian historians and Lithuanian sources. This paper does not consider German or Jewish sources on the events of the Holocaust in Lithuania. Likewise, studies published in Lithuania in Soviet times, upon which many publications have been based in the past, are not taken into account, including those which have previously been used by the present writer.
Some of the studies upon which this paper are based and from which excerpts have been provided have not been published to date, and some have been published as papers in various collections published in Lithuania. These studies were carried out within the framework of the activities of the “International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania” (hereinafter simply the “international commission” or the “commission”), which was established by the government of Lithuania in 1998 and its members appointed by the nation’s president. These studies carried out on the initiative of the “international commission” and published by the commission may be regarded as official publications of the Lithuanian government. In this paper, the characterization of the events and the citations whose sources are in books published by the commission will be noted as “publications of the international commission.” The events and citations whose sources are in studies which have not been published yet in book form will be referenced as “studies of the international commission.”
What gave rise to the establishment of the “international commission” and what lies behind the timing of its formation? In 1995, four years after its separation from the Soviet Union and its transformation into an independent country, Lithuania submitted its application for acceptance into the European Union and NATO. Over the course of several years, checks were carried out to determine if Lithuania (and other East European countries) had matured from the political and economic point of view to the point of integration with the European Union, the European Common Market and NATO. Official negotiations only began in 1999. Before the negotiations, it can be assumed, Lithuanians were told openly or indirectly (as were the other Baltic nations) that to facilitate their joining the European Union and NATO, they needed to confront their past in the Second World War, and, in particular, widespread collaboration with Nazi Germany.
It is plausible that such commissions were established not through any genuine desire by Baltic political elites for historical self-scrutiny on the behavior of their nationals in the period of the Holocaust, but rather based on the judgment that this would likely facilitate their joining the European Union and NATO. The fact that the commission was established on the eve of formal negotiations serves to heighten the probability of this assessment and even confirms it.
To achieve parity and manufacture the semblance that the Holocaust and suffering of the Jews are similar to or equal to the suffering of the Lithuanians under Soviet occupation, Lithuanian leaders decided that this commission would not deal just with the topic of the Holocaust and the period of the German occupation, but also with what occurred in Lithuania during the period of the Soviet occupation. This occupation is divided into two periods: the first, from June, 1940, to June, 1941; and the second, from 1944 until 1953, the year Stalin died, and afterwards as well. The commission included Lithuanian, German, American, Russian and Israeli historians, as well as individual representatives from Lithuanian organizations and American Jewish organizations. The commission carried out its work as two sub-commissions, one of which dealt with the theme of the German occupation and the other with the period of the Soviet occupation.
The mass murder of Lithuanian Jewry was carried out primarily in the period between the German invasion and the end of 1941. During this period there were two stages, the first being the wave of pogroms and the murder of thousands of Jews during the first two weeks of the German occupation, from 23 June until 8-10 July, whose initiators and perpetrators were as a rule Lithuanians. Following upon those pogroms came the organized murder that continued until November-December of 1941. This murder was carried out in accordance with a schedule of objectives by the German security police (Einsatzgruppe A), but the actual perpetrators were mainly thousands of Lithuanians who volunteered to serve the Germans.
Among the approximately 220,000 Jews who were in Soviet Lithuania on the eve of the German invasion, there remained under German occupation 203,000 to 207,000 Jews; of them around 10,000 Jews were killed in the early wave of pogroms; then, in the period of the scheduled murders until the end of 1941 another 150,000 to 153,000 Jews were murdered. At the start of 1942, there remained in Lithuania some 43,000 to 44,000 Jews, of them some 20,000 in the Vilna (Vilnius) Ghetto, some 17,500 in the Kovno (Kaunas) Ghetto, 5,000 – 5,500 in Shavl (Šiauliai), and around 500 in Svintsyán (Švenčionys). After this period there followed a period of relative quiet. The respite in the mass murder of Jews lasted until the summer-autumn of 1943.
The concept of “cooperation” or “collaboration” with the Germans relates mainly to the participation by thousands of Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews, and the participation of Lithuanian police units in fighting against Soviet partisans, during the course of which thousands of Jews were also killed at their hands. In Lithuania, in contrast to the other Baltic countries Latvia and Estonia, the Germans did not succeed in establishing Waffen SS divisions to fight alongside them on the Soviet front. With the approach of the Red Army to the borders of Lithuania, an army unit called “The Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force” (Lietuvos vietinė rinktinė) under the command of the Lithuanian general Povilas Plechavičius was formed. This force was comprised of Lithuanian volunteers and was assembled to work with the German army to protect Lithuania from the Red Army. The force was disbanded in May of 1944 for disobeying German commands and its commander was arrested.
The tragic events of the Holocaust in Lithuania and the participation of Lithuanians in those events should not be disconnected from their origins and the character of the antisemitism in the Lithuanian national movement during its formation, including the years between the two world wars during which Lithuania was an independent country. The depiction and the citations cited below in relation to antisemitism are strictly from Lithuanian sources, from the paper of the Lithuanian historian Vygantas Vareikis, “Antisemitism in Lithuania.” The author was commissioned to prepare a study on the topic by the “international commission.” This paper was included in a volume published by the commission. Vareikis writes:
The 1870s could be considered the onset of Lithuanian antisemitism, the period when the leaders of Lithuanian national rebirth introduced the ideas of a nation united by a single language (this way only those who spoke Lithuanian could be valuable members of society), positivism and pragmatism, encouraging Lithuanians to dominate the crafts and trade, i.e., the spheres where Jewish had been dominating since early times… Vincas Kudirka, the leader of the Lithuanian national rebirth … saw “the Jew” as “dirty and filthy” but simultaneously as a “smart and dangerous exploiter”… Kudirka’s indignation of the Jews did not confine itself to economic antisemitism. Motifs of racist antisemitism may also be traced in his rhetoric, as well as the image of “the Jew – an eternal enemy of the Christians’… Kudirka believed that the Jew would always remain an immutable Jew, an exploiter, despite conversion and assimilation. This reminds of the racist approach of modern times…
The justified struggle of the Lithuanian national movement at the start of its path for the revival of the Lithuanian language, which had until that time been spoken mainly by the rural population, and the call to reduce the use of the Russian and Polish languages took on an extreme and unmistakable antisemitic component in the hands of its strongest proponent, Kudirka, in the economic, religious and ethnic spheres. These antisemitic foundations took root in the Lithuanian nationalist movement from its very inception and remained there throughout its history.
The attitude of the government toward the Jews in the early years of independent Lithuania at the close of the First World War was in general positive. In the War of Independence fought by the Lithuanians against the Poles for control of Vilna (Lithuanian Vilnius, Polish Wilno, Yiddish Vilne) and its region, the Jews, notwithstanding the lessons of their historic experience which counseled neutrality in such wars, had a distinct preference for the Lithuanian side. Pogroms carried out by Polish units under the command of General Lucjan Zeligowski in the Vilna area and by General Haler in the Lvov (Lviv) region resulted in most Jewish leaders in Lithuania supporting Lithuanian demands. Among soldiers fighting for the independence of Lithuania were Jews. “International commission” publications state:
Notable, during the independence fights of 1919-1920, the Jews were more active than other national minorities in supporting the Lithuanian aspirations and served as natural allies of Lithuanians… During the autumn 1920 invasion of General Lucjan Zeligowski in Vilnius, nearly all the students of the Hebrew school in Kaunas, entered the Lithuanian Home Guard Union, and the Kaunas detachment included more Jews than Lithuanians.
The Jews, in supporting the Lithuanians, hoped Lithuania would become a democratic state that would bestow equality to all its citizens and autonomy to its national minorities. During the brief period of Lithuanian rule in Vilna, in December 1918, three Jews were appointed to the Lithuanian government. On 5 August 1919 the government of Lithuania published a proclamation on the equality and the rights of the Jews to autonomy. No other Jewish community in the world had been granted national autonomy and such broad rights as these. Similar rights to autonomy were granted the other minorities in Lithuania, the Poles and the Belarussians.
The rights to autonomy that were broadened for the national minorities, including Jews, turned out to be a transient episode. In 1924 the Lithuanian government abolished the Ministry for Jewish Affairs and the Jewish “national council.” Promises of broad Jewish autonomy granted in the proclamation of 1919 were mostly rescinded. What remained from the proclamation was support for the Jewish educational system, which benefited from subsidies from the Lithuanian government. In the early 1920s nationalistic elements gained strength and domestic politics took a further turn to the right. In 1926 a right-wing revolution by the nationalists, the Tautininkai, was carried out, and autocratic rule was instituted under the leadership of Augustinas Voldemaras. In the wake of this political upheaval, hostility toward national minorities, including Jews, increased.
The Zionist movement, in all its shades, was the dominant factor within the Jewish community during the entire period of independent Lithuania. The government of the Tautininkai (the nationalists) in Lithuania looked positively upon the activity of the Zionist movement. Behind this positive attitude there lurked a motive that was not necessarily all that positive. Publications by the “international commission” state:
No doubt, the positive official attitude of Tautininkai taken toward Zionists was driven by a wish to encourage emigration of Jews to Palestine, in this way achieving reduction in their number in Lithuania.
The Communist Party in independent Lithuania functioned underground and counted during its peak period 1,500 to 2,000 members. Jews comprised around a third of its members and several of them were among its leaders. Notwithstanding the small number of Jewish communists in absolute terms, their high percentage among the communists was a source of antisemitic incitement in Lithuania. Antisemitic slogans and the accusations that “the Jews are bringing Bolshevism to Lithuania” were heard even in the early years of Lithuanian independence. The ascent of the Tautininkai to power led to a strengthening of Lithuanian nationalism and an increase in the power of the Lithuanian petty bourgeoisie. Economic competition between that petty bourgeoisie and the Jews gave rise to increased antisemitism. Slogans such as “Lithuania for Lithuanians” were heard more and more. Vareikis writes:
On June 5, 1930 the Union of Lithuanian Tradesman, Industrialists and Craftsmen was created. Its members could be only Lithuanians, making their living from commerce, industry or crafts. The union called for state support and promotion of Lithuanian producers, expecting thereby “to liberate us from the slavery imposed by alien merchants.” In 1931 the Union started printing its weekly Verslas (Business) which until 1940 was regularly publishing antisemitic articles… bringing forward the radical slogan “L ithuania – for Lithuanians.”
The two words “alien merchants” were of course intended to refer to Jews. During the thirties, antisemitism took root and increased not only among merchants and Lithuanian industrialists, but also among university students, in working-class circles and among farmers and members of the middle class. There were calls for the boycotting of Jewish businesses. Priests in their sermons in church would frequently characterize Jews as supporters of Communism and harbingers of revolution. In an article entitled “On the Jewish Question” (Žydų klausimu), published in the Catholic magazine Židinys, issue no. 11, in 1937, the following demand was voiced: “for government support for enterprises of Lithuanians, for the introduction of numerus clausus in institutions of higher education, to limit the number of Jews in public services.” The Lithuanian Labor Federation changed its name in 1934 to the Lithuanian Christian Workers Federation in order to emphasize there was no room for Jews in its ranks. This organization called upon its workers:
to launch the fight against those Jewish parasites, who grew rich from our bloody work, and who are exploiting us and have no shame no conscience… Brother Lithuanian workers! It is time we stopped toiling under the Jewish yoke. Let us drive those annoying and dangerous lodges away from our cities and our land. Enough, their term [in our land] has expired… Shout the slogan “Jews get out of Lithuania.”
With the ascent to power of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, the antisemitic ideas emanating from there won support from nationalist circles and fascists in Lithuania, among them the fascist organizations Iron Wolf (Geležinis vilkas) and the Union of Lithuanian Sharpshooters (Šiaulių sąjunga). These circles, in addition to their antisemitic ideology, argued that Lithuania should become closer with Nazi Germany in order to secure its existence. Antisemitism grew in the mid-1930s and in a number of newspapers a number of racist proposals were raised: to forbid Jews from having non-Jewish domestic staff, to ban them from vacation areas, and so on. There was an increase in antisemitic incidents such as desecration of cemeteries and the smashing of window panes of businesses and synagogues. The frustration of nationalist circles that took hold in the wake of Lithuania’s acquiescence to a Polish ultimatum in March 1938 compelling the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, and the subsequent surrender of Klaipėda (Memel) to the Germans in March 1939 turned into outbursts of antisemitism. Vareikis writes:
Following the 1938 and 1939 agreements with Germany and Poland, establishment of diplomatic relations with Poland, criticism of Germans or Poles became irrelevant; thus Jews became the most visible and widely attacked minority. In 1939 more serious antisemitic incidents took place in Kretinga, Leipalingis and Tauragės Naumiestis… An attitude of distrust toward Jews which had been common among Lithuanians before, had now grown into insults and antisemitic excesses.
Liberal circles and leftists among the Lithuanians raised their voice of protest against the antisemitic phenomena, but their power was weak. Notwithstanding the rise in antisemitism, it is appropriate to note that in Lithuania, in contrast to Poland, Hungary and Romania, antisemitic laws were not legislated. On the brink of the Second World War, antisemitism was rife in broad circles in Lithuania, something that expressed itself tragically in the war years. Manifestations of antisemitism and accusations that Jews were backers of Communism and disloyal to the Lithuanian state were heard in the eight months between the end of October 1939 and June of 1940, during which time the Vilna region was transferred by the Soviet Union to Lithuania, and in exchange for which the Lithuanians were obliged to provide bases for the Red Army. On 15 June 1940 the Red Army took over Lithuania.
The antisemitism present in independent interwar Lithuania is a necessary precondition but not a sufficient condition to explain the wave of pogroms and enmity toward Jews that flowed through large segments of the Lithuanian population and their extensive cooperation with the Germans. For that, an additional factor was required.
In the course of rewriting history, Lithuanian historians explain, and obliquely justify, the wave of pogroms carried out upon the outbreak of the German attack on the USSR by Lithuanians, mostly on their own initiative, although here and there with German encouragement, and in the continuing unfolding of events, the volunteering and participation by thousands of Lithuanians in the murder of the Jews. Their version is that the Soviet regime, including Judeo-Bolshevists, are guilty for the suffering, imprisonment and deportation of Lithuanians to the depths of the Soviet Union during the first year of the Soviet occupation, from the middle of June 1940 until the German attack of 22 June 1941.
But what really happened that year?
With the loss of independence, and the transformation of Lithuania in the summer of 1940 into a communist state and part of the Soviet Union, a conflict of interests between Lithuanians and Jews developed, against the backdrop of military and geopolitical developments in Europe. During the months of May and June of 1940, Germany took control over western Europe. France ceased to exist as an independent state and a military power. Two powers remained in continental Europe: Nazi Germany and its allies, and on the opposite side, the Soviet Union. Given this geopolitical reality Lithuania and the other Baltic states could not remain an isolated island of neutrality in Eastern Europe. Either Nazi Germany would seize them as a springboard for an attack on the Soviet Union, or the Soviet Union would rule over them to strengthen its western border vis-à-vis Germany. The Lithuanians preferred Nazi Germany and the Jews preferred the Soviet Union. Most Lithuanians received the Red Army with frustration and tears, and most Jews received them with flowers. Between Lithuanians and Jews an acute opposition of interests came into being that brought an added dimension to the antisemitism existing in Lithuania in the period between the two world wars.
A further and significant causative factor in the formation of the image of the Judeo-Bolshevik that came into being among Lithuanians was that the Soviet regime opened for a certain stratum of Jews employment slots and positions which had been closed to them in independent Lithuania: on the staffs of government offices and municipalities and in police forces and the security services. Most Jews who were appointed to these government positions came from among those hundreds of Jews who were members of the Communist Party. In the eyes of Lithuanians, who were not used to seeing Jews in these jobs, this was interpreted as meaning the entire government was in Jewish hands.
The truth and reality were different. Most jobs in the Soviet government of Lithuania were filled by Lithuanians, and some were filled by people who were brought in from the Soviet Union. Six members of the Supreme Council that directed elections to the new Seimas (parliament) that was to decide whether Lithuania would become a Soviet republic were ethnic Lithuanians. The election results were falsified and all the members of the Seimas who were “elected” were communists and their supporters.
In the “People’s Seimas” that declared Lithuania a Soviet republic on 21 July 1940, there were 67 Lithuanians, 4 Jews, 3 Poles, two Belarussians, one Russian and one Latvian. The Seimas delegation of twenty members sent to Moscow to petition for Lithuania’s entry to the Soviet Union included one Jew. Over one year of Soviet rule in Lithuania, many Lithuanians joined the Communist Party, and this growth in the party meant the percentage of Jews dwindled. Whereas in independent Lithuania around one third of the 1,500 to 2,000 members of the underground party were Jewish, by June 1941, the eve of the German invasion, Jews made up 12.6% of the 4,703 members of the party. The rest were mostly Lithuanians. There were various others who were mostly from Russian-speaking regions.
In spring of 1941 there was not a single Jew within the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet. In June of 1941, within the Council of People’s Commissars (the government) of Lithuania, of the 49 commissars and deputy commissars there were five Jews, including a commissar for food production. The other four were deputy commissars. The number of Jews was also small within middle- and lower-level government staffs. Of the 56 party secretaries in the districts and municipalities, each of them being the central and dominant figure in his district, there were three Jews. From the numbers given, it is clear that the government in Soviet Lithuania in the course this year was not “Judeo-Bolshevik.”
In the ranks of the security service, the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs), and in the new commissariat that was established in March 1941, the NKGB (People’s Commissariat for the Security of the State, the commissariat that had central authority in all matters of imprisonment and deportation), Jews were a small minority, relative to Lithuanians and to Russians. According to available information, among the 254 staff at NKVD headquarters in the summer of 1940, 36.2% were Russians, 17.3% Jews and 46.5% Lithuanians. By the end of May, 1941, the percentage of Jews at NKVD headquarters fell to 16.6% and in senior staff positions 8.4% were Jewish (close to the 7% of the population of Lithuania they represented). Of 44 chief inspectors of the NKVD in the districts and the larger cities, there was only one Jew, in Shavl (Šiauliai). With the establishment of the NKGB, 55 of its 519 employees were local Jews (10.6%) and all others were Lithuanians and Russians. Of 94 senior positions, only five were held by Jews (10.6%). As the Soviet regime continued in power, the percentage of Jews in the security services kept decreasing. Of the 144 people chosen by the Central Committee of the Communist Party to be sent to Moscow for higher education for work in the NKVD, there were 103 Lithuanians and 2 Jews. The rest were Russians and others. From these figures the large part played by Lithuanians in the Soviet security services becomes clear, a fact that is in today’s Lithuania trivialized and obscured, in contrast to the emphasis on Jews in these services.
These statistics based on reliable sources demonstrate that Jews were indeed represented in the Soviet government of Lithuania in numbers higher than their percentage of the population. The explanation for this is that Jews, as opposed to the majority of Lithuanians, preferred the Soviet regime to the alternative, the Germans, and were willing to assume the government staff positions which were opened to them. The Soviet regime as a rule also regarded Jews as dependable, and opened up positions for them from which they had been excluded in independent Lithuania.
Nevertheless, most Jews were harmed by Soviet rule not less, and often even more than Lithuanians. From the economic point of view, the traditional Jewish ways of earning a living (trade, petty mercantilism, traveling between city and village and so on) were severely damaged. From the political point of view, the organized communities (kehilas) which formed the basis of autonomous Jewish life were abolished. Political parties were banned. Jewish education systems were closed down and religious life and other spheres were attacked. Among people imprisoned and persecuted by the Soviet regime in Lithuania, Jews comprised 8.9%, while their percentage in the population was 7%. Among the 15,851 people whom the Soviets labeled “anti-Soviet elements” and who were deported from Lithuania on 14 June 1941, Jews comprised 13.5%. These facts are all disregarded by the mainstream version propagated by Lithuanian agencies. Instead, they repeat the names of Jews who were in the government, party and the security services. The intention is to provide an excuse for or even to justify the wave of pogroms and the participation of Lithuanians in the mass murder of the Jews. Liudas Truska, in a paper titled “The Crisis in Lithuanian-Jewish Relations (June 1940 – June 1941),” wrote:
Alongside the former image of the Jews as murderers of Christ, exploiters of Lithuanians, new, politically-motivated images appeared depicting the Jews as “gravediggers” of Lithuanian independence, zealous collaborators of the occupiers, informants, cruel NKVD interrogators… Many Lithuanians identified the Jews with the hateful Communists… The myth of a special role played by the Jews in the establishment of the Soviet regime in the country, took root not only in the consciousness of ordinary Lithuanians but also in the minds of politicians, prominent intellectuals, and the leaders of the Church.
The anti-Jewish spirit among the Lithuanian population was much reinforced by the underground antisemitic propaganda disseminated by the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF, Lietuvių aktyvistų frontas, hereinafter: LAF). The LAF was established in Germany on 17 November 1940 and it was comprised of representatives of all Lithuanian parties from the right and center who had fled Lithuania at the advent of the Red Army’s take-over. At the head of the LAF stood Colonel Kazys Škirpa, Lithuanian ambassador to Germany, who had preached in the late 1930s that Lithuania should move closer to Nazi Germany and even aspire to come under the aegis of the Nazis. The LAF made antisemitism the dominant feature of its ideology. As the publications of the “international commission” put it:
The LAF was a patriotic Lithuanian organization aiming to restore the country’s independence. Its activity, however, was stained by the goal of political alliance with Nazi Germany, ample manifestations of Nazism in its ideology and harsh antisemitism. German National Socialism had a considerable ideological impact on the LAF, which had focused a great deal of its attention to the “Jewish issue.”
Inspired by the LAF and with its support, underground cells were set up inside Lithuania starting in November 1940, including cells within the 29th Lithuanian Territorial Corps which had been incorporated in the Red Army. Its men constituted the principal military force for the rebellion planned to coincide with the German invasion. Additional underground cells were populated from the ranks of organizations that were outlawed in Soviet Lithuania: The “Union of Lithuanian Sharpshooters” (in Šiauliai), “Iron Wolf” (Geležinis vilkas), student organizations and more. The underground cells amassed arms and spread anti-Soviet and antisemitic propaganda by means of proclamations that were smuggled across the East Prussian frontier. These proclamations were duplicated by members of the underground in Lithuania, and were distributed by the thousands across the country. They had a major impact on many Lithuanians. The proclamations preached hatred of the Jews and their expulsion from Lithuanian soil. The proclamation of the LAF of 19 March 1941, headed “Dear Enslaved Brothers” includes this text:
…the hour of the liberation of Lithuania is at hand. When the campaign from the west begins you will be notified immediately by radio or by other means. At that moment local uprisings must break out… and you have to take power. You have to imprison immediately all the local communists and all the other traitors of Lithuania. (Traitors will be forgiven only if they prove clearly that they have killed at least one Jew) … You must inform the Jews that their fate has been sealed. All who can must leave Lithuania immediately to prevent unnecessary casualties. At that decisive moment seize their property so that nothing is lost…
Professor Truska and the Lithuanian sources state that the sentence in parenthesis, “Traitors will be forgiven only if they prove clearly that they have killed at least one Jew,” does not appear in the original proclamation written by the LAF, but was inserted by the elements of the underground who duplicated the proclamation within Lithuania. In the 24 March 1941 proclamation by the LAF, titled “Directives for the Liberation of Lithuania,” said that during the expulsion of the Red Army:
…it would be very important to take the advantage of this occasion to get rid of the Jews, too. Therefore, there must be such an anti-Jewish climate in the country that not a single Jew would even dare imagine that the Jews would have any minimal rights or any chance for subsistence in the new Lithuania. Our aim is to compel them to flee Lithuania together with the Red Army troops and Russians. The more Jews abandon Lithuania under these circumstances, the easier it will be later to achieve complete liberation from the Jews. The hospitality that Vytautas the Great offered to the Jews in Lithuania has been revoked for all times for the ongoing betrayal of the Lithuanian nation.
In the LAF proclamation of spring 1941 dealing with the Jews of Lithuania, entitled “To the Jews of Lithuania,” it is written:
From the very first days of Lithuania’s independence you readied yourself for its demise. Your countrymen in Lithuania founded the illegal Communist Party whose members were 90% Jewish. It was through the Communist Party that you plotted the destruction of Lithuania and secretly sent requests to the Red assassins in Moscow to incorporate Lithuania into the Soviet Union”…[On Jews who fail to escape with the Red Army:] These Jews will be expelled from Lithuania and their property will be confiscated… Any Jew who attempts to destroy his property will be punished most severely on site… Jews, your history in Lithuanian land that has lasted for five hundred years is now over. Have no hopeful illusions! There is no place for you in Lithuania anymore! The Lithuanian people arising for a new life, consider you traitors and will treat you as traitors should be treated.
In the proclamations noted above and in additional proclamations of the LAF, the call and the demand are for the Jews to disappear immediately from Lithuanian soil, and those who fail to do so will be expelled and their belongings confiscated. There is no call in these proclamations for the total physical annihilation of Jews. When these proclamations were published, in the first months of 1941, Nazi Germany had not yet embarked on the total physical annihilation of the Jews, and furthermore, there was no decision to do so at that time. The physical annihilation began with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. It is reasonable to assume that the leadership of the LAF did not know and could not have known at the time the proclamations were released, in March and spring of 1941, of the attitudes and preparations being made in Germany for the destruction of the Jews, and the call for total annihilation is therefore missing from these proclamations.
The leaders of the LAF maintained ties with Abwehr military intelligence and the SD, facilitating the penetration of agents through the East Prussian border and maintaining contacts with the underground operating within Lithuania. These agents passed information on to German intelligence. The Abwehr and the SD set up training camps in East Prussia in close proximity to the Lithuanian border where hundreds of Lithuanians were trained. In anticipation of the invasion, armed groups organized by the LAF were infiltrated into Lithuania. Their function was to sabotage the Soviet home front.
The summary of the 19 June 2002 conference on the topic “The Preconditions for the Holocaust in Lithuania” convened by the “international commission” states the following:
Lithuanian hostility against the Jews, which grew dramatically during the first Soviet period was conditioned by a number of factors among which the following should be mentioned: 1) the different geopolitical orientation of the two nations; for Jews, the Soviets represented “a lesser evil” compared with Nazi Germany, while many Lithuanians expected Germany to save them from Soviet terror; 2) the political and diplomatic defeats suffered by the Lithuanians in the late thirties: the Polish ultimatum accepted in 1938, the surrender of the Klaipėda region to Germany in 1939… capitulation to the demands of the USSR in June 1940… caused a deep moral crisis in the Lithuanian nation, who sought a scapegoat for their failures. This situation nurtured the widespread attitude that Lithuanian Jews were mostly to blame for the misfortunes which befell the country.
This summary by the “international commission” omits the negative role played by the LAF and their incitement to extreme anti-Jewish hatred as an additional and significant factor in the wave of pogroms and murders of Jews that took place in Lithuania during the first days and weeks of the German conquest.
As a consequence of the activities of the LAF staged from German territory and the expanded organizational work of the underground in Lithuania, an anti-Soviet rebellion broke out simultaneously with the German attack. An overwhelming majority of the soldiers of the 29th Lithuanian Corps joined, along with their arms and their commanders. The insurgents, the civilians and the soldiers who are called “partisans” in the Lithuanian sources (for the remainder of this paper they will be referred to as “partisans” in quotation marks), opened fire on the retreating Red Army, elements of the Soviet regime and Jews trying to escape Lithuania. Even in the first days of the war, units of “partisans” were organized and mobilized in many locations in Lithuania, and became the governing power in the cities and towns of Lithuania.
On 23 June 1941, when elements of the Soviet regime escaped from Kaunas, a Provisional Government of Lithuania (hereinafter: the Provisional Government, often referred to as the PG in the literature) was set up, headed by Juozas Ambrazevičius and other leaders of the LAF who arrived in Lithuania with advance units of the German army. The aim of the Provisional Government was to establish an independent Lithuanian state as an ally of Nazi Germany. Colonel Jurgis Bobelis was appointed by the Provisional Government commander of the Lithuanian Army in Kaunas. At its meeting of 24 June, the Provisional Government recalled to service the people who had served with the Lithuanian government during the period of its independence, including police, and began to organize it along lines similar to the power structure in independent Lithuania. In the cities municipal Lithuanian governments were established. The Provisional Government published an order on 25 June allowing only those with permits from the “partisan” chief of staff to bear arms. Units of “partisans” in Kaunas that counted 3,365 fighters were ordered to be posted at 42 stations in the city and its suburbs. On 28 June the Provisional Government released instructions for organizing units of “partisans,” which until that time were different in terms of size and arms, into systematic military frameworks, some in uniform and some still wearing civilian clothing but marked by a white armband on their arms. The Provisional Government issued orders for the payment of salaries to these people in the same set of instructions. In Kaunas the first army squadron was established. It was called the National Labor Service Battalion (Tautinio darbo apsaugos batalionas, or TDA).
As a consequence of the antisemitism popular over the generations, the myth of Jewish participation in the loss of Lithuania’s independence and in the Stalinist terror, along with the imminent or newly arrived German occupation which created the necessary preconditions, a wave of pogroms swept through the majority of Lithuanian locations. These pogroms were conducted on the initiative of Lithuanians, and in a limited number of locations with the encouragement of advance units of the Einsatzgruppen. The period of the pogroms is often referred to by Lithuanian researchers either as spontaneous or “murder on a political basis.”
The German conquest brought to Lithuania imprisonment and summary executions of members of the Communist Party, members of the Communist Youth League (the Komsomol) and members of the Soviet ruling authorities, including Lithuanians, Russians, Poles and Jews who were unable to flee with the retreating Red Army. It is possible, perhaps, to apply the concept “murder on a political basis” to these executions. The parallel occurrence, however, and one carried out on an immeasurably greater scale, was the carrying out of pogroms in which thousands of Jews were murdered, mostly men, not because they had been identified as communists or employees of the Soviet government, but because they were Jews.
In relation to the murder of these thousands of Jews in the days between the start of the German conquest and a point roughly in the middle of July, the concept of “murder on a political basis” is inconsistent with reality. The propaganda leaflets of the LAF called for the carrying out of pogroms against the Jews, and they landed on fertile ground among the Lithuanian population. The pogroms were not “spontaneous.” In the publications of the “international commission” we read:
Since March 1941, the Lithuanian rebel leaders, especially the LAF, had encouraged through their propaganda, the organization of anti-Jewish actions with the purpose of expelling them from Lithuania; in some instances, Jews were threatened with death. The Lithuanian Jews were outlawed, their persecution given free reign.
The pogroms and the murder of the Jews that took place starting in the last week of June 1941 occurred precisely when the Provisional Government had control over Lithuanian elements, mainly in the cities Kaunas (Kovno), Vilnius (Vilna), Šiauliai (Shavl), Panevėžys (Pónevezh) and dozens of additional towns, who were perpetrating the pogroms and mass murder. It is appropriate to note here that the main hub where the largest pogroms were carried out was Kaunas, the very seat of residence of the Provisional Government. Its control over what happened in the city and its environs was vastly greater than over what was happening in other regions of Lithuania during those days.
In Vilnius, with the advent of the German occupation, a local government called the “Vilnius Citizens’ Committee” was set up, along with a Lithuanian police force which was subordinate to the Committee. Indeed, many dozens of people were killed in Vilnius by Lithuanians during the first two weeks of the war, but there were no pogroms on the scale of those in Kaunas. The reason for that is that the Lithuanians were a minority in the city, vis-à-vis the numbers of Poles and Jews, and the main issue for the Lithuanians there was in their view not the Jewish issue, but the Poles, who placed the Lithuanian character of the city in danger. In order to demonstrate to the Germans that they ruled the city, they had an interest in demonstrating that the city was tranquil. This also found expression in the report of Einsatzgruppe A on 9 July 1941. This demonstrates that in places where the local government so desired, and in spite of there being Lithuanian “partisan” forces and enough Lithuanian population for the execution of a pogrom in the city, no pogroms were carried out. In the publications of the “international commission” a description is provided of the largest initial pogrom carried out in Kaunas:
The largest single massacre of the first week of the invasion was the pogrom in Vilijampolė (Slobodka), a predominantly Jewish section of Kaunas. Beginning on the night of Wednesday, 25 June, until Friday, 27 June, organized pogroms were carried out, as Lithuanian rebels armed with rifles and knives, and including a good number of students, broke into many Jewish houses and brutally killed about a thousand people. Other estimates of the number of victims range from 600 to several thousands… The infamous Klimaitis gang constituted the hard core of the local perpetrators… The next day, many body parts were reportedly scattered about, and mutilated bodies discovered. Some houses had been set on fire and the people within burned alive… The Vilijampolė massacre was clearly an attack on Jews as Jews.
A second pogrom carried out during those days in Kaunas was at the Lietūkis Garage on 27 June. This pogrom is described in the publications by the “international commission”:
The best-known atrocity of the first week of the Nazi-Soviet war, cited in numerous Holocaust histories, is the infamous massacre of Jewish men at the Lietūkis Garage in Kaunas on 27 June 1941. The particular resonance created by the Lietūkis killings reflects the especially gruesome method of killings conducted in public view, rather than the scale of the atrocity. The number of victims is uncertain, but can be estimated at less than sixty… Looking on the photos one can recognize about ten perpetrators — the Lithuanian soldiers, armed civilians with white armbands, as well as other civilians who possibly had just been released from the prison. The spectators included many German soldiers and Lithuanian civilians, including a few women, but no children can be seen in the photographs. The instruments of murder included iron bars, wooden sticks, and water hoses for washing lorries. Two photographs show the same young man, one who had just killed his victim with a bar, and then stood to pose, a triumphant expression on his face. Witnesses related that, at first, the Jews were forced to clean the horse manure from the ground, then to wash down the yard with water hoses. At that point the torture began — the victims were beaten time and again, or they were choked, filled to the gills with the water hoses. The yard was covered with blood which, in the end, the Jews were forced to clean as well. The bodies were buried in the old cemetery in a mass grave… However, many witness testified that the civilian spectators encouraged the executioners, and that someone even played an accordion after the killings; someone (Wilhelm Gunsilius) testified to the playing of the Lithuanian national anthem…There is also a testimony that some Lithuanians shouted “Shame to Lithuania” but were silenced.
The pogroms in Kaunas, and the other pogroms in other places across Lithuania about which we have very little information, were carried out exclusively by Lithuanians and on their own initiative, without any direct German involvement. Indeed, the commander of Einsatzgruppe A, Franz Walter Stahlecker, arrived in Kaunas on 25-26 June, but he came to carry out discussions with the staff of the command of the German 16th army which was at the time in charge of the territory of Lithuania in order to enable Einsatzgruppe A to begin to carry out their assignments in the areas anterior to the new front line which came under the responsibility of the army. The small forward team of Sonderkommando 1B, part of Einsatzgruppe A, comprising just a small number of men, was already in Kaunas on 25 June, but their main task was to prepare housing for Sonderkommando 1b in its entirety, which was the size of a company and which reached Kaunas on 28 June, following the pogroms at the Lietūkis Garage and Vilijampolė. The main force of Einsatzkommando 3 arrived in Kaunas on 2 July. They did not arrive in time to be involved in these pogroms, and they were not involved in them. Stahlecker and the men of Einsatzkommando 1b did not oppose the pogroms, and it reasonable to assume that they encouraged the Lithuanians to carry them out from the observation recorded in the report by Stahlecker of 15 October 1941:
That the EG A was “doing its best” to film and photograph the events in Kaunas… to prove that it was the Lithuanians… who carried out the first spontaneous executions of the Jews and Communists… without any instructions from German agencies.
The Lithuanian perpetrators of the pogroms were in no need of German encouragement to carry them out. The antisemitism and propaganda of the LAF provided the motivation. The perpetrators of the pogroms were only in need of the conditions that made pogroms possible, and the German conquest (impending, then just arrived, then settling down) created for them these conditions. The Provisional Government was at the time of the pogroms the supreme Lithuanian authority, and it was official that the institutions of the Lithuanian government which had been organized, including the forces called “partisans,” were subordinate to it, as were the Lithuanian army that was being organized and the police forces in every city and town. On the reaction of the Provisional Government to these pogroms, the “international commission” has this to say:
During the cabinet meeting of the Provisional Government on 27 June minister Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis reported about the “extremely brutal” excesses against the Jews near the Lietūkis garage, about which the ministers at the meeting asked. The official minutes reflect their view that the Lithuanian partisans and individuals should refrain from “public executions of Jews.”
According to the content of the report, the Provisional Government did not express any opposition to the murders and atrocities carried out against the Jews. There was only mention of the view that “partisans” and people in general needed to desist from executions of Jews “in public.” Atrocities and executions, yes, but not in public. That was the position of the Provisional Government.
In parallel with the pogroms depicted above, there were attacks by groups of Lithuanians on the streets of Kaunas, some in uniform, some in civilian clothing with white armbands on their arms. They arrested thousands of Jews, children, women and men, without any suspicion of their having been involved in the Soviet government or their being communists. These Jews were taken to the central prison at the Seventh Fort, not far from the city center. On the initiative of the Lithuanians, a temporary concentration camp for Jews was set up at the Seventh Fort. The Provisional Government’s deputy minister V. Švipas was appointed on 30 June as the man responsible for this camp’s maintenance. In the publications of the “international commission” there is a description of the goings-on at the Seventh Fort during those days with respect to the Jews who were held there:
The men were forced to lie on the ground in the open sky and remain motionless, while the women and the smaller children were separated from the men and closed in dark casemates. The days that followed turned into endless torture of the detainees at the hands of the Lithuanian guards. Despite the extremely hot summer weather, the unfortunate were not allowed any water from the nearby well… Sometimes the guards allowed some of the Jews to crawl to the well only to have them shot as they drank… Time and again groups of Jews were taken away. The pretext was to register the people who wore glasses for “lighter work” — doctors, lawyers and engineers were supposedly needed. However, the people taken away never came back — they were in fact, shot on the other side of the walls. The Lithuanian guards raped and then killed 30-40 women; many reports tell us of the fearful terror inflicted by drunken Lithuanian guards in the casemates. Several survivors recall that the Lithuanian basketball team which had won a game against a Wehrmacht team were given a kind of prize: they came to the fort to shoot a few dozen Jews, although there is no reliable documentation for this story. Some of the victims broke down and became mad… some seventy men survived because as volunteers they had fought in Lithuania’s war of independence in 1918-1920. Commandant Bobelis, who frequented the Seventh Fort, ordered them set free… The nights from Thursday to Friday and all day Friday, were terribly bloody. The shootings would not stop. New groups of people kept being conducted beyond the walls. During the night of Sunday, 6 July, all of the remaining 2,500 men, who had still survived in the open air holding area, were killed by gunfire and hand grenades thrown down from the bulwarks… According to the 1942 figures of the [Kaunas] Jewish Council, the first wave of killings claimed approximately 6,000 victims. Bearing in mind that about 1,000 Jews were killed during the Vilijampolė pogroms and 52-60 at the LietūkisGarage, it is likely that the victims of the Seventh Fort numbered about 5,000.
The publications of the “international commission” spell out in detail which Lithuanian units took part in the carnage at the Seventh Fort:
A number of companies from the Lithuanian TDA battalion, which had been set up on 28 June, also took part in the killings… The First Company appears to have been heavily involved in the killings at the Seventh Fort. After the war Ignas Velavičius, who was a member of the Lithuanian prison administration, testified that the shootings were mainly carried out by the Third Company under Lieutenant Juozas Barzda, including the squad under Bronius Norkus, as well as by Fourth Company under Captain Viktoras Klimavičius. The Third Company soldiers under Barzda and Norkus later confessed to the shootings at the Seventh Fort. Witnesses also recognized men of the Fifth Company at the actions.
The Provisional Government did not do a thing to prevent these murders. The various actors were moreover subordinate to the Provisional Government. These include the guards who abused the victims at the Seventh Fort, those who carried out the murders, who were under the command of the Lithuanian Army commander of the city, Jurgis Bobelis, and an actual Provisional Government member V. Švipas, who was put in charge of the Seventh Forth by that government.
The carnage at the Seventh Fort was the first act of annihilation on this scale in the Holocaust.
Within the framework of the rewriting of the history of the Holocaust that is underway in Lithuania, there is an effort to cleanse the names of the members of the Provisional Government of responsibility, even if partially, for the pogroms and for what was done at the Seventh Fort in those days. German involvement in the carnage at the Seventh Fort was minimal if present at all. The carnage at the Seventh Fort was wholly a Lithuanian achievement. It was they who detained these people acting under their own volition, and it was they who carried out the torture and the murder. The very fact that under orders from Bobelis some seventy people were freed because they had volunteered to fight in Lithuania’s war of independence in 1918-1920, provides confirmation that the actions there were under Lithuanian control. In the 1 December 1941 report by Jaeger, commander of Einsatskommando 3, detailing the daily record of the murder of the Jews of Lithuania, the following is indicated:
The following executions were carried out by Lithuanian partisans: On 4 July 1941 at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas there were 416 Jews and 47 Jewesses killed; on 6 July 1941 at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas 2,514 Jews were killed.
In the rest of his report, Jaeger details the murders at other locations across Lithuania, perpetrated by the small mobile German unit under the command of Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, and with the participation of Lithuanian “partisans.” (On the activity of this mobile unit, more below). It can be assumed with certainly that if his men had participated in the murders at the Seventh Fort, Jaeger, who recorded in detail the activities of Einsatzkommando 3, would have mentioned this in his report. Dieckmann and Sužiedėlis write:
The commander of EK 3, Karl Jaeger stated after the war that [Bronius] Norkus had, without any direct order, killed about 3,000 Jews at the Seventh Fort… he had then reprimanded Norkus to discontinue such self-initiated shootings in the future, and in each case, contact the EK 3.
Aside from the pogroms noted above, dozens more pogroms were perpetrated across the breadth of Lithuania, though on a smaller scale than those in Kaunas, the home base of the Lithuanian government which had been organized. Dov Levin notes about forty such pogroms across the country.
The newspapers that appeared in Lithuania during those days spread antisemitism and in that way encouraged acts of murder and pogroms. The two major dailies that were published concurrent with the German conquest were Į Laisvę (To Freedom) that was first published in Kaunas on 24 June, the day after the entry of the first Germans. The Provisional Government of Lithuania appointed the paper’s editor. In Vilnius the newspaper Naujoji Lietuva appeared with the entry of the Germans into the city. During the first days, the newspapers appeared without German censorship. The German censor certainly did not forbid antisemitic articles. The newspaper Į Laisvę carried an article by the editors on the first day of its appearance with the headline “Shedding the Oppression,” which stated:
Jews, the friends of the Bolsheviks, are running for their life. Communism was the best tool for them to exploit the others and rule, as Bolshevism and the Jews are one and the same, they are inseparable… Now their “Gesheft”…faces the end. The traitors, Lithuanians who served Russian Bolshevism are running away as well. They are pitiful men, deceived and disillusioned victims.
The article does not directly call for pogroms against the Jews, but the definition of the Jew and the exploitative and hated Bolshevik as one and the same transmitted to the paper’s readers a stark antisemitic message and roused them to a lynching mentality against Jews. Indeed, the perpetrators of the pogroms in Slobodka that started the day after this article was published and continued at the Lietūkis Garage were clearly influenced by this article, which expressed the nature of the mood current among large segments of the Lithuanian nation. In parallel with the stereotype of the Jewish Bolshevik, the article characterizes Lithuanian communists as victims of deception and shattered illusions who should be treated with mercy. In the first edition of the newspaper Į Laisvę there is also a call from the leader of the LAF in Lithuania, Leonas Prapuolenis:
Let us welcome the marching German Army with trust and joy, let us help it in every possible way. Long live friendly relations with Great Germany and its leader Adolf Hitler! Long live free and independent Lithuania!
On 4 July, during the period of carnage at the Seventh Fort, the newspaper Naujoji Lietuva published an article headlined “Lithuania Without Jews”:
The largest parasite and exploiter of the Lithuanian nation, as with other nations, was and some places still is the Jew… Jewry of Lithuania, whose goal is that same old Jewish imperialism, placed a noose around the neck of every Lithuanian and expected to finish him off finally. Today, thanks to the genius of Adolf Hitler and the valiant German military, we are free from the Jewish yoke. But this is not enough. Jewry today has still not subsided, it is everywhere yet pestilent. Jewry has been left behind by the Communists to make trouble, for the Jews are Communist spies … The struggle against Communism is the struggle against Jewry… Abolish Communism, abolish Jewry! The New Lithuania, joined to Adolf Hitler’s New Europe, must be cleansed of Jews… Exterminating Jewry, and together with it Communism, is the first task of the New Lithuania.
And in an article in the same newspaper on 13 July, headlined “New Movement”:
It is necessary to ruthlessly remove the remains of Communism and the Bolshevik agents dropped into Lithuania, as well as to finally shatter the traitors of national freedom — the Jews. There can be no place for them on Lithuanian soil.
This article and other articles in this newspaper and others which began to appear at that time in Lithuania were an expression of the antisemitic wave sweeping over the country then, including the members of the Lithuanian intelligentsia who were the writers of the articles. Some of the articles were written in the first days of the conquest, before German censorship was in force, and gave expression to the nature of the “free” spirit of large segments of the intelligentsia and the Lithuanian people. Lithuanian historian and diplomat Alfonsas Eidintas writes:
In Lithuania, as in other occupied European countries, Nazis encouraged brutality and agitated by justifying curtailments and killings of Jews. The Lithuanian language press was enjoined for doing that, and Nazis ran a hard line against Jews with the support from local nationalists and pro-Nazis [sic] intelligentsia. Damnations of Jews followed the Soviet retreat and fleeing of the most active communists. The press reflected this…
Lithuanian historian Linas Venclauskas in his study of the press and the role played by journalists in Lithuania in the period of the German occupation writes:
One should not reject a possibility that some of the writers may have believed that they were carrying out a mission and warning about potential dangers just as one should not reject a possibility that some authors were sincere antisemites who finally got a chance to realize their “calling.” Such “called” ones existed throughout the entire occupation period…Yet, it should be noted that 1941 (starting with the outbreak of the war) and the beginning of 1942 were the most intensive period of writing about the Jews. In 1941 the articles dealt more with the local Lithuanian Jews. Later on, the Jews began to be portrayed as plotters scheming plans of annihilation of Germany and the “New Europe” countries fighting against [sic, the author means “fighting on the side of Germany”] Germany… The flow of antisemitism in periodic publications was relatively stable… In short, antisemitism became a daily subject because, on one hand, it had to become one of the values of the “New Europe,” and, on the other hand, the readers had to be constantly reminded about experiences of the previous occupation [June 1940-June 1941] lest they forget that the Jews have always acted in [a] mischievous way and are now getting what they deserve.
Consider the following passages from the summary report of the “international commission” from 17 April 2005 on the topic “The Institutions of Lithuania’s printed media at the time of the persecution and massacre of the Jews”:
Antisemitic publications were rather frequent and abundant, especially in the second half of 1941 and the beginning of 1942, and this approximately coincides with the period of mass killings of most of Lithuanian Jewry… The antisemitic propaganda of the period can be classified into several groups and stereotypes. First of all the key proof of the “guilt” of the Jews was the first Soviet occupation or a general identification of the Jews with Communism… Another group of stereotypes in the press were the articles denouncing the Jews as a clique and portraying them as an ethno-social group seeking pragmatic benefits only…The third group of stereotypes is based on the alleged cruelty of the Jews… Mass and individual killings performed by the retreating Red Army are also presented as damaging activities of the Jews… The message that they contain is crystal clear: they did not have any mercy on us, so why should we? The fourth group of stereotypes could be linked to the description of the ‘degenerative’ physical appearance of the Jews… the Jews are ugly even physically, so what kind of ugly and insincere thoughts and values they have… This group of stereotypes is most probably the closest to the racist national-socialist ideology, which also segregated the Jews according to their allegedly lesser physical development. The press never openly encouraged killing of the Jews. However, the active spread of antisemitic stereotypes and the continuous anti-Jewish propaganda has created the atmosphere of indifference and a partial legitimation of the Holocaust. Therefore, we can state that during World War Two the Lithuanian press as an institution contributed to the incitement and furtherance of hatred toward the Jews by generating the mood of animosity and thus creating more favorable conditions for the organized genocide in Lithuania… The [Lithuanian] underground press did not protest against the mass-killings of the Jewish population.
This conclusion by the “international commission” provides an objective and correct description of the negative function performed by the Lithuanian press through its wanton incitement to antisemitism and its substantial contribution in motivating Lithuanians to cooperate with the Germans, especially in the murder of the Jews. Lithuanian newspapers at that time, although they did not call openly, clearly and unambiguously for the murder of the Jews, nonetheless provided the readers of these newspapers with the clear and unambiguous understanding that sanction for the murder of Jews had been granted, and that Lithuania must become a country “cleansed” of Jews.
The highest Lithuanian authority was the Provisional Government of Lithuania during the period of its existence, from 23 June to 5 August 1941. To a great degree this government had control over the forces that perpetrated the pogroms and the carnage at the Seventh Fort, described above, and also over the means of communication, with press articles encouraging the perpetration of pogroms and murder. The Provisional Government did nothing to stop them, and it thus bears responsibility for what was done. In his speech to the Lithuanian parliament (the Seimas) on 21 September 2002, Lithuanian historian professor Alfonsas Eidintas said:
The very first weeks of the war showed that Lithuanian public institutions were, unfortunately, silent after the first pogroms—the Provisional Government of Lithuania did not protect the Jews, but established a concentration camp for the Jews in Kaunas, in the Seventh Fort, likened them to persons hostile to the State of Lithuania, and confirmed regulations for the status of Jews, thus denying them the right to public life. Priests did not get clear instructions from the bishops to help the Jews. In the press and on the radio antisemitic indoctrination (ideological brainwashing) of the population was being conducted in which some members of the Lithuanian intelligentsia participated. People wearing white armbands were searching for hiding Jews under orders or voluntarily making no distinction between Jews and communists. Lynch laws prevailed… County governors and city burgomasters, either of their own free will or against it, issued decrees against their co-citizens Jews [sic], ordered them to wear the Stars of David, established ghettos in which Jews were to live until the extermination.
Moreover, publications of the “international commission” relating to the activity of the Provisional Government state:
Naturally, the Provisional Government was powerless to affect the Nazis’ genocidal policy towards the Jews, but, at least initially, it had access to the public through the press and radio. Thus, the unavoidable conclusion is that the Provisional Government failed in its responsibility to at least attempt to clearly state its opposition to the anti-Jewish violence beyond urging avoidance of “public massacres” of Jews.
An official expression of the antisemitism of the Provisional Government of Lithuania which saw itself as the sovereign government in the territory of Lithuania was provided in the “Statutes on the Situation of the Jews” (Žydų padėties nuostatai) adopted 1 August 1941. The statute’s text in translation:
All Jews in Lithuania fall under the following categories:
Category 1. Members of Communists organizations or all the other people who were active under the Bolsheviks. They must be arrested and brought to trial.
Category 2. Other Jews who do not fall under the first category. They must be settled in special places assigned to them, and they must wear on the left side of the chest an oval piece of yellow cloth measuring 8 cm across with a capital J in the center of it.
The places for the lodging of the Jews are to be chosen in separate quarters of the suburbs or farmsteads in accordance with local conditions…
Jews are prohibited to leave the appointed areas without a special permit given by the police.
They can possess movable property only in the prescribed places of their residence. All property kept in other places must be liquidated within two weeks of the approval of the present statute. Otherwise it will be confiscated and turned over for public use.
Jews are forbidden to keep: radio receivers; printing machines, type-writers and other printing and duplicating devices; cars, motor-cycles, bicycles and other mechanized means of communications; pianos and pianolas [i.e., player pianos.]; cameras.
Surgeries, X-ray apparatus, physiotherapy equipment, instruments and medicine are examined by a special commission appointed by the Ministry of Health and, if found suitable, are taken for public use.
At home the Jews may not use the services of non-Jews.
Those guilty of the violation of the present Statute…and also all Jews who constitute a danger to public order, peace and security…may be sent to hard labor camps…
This Statute does not apply to persons decorated with the Cross of Vytis or who volunteered for the Lithuanian Army prior to 5 March 1919, provided they did not participate in any activity directed against the interests of Lithuania later on.
For the fulfillment and interpretation of the Statute, the Minister for Internal Affairs issues instructions. All complaints in this regard are decided by the Minister for Internal Affairs.
The Statute comes into effect from the day of its adoption.
Kaunas, 1 August 1941. J. Ambrazevičius Acting Prime Minister J. Slepetys Minister of Internal Affairs
The Jewish Statute contains elements of the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws of 1935 as well as paragraphs common to the anti-Jewish legislation the Germans had previously put into force in the General Government of Poland: yellow stars, ghettos, annulment of property ownership. The only thing that had not been expressed previously was the paragraph on hard labor. For this, too, there certainly would have been an order on the topic in any continuation of the government resolution, and there is an allusion to that in paragraph seven, which notes of the existence of hard labor camps to which Jews who do not fit in the other categories of the Jewish Statute would be sent. Paragraph 8, referring to the very small group of Jews who fought for Lithuania, contains a certain deviation from the Nazi German legislation and from the racial approach. This anomaly applied only to Jews who volunteered for the Lithuanian army in its War of Independence and not to those who were drafted during the course of the war. (From 5 March 1919 on a compulsory draft was in force in Lithuania; before that date fighting was performed by volunteers.)
Bobelis, the Lithuanian army commander of Kaunas who was appointed to this task by the Lithuanian Provisional Government, took measures for the confiscation of Jewish property by the beginning of July, about one month before the Jewish Statute was adopted. A publication by the “international commission” states:
…on 2 July the Lithuanian Military Commandant issued an order to mark all the Jews and their houses…Furthermore the staff of all the shops had to be “cleansed.” The “rich” Jews were not allowed to sell their shops. Jewish property was quickly registered and then expropriated… real estate was to be transferred to the possession of “true” Lithuanians.
The Jewish Statute ignores the extermination of the Jews which was well underway across Lithuania by the date of its issue. The statute expressed the antisemitic line of the Lithuanian Provisional Government, but had no practical implications. On 28 July the Generalbezirk Litauen, the German civil government, was established under the leadership of Generalkomissar Adrian von Renteln as a German administrative unit and as a component of Reichskomissariat Ostland, replacing the German military government. On 5 August 1941, four days after the publication of the Jewish Statute, the Lithuanian Provisional Government was disbanded by von Renteln. German policy was to transform European regions of the Soviet Union for German colonization, for the German people’s need for “living space.” The illusion Germany would bestow independence upon Lithuania, even in a limited way, was shattered. Furthermore, Lithuanians were not given any promise of independence after the war ended, in a Europe slated for German hegemony. Nevertheless, the majority of Lithuanians identified with Nazi Germany and tens of thousands of them continued to serve Germany loyally, especially in the murder of the Jews. Members of the Provisional Government became “general advisors” to the German government in Lithuania, and collaborators in the carrying out of its policies.
Systematic Mass Murder: German Design and Command, Lithuanian Perpetration (late July–November 1941)
Following this wave of murders and the pogroms came the period of organized murder, extending from mid-July until the end of 1941. A document from the “international commission” states:
Beginning early August of 1941 a rapidly escalating policy of mass detentions and shootings virtually destroyed the Jewish communities in Lithuania… Jews were simply killed because they were Jews. The isolation, concentration and expropriation of the victims was the result of coordinated work between German and Lithuanian civil and police administrations. The campaign of extermination was directed of [sic] the police in occupied Lithuania, the SS and Polizeiführer Litauen … with the extensive support from the headquarters of the Lithuanian Police Department in Kaunas, local precincts, German and Lithuanian police battalion personnel and local volunteers.
It was during this phase that the overwhelming majority of the 203,000–207,000 Jews who were in Lithuania at the time of the German conquest were murdered By the end of 1941 there remained in Lithuania about 43,000 Jews, in the following urban ghettos: Vilna (Vilnius) — 20,000 (according to the Jaeger Report: 15,000); Kovno (Kaunas) — around 17,500 (according to the Jaeger report: 15,000); Shavl (Šiauliai) — 5,000–5,500 (according to the Jaeger Report: around 4,500), and under 500 in the small ghetto in Svintsyán (Švenčionys), which is not mentioned in the Jaeger Report. Discrepancies between the numbers given and the Jaeger Report arise from the fact that Jaeger did not know of or intentionally disregarded “illegal Jews” (those without “schein” documents) who remained in these ghettos. In the commission’s Draft Conclusion, No. 4, of 20 April 2005, the number of victims is stated thus:
The precise number of the victims of the Holocaust in Lithuania is still difficult to determine. We have reached a common estimate to the number of victims 200,000 and 206,000.
— approximately 190,000 Lithuanian Jews;
— 8,000 to 10,000 Polish refugees [Jewish refugees from Poland];
— Nearly 5,000 Jews from Austria and Germany;
— 878 French Jews.
During the first two weeks of German occupation approximately 6,000 Jews were killed in Kaunas. Adding the victims of the early killings in the border area, in Šiauliai and other places, an estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 victims, mostly Jewish men, seems appropriate. Until the middle of August 1941, when the murder of whole communities began, the estimate of 15,000 Jewish men and 1,000 Jewish women is reasonable. It is impossible to determine the exact number because of the lack of sources for some regions. In December 1941 more than 40,000 Jews survived in ghettos and work camps. We can estimate the number of Jewish victims between August and December 1941 to be about 130,000 to 140,000.
The initiative for and the organization of the scheduled annihilation “actions” which began in the middle of July were in the hands of Einsatzkommando 3 under the command of Karl Jaeger, who at the start of August was also transferred responsibility for Vilnius from Einsatzkommando 9 and for the Šiauliai region from Einsatzkommando 2 which had previously had responsibility for the area. Einsatzkommando 3 remained a constant factor in Lithuania in the functioning of the SD security police, and it had sub-units located in the cities Vilna (Vilnius), Kovno (Kaunas) and Shavl (Šiauliai), for the five Gebietskomissariat centers that Lithuania was divided into for administrative purposes: Vilna the city; Vilna the province; Kovno the city; Kovno the province; and Shavl the city and its province as a single unit. Until the time at which Einsatzkommando 3 received responsibility for all of Lithuania, there was involvement, in the course of July 1941, by Einsatzkommando 9 of Einsatzgruppe B in the murder of the Jews of Vilna, and the number murdered reached 5,000 people, while Einsatzkommando 2 carried out the murders of thousands of Jews in the city and province of Shavl.
The Jaeger Report of 1 December 1941 is the most important and comprehensive document showing in nearly daily detail the murder in cities and towns of the Jews of Lithuania. A striking fact in the report is that until the middle of August 1941 an overwhelming majority of those murdered were Jewish men, with a relatively small percentage of women and no children at all. From the middle of August, the daily tabulation includes both women and children in numbers that are sometimes greater than the number of men. These data are compatible with the notion that the order for the total extermination of the Jews of the Soviet Union was given during Himmler’s tour of the units of Einsatsgruppen and units of the SS active in the territories conquered from the Soviet Union in the second half of July and the beginning of August 1941. This is when it was decided.
The perpetrators of the murders at the shooting pits were in the overwhelming majority Lithuanians who volunteered to serve the Germans within the framework of mobile Lithuanian police squadrons (Schutzmannschaften), men from the various police stations in the provinces, and men from the auxiliary police, who were mainly “partisans” from the ranks of the anti-Soviet rebellion who then went on to participate in the extermination “actions” perpetrated in close proximity to their places of residence. In that sense these were “police” whose speciality was mass murder of citizens of another ethnicity who were in some sense their neighbors.
There is almost no mention of the extermination “actions” in the large cities noted above in the commission’s official publications as well as in the commission’s documents and internal studies. It is plausible that the explanation for this is that the theme of mass murder in these cities has been dealt with in other publications. Conversely, commission publications contain much material dealing with the cities and towns strewn across the Lithuanian provinces, and these are the main focus of the current paper. The planning and perpetration of the annihilation “actions” in the large cities such as Vilnius and Kaunas were under the jurisdiction of the local SD and Security Police commanders, who had under their direct command units comprised of Lithuanians, such as the Ypatingieji biurai in Vilnius, and detachments of the First Kaunas Police Battalion.
A more complex problem concerns the perpetration of the murder in an organized and scheduled fashion at hundreds of sites in provincial Lithuania. In order to carry out these annihilation “actions,” Jaeger set up a small mobile unit comprised of between eight and ten Germans, all Einsatzkommando men, commanded by Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, which moved from place to place and, with the assistance of Lithuanian forces, perpetrated the mass-murder operations. In his 1 December 1941 report, Jaeger wrote:
It was only possible to achieve our objective of making Lithuania free of Jews by forming a raiding squad consisting of specially selected men led by SS-Obersturmführer Hamann, who grasped my aims completely and understood the importance of ensuring cooperation with Lithuanian partisans and the relevant civilian authorities.
The limited number of Germans in the mobile killing unit (between eight and ten men) was insufficient for carrying out the undertaking. The primary force in Hamann’s mobile killing unit was the Third Company of the First Lithuanian Police Battalion of Kaunas under the command of Lieutenant Bronius Norkus. The men of this company provided the primary manpower for the execution of the mass-murder operations at the sides of the pits at the shooting sites. Local police forces and auxiliary police, who took part in the murders at every single site, had the primary task of bringing the victims to one spot and transporting them to the killing sites, as well as securing the surrounding areas to prevent victims escaping. These local forces frequently participated in shooting the victims as well.
How did the killing machine work in the Lithuanian provinces? In a document unearthed in recent years at the Central State Archives of Lithuania, there is a description of the program for concentrating all Jewish men aged fifteen and above for the purpose of murdering them. The document carries the signature of the commander of the Lithuanian “Order Police” colonel Vytautas Reivytis, and was distributed to all Order Police stations throughout Lithuania. This document was issued on 16 August 1941 in accordance with instructions Reivytis received from Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, commander of the mobile killing unit. Its purpose was to concentrate the men at centralized locations, at crossroads, from which Hamann’s mobile unit and his men would transport them to the shooting pits. Reivytis’s document is titled “Order No. 3”:
Top secret Kaunas, 16 August 1941
No. 3 sl.
To the Kaunas District Police Chief Upon receiving this circular, in the places pointed out in the remarks, immediately detain all men of Jewish nationality from 15 years of age and those women who had become notorious in their Bolshevik activity, or who even now distinguish themselves by the same activity or insolence. The detained persons are to be gathered at the main highways, and when accomplished, this is to be immediately reported by special and most urgent means of communication to the Police Department. In the report, the number of such types of Jews who have been detained and collected is to be precisely indicated. It is necessary to ensure that the detainees are supplied with food and the appropriate security, for which the auxiliary police may be utilized. This circular must be carried out within forty-eight hours from its receipt. The detained Jews must be guarded until they are taken and transported to the camp. V. Reivytis Director of the Police Department 
There is also Appendix no. 1 that was either appended to Reivytis’s document or sent separately to the chiefs of Lithuanian police in the various provinces. It contains details of places in each region for the concentration of Jews, whence they would be collected for their murder.
The Concentration of the Jews in Kaunas District and Other Locales in August 1941 as Planned in Secret Order No. 3:
THE DISTRICTS (/PRECINCTS) AND THE COLLECTION POINTS ASSOCIATED WITH TOWNS IN EACH:
- Kaunas District (all precincts, not including the city of Kaunas):
- Collection points at Jonava, Vilkija, Babtai, Rumšiškės, Zapyškis, Garliava.
- Kėdainiai District:
- Kėdainiai, Žeimiai, Josvainiai, Ariogala:
- Collection point at Kėdainiai.
- Trakai District:
- Kaišiadorys, Žiežmariai, Žasliai:
- Collection point at Kaišiadorys
- Alytus District:
- Birštonas, Prienai, Jieznas:
- Collection point at Prienai.
- Marijampolė District:
- Kazlų Rūdos, Balbieriškis, Šilavotas, Sasnava, Veiveriai:
- Collection points at Kazlų Rūdos, Prienai, Garliava.
- Šakiai District:
- Jankai, Paežerėlis, Lekėčiai:
- Collection point at Zapyškis.
Reivytis’s order relates to the concentration of men, but in practice at the majority of places the women and children were also taken to be shot. The Jaeger Report points to the fact that during the second half of August the total annihilation of Jews in the provinces of Lithuania began, including the places mentioned in Appendix I to Reivytis’s document in which only concentration points for men are listed, as outlined in the following chronology:
15-16 August 1941, Rokiškis (Rákeshik): 3,200 Jewish men, women, children.
26 August 1941, Kaišiadorys (Koshedár): 1,911 Jewish men, women, children.
27 August 1941, Prienai (Pren): 1,078 men, women, children.
28 August 1941, Kėdainiai (Keydán): 2,076 victims — 710 Jewish men, 767 Jewish women, 599 children.
1 September 1941: Marijampolė (Maryámpol): 5,090 victims — 1,763 Jewish men, 1,812 Jewish women, 1,404 Jewish children, 109 mentally ill people, 1 German woman married to a Jew, one Russian woman.
It is reasonable to assume that while in Reivytis’s written order he said that men fifteen and older were to be collected to be murdered, he conveyed verbally the intention for the concentration and murder of all Jews, irrespective of age and gender. Alternatively, a day or two after Revytis’s written order, Obersturmführer Hamann might have told him of the decision to murder all the Jews of Lithuania, a decision made by Himmler at the end of July or early August, 1941, concerning all the Jews of the Soviet Union. In the publications of the “international commission” there is a breakdown of the persecution and annihilation of Jews in selected cities in the Lithuanian provinces, including Utena (Utyán). The summary that follows describes events in Utena but is typical of events in the majority of towns in rural Lithuania:
Killings of the Jews in Utena district … Approximately 115,000 people living in the district in 1941, of whom more than 10,000 lived in Utena itself, including some 3 to 4 thousand Jews… Most Lithuanians greeted the news of war with great joy, raising Lithuanian flags and ringing the church bells and enjoying it immensely. By 27 June 1941, 484 men had been registered as partisans and had obtained German permits for carrying arms… The attacks against the Jews had already begun throughout the entire district. The Lithuanian rebels would break into the Jewish houses, searching and plundering, also abusing the house owners — these were the first victims… The Jews were forced to perform humiliating labor, for example, they were ordered to search for mines. Some perished as a result… The plunder of the Jewish property and the violence now carried no punishment. The majority of Jewish men were confined in prisons. The three synagogues and the prayer houses were desecrated; the rabbis who refused to burn the Torahs were publicly tortured and severely injured… On the morning of 14 July 1941, the Lithuanian municipal authorities ordered all the Jews had to leave the town by noon; any Jew discovered there would be shot. Within a few hours, the Jews were to assemble in the Šilinės Forest in the outskirts of the town where they would be registered and their valuables taken away… For more than two weeks, nearly 2,000 Jews were confined in the forest suffering the dirt, adverse weather conditions and taunting of the Lithuanian guards. There was hardly anything to eat… During the two large-scale shooting operations of larger scale of 31 July and 7 August 1941 in the Rašės Forest three kilometers away, 718 Jewish men, 103 Jewish women and three other persons were murdered. The German and Lithuanian police carried out the killings in the presence of the local Lithuanian officials. Twice Hamann’s “flying squad” (Rollkommando) traveled here from… [?] For two weeks, an improvised ghetto was established in Utena where Jews were forced to live under miserable conditions. On 29 August 1941, in the Rašė Forest, the surviving Jewish old men, women and children from Utena and its surroundings were shot in the Rašė Forest — from Utena and Molėtai alone: 582 men, 1,731 women and 1,469 children. This time, the local killers were reinforced by Lithuanian units from elsewhere, and probably by several Germans from the Security Police led by Hamann, as well as the Third Company of the Lithuanian Auxiliary Police battalion from Kaunas. The partisan unit under Patalauskas participated in anti-Jewish policies in various ways. They arrested the Jews, brought them to the Šilinės Forest and also participated in establishing the Utena ghetto; finally they guarded the killing sites. At the beginning of September the partisan unit was dissolved. In this location, a kilometer away from Anykščiai and Molėtai, Lithuanian units under the command of the Germans, again killed 1,500 and 700 victims respectively on the same day, as the aforementioned murders — 29 August 1941.
This methodology of abuse and murder of the Jews, as perpetrated in Utena (Utyán), is characteristic for all the rural Lithuanian provinces: pogroms and abuse directed against the Jews in the first to second weeks of the conquest carried out at the initiative of the Lithuanians; orders for total annihilation given by the Germans; perpetration of the murder carried out as a rule by Lithuanian elements.
In the international commission’s study “The Holocaust in the Provinces of Lithuania in 1941,” Dr. Arūnas Bubnys writes:
… The main executors of the Jewish massacre were the flying squad of the SS Obersturmfuhrer J. Hamman; it was based on the third company (from Kaunas Lithuanian Police Battalion), local self-defense companies, local squads of “partisans” (white bands) and the policemen from the police stations. Massive shootings were sometimes led by the officials of the German Gestapo; however, there were some towns, where the Jews were eliminated without direct participation of the German officials. Local policemen or the white bands were usually responsible for taking the victims to the massacre places. They also guarded the place of the massacre and often they used to shoot the victims themselves.
These conclusions based on the research of Arūnas Bubnys which were the object of agreement in principle by the “international commission” clearly show:
1) In the “actions” carried out in the course of the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, there were in fact thousands and in all probability even tens of thousands of Lithuanians who participated.
2) There is no basis for accepting the argument occasionally heard in some Lithuanian circles that only several hundred Lithuanians participated in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry — the units of the “Ypatingai buriai” at Ponár (Paneriai) near Vilnius, one or two companies of Lithuanians at the Seventh and Ninth Forts in Kaunas and another company in the mobile murder units of Hamann which operated in the countryside.
An additional element that played a role in the annihilation “actions” were the battalions of Lithuanian police that operated within the framework of and subordinate to the German Order Police (Ordnungspolizei). These battalions participated in the murders of tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania, and also in Belarus, Ukraine and the General Government area of Poland. Among the documents of the “international commission” there is to be found a research paper by Arūnas Bubnys under the title “Lithuanian Police Battalions and the Holocaust (1941–1943).” This study relates the part played by twenty-five battalions of Lithuanian police active during the Holocaust. In his summary, Bubnys writes:
There were three types of Lithuanian police battalions active in the Holocaust:
Group I: Battalions who served regularly and often in the murder actions, including the two battalions, No. 1 (13) and No. 2 (12). In 1941 these battalions killed tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania and Belorussia.
Group 2: Eight battalions which served the Holocaust on occasion (active in actual murder once, guarding the killing locations, transporting Jews to the locations, guarding in ghettos or concentration camps). These battalions took part in killing once or twice and the number of Jews killed was far less that Group I. Maidenek was guarded by Battalion no. 252, but they perpetrated no murders. Battalion No. 3 guarded the Kovno ghetto, but took no direct part in the Aktionen.
Group 3: Fourteen battalions, which, according to current information, took no part in the Holocaust.
At the end of his study Bubnys concludes:
At this stage of research, it is evident that in one form or another 10 battalions (out of 25) took part in the Holocaust, 14 battalions were not involved, and the involvement of one battalion still remains questionable. Data available at present allows [us] to state that there were about 1,000 policemen who directly performed the executions or guarded the victims of the “operations” who served in the battalion, and their actions in Lithuania and outside Lithuania resulted in approximately 78,000 (seventy eight thousand) executed Jews, without including victims of other nationalities and members of other groups as well as Soviet prisoners of war.
In Bubnys’s summary there is a contradiction between the determination that ten battalions of Lithuanian police played a role in the annihilation “actions,” a statement which appears to be correct, and the determination that only around one thousand of the men of these battalions took part in the executions and the guarding of the victims over the course of the annihilation “actions.” Two of the battalions, No. 1 (13) and No. 2 (12), numbered about one thousand men. The eight battalions which appear in Group 2 and who took part in the annihilation “actions” numbered some 4,000 men. Therefore the number of guards among the battalions of Lithuanian police which took part in the mass-murder operations should be close to 5,000. In its discussion of Bubnys’s study, the “international commission” wrote:
The Commission approves the conclusions by the study that at the current stage of research, the following facts have been revealed: at least ten (out of twenty five) units of the Lithuanian Police Battalions were engaged into activity which can be lawfully qualified as participation in the crimes of Holocaust. The crimes of the largest scale of the mentioned military formations were committed in the summer and fall of 1941.
The publications of the international commission, and the studies carried out at its initiative and in accordance with instructions for works it commissioned, have thus far dealt with the background to the Holocaust and the events of the Holocaust in Lithuania, from the beginning of the German conquest until the end of 1941. The mass murder of Jews, individually and in groups, was perpetrated throughout the period of German occupation until the middle of July 1944, and several thousand Jews in Vilnius and Kaunas were murdered just weeks before liberation. Lithuanian policemen played a role also in these murders of Jews. The “international commission” publications and its unpublished documents contain no material on this period which lasted for over two and a half years. On 5 April 1943, there was an annihilation “action” in which around 4,000 Jews were brought from the ghettos of Svintsyán (Švenčionys) and Óshmene (Ashmiana, Ašmena) to Ponár (Paneriai), an “action” that has acquired in the historiography of the period a name of its own: “The Kovno Railway [Transport].” Lithuanian policemen under German command participated in this action, doing the shooting at the edges of the pits and chasing down all who attempted to flee. In the absence of any official publications by the “international commission” on this annihilation “action,” it is appropriate to include an excerpt from the diary of the Polish journalist Kazimierz Sakowicz who lived at Ponár (Paneriai) and recorded the almost daily the murders there, including the “action” of 5 April 1943:
Sunday, April 4
Lithuanian police from Wilno arrived on four trucks… They brought two cases of vodka with them. In the automobile were German Gestapo people… Lithuanians stroll about Ponary; the large number (percentage) of police officers among the arrivals draws attention…
Monday, April 5
At last it [the train] arrived from Wilno and did not pass the house. So it remained in Ponary… I wake up very early; quiet, already light. It is 5:20 in the morning. At about 6 the Gestapo arrive by truck. They open four freight cars and order the Jews to get out, but they don’t move. Earlier, they were all surrounded by a thick fence of Lithuanians and Gestapo… The younger ones, even women, rushed to escape. A volley is fired… The rest of the Jews, mainly children and women, moved on… Weeping, groaning, pleading, falling to the feet of the Lithuanians and Germans, who kick them and shoot the most importunate… They are driven to the pits and Lithuanians began to shoot from the side… Already 5 people, a woman and 3 little girls, have been placed at the end of the pit with their legs inside it; from the back a Lithuanian with a revolver shoots, and all of them disappear in the pit… The Lithuanians throw the clothing onto a pile; suddenly one of the Lithuanians pulls out a child from under the clothing and throws him into the pit; again a child, and again another. In the same way — to the pit. One of the Lithuanians stands over the pit and shoots at these children, as we can see. What is this? The desperate mothers thought that in this way “they had saved” the lives of the children, hiding them under the clothing. …It seems that from 7 o’clock until 11, forty-nine freight cars [of Jews] were shot; this was the composition of the first freight train. And so in less than four hours, about 2,500 people were murdered — actually, even more. Very few escaped, some 50 people… However, 50–60 Lithuanians would go after them, creating a commotion. As a result, the escapees are shot…
It is not yet the end. A new train arrived with victims… Numerous shots are fired; a woman, smeared with blood, in her underwear, creeps out of the pit with a dreadful shriek; a Lithuanian stabs her with a bayonet. She falls and a second one finishes her off with gunfire from nearby… A woman with a child in her arms and with 2 small girls hanging onto her dress: a Lithuanian begins to beat them mercilessly with a club. A Jew without a jacket throws himself on the Lithuanian to defend the woman being beaten. A shot is fired — he falls, practically at the feet of his Jewess. A second Lithuanian seizes the Jewish woman’s child and throws him into the pit; the Jewish woman, like a madwoman, runs to the pit, followed by her two little girls. Three shots are fired… Just before the hillock near [my] house a young Jew falls. A Lithuanian runs to him and beats him vigorously with a rifle butt on the head. His skull breaks open. The next day there are a lot of brains on the spot…. At about 4 in the afternoon, the end…
Sakowicz was an objective eyewitness to what was happening, and this is the description in his diary. The orders were given by Germans and the shooters were Lithuanians. In the description of the events at Ponár which he witnessed, there is no empathy for the Jewish victims, yet his description provides an accurate depiction of the cruelty of the perpetrators of the murders, and the zealousness of the Lithuanian police in apprehending and murdering every last person who attempted to escape.
Lithuanians were traditionally devout Catholics and the church had a strong influence on the Lithuanian people. Therefore, opposition by the church as an institution during the period of the Holocaust is a question of great interest. The “international commission” invited Lithuanian historian Dr. Arūnas Streikus to conduct a research project entitled “The Catholic Church as Institution during the Period of the Nazi Occupation of Lithuania.” Streikus’s summary includes the following conclusions (LCC = Lithuanian Catholic Church):
1. The Nazi policy towards religion in the occupied eastern territories was not so aggressively anti-Catholic as in Germany or occupied Poland. Under conditions of war with the Soviet Union, the Nazis sought to subdue religious organizations for propaganda ends, by making use of the slogan of the fight against godless Communism.
2. LCC authorities, similarly to the majority of the Lithuanian public, welcomed the German army… The anti-Bolshevik rhetoric in public statements by bishops was useful to the Nazi regime from the propaganda perspective.
3. Relations between the LCC authorities and the Nazi civil administration remained (became more) strained during all the period of the occupation. This was determined by the persistent restrictions on religious activities, the non-compliance of bishops to fulfill unconditionally the wishes of the Nazi authorities, and their critique of the Nazi policy in Lithuania (Where was this critique expressed, and if yes, did it go down to the believers?)
4. Polish clergymen, monks, nuns and the laity of the Vilnius archdiocese suffered most from the repressions of the Nazi regime. This was determined by the fact that they took more active part in the actions of the anti-Nazi resistance (and by the desire of Lithuanian clergy to take their posts…)
5. Although the LCC was well acquainted with the negative position of the Holy See towards Nazi racial doctrine, it had no practical instructions on how to act in the presence of the Holocaust that had overtook it unawares. (Instruction of God in the 10 commandments, Thou shalt not kill)… Despite this LCC leaders attempted to use their authority to stop the persecutions of Jews…
6. Only several provincial priests publicly condemned the massacre of the Jews. At present it is impossible to prove references to the bishops’ protests against the persecution of the Jews through reliable historical sources. It is only clear that the episcopate attempted to intercede on behalf of baptized Jews.
7. The LCC took an active part in the rescue of individual Jews. The majority of bishops, more than a hundred of priests, monks and nuns, and many believers joined this activity. This proves that the LCC was not indifferent to the tragedy of the Lithuanian Jews. (These were individual initiatives and not an organized activity with encouragement from above.)
Archbishop Skvireckas wrote in his diary for 30 June 1941: “The thoughts of Mein Kampf concerning the poisonous Bolshevik influence exercised by Jews on the nations of the world are worthy of note. These thoughts are interesting indeed. They are true to life and present an insight into reality. Whether it belongs to Hitler himself or to his associates is hard to say. But all this testifies to Hitler being not only an enemy of the Jews, but to the correctness of his thoughts as well.” 
In the deliberations by the “international commission” on these conclusions by Streikus there was agreement on some of them. Some actually led to debates resulting in two summary documents being brought to the commission for discussion on 19 April 2005, one called No. 3A, and the other No. 3B. In both documents, points 1 and 2 were agreed. In point 4 (which became point 3) the text in parenthesis was deleted; its implications was that the Lithuanian priesthood had been interested in the departure of Polish priests from their positions, and the emphasis was on the Lithuanians’ greater loyalty to the Germans than that of the Polish priesthood. In point no. 5 (which became point no. 4), the differences of opinion within the commission concerned mostly the section dealing with the Vatican and the rest of the text of this point. In the version known as No. 3B, the text of this point starts as follows:
LCC leaders attempted to use their authority to stop persecutions of Jews; however, unsuccessfully and without sufficient determination.
In contrast to this wording, No. 3A of this point reads as follows:
The LCC as an institution failed to live up to its own standards. In common with other national Catholic churches, it had no clear policy on the persecution of the Jews, and was consequently silent.
Point no. 6 was removed, and the sentence
It is only clear that the episcopate attempted to intercede for baptized Jews.
was inserted with similar wording in both versions.
In both versions the text containing the quotation from the diary of archbishop Skvireckas was removed. Deliberations concerning the question of the Catholic church in Lithuania did not reach the stage of a summary or even of agreed conclusions among all the members of the “international commission,” in contrast to summaries agreed on the other topics noted above. Regarding all that is connected with the paragraph concerning relations between the church in Lithuania and the German authorities which were defined as “strained,” the reference was to the draft of Lithuanians into the German army under the command of Lithuanian general Povilas Plechavičius (see above). The German authorities turned then to the heads of the church, asking them to encourage people to get drafted into the army, and the heads of the church replied that such an appeal was not within the scope of the church’s functions. Following this refusal, the Germans took several measures, for example, closing the church’s seminaries, non-return of church property confiscated by the Soviets, and so on. Nevertheless, the stance and the anti-Soviet expressions of the church were helpful to the German government. Even in the initial days of German occupation in Kaunas, the newspaper Į Laisvę informed its readers that the head of the church in Lithuania, Archbishop Skvireckas and his deputy Brizgys, expressed gratitude to the German army for the liberation, and issued a denunciation of the Soviets for their crimes. Similarly, the two heads of the church sent a telegram, with their signatures, to Hitler, expressing their thanks in the name of the population of Lithuania for their liberation from the Bolsheviks.
On 8 April 1942 the leadership of the church in Kaunas sent a memorandum to priests which sought to prevent altogether or to make it more difficult for Jews to get baptized as any kind of an aid to survival. The memo says:
With a view of avoiding possible disturbances and even sacrilege of sacred matters, the Ordinariate, re-establishing the order that existed until present in the Archdiocese, resolves that Holy Baptism shall not be administered to the individuals of the Jewish origin without an appropriate thorough investigation.
Notwithstanding this instruction there were dozens of church-goers, priests and nuns, who on their own initiative and risking their lives, helped and saved Jews.
The Lithuanian sources cited above form the basis of the present paper, especially those published by the “international commission,” including studies conducted at the initiative of the “international commission” which had not reached the state of publication, at least not by the beginning of 2006. They provide an extensive depiction of the Holocaust in Lithuania and the large part played by Lithuanians in the murder of their Jewish neighbors. But these sources do not include a comprehensive study on the question of how the general Lithuanian public regarded the Holocaust and the murder of their Jewish neighbors. Even in the absence of such a study it is possible to determine, using German and Jewish sources, and also the above-cited sources, that the Lithuanians welcomed the German army with enthusiasm, and that the volunteering of thousands of Lithuanians for service to the Germans and their active participation in the murder of the Jews was carried out in an atmosphere of sympathy and support for these volunteers among large segments of the Lithuanian population. This support decreased somewhat starting in 1943 when German demands were made to send people to Germany for labor, to serve in the army and to fight on the front.
The sources cited — and this paper is all about them — the studies carried out and the books published, the overwhelming majority of which appeared as a result of the work of the “international commission” were all performed and written between 2002 and the spring of 2006. From this point onward the activity of the sub-commission dealing with the topic of the Nazi occupation and the Holocaust in Lithuania was frozen. Nationalist and neo-Nazi elements in Lithuania, among them the Genocide and Resistance Center whose activity is funded by the government, and the “international commission” as a state institution, embarked upon activities whose purpose was to rewrite the history of the Second World War and the ensuing years.
The Rewriting of Holocaust History and the Double Genocide Thesis — “The Jewish Holocaust and the Lithuanian Holocaust”
From the spring of 2006 onwards, initiatives and events unfolded that were intended to establish the idea of a supposed Lithuanian Holocaust, whose perpetrators were supposed to be elements of the Soviet regime during the period of the first Soviet occupation (June 1940 – June 1941), and during the period of the second Soviet occupation, starting in July, 1944, when the Red Army drove the German army out of Lithuania. Underlying all these initiatives was the notion of symmetry or parallelism with the Jewish Holocaust, and the participation of Lithuanians in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry.
In order to distort and silence the factual history of the role of the Lithuanian population in the mass murder of Jews (outlined above primarily based upon Lithuanian sources which are difficult to challenge), a rewriting of the history of the period got underway.
The Lithuanian establishment had come up with the argument that the Lithuanian people were also victims of a Holocaust. To put it another way, there were two similar Holocausts: one was the Holocaust of the Jews, and the other of the Lithuanians, or, as some Lithuanians called it, the Brown Holocaust and the Red Holocaust. According to this, the Brown Holocaust was the responsibility of Nazi Germany and a few hundred Lithuanians, while the Red Holocaust was the responsibility of the Soviet regime, including the Judeo-Bolsheviks. In order to justify the participation of Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews, there was a perceived need to invent Jews who similarly killed Lithuanians.
Elements of the Lithuanian establishment came up with the argument that there had been Jewish Soviet partisans who murdered Lithuanians and burned down Lithuanian villages, as well as Jews involved in the deportation of Lithuanians to the depths of the Soviet Union. For the first time this argument appeared in a newspaper for nationalist and antisemitic elements in Lithuania, Respublika, on 4 April 2006. In the wake of this article in the newspaper, the prosecutor general in Lithuania opened an investigation against Jewish partisans for their “crimes” against the Lithuanian people, among them the murder of Lithuanians, the burning down of Lithuanian villages, and so forth. It is important to note that no such legal measures were initiated against other Soviet partisans — Russians, Lithuanians, Belarusians and Poles, including partisan commanders who issued the orders for Soviet partisan operations, who were active in Lithuania and who as a rule continue to live there. The accusations and the investigations are against three Jewish partisans. The purpose is the typical attempt to rewrite history by demonstrating an alleged “parallel” in the following sense: there were a few Lithuanians who killed Jews and there were a few Jews who killed Lithuanians.
When did the Two Holocausts argument arise? As noted above, the “international commission” established in 1998 was formed against the backdrop of Lithuania’s wish to join the European Union and NATO, and deliberations to that end continued for some years until 29 March 2004 when Lithuania joined NATO and 1 May 2004 when the country became a member of the European Union, meaning Lithuania had achieved its goal.
There was no longer any need to engage in an objective study of the Holocaust and the participation of Lithuanians in it, and it was possible to begin publicly to rewrite the Holocaust in the spirit of the supposed Two Holocausts. In the framework of the activity of the “international commission” it had now become possible to delay indefinitely the activities of the sub-commission on Holocaust issues, while continuing with the sub-commission dealing with the Soviet occupation in Lithuania, a situation which served the rewriting of history and the argument for the Two Holocausts theory.
To provide a basis for the arguments for the Two Holocausts theory, the events in Lithuania during the year of the first occupation of 1940-1941 were naturally emphasized. The most dramatic event during that time was the deportation of 15,851 residents of Lithuania in mid-June of 1941 to the depths of the Soviet Union. But there was still not enough in those events to justify the argument for the existence of a Red Holocaust. So emphasis was now placed wherever it could be: on “Soviet Jewish partisans” during the Holocaust period, and also on the long second occupation of Lithuania, starting in July of 1944 and lasting until March of 1953 (the death of Stalin), and even beyond that point. It is important to remember in all this that the Red Army reconquered Lithuania from Nazi Germany in its just war against the aggressor, and that this was not a war embarked upon to dominate the independent state of Lithuania, unlike the first occupation.
The Lithuanian argument for a “Red Holocaust” whose victims were the (ethnic) Lithuanian people is based primarily on the activity of the Soviet regime set up in Lithuania in July of 1944 and the policies of terror which it carried out. These Soviet policies cannot be disconnected from the fact that when the Red Army was still locked in difficult combat against the German army on the front (until 9 May 1945), and for years thereafter, a guerrilla war was waged in Lithuania against Soviet rule, a war started and executed by anti-Soviet elements in Lithuania. Those elements who aspired to establish an independent Lithuania did not fight the Nazi German occupier which ruled Lithuania until July of 1944, considering that occupier an ally, but fought solely against the Soviet occupier.
In the forests of Lithuania, some 30,000 anti-Soviet partisans were active. Among these partisans there were those who participated out of nationalist motives — the desire for political independence. But there were among them also many collaborators with Nazi Germany who simply failed to retreat along with the German army, and there were also those who refused to comply with the draft by the Red Army and fled to the forests. The Germans before their withdrawal trained Lithuanians who would remain behind on the ground after the withdrawal of their own forces to fight the Soviet authorities. There were also Lithuanians who withdrew with the Germans and after a short period of training were organized into groups that were parachuted into Lithuania to fight and provide leadership for the anti-Soviet fighters in the forests.
On 25 October 1943, when Lithuania was still under Nazi German rule but the Soviet army was nearing the borders of Lithuania, an underground framework, the Supreme Committee for the Liberation of Lithuania (Vyriausiasis Lietuvos laisvinimo komitetas, or VLIK) came into being. It included representatives of the political parties which had been active in independent Lithuania. This committee saw itself as a Lithuanian government in waiting, pending the re-establishment of an independent Lithuania. The committee defined as its enemy the Soviet Union and proceeded to prepare for an armed struggle against the USSR. With the Red Army closing in during the final period of the war, most of its members left for Germany, where they continued their activity. One of the main military forces which was already organized in Lithuania during the period of German occupation and was the first to initiate guerilla warfare against the Red Army and Soviet rule as early as July 1944, was the Lithuanian Freedom Army (Lietuvos laisvės armija or LLA), whose commanders were Lithuanian army officers and which counted close to 10,000 combatants. It is possible to get an idea of the organization and the scope of the guerilla warfare conducted during these years and whose initiators were Lithuanians, from the document “War Chronicle of the Lithuanian Partisans” published in Lithuania in October 1998. This book is comprised of nine chapters organized chronologically. Consider the following extracts from among the many hundreds of events of this minor war in Lithuania, from the first chapter of the chronicle, dealing with the period between June, 1944, and January, 1945, a period during which the wider war against Nazi Germany was still raging:
July 9, 1944. General M. Peculionis, the only remaining member of the VLIK War Council, begins to organize resistance to the occupation of Lithuania.
July 17, 1944. General M. Peculionis signs Military Order #1; If it is impossible to stop the Red Army, LLA forces are to conceal their weapons and join the underground resistance.
Summer 1944. Town of Batakiai, District of Tauragė. Led by Germans, LLL Intelligence Training Camps begin operations. The leader of the Lithuanian group is P. Ceponis. As the Russian-German front approaches, armed Lithuanians begin to wage partisan warfare.
August 1944. General M. Peculionis, LLA [Lithuanian Freedom Army], Lieutenant K. Veverkis, and engineer Snarkis established the LGK [Lithuanian Defense Committee] to provide leadership to all partisan units involved in Lithuanian resistance.
September 9, 1944. On the road between Pagiriai and Ukmergė. Partisans ambush and kill A. Dambrauskas, [Supreme Soviet Deputy of the LSSR …], the president of the area Communist Party, and the district LLKJS [Communist Youth] committee in Ragauskite.
October 7, 1944. Approximately 100 members of the TAR [Homeland Defense Special Team] are killed while engaged in combat with the Red Army on the German-USSR front.
November 1944. Near the fortress-hill of Ginuciai, in the county of Ignalina. The first armed encounter between the Tiger Special Team of the LLA and the occupying forces ensues under the command of Lieutenant J. Gimzauskas. There are no partisan casualties. Encouraged by their success, the partisans, under the command of J. Tumenas, attack Alanta in the district of Utena, setting fire to the Communist Party building and the KGB garrison. According to eye-witness accounts, 13 Soviet activists are killed.
November 17, 1944. Alsėdžiai county in the district of Telšiai. Trained by German military intelligence, A. Kubilius, together with four friends, parachute into Alsėdžiai county. His mission to re-establish the organizational structure of the LLA, later known as the Zhemaitijan Legion.
November 22, 1944. A direct order is issued to the troops of Hawks [Vanagai] brigade: provisions will first be requisitioned from state farms, then from enemies of the Lithuanian nation. Only as a last resort will provisions be requested from ordinary Lithuanian citizens. Then, only after a receipt is issued.
November 11 to December 22, 1944. Panevėžys district. Three groups of German-trained paratroops are dropped in the area. The leaders are Lieutenant A. Silas, Lieutenant V. Jazokas and Lieutenant S. Girdziunas. Later, these groups form the basis for the 3rd command of Šiaurės LLA [Northern Lithuanian Freedom Army].
January 12, 1945. The forest of Uzulen [sic] is in the county of Taujenai, the Ukmergė district. In a battle with NKVD troops, the leader of the VEA [Vytis Command] J. Kristaponis, together with 23 partisans, perish at the hands of the Soviet Army. 80 Soviet soldiers are killed in battle.
These extracts point to the fact that preparations for guerilla warfare were made by Lithuanians prior to the Red Army’s entry into Lithuania and prior to the machinery of Soviet terror being set up against them. What is conspicuous from these reports is the fact that this guerilla war was initiated and organized beforehand and did not constitute a popular reaction, from the grassroots level up, against repressive Soviet rule. These extracts point also to the involvement of the German army and the aid it delivered to the Lithuanian guerilla fighters, who were to strike a blow to the Soviet rear and in this way assist the Nazis in their battle at the front against the Red Army (see particularly the extracts from “Summer 1944” and the dates 7 October, 11 and 17 November, and 22 December 1944). This guerilla war, carried on at different levels of intensity until March 1953, could be conducted, as any other guerilla war, only with the support of significant portions of the local population, including the families of local guerilla fighters.
The chronicle for 22 November is also of interest in so far as it contains directives for the provision of food to the fighters. It is clear that the sources of food for partisans, whether Soviet or anti-Soviet, were the rural population. In the accusations against (exclusively) Jewish partisans leveled by the prosecutor general of today’s Lithuania from 2006 onward, it was claimed that they confiscated food from the population by the use of arms, and are therefore called “bandits.” Naturally, the Lithuanian partisans who took their food from the same sources, using the same methods, are, in the eyes of the present Lithuanian government — “freedom fighters.”
Soviet security organs led battles against the Lithuanian partisans, and reacted with arrests and deportations of the families of the guerilla fighters, and of elements who helped the guerillas. The “international commission” initiated research carried out by the Lithuanian historian Arvydas Anušauskas under the title “Mass Arrests and Torture in 1944-1953.” In the summary of its deliberation on this study held on 20 April 2005, the commission stated (and these are extracts from the summary):
The Commission discussed the report submitted by Arvydas Anušauskas, “Mass Arrests and Torture in 1944-1953” … and adopted the following Conclusions:
Period of Terror. The study covers the third period of unlawful arrests in Lithuania, which started at the beginning of the re-occupation on 13 July 1944… and lasted until 1953 inclusive… During the first period, i.e. July 1944–October 1945, the arrests were directed against people (mostly Lithuanians, also Russians and Belarussians) accused of either collaboration with the Germans, or the involvement in the resistance aiming at the restoration of the Independent states (Lithuanian and Polish). During the second period, i.e. October 1945–April 1948, the arrests mainly targeted the participants of the Lithuanian resistance and politically incorrect persons (that used to be members of political or cultural organizations that existed during Lithuanian Independence). During the third period, i.e. May 1948–May 1953, the arrests for the most part were aimed at the participants of the Lithuanian resistance, as well as persons of certain social background and former status, and formerly engaged in certain professional or political activities. For the duration of this period, in terms of the scope, the arrests were exceeded by the deportations.
In 1944-1953, 186,000 persons were arrested and imprisoned, while 118,000 people were deported. About 80,000 of the arrested and imprisoned people were political prisoners… Furthermore, about 8,000 people were imprisoned for the collaboration with the Nazi occupation government. This figure included 256 persons that were executed for war crimes and 123 persons that were executed for the collaboration with the Nazi occupation government…
Property Appropriation of the Arrested. As a rule, personal property of the arrested was confiscated. However, this method was mainly directed against the families of the political prisoners…
Sentences and their Execution. During the period of 1944-1953, 142,579 people were taken to the Soviet GULAG camps… Pursuant to the Decree of 21 February 1948 of the Supreme Council of the USSR, after serving the entire term, the political prisoners had to settle in exile under the supervision of the MGB in certain Siberian and Northern territories. About 10-12% of the imprisoned people lost their lives in Soviet camps and prisons.
Constitution of Prisoners. There were people of all ethnic groups among 80,000 political prisoners imprisoned in Lithuania in 1944-1953; however, the Lithuanians (about 94%) prevailed (while the Polish constituted 5%, and the Jewish – 0.5% of the total). This constituted about 3.5% of ethnic Lithuanians residing in Lithuania in 1943 (about 2.2 million), about 1% of Poles (of 400,000) and about 2% of Jews (of 16,000).
Qualitative Changes in the Lithuanian Society. Unlawful arrests and deportations to camps that took place in 1944-1953 further aggravated the losses suffered by the Lithuanian society during the period of 1940-1944…
A further study by Professor Anušauskas titled “Mass Deportations in 1944-1953” and containing a more detailed treatment was submitted to the “international commission.” Among the deliberations and conclusions of the commission on this study were the following:
As soon as the re-occupation started and both passive and active resistance of the Lithuanian nation occurred, the officials of the NKVD, the NKGB and the Soviet Public Prosecutor’s Office provided grounds for the necessity of mass deportations… Germans residing in Lithuania were deported first… The first mass deportations were carried out in connection with the struggle against Lithuanian resistance…Local collaborators constituted 50-70% of all raiding, route and railway station security groups… At the start of 1945-1948, Lithuanians used to be deported as hostages, i.e., “in response to the guerrilla attacks” 12,304 people, including 3,785 so-called kulaks, were deported within two and a half years before the major deportations of 1948…
The first two deportations were officially targeted at the families of identified guerrillas and persons in hiding, guerrillas who had been killed and convicted persons as well as supporters of the resistance. The deportations of 1951 were directed against peasants who resisted the collectivization wave… The total number of deportees in 1945-1952 is estimated to be at least 118,000 (data remains [sic] only on 115,000 deportees)… the deportees had no right to leave the deportation locality… On 1 January 1953, the number of surviving Lithuanian deportees stood at 98,286… The total of Lithuanian deportees who died in 1945-1958 is estimated at 20,000 including about 5,000 children. In 1954-1958 the Soviet officials admitted that the deportation of 2,573 families had been unfounded and allowed them to recover their confiscated property. After the issue of the Order of 19 May 1958 by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR, a new policy was implemented in regard to these last deportees. Only resistance members and their families were left in exile, while all the others were conditionally released from exile… A huge number of 37,505 Lithuanians (about 48,000–50,000 people including children) who still lived in exile on 1 January 1958 never returned to Lithuania.
The Soviet regime, with its process of organization in all areas of the Soviet Union liberated from the Germans, once again set up its totalitarian government, including the apparatus of the NKVD and NKGB. One of the first measures taken was detention of tens of thousands of Nazi collaborators. Many people innocent of any crime were caught up in these operations, and entire nations were exiled from their land (Chechens, Kalmyks, Tartars and others).
In Lithuania, the process of organizing the Soviet regime anew and arresting tens of thousands of collaborators with Nazi Germany was accompanied by a war covered in the blood of thousands of anti-Soviet partisans. Against the backdrop of this reality, and in order to put an end to those elements fighting against them with arms and causing casualties, the Soviet regime reacted with large-scale arrests and deportations of the elements aiding those who had risen up to fight against them. The two documents provided by Professor Anušauskas to the “international commission” (“Mass Arrests and Torture in 1944-1953” and “Mass Deportations in 1944-1953”) and the above-cited summaries of the commission point to the following facts:
In the three periods set out in the document (July 1944–October 1945; October 1945–April 1948; May 1948–May 1953), the vast majority of arrests were of elements who had collaborated with Nazi Germany, partisans who waged war against the Soviet regime and those who helped them and who worked against Soviet rule in Lithuania, and those had been actively anti-Communist in the past. Some of these anti-Soviet elements were put on trial and convicted, while others were held prisoner without trial. The cumulative number of detainees defined as political prisoners was around 80,000. An additional 8,000 were imprisoned for collaboration with the Germans.
Of the 118,000 people deported from Lithuania to the depths of the Soviet Union, a portion were people considered to be political prisoners, and their families, the families of anti-Soviet partisans, and, in the wave of deportations in 1951, the kulaks and their families who opposed collectivization. About a year after Stalin’s death, the situation of the deportees took a turn for the better. In 1954, more than 2,500 families of the deportees (in my estimate around 10,000 people) were given the opportunity to return to Lithuania. By the 19 May 1958 decree of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow, the deportation order for most Lithuanians was annulled. Only those who were guerillas and their families remained in their places of exile. In the wake of this decree, some exiles returned to Lithuania, and some, apparently out of free will (being at places of employment, etc.), stayed in their new homes.
In the fourteen years from 1944 to 1958, around 20,000 of the exiles died, some from natural causes such as old age and illnesses, and some certainly as a result of the harsh conditions in which the exiles lived.
The Communist regime in Lithuania, in the year between July 1940 and June 1941, and then, starting from the summer of 1944 until the death of Stalin in March 1953, the year that also marks the end of the anti-Soviet guerilla warfare in Lithuania, and then also in the ensuing years and until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, was a dictatorial and repressive regime. As far as is known, there is not to be found in Lithuanian sources a summary of the total losses of the Lithuanian people from July 1944 when the Red Army again took control of Lithuania, and May 1958, when the majority of deported Lithuanians had the possibility to return to their homeland. On the basis of the figures outlined above, all taken from Lithuanian sources, it is possible to estimate that the losses constituted 1.5% to 2.5% of the 2.2 million Lithuanians who were in Lithuania in 1945. This number includes thousands who died a natural death in exile, and some 7,888 anti-Soviet partisans who fell in battle against Soviet security forces.
Without mitigating the guilt of the Soviet regime in targeting many people innocent of any crimes, it is at the same time not possible to overlook the responsibility of Lithuanian elements who, in their support of Nazi Germany, began the guerilla war, without any prospects for success against the Soviet regime, and who thereby caused the arrest and deportation of tens of thousands of people, and the deaths of many partisans and innocent people. It is reasonable to assume that had Lithuanians not initiated a guerilla war against the Soviet regime, the number of detainees and deportees to the depths of the Soviet Union and the human losses would be incalculably less than the numbers recounted above.
To call what happened under Soviet rule in Lithuania a “Holocaust,” to compare it to the murder of over 95% of the 203,000–207,000 Jews in Lithuania in the Holocaust — men, women, children and the elderly alike — constitutes a rewriting of history.
In Communist ideology and in the politics of the Soviet regime, there was no program and no execution of any sort of physical annihilation of the Lithuanian nation. During forty-five years of Soviet rule, the Lithuanian nation remained on its soil, a substantial portion of the deportees returned to their homeland, Lithuanian children studied in school in the Lithuanian language, the heads of the regime were Lithuanian Communists, the militias and the NKVD were comprised mostly of Lithuanians, and there was a blossoming of Lithuanian culture, albeit in the spirit of the Soviet regime. It was possible to carry on religious life, notwithstanding certain limitations, according to Lithuanian custom and traditions. Also, from the economic point of view, the situation in Lithuania was better than in the majority of Soviet republics. As a result of this reality, after forty-five years of Soviet rule in Lithuania, there were concentrations of political and intellectual forces. There was economic leadership and investment in infrastructure, and the critical mass needed to establish an independent and democratic state.
The arguments for two parallel Holocausts, a Brown Holocaust of the Jewish people and a Red Holocaust of the Lithuanian people, are spread not by individual Lithuanian nationalists, whom one could simply ignore.
The source is to be found among elements of the Lithuanian government.
Within the framework of the rewriting of the history, there is an effort to sanitize the Lithuanian Provisional Government proclaimed in Kaunas on 23 June 1941 and disbanded by the Germans at the start of August, 1941. This government was active during the period of the wave of pogroms and mass murders, during the days on which 5,000 to 7,000 Jews were murdered at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas at the initiative of the Lithuanians and by their own hand. The Provisional Government did nothing to prevent this slaughter. The Provisional Government was in effect a continuation and replacement for the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF), which had in a sense completed its mission after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. This organization, whose antisemitic propaganda leaflets called for the expulsion of all Jews from Lithuania, carries not a little responsibility for the wave of pogroms. Today, the LAF too is the object of a campaign to sanitize its name, and attempts to rehabilitate it as a patriotic Lithuanian organization.
The anti-Soviet “partisans” who carried out the pogroms at the end of June and beginning of July, 1941, and who collaborated with Nazi Germany have become “national heroes.” The current Lithuanian state has provided official recognition of the Provisional Government as a legal government which reestablished independent Lithuania. If that is the reality, then that 1941 government carries responsibility for the wave of pogroms and the murder of many thousands of Jews during the period of its tenure, but on that point there is no admission by the current state. There are people in Lithuania, though a minority, who have opposed this tendency by the Lithuanian government. Professor Leonidas Donskis, the prime philosopher in his country, who was for years dean of the Faculty of Political Science at Vytautas Magnus University and from June 2009 a member of European Parliament, has publicly opposed the rewriting of history by his country. He has published his view of the Provisional Government and the Lithuanian Activist Front, inter alia in his article “When Will the Truth Finally Set Us Free?”
… The LAF was completely and directly connected with the policies coordinated by Colonel Kazys Škirpa with his Nazi views in Berlin, and the Provisional Government was actually formed there… No one can deny that the Provisional Government was inspired by the LAF. LAF members, who spread antisemitic propaganda, systematically and actively used such pearls of Nazi rhetoric as “Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy,” “the plan of the Jewish bankers and Communists,” “the Jewish yoke and exploitation,” etc… Sadly, some Lithuanian politicians, intellectuals and common people were influenced by Nazi ideas at the beginning of World War Two…
I am convinced that the current Lithuanian state has made a major and perhaps even an historically unprecedented error in recognizing the Provisional Government as de jure real and a government that restored our country’s independence. Because if that is the way it is, then the Provisional Government must bear responsibility for the mass murder of uninvolved, unarmed civilians, Lithuanian citizens of Jewish origin, which began in Lithuania before the Nazis entered the country… If we recognize that they were the legitimate government, then they bear responsibility not for what is commonly claimed in Lithuania, that a handful of murderers and low-lifes, but entire Lithuanian city and town municipalities, police officers and the military took part in the logistics and execution of mass murders of Jews, in their organization and execution. And these, after all, are state sectors.
Professor Truska, too, has drawn a line and is criticizing what has been done in recent years by the government and by a Lithuanian society that is not yet prepared to countenance the historic truth and the behavior of its people during the time of the Second World War. Truska writes:
Lithuanians do not like to speak of the unpleasant things of the past. After a five-decade occupation that had vilified any expression of attempts to regain independence and sought to impose an inferiority complex on the nation, a cult of heroic deeds and suffering — a heroic-masochist concept of history — is thriving. The nation wants to see its history as “beautiful,” it wants to see only the struggles and the sufferings and to blame all the misfortunes of the recent past on “others,” and, most of all, on the Jews. A self-critical approach to the past is not very popular among Lithuanians. Many see a focus on the unpleasant problems of the past as the slander and libeling of Lithuania.
The current Lithuanian state has not been satisfied with the domestic rewriting of history and arguments for Two Holocausts in Lithuania, the Brown and the Red, but has tried to turn this into a proposed heritage for all of Europe through exploitation of membership of the European Parliament. They stood behind the initiative to convene famous personalities and European Parliament members in June 2008, under the title “European Conscience and Communism.” In order to make Lithuania’s major role less conspicuous, the conference was scheduled for a city outside Lithuania — Prague. Among the participating personalities were Václav Havel, former president of Czechoslovakia and one of the heroes of that country’s liberation from Communist rule; Vytautas Landsbergis, former Lithuanian head of state; Emanuelis Zingeris, chairman of the Lithuanian “international commission”; five members of the European Parliament from Britain, the Czech Republic, and Estonia; and some twenty additional personalities from Europe, including Germany, Russia, and others. The largest portion of participants came from right-wing and anti-Soviet circles, but there were liberals such as Václav Havel.
Long before the Prague conference proclaimed its declaration, many of these people had been invited to various events in Lithuania — conferences, symposiums, colloquiums, working parties and more, all of which served as good preparation for the goals which the Lithuanian authorities were pursuing at the Prague conference. The conference was held in the first days of June, 2008, and on 3 June it announced the document called the “Prague Declaration,” from which the following three illustrative paragraphs are excerpted:
… reaching an all-European understanding that both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes … in their policies of systematically applying extreme forms of terror, suppressing all civic and human liberties, starting aggressive wars and, as an inseparable part of their ideologies, exterminating and deporting whole nations and groups of population; and that as such they should be considered to be the main disasters, which blighted the 20th century.
… recognition that many crimes committed in the name of Communism should be assessed as crimes against humanity serving as a warning for future generations, in the same way Nazi crimes were assessed by the Nuremberg Tribunal…
… establishment of 23rd August, the day of signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as a day of remembrance of the victims of both Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes, in the same way Europe remembers the victims of the Holocaust on January 27th.
From the “Prague Declaration” it is possible to understand the intention of the Lithuanian leaders, and, it appears, of representatives of the other nations who helped prepare this declaration, and of its signatories. It is the idea that the Holocaust was a crime, but no different from the crimes committed by the Soviet Union or totalitarian Communist regimes. This statement confuses the uniqueness of the Holocaust which simply has no equal susceptible to comparison among these other atrocities.
On 23 September 2008, over four hundred members of the European Parliament signed a declaration expressing support for the establishment of 23 August as “the European day of remembrance of the victims of Stalinism and Hitlerism.” And on 2 April 2009, the same parliament actually passed a resolution in the same spirit expressed in the “Prague Declaration,” with 533 votes in favor, 44 opposed and 33 abstentions. In this manner the symmetry of the Holocaust of the Jewish people with the “Holocaust” (my quotes) of the Lithuanians was accepted indirectly. If the Soviet regime and Communism are comparable to Nazi rule, then the victims of the two regimes are also similar; there is a Brown Holocaust by the Nazis, whose victims were mostly Jews, and a Red Holocaust, whose victims are Lithuanians and those of other nations.
Lithuania, which was the initiator and the active factor in the “Prague Declaration” and in the resolution of the European Parliament regarding 23 August as a commemorative day, in this manner achieved a degree of endorsement for its rewriting of history, for the obfuscation of its widespread collaboration with Nazi Germany in the murder of the Jews, and for the theory of Two Holocausts.
The chronology of the events of the Second World War and the Holocaust in Lithuania, considered in the present paper, include the period from July 1940, in which the Soviet Union established its rule over Lithuania; the period of the German conquest and occupation from the end of June 1941 until the middle of July 1944; the wartime period of the second Soviet occupation of Lithuania from mid July 1944 to war’s end on 9 May 1945. In order to obfuscate and rewrite these events and the very concept of the Holocaust, elements of the Lithuanian government have widened the definition, using its “international commission” to bring under single consideration the events of the Second World War as well as the events in Soviet Lithuania until the death of Stalin in March 1953, and even for many years (and decades) after that, all in order to establish the theory of a Holocaust suffered by the Lithuanian people.
Popular historical antisemitism, the distorted understanding and explanations of the reality in Lithuania in the first period of Soviet rule of Lithuania (June 1940 to June 1941), the poisonous anti-Jewish propaganda of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF), frustration in the wake of the first Soviet occupation and turning the Jewish minority into the prime object of hatred for large sectors of the Lithuanian population — these are the backdrop for the wave of pogroms and the murder of thousands of Jews, at the initiative of and carried out by Lithuanians, at the time of the German attack on the USSR.
The Lithuanian Provisional Government during its six weeks of existence and activity received the German army as liberator and called for national cooperation with Nazi Germany. It did not take any steps to use its governmental and informational authority to halt the pogroms and the mass murder that was being carried out by elements who were subordinate to its authority, and contented itself with a single reference to a request that the murders not be undertaken in public. This provisional government established the municipal administration and the local police that then went on to serve the German regime during their entire period of rule in Lithuania. This provisional government prepared the anti-Jewish statues and it initiated the establishment of the battalions that soon became the mobile police units whose business was the murder of the Jews of Lithuania and other countries. During its six weeks of existence, its acting prime minister managed to sign documents confirming German orders for the herding of all the Jews of Kaunas into a ghetto within four weeks.
The Lithuanian media which appeared during the time of the German conquest disseminated antisemitic propaganda, instigated actions to bring about the disappearance of Jews from Lithuanian soil, and inspired the participation of Lithuanians in the murder of Jews.
The wave of pogroms in the first week and first two weeks of the German invasion in Kaunas and other places in Lithuania were at the initiative of and carried out by Lithuanians, and in some places with German encouragement. Thousands of Lithuanians volunteered to serve the Germans and became the primary force and in some places the only force carrying out the murder of Lithuanian Jewry, and of Jews in different parts of Belarus, Ukraine and the General Government area of Poland.
The Catholic Church in Lithuania, through its public anti-Soviet stance and its enthusiastic welcoming of Nazi Germany’s army, and its silence on the topic of the mass murder of the Jews carried out before its eyes, not only failed to fulfill its moral role in the pursuit of “Thou shalt not kill,” but indirectly encouraged the widespread collaboration of the Lithuanian populace with the Germans.
The Soviet regime in Lithuania and other places was a totalitarian and repressive regime. This regime, based on Communist ideology, fought against its opponents, and is culpable in the deaths of many. But there was nothing in Communist ideology or in the policies of the Soviet regime in Lithuania or other places that included the policy of exterminating a nation. It cannot be compared with Nazi racist ideology.
The arrests and the deportations of tens of thousands of Lithuanians to the depths of the Soviet Union during the period of the second Soviet occupation needs to be judged in part in the context of the anti-Soviet guerilla war which was initiated and started by the Lithuanians, and viewed as constituting counter-insurgency measures for repressing a war against the regime.
The guerilla warfare conducted by the Lithuanians who were harassing the rear of the Red Army, from the middle of 1944 until 9 May 1945, while the war continued, actually served German forces, which continued to fight Allied forces (including American, British, and the others) on all fronts. From this point of view, they should be considered a pro-Nazi force in this phase of Lithuanian anti-Soviet warfare.
The European Parliament, in its resolutions of 23 September 2008 and 2 April 2009 made an error, not in denouncing the totalitarian Communist regime that is deserving of denunciation, but in failing to understand the significant difference between racial Nazi ideology and the destruction of the Jewish people in the Holocaust on one hand, and, on the other, the many victims of Communist rule, among whom there were also many Jewish victims, and in placing the two on one level. Similarly, the members of the European Parliament who voted in favor failed to understand that the movers and shakers in Lithuania and other East European countries who initiated these resolutions were motivated by a desire to obfuscate the role of many of their countrymen who collaborated with Hitler’s forces in the murder of their Jewish neighbors. The idea was to accomplish this by presenting themselves as victims of a Second Holocaust called the “Red Holocaust.”
This paper is based on Lithuanian sources. According to these sources alone, not using Jewish sources, there is no comparison between the fate of the Jews — genocide, during the German occupation of Lithuania with the suffering of the Lithuanian nation during Soviet occupation and misrule in Lithuania. There was as some in Lithuania call it a “Brown Holocaust” (or Nazi genocide) carried out by Nazi Germany with the cooperation and voluntary participation of thousands of Lithuanians. Doubtlessly, the Lithuanian people suffered under Soviet rule, but it was not and cannot be called Holocaust or genocide, or as some would have it, a “Red Holocaust.” There was only one genocide, the Holocaust — the eliminationist racial policy and its practical result: the extermination of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany and its collaborators in the areas conquered.
Translated from the Hebrew by Dovid Katz and approved by Yitzhak Arad. With thanks to Geoff Vasil for valuable suggestions. Publication in Defending History authorized by Yitzhak Arad. © Yitzhak Arad 2012. Republication only by written permission of the author.