O P I N I O N
by Evaldas Balčiūnas
I will begin with a recent document I found while collecting information about the Lithuanian Freedom Army (LFA), an organization formed during World War II which present-day historians are attempting to portray as an organizer of the anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania.
On 31 October 2002, President Valdas Adamkus issued decree no. 1965 titled “On Promoting Volunteer Soldiers to the Rank of Colonel” which gave the rank of colonel to three “members of the armed resistance: volunteer soldiers and soldiers of Lithuania’s pre-war military,” namely, Tauras military district chief Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas (posthumously); Vytautas military district chief Vincas Kaulinis-Miškinis (posthumously); and Vytis military district chief Jonas Krištaponis (also posthumously). Five years later the president noticed he had made a mistake regarding one surname and on 5 January 2007, issued decree no. 1K-849 to correct the mistake, replacing Jonas Krištaponis with Juozas Krikštaponis (aka Krištaponis).
Regarding the anti-Soviet resistance, there really isn’t any argument: most of the LFA fighters heroically fought against the occupiers and died in that struggle.
Regarding the anti-Nazi resistance, however, many doubts are raised. These doubts arise because of the LFA’s position on the mass murder of Jews.
Here is a well-known but suppressed fact presented in A. Bubnys’s article “Lietuvos kunigai žydų gelbėtojai” [“Lithuanian Priests Who Saved Jews”]:
“At the end of the German occupation, in the summer of 1944, Bishop V. Borisevičius on his own initiative met with LFA partisans and asked them not to target people who saved Jews, and not to target Jews who had been rescued either. Some LFA members considered these people Soviet supporters and planned to get rid of them.”
Some of the biographies of LFA activists are especially troubling, including those of these three men recently made colonels, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, Vincas Kaulinis-Miškinis and Juozas Krikštaponis (aka Krištaponis). All three of them are known Nazi collaborators. All three were involved in the genocide of the Jews and in war crimes.
Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas (born 1915) held a high post in the LFA after the war. From 4 June 1946, to 2 February 1948, he was the chief of the Tauras military district, and from 15 January 1947, to 2 February 1948, he was the chief of staff of the Supreme Armed Forces of the Union of the United Democratic Resistance.
But during the war Baltūsis-Žvejas was in command of Lithuanian police who guarded the Maydanak concentration camp where more than 79,000 people were killed or starved to death. Historian Mindaugas Pocius writes in his book “Kita mėnulio pusė” [“The Other Side of the Moon”], page 280:
“One cannot hide the fact that Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas is suspected of committing genocide. In 1943 Baltūsis was brigade commander of the 252nd Police Battalion which guarded the Maydanak concentraction camp.”
After the war the future colonel was directly involved in the massacre of civilians.
“Chief of staff of the Supreme Armed Forces of the [Union of the United Democratic Resistance] and commander of the Tauras military district A. Baltūsis-Žvejas considered the murder of families of Communists a natural and acceptable method. […] In 1947 Baltūsis ordered unit commanders, in the event of deportations, “for every Lithuanian deported and family destroyed, to exterminate not less than a family of one Bolshevik, exterminating all members of the family.” He ordered: “If it’s possible, hang them all without shooting.”
(M. Pocius, Kita mėnulio pusė, pages 279-280).
Baltūsis-Žvejas also issued orders which fall into the category of ethnic cleansing.
In 1947 he ordered a punitive operation against residents of Opšrūtai village in the Pilviškės rural district in the Vilkaviškis district, among whom lived Russian families who had been moved there from the Suwalki region in 1941. In October of 1947 Opšrūtai village residents received a notice from the Žalgiris platoon of the Tauras military district titled “Lithuania is for Lithuanians Only,” which said:
“Enemies of the Lithuanian people, Russians, Bolshevik KCP colonists, we have many times shown good will and humanity to foreigners, including to you. … We demand that in the period of one month you would quit yourselves of Lithuania as soon as possible. Those families who do not heed this demand will be exterminated, without regard to age or sex.”
(Laisvės kovų archyvas, Kaunas 1998, volume 23, page 138)
During the night of November 15 and early morning of November 16, 1947, the Žalgiris platoon of the Tauras military district carried out their threats.
“During the repression operation units of the platoon killed 31 colonists and wounded 13. In total 9 families suffered living at 8 farms, of which three were burned down. Eight men, 9 women and 14 children and adolescents were defeated or killed during the attack. Two men and 10 children were wounded. The corpses of 6 people were consumed by fire.”
(M. Pocius, Kita mėnulio pusė, page 298)
So the question arises: how could a man who during the war was directly involved in the extermination of people under the Nazis and who in the post-war period himself ordered the murder of civilians in Lithuania be honored by the government? Although his colleagues, members of the armed resistance, harbored no doubts about his actions. As the pseudo-official-sounding webpage genocid.lt puts it:
“After his death A. Baltūsis-Žvejas’s achievements were already recognized by the partisans of Lithuania. On 1 June 1950, he was awarded the order of the Cross of the Freedom Struggle (with swords), in all degrees.”
Vincas Kaulinis (born 1912)graduated from the Utena Gymnasium. In 1937 he completed work at the police academy and was employed as a police wachsmeister. In 1941 he participated in the June uprising. From 1944 on he became the partisan Miškinis and was the head of a unit. On 25 August 1946, he was appointed chief of the Liūtas Platoon of the Vytautas military district. In June of 1947 he became chief of the Vytautas military district. On 24 March 1949, he was killed in an ambush. In 1997 Vincas Kaulinis-Miškinis was recognized posthumously as having the status of a volunteer soldier. In 1999 he was awarded the Order of the Cross of Vytis, first degree. In 2002 he was promoted to colonel.
At first glance Vincas Kaulinis-Miškinis’s biography might appear extraordinarily honorable, but one fact is often omitted. In the summer of 1941 after the Nazis occupied Lithuania, the police wachsmeister made an incredible leap in his career and became the police chief of the Vilnius region. He retained that high post until the very end of the occupation.
What did the police do in occupied Lithuania, and especially in the Vilnius region? The police carried out the orders of the occupying Nazi regime: they captured Jews and turned them over to German security, they captured people for forced labor in Germany, they searched for men boycotting the labor mobilization and deserters, and they enforced mandatory contributions of agricultural goods. In the Vilnius region they had a further job: to put down the anti-Nazi underground.
Unfortunately, there is practically no information about Kaulinis’s actions, unlike the actions of his colleague Aleksandras Lileikis, chief of the Lithuanian Security Police for the Vilnius region. It is only known that residents of Lithuania within the jurisdiction he was assigned were murdered en masse. Here are a few gravesites of people murdered in the Vilnius region provided on the website of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum: Ponár (Paneriai) Forest, where over 100,000 people were murdered between 1941 and 1944; Vėliučioniai Forest, where 1,159 people were murdered on 22 September 1941; Nemenčinė Forest, where about 25,000 Jews and Soviet POWs were murdered and buried between 1941 and 1944; Didieji Karklėnai village, where about 10,000 people were murdered and buried from September to November of 1941; Nemežėlė village, where about 300 people were murdered and buried in June 1943; Naujaneriai village, where 1,760 people were murdered and buried on 24September 1941.
Thousands were murdered. Although the Vilnius region police officers perhaps didn’t do the killing themselves, their job was to make sure the victims didn’t escape the slaughterhouse. Whether Kaulinis participated in the murder of even one individual, we don’t know. That should have been determined before awarding him the medals and promoting him to the rank of officer.
Juozas Krikštaponis (Krištaponis)
The third hero of Adamkus’s decree was Juozas Krikštaponis (born 1912), also a colorful character. He was the son of the sister of interwar Lithuania’s President Antanas Smetona’s. In 1934 he graduated from the Military Academy and served as a junior officer. In 1938 he was transferred to the Military Academy and was appointed a unit commander. In 1940 he was appointed physical education instructor for the 184th sharpshooters’ division of the 29th Territorial Corps of the Red Army. When the German-Soviet war broke out he deserted and went to Vilnius. He spent a week serving in the 2nd security platoon of the Vilnius command. On 1 August 1941, he became commander of the 2nd platoon of the 2nd National Labor Security [TDA] battalion under the command of the Kaunas komandatura [Jurgis Bobelis was commandant —Trans].
General Staff major Antanas Impulevičius’s 2nd Lithuanian Police (TDA) battalion (called the 12th battalion after 15 February 1942), where Krikštaponis served, immediately gained renown for brutal mass murder operations outside Lithuania. At the beginning of October1941, the battalion received the order from major F. Lechthaller of the German Reserve Police Battalion: “clean up Minsk, Borisov and Slutsk districts of the surviving remnants of the Bolshevik army and Bolshevik partisans.”
This is what Dr. A. Bubnys has written about the acts of the 2nd Battalion:
“On 6 October 1941, Impulevičius’s battalion, which had 23 officers and 464 junior officers besides regular enlisted men, went to Minsk. […] The mass murder carried out by the 2nd Battalion, Belarusian police and German Gestapo is known. On 8 October 1941, 2nd Battalion soldiers shot 617 Jews in the town Dukor in the Minsk region. On 10 and 11 October 1941, battalion soldiers shot 188 civilians in the town of Rudensk in the Minsk region. On 14 October 1941, the battalion shot 1,300 civilians (mainly Jews) at Smilovich in the Minsk region. On October 15-16 and 18, they shot 1,775 Jews and Communists in Minsk.
“German officers usually led the mass murder operations while 2nd Battalion police did the shooting. The absolute majority of the victims were Jews, but there were also Communists, Soviet activists, partisans, partisan supporters and Soviet POWs shot.
“On 21 October 1941, soldiers from the battalion’s 1st platoon (commanded by lieutenant Z. Kemzūra) shot about 1,000 Jews and Communists. On 28-29 October 1941, the battalion murdered about 5,000 Jews in Slutsk. Even Slutsk district commissar Heinrich Carl was horrified by these massacres. In his letter of October 30, 1941, to the German general commissar in Minsk he wrote: ‘… On the methods of executing the operation, that, very sorry to say, I must admit, that they were almost equal to sadism. During the operation the very city appeared horrible. The unspeakably brutal German police officers, and especially the Lithuanian partisans, dragged Jews out of their homes, and among them were Belarusians, and packed them into a single location. There were bullets flying everywhere in the city, and on some streets whole heaps of the corpses of shot Jews turned up. … I ask only that my one request be honored: in the future make sure to save me from this police battalion!”
There is information that in the autumn of 1941 the 2nd Battalion together with Germans shot about 46,000 people in Belarus (including about 9,000 Soviet POWs) and hanged 12 Soviet underground members. The overwhelming majority of the victims were Jews.”
Later Krikštaponis was reassigned to the 252-E Battalion, and on 30 September 30 1942, he was released from service. He was a member of the Lithuanian Freedom Army (LFA) from 1943 onward. In August of 1944 he was named chief of the 2nd LFA Region (Taujėnai and partially including the Deltuva rural district). In December of 1944 the Vytis military district was formed out of the LFA 1st and Second Regions and he was named district chief. He died on 12 January 1945, in the Užulėnis Forest during an NKVD divisions’ military operation. On 22 December 1997, he was accorded the status of volunteer soldier (posthumously). On 31 October 31, 2002, he was promoted to the rank of colonel by Lithuanian presidential decree.
To sum up, this colonel was in command of a platoon [whatever the correct translation for this unit of troops, Impulevičius’s battalion was comprised of three of them, plus the general staff, and Krikštaponis was in command of one of these three constituent subunits —Trans] in Impulevičius’s battalion responsible for murdering tens of thousands of people in Belarus.
How must members of the victims’ families feel that a square in Ukmergė was somehow named after Krikštaponis?
And what sort of characterization does a governing elite deserve when it openly worships Nazi murderers?
These are rhetorical questions, but there will come a day when they will have to be answered.
Authorized translation by Geoff Vasil of an article by Evaldas Balčiūnas that originally appeared in Antifa.lt on 9 April 2011.