Editor’s note: This article has been translated for our readers at the suggestion of Professor Pinchos Fridberg, whose note to us (here translated from the original Yiddish) reads: “As a Holocaust survivor, I respectfully request that Defending History arrange for translation and publication of this article, in which the director-general of the Genocide Center in Vilnius is quoted as saying that ‘Not all people who contributed to the Holocaust should be considered murderers of Jews’.”
This translation, by Geoff Vasil for Defending History, is of the article by Jurgis Jurgelis that appeared in Lithuanian on Delfi.lt on 4 February 2015. See also Defending History’s page and section on the Genocide Center.
May We Take the Status of Volunteer Soldier Away From A. Kraujelis?
by Jurgis Jurgelis
February 4, 2015
Birutė Teresė Burauskaitė, director of the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents, raised a challenge to established positions in Lithuanian law as well as European Court of Human Rights resolutions in early January on the television show “Savaitė.”
First, the director explained that not all people who contributed to the Holocaust should be considered murderers of Jews. Specifically, it wasn’t appropriate to say that about Antanas Baltūsis, she said, a man who headed security at the Maidanek concentration camp during the period of Nazi occupation.
The director said she saw no mistake made in providing this commander the status of Lithuanian volunteer soldier and assigning him the rank of colonel.
Another significant insight/challenge the director man concerned the Aukštaitijan partisan A. Kraujelis. She said “it is very painful to see him called a murderer without explanation in public,” and that “he didn’t murder a single person in the manner ascribed to him.” In what manner he did commit murder, the director didn’t say.
She said “He is really a hero.” We will discuss this perspective of the director’s further.
Who’s to Blame That a “Real Hero” Is Called Murderer in Public?
I would dare say that the director herself and her organization the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents as well as some of Kraujelis’s relatives and fans are to blame for this.
In July of 2011 the director wrote to MPs Andriukaitis, Olekas and Klumbys: “Based on archival documents it was determined that partisan supporter Pr. Gečis and his wife L. Gečienė were murdered on November 5, 1949 by A. Kraujelis aka Siaubūnas and M. Urbonas aka Liepa because they suspected Gečis and Gečienė had betrayed a partisan group on September 28, 1949.” She noted that the victims had not in fact informed on the partisans, but that two KGB agents named Okun and Plūgas had instead.
The only thing left to add to these true words by the director is that Gečienė was in her ninth month of pregnancy. The executions took place in front of the couple’s two young children and the wife’s father Kulionis. No further comment is needed. But there is more commentary.
On July 26, 2007, a prosecutor at the Utena district court asked the witness Janina Šyvokienė, Kraujelis’s sister, how many people Kraujelis had murdered.
The witness replied: “I know of about eleven people he murdered. He really did murder Satkūnas and the Gečis [family].”
On April 19, 2010, Šyvokienė once again confirmed Kraujelis had murdered the Gečis family. She explained further: “He left a message they were liquidated. R. Šaltenis wrote about that in his book.”
Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents senior specialist and expert G. Šidlauskas was questioned at the Panevėžys district court on September 28, 2010. He said the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents had studied the case of the Gečis family thoroughly and had determined that M. Urbonas and A. Kraujelis had murdered them, and that a note of their liquidation had been written and signed by A. Kraujelis aka Siaubūnas and M. Urbonas aka Liepa. Šidlauskas explained the “Gečis case was a mistake.” They had shot the wrong people.
So it is from these (and other) testimonies that the epithet “murderer” arises which is painful for the director to hear. Earlier it was not painful for her to write it, but now it is painful to hear it. What happened? There is more than one motivation behind this conversion of views by the director (and others). What are the reasons?
The Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents has received a request to annul Kraujelis’s legal status as a volunteer soldier because he killed civilians. It turns out, however, that his status is tied up with the famous genocide case against Misiukonys. If Kraujelis’s status is annulled, the Misiukonys case will also fall.
There is fear that if the Misiukonys case fails then other similar cases will as well. There is also the fear that taking away Kraujelis’s status as a volunteer soldier will set a bad precedent in Lithuania. Similar requests will appear. What will happen then?
Thus Kraujelis’s volunteer status becomes a significant political value which needs to be defended. The value must be protected as pure, untarnished by the word murderer!
The Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents has again undertaken exactly this mission. Without wasting any time the Center has begun a new investigation/evaluation of Kraujelis. The Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents senior specialist G. Šidlauskas, with a high school education, has been appointed to head the investigation. The investigators will not take a long time in determining what they need to find, namely, that he is not guilty, that he has murdered no one (although Kraujelis’s sister said he had murdered about eleven people). Others fired the shots, but he did not personally. The director has confirmed his innocence with the words “he is truly a hero.”
Through various media channels the results of the investigation are revealed to the nation. One copy of the conclusion lies on the table of the Lithuanian Appellate Court next to the Misukuonys genocide case. Let the judges read it.
Kraujelis Has No Longer Shot the Gečis Family
In order to wash the appellation of murderer from Kraujelis, researchers from the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents first separated Kraujelis from the most cynical execution, the shooting of the Gečis family. They crossed out all the above-mentioned testimonies that this was Kraujelis’s work. The researchers no longer cite these testimonies, as if they had never existed.
Second, the investigators will not undertake to question any living eye-witness of this or the other executions (for example, by the child of those murdered).
Third, the researchers confine themselves exclusively to KGB documents, which they themselves claim are unreliable. The information in these documents which is unfavorable to Kraujelis is rejected by the investigators as unreliable, other information they distort and still other information they make up.
The biggest obstacle for the researchers is testimony by unit leader M. Urbonas (he was arrested and interrogated) that he shot Gečis and Kraujelis shot his wife, Gečienė. The investigators claimed these statements were inadmissible because, allegedly, the KGB might have forced Urbonas to say this. We recall that no one forced lead investigator Šidlauskas to say pretty much the exact same thing as Urbonas had in the Panevėžys court, and yet he did.
The researchers are trying to convince the public Kraujelis had only come to observe the execution of the Gečis family as Urbonas shot them. He hadn’t even brought a pistol along, they claim. You cannot shoot someone without a pistol. Although Urbonas testified Kraujelis was armed, as did Gečienė’s father Kulionis. The murdered couple’s son Albertas also said “I think he had a pistol.”
The investigators really don’t like the notice of liquidation signed by Urbonas and Kraujelis using their pseudonyms. They want to raise doubts for that reason, to say that the sheet was not signed by Kraujelis, but might have been counterfeited by KGB agents.
The researchers write: “Although Urbonas claimed Kraujelis had signed the liquidation act, … MGB experts did not determine that after the performance of handwriting and signature analysis.” This text apparently implies that handwriting analysis was performed and that Kraujelis’s authorship was not established.
The KGB documents say otherwise. In Urbonas’s case only analysis of Urbonas’s handwriting was performed. And it did not determine that it was Urbonas’s handwriting. It couldn’t have been otherwise, because it was Kraujelis who wrote up the document. This is a significant maneuver by the investigators. In the end the researchers resort to forgery.
On November 29, 1952, the interrogator named Vytė set up a confrontation between arrested unit leader Urbonas and Gečienė’s father Kulionis, an eye-witness to the execution. According to Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents investigators, Kulionis when asked by the interrogator to specify more clearly which weapon had fired the shots said “M. Urbonas shot P. Gečis and L. Gečienė and added that perhaps an automatic weapon had been used” (emphasis added by me here and below — Jurgis Jurgelis). But Kulionis did not say this. The record of the interrogatory confrontation places different words upon Kulionis’s lips: “I think he (Urbonas — J. J.) shot from an automatic … and the other (Kraujelis — J. J.) used a pistol.”
So, according to these investigators, Kraujelis did not shoot at all. He probably didn’t even have a pistol with him. He and the young children merely observed as Urbonas killed the parents. And there was the father of the woman watching as well. And perhaps the notice of liquidation was forged by the KGB. And Urbonas probably lied when he said Kraujelis had shot Gečienė. And thus we come to the required conclusion, that Siaubūnas aka Pabaisa was innocent.
Let’s note that the investigators are acting inappropriately regarding the other partisan. In attempting to rescue Kraujelis, they have assigned the murder of the couple to unit commander Urbonas (who was sentenced to death). Director Burauskaitė on the television program mentioned above even tried to assassinate Urbonas’s character by claiming that during interrogation “he (Urbonas — J. J.) tried to get away with it and blame everything on Krauejlis.” But the interrogation documents tell a different story. Urbonas admitted to shooting the man Gečis. So he did not in fact attempt to blame Kraujelis for everything. And [Urbonas said] Kraujelis shot the woman Gečienė. Burauskaitė, incidentally, said the exact same thing earlier to members of parliament, writing that both of the partisans had shot both of the civilians.
Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents Investigation Proves Kraujelis Guilty of War Crimes
Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents investigators thanks to their “unique” methodology have done all they can and what they may not as well to defend the good name of A. Kraujelis. At the conclusion of their investigation they claimed Kraujelis had not murdered [anyone]. He merely took part. He himself had only shot one Communist Youth activist, a Communist and poultry farm worker named Juzė Šidlauskaitė. The investigators felt there might have been an order from a higher authority to kill Communist Youth.
Lead investigator G. Šidlauskas in late December of 2014 told the television program Savaitė: “Both Kraujelis and other partisans who took part in these episodes (he means killings — J. J.) truly did punish those who collaborated with the occupational regime.” In the initial stage, according to the investigators, reliable proof was collected, and only after that was punishment meted out.
Let’s look at an example of such proof. It is provided in the notice of liquidation of the Gečis family (with uncorrected original language − J. J.).
“This year November 5 in the evening at Papiškiai village we liquidated the traitors of eight partisans, Pranas Gečis and his wife Leokadija Gečienė. Concerning their treason was the testimony of clearest proof all neighbors and truly guaranteed everyone according to the information received from the rural district administration who worked together with him in the rural district (he was the bookkeeper of the rural district administration) that [he] began to act much more freely with the Communists. We cannot write down all of the proof because there is too much … We took part in the Gečis case Liepa Pabaisa.”
But the problem here isn’t even “the clearest proof” or “information received from the rural district administration.” The problem is civilians were executed without any court verdict. And this is a war crime.
The investigators probably made a mistake thinking that only his pulling the trigger of a gun could qualify as a crime. Taking part in a mass murder is a crime. All the more so since Kraujelis’s participation was always active. As an example, after killing collective farm worker Litvinavičius, Kraujelis tied up all the family members with a rope to prevent them from escaping and reporting what was going on in their home.
The murder of civilians without trial was considered a war crime back at the time Kraujelis operated. This is confirmed by documents of international law, the European Court of Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the courts as approved by the Supreme Court of Lithuania.
But the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Lithuanian Residents director announces Kraujelis is “truly a hero.” This sort of public statement by the director of a state institution discredits the state itself.