O P I N I O N
by Evaldas Balčiūnas
When I wrote about three glorified Lithuanian Freedom Army colonels who had in fact been implicated in the Holocaust, I did not realize quite how deep-rooted the shameful worship of Nazi-era war criminals has become here in Lithuania. I used to think that a few mistakes had been made due to patriotic excesses. A year has passed since that article, and I no longer feel that this is just some irksome problem “still encountered now and then”…
First things first. This had been one of my early articles on this subject. It elicited a reaction from people who call themselves patriots. From the very beginning diverse commentators began issuing threats and accused me of slandering “honorable people.” One such commentator demanded a list of historians and works I used as a basis for the article. I heard later there were also reactions at official institutions.
One year later, I found proof that this was true, not more and not less, in the annual report of the Lithuanian Center for Research on Genocide and Resistance, which referred to a report called “On the Actions of Lithuanian Freedom Army Officers During the Nazi Occupational Period.” I was eager to read the contents of that report. It wasn’t made public, however. But after some time I managed to obtain a copy of the report sent by an employee of the Genocide Center, but with an admonition from the employee that it not be made public.
I felt constrained to request a copy of the report once more. Only through the kind intercession of a member of parliament from the city of Šiauliai, MP Žakaris, was I able to receive an official letter which duly confirmed that I had received earlier, from the Center employee, an authentic copy of the report. This letter, a WORD document, contains no signature, but I believe the document sent to the MP and myself does confirm the authenticity of the text I received earlier. The latter document sent to the MP and me states that the Center for Research on Genocide etc. does not make public their correspondence with state institutions and private individuals. I am not an employee of that center, and I believe revealing the contents of this report serves the public interest, so I have published it in Lithuanian, and now publish this authorized translation in English in DefendingHistory.
I had written in my essay about three known Nazi collaborators who were bestowed the honorary rank of colonel, posthumously, in 2002. This promotion to officer rank of these individuals most likely means they are recognized as enjoying the legal status of being members of the armed resistance. This is likely a violation of law, because the article of the law that deals with applying that status, Article 6, says:
“[… ] 2. The status of volunteer soldier and freedom fighter is not recognized for people who:
1) committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, ordered the killing of or killed unarmed civilians or participated in the commission of these crimes;
2) were regular employees of repressive institutions of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, were agents or informers for these institutions, [or who] knowingly worked with [collaborated with] the repressive institutions of the occupational regimes; […]”
It will probably come as no surprise that it was Arvydas Anušauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee, who requested that a report be drawn up on these Nazi collaborators. The Genocide Center’s report clearly proves that it has rather detailed information on war crimes committed by Juozas Krikštaponis and Antanas Baltūsis. This information, however, was no hindrance to elevating them posthumously. Let’s say for the sake of argument that this was all a mistake, and Mr. Anušauskas wanted to correct it. Then how do we explain the fact that he as chairman of the National Security and Defense Committee received the report over one year ago now, but that presidential decree honoring the alleged war criminals continues to be legally in force?
The Genocide Center’s report, it turns out, actually recognizes two of the three colonels in my article to be war criminals. The report claims that the career of the third posthumous colonel, Vincas Kaulinis, in service to the Vilnius region police, was made up of whole cloth by the multi-talented Ričardas Čekutis [for more on this neo-Nazi march organizer and Genocide Center “senior specialist” see here, here, here, and here]. The authors of the report claim their Center has no information that Vincas Kaulinis worked for the police during the Nazi occupation. Perhaps it is truly so, but for the sake of truth it must also be noted that even today the Center’s website contains only one page with this man’s biography, namely, one that recapitulates the allegedly erroneous, febrile dreams of the semi-legendary Ričardas Čekutis.
So even where a dead man allegedly has been slandered, the Genocide-centered institutions of the Republic of Lithuania appear to be in no hurry to make corrections. Why are they acting in this way? I don’t know. All I know is that paying honor to war criminals compromises the Lithuanian institutions engaged in that activity. This comprises an elaborate denial of the crimes of the occupational regimes, which is a punishable crime under Lithuanian law.
What we have is an unfortunate and deplorable situation: six decades after World War II, which has cost the lives of so many people, and after the Nuremburg Trials, Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus decided to award two possible war criminals the posthumous ank of colonel. Should colonels in the NATO bloc take pride that they have a fellow officer, Colonel Krištaponis, who was in command of the mass murder of POWs in Minsk and who ordered the mass execution of civilians in Rudensk? Should they stand proud to be historic comrades of Colonel Baltūsis, who was in charge of the murderous guards at the Maidanek gas chambers? I rather doubt that these Nazi collaborators would lead soldiers from NATO countries to beam with pride and admiration. I also do not believe that today’s Lithuanian soldiers harbor a burning desire to take pride in serial killers who murdered civilians.
It is difficult to believe that the institutions responsible for this dishonoring and compromising of the state will clean up their acts themselves. As soon as the Soviet Union fell there were a series of scandals involving KGB documents that had been left behind in Lithuania. A portion were simply pilfered by officials from the new Republic of Lithuania. There were rumors that some were caught in the act, carrying documents off from the KGB archive to destinations unknown. The archives are incomplete in any case, because Soviet officials themselves destroyed a lot.
Furthermore, of those remaining, some are still not accessible, more than two decades after the end of the Soviet Union. Some of these are perhaps made public occasionally, but only partially and according to some perceived immediate political gain to be had. In the most recent documents made public on 10 August 2012, for example, we find the names of two politicians from opposition parties. This raises doubts about the impartiality of the Genocide Center. These are not isolated incidents, either. Let’s recall the “case” of R. Naraškevičienė, the person in charge in 2000 of the “Group for Preparation of Documents on Victims” of the Genocide Center, the group that illegally granted her the status of deportee.
At a similar level of scandal was the recommendation by a commission in 2002 that the president grant the rank of colonel to Krištaponis and Baltūsis. The swarming by these sort of people around institutions which allocate privileges is no surprise at all. Neither does the position of Anušauskas, a current political figure who continues to present himself as an historian, cause any wonder.
What is sad, and frankly astonishing, is that the Republic of Lithuania and its officials silently swallow these facts discrediting the country, and that the president neither has nor seeks advisers capable of advising her on the question of this mess disgracing the honor of the state.
We have a nasty and pitiable situation in which murderers are posthumously granted honoors, alleged war criminals receive high decoration from the state. It reached the ultimate absurdity in May 2012 when the head of the Nazi puppet government in Lithuania who collaborated in the persecution of Lithuanian citizens was reburied with state honors, in a month when officials announced that no money could be found to honor those who Lithuanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
The situation is deplorable, but the public remains silent and continues to pay the salaries of these people carrying out such unethical and immoral work.