Germany is almost unique in the history of humankind in honestly admitting perpetrating a genocide. Adolf Hitler wanted to rid Europe of the “useless race” of Jews by exporting Jews to locations such as Uganda or Madagascar. It was only in January 1942 that Hitler’s murderous gang met officially for the first time to set in motion the more expedient and exacting method of mass extermination.
Nazi occupied Lithuania had already accomplished a localized murder rate of 80% of their Jewish population, prior to the formalized Nazi decision to extinguish Jews. By this time, only 34,000 Jews remained alive on Lithuanian soil.
Lithuania proved to the Nazis how quickly, easily and successfully murdering Jews could be achieved. The veneer of civilization in Lithuania was exceedingly thin, removing social restraints to slaughter their neighbors and friends was accomplished without much effort or remorse. Participation in Holocaust crimes became widespread, whether it was actually physical murdering or sharing in the profits from looted Jewish owned property.
While Lithuanians often claim the shroud of victimhood, which is indeed true, they deliberately neglect their own culpability in the genocide of Jewish Lithuanians.
At the start of the war, Lithuanian leadership in Dzukija, based in Alytus, wrote to the German Military Commandant, complaining that the German army was too lenient on Jews and others. This Lithuanian leadership complained that German soldiers were intervening on behalf of arrested Jews. They requested German permission to “cleanse” the region in a ten day period. “Cleansing” meant an abattoir of slaughter of their Jewish neighbors and co-citizens. Germans did not instruct these murders, Lithuanians requested German permission to commit the murders. (LCVA f.1346, a.1, b.24, l.12-14)
This Lithuanian leadership created rules of conduct which they named: “Rules for organizing Partisans”. Rule number 10 required all Lithuanian Partisans upon enlisting, to sign the following oath:
“I, XXX, enlist in the ranks of the Partisans. I promise, sparing no efforts and disregarding any risks to life, to fight with Bolshevik soldiers who are hiding, supporters of the Bolshevik regime, Communists, Communist Youths, Pioneers (Pioneers were children age 9 – 15 in an organization), and all people who are looting or disturbing public order, not to be guided by personal revenge, and to execute with holy devotion all of the duties assigned to me by leaders and superiors. Long live Lithuania, Long Live Germany the liberator and its leader Adolph Hitler.
Enlisting in these Lithuanian Partisans was voluntary, their oath to Hitler was voluntary, and their slaughter of Jews was voluntary.
Lithuania honors many murderers of Jews as their national heroes.
In a statement dated October 11, 2018, the Lithuanian Government set a new standard for determining perpetrator guilt – only those tried and found guilty during their lifetimes may be considered guilty, all others are “completely innocent”. Neither Adolph Hitler nor Joseph Stalin were put on trial during their lifetimes.
Defining this new legal standard becomes a slippery slope. Historical research and facts become worthless. Will Lithuania apply this “completely innocent” status only to Lithuanians who were perpetrators against Jews, or will Lithuania similarly apply this status to those who oppressed ethnic Lithuanians?
Recently, the Lithuanian Government issued determinations of culpability of Lithuanian citizens who worked for the Soviet KGB during the Soviet occupation. These Lithuanian KGB agents were not placed on trial and convicted during their lifetime. Applying the Government’s own standards, they would have therefore been deemed “completely innocent”. This amply displays that the Lithuanian Government has one standard for Lithuanian crimes against Jews, and another standard for crimes against ethnic Lithuanians.
With few exceptions, those Lithuanians who proclaimed the voluntary “Oath to Hitler”, and those who murdered Lithuanian Jews, are, by this new legal standard “completely innocent” of crimes, since Lithuania fiercely resisted prosecuting Holocaust perpetrators during their lifetimes. Certainly no Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrator was punished for their crimes by the independent State of Lithuania.
For the approximately 200,000 murdered Jewish victims of Lithuania, the Lithuanian State is ensuring that truth will not prevail. Lithuania continues to honor many of her newly re-defined “completely innocent” genocidal murderers, as their greatest national heroes. Our families lay restlessly in their Lithuanian death pits while many of their murderers are lauded with Lithuanian national honors.