Nation-building has two primary paths. A common cause, or a common enemy. For Jews, our common Zionist cause was to stop others from murdering us. But what do those who have murdered, stolen and lied do to build common cause to build a nation? A case study using Lithuania follows.
The heroization of Lithuania’s so-called “June Uprising” in 1941 is the product of efforts by those who fled Lithuania for the United States after World War II. Holocaust perpetrators such as Kazys Škirpa who led the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) he created in and from Berlin, acting head of the LAF-constituted government Juozas Ambrazevičius Brazaitis, Brazaitis’s minister of industry Adolfas Damušis and others went to extreme efforts and spent much time trying to present a positive image of the so-called “Uprising”. It’s much due to their exertions that the uprising is portrayed as an example of the noble resistance to the Soviets and even as an anti-Nazi movement, as an attempt to preserve Lithuanian statehood.
Historical sources do not affirm this heroic image. One question arises immediately: can we consider military formations established in Nazi-occupied territory after the front had shifted eastward members of the anti-Soviet insurgency? In whole series of Lithuanian districts the “uprising” happened like this: some initiator invited former riflemen and simply young men to assemble and after a brief period of agitation announced the formation of “partisan” units, who went on to carry out orders from the restored “Lithuanian” and German administrations.
Following in the footsteps of Nazi propagandists such as Skirpa, Lithuania’s historians who lionize the “uprising” fail to assess critically the achievements of that uprising in terms of consolidating statehood. The Nazis called Lithuania “the former nation of,” and after the insurgents had finished establishing the administration required by the Nazis and the former partisan units had been transformed into the auxiliary police, Nazis simply banned the LAF, thus putting an end to this game of illusions. This is the pathetic assessment of their own work the LAF leadership themselves made in a memo to von Renteln dated September 15, 1941. Question: why do some of the current historians who follow the material invented by Škirpa, Brazaitis and Damušis see victory where even the LAF leadership perceived abject failure?
Another question: what about the aid the LAF, the insurgents and the government they formed supplied the Nazis in occupying Lithuania? Although some historians note the LAF’s efforts to exploit the Nazis, in the above-mentioned memo the LAF leadership admitted the Nazis had exploited them, and in exchange they received nothing at all.
There is yet another “achievement” the insurgents made, one which the current crop of historians of the aforementioned persuasion who hide under the umbrella of the Orwellian Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania tend to minimize. That is, the Holocaust. The director of this Genocide Center and supposedly one of its best historians, Arūnas Bubnys, says the connection between the partisan insurgents and the Holocaust can only be traced in separate biographies. It’s difficult to say how much this position is based on academic research and how much it is based on the political considerations of an institution which is tasked with a mendacious denial of the Holocaust and a twisted policy of historical memory. The truth is, this reliance on the biographies of individual figures is garbage. When Soviet interrogators were seeking out those guilty of crimes, this reliance on individual biographies might have been somewhat justified, but even so, we have to recognize that this chasing after individuals resulted in the loss of the general picture and scope of the crime. Furthermore, the Soviet prosecutors didn’t just seek out the guilty, they actively tried to protect their own informers, even in cases when those informers were Holocaust criminals. So this focus on individuals now only shows the current historians are following in the footsteps of the Soviet prosecutors, and that they can’t divorce themselves from the system created by the Smersh. Moreover, it is obvious there are also attempts to hide the stains in the biographies of those people whom the liars in charge of Lithuania’s historical memory policy have declared heroes.
After three decades, Lithuanian historiography still has no idea concerning what portion of those who took up arms in the summer of 1941 have Jewish blood on their hands. The Genocide Center only admits those were convicted by Soviet courts, but with large exceptions to that rule. If the convicted party never admitted their guilt, or if there is no direct testimony that he shot Jews, but perhaps he only marched Jews to the mass murder sites (J. Streikus and the Jews of Turmantas), or he returned from guarding Jews with bloody trousers (K. Zavalis and the Jews of Telšiai), then that person is “completely innocent”.
How many Lithuanians murdered Jews
Let’s return to the “uprising” and try to make some sense of the numbers. The historian Valentinas Brandišauskas says there were around 400 insurgent units during the uprising comprised of 16,000-20,000 people in total. It’s worth noting the number of units correlates directly with the 400 shtetls where Jews lived in Lithuania before they were murdered by these units, and also corresponds with the more than 200 mass murder sites in Lithuania. The number of partisan insurgents is similar to the number of Lithuanian men who joined the Lithuanian police battalions to serve the Nazis. A large portion of these battalions to a lesser or greater extent were involved in the Holocaust in Lithuania, Belarus, the Ukraine and Poland. Jews from France and Czechoslovakia as well as Lithuania were murdered by these battalions. It would seem the duty of historians to research these connections, not just individual biographies of alleged partisan perpetrators. This duty is baffled by strict time constraints placed on the insurgency. According to these dates, the uprising took place from June 22 to June 28, 1941. One is left to suppose these units vanished like ghosts and after that the Jews were murdered by other groups established and formed by the Nazis.
Let’s look at the case of Kaunas. It is interesting because this was the city which the insurgents occupied before the Nazis arrived and where they formed their Provisional Government and declared “independence.”
On June 25 there were 36 insurgent units in Kaunas and 16 units in the surrounding district registered at the Kaunas kommandatura. This included 2,600 men in the city and 800 outside city limits (from Lietuvių tautos sukilimas 1941 m. birželio 22-28 d.“ Vilnius 2011 [The Uprising of the Lithuanian Nation June 22-28, 1941]).
The widely-known pogroms took place in Kaunas from June 25 to 27, during which several thousand Jews were murdered. Lithuanian historiography tries to minimize this number of victims. According to Stahlecker’s report of October 15, 1941, “During the first pogrom, on the night of June 25 into June 26, Lithuanian partisans liquidated more than 1,500 Jews, burned down or otherwise destroyed synagogues and put the Jewish quarter to the torch, which included about 60 buildings. On the following nights 2,300 Jews were rendered harmless in the same manner.”
The Lithuanian Encyclopedia published in the United States provides a much smaller number of victims from the pogrom in Slobodka aka Vilijampolė, just 800, see https://www.vle.lt/straipsnis/zydu-pogromai-kaune-1941-metais/. Lithuanian sources claim E. J. Klimaitis, K. Šimkus and B. Norkus were responsible for the pogroms and led the participants. The historians Saulius Sužiedėlis and Christoph Dieckmann from the International Commission convened by the Lithuanian president follow the same well-worn path and present these numbers of victims from the pogroms in Kaunas: “800 in Slobodka, 50-60 at the Lietūkis garage massacre and about 150 elsewhere.”
The number of perpetrators in the pogroms isn’t known precisely with researchers presenting numbers from 300 to 600. It is patently obvious there were much more than 20 people involved (see the above-mentioned encyclopedia entry). In order to delink the insurgents from the pogroms, the aforementioned encyclopedia claims the “June Uprising” ended in Kaunas on June 25, and that the armed men who carried out the pogroms were not subordinate to the Provisional Government. A report from Einsatzgruppe A talks about contacts with two or four insurgent organizations regarding the issue of pogroms. What these organizations were is hard to determine, but the insurgents at that time were organized into units.
Many academics claim that a large number of prisoners released from the Kaunas prison took part both in the pogroms in Slobodka and at the Lietūkis garage, and that were smaller revenge attacks and murders in the city center. No serious historian claims the pogroms were carried out and organized with arriving German forces. They claim the Germans inspired the assembled Lithuanians to carry out the pogroms through some mysterious, unknown means. Thus it makes sense to look at which insurgent units operated in the Kaunas Old Town and city center. The book Lietuvių tautos sukilimas 1941 m. birželio 22-28 d.“ Vilnius 2011 [The Uprising of the Lithuanian Nation June 22-28, 1941] presents a survey of those units and soldiers: there were 9 units with about 900 insurgents operating there. In terms of size four units were exceptional: about 150 men on Freedom Alley, the 1st Militia Department with about 100 men, the prison unit with about 150 and the Reserve Unit at the Palace of Labor with about 250 men.
This accounted for more than 600 men and they certainly did not have any current Uprising orders assigned to them which would justify such a large number of troops. In this manner Klimaitis or someone else was apparently able to engage partisan insurgents with no active orders in going berserk in pogroms. If we accept that, then from 30% to 60% of the insurgents in the city center and the Old Town took part in the pogroms. If we compare this with the total number of insurgents in Kaunas we arrive at the lesser number of 12% to 23% of insurgents (whereas the encyclopedia alleges 1.2%). But this still isn’t the whole story.
The Provisional Government reorganized the insurgent units into the National Labor Protection Battalion (TDA in Lithuanian) and set up a Jewish concentration camp at the Seventh Fort in Kaunas. In early July about 1,500 Jews were imprisoned at that Fort and another 1,869 Jews were imprisoned in the Kaunas prison. The guards holding the Jews at the fort continuously pulled out groups of Jews numbering over a dozen and shot them dead. The historians from the International Commission we mentioned above estimate that around 5,000 Jews were shot at the fort in the first week of July. The Kaunas TDA battalion was established June 29 immediately after the insurgents were ordered to surrender their weapons. As of July 4 the Kaunas TDA battalion had 724 soldiers, excluding officers. How many of them took part in the mass murder operations? On a daily basis there were 49 men assigned as guards at the fort and another 18 assigned to the prison. Four days of shooting times 49 men is 196 men. According to statements and testimonies, it wasn’t just the guards who did the shooting, but also all sorts of enthusiasts. According to statements from those later convicted, men from the first, third and fifth platoon did the shooting. If we are counting at the platoon level, that means up to 2/3 of police officers from the battalion were involved in Holocaust crimes, although this is unlikely. More likely, up to 200 men might have been involved, i.e., from 27% to 30% of the men who had taken up arms. Historical sources record that around 200 men quit that battalion while 500 found service there acceptable. These figures seem to indicate about 2/3 of the initial troops in the battalion were in favor of the mass murder. About one third didn’t approve and were perhaps horrified by the extermination, but didn’t do anything to stop it. i.e. they enabled it.
It’s significant that this was the situation in Kaunas, where the Provisional Government had the most influence, and that the TDA battalion was established by that government’s decision. There are arguments that the insurgents who took up arms in rural locations in Lithuania might have been more sympathetic to the Jews. So of 16 to 20 partisans who took up arms in June, from a third to one half had Jewish blood on their hands. It is possible some units weren’t engaged in this at all because there were no Jews living in the area. While not all of them personally shot Jews, they were involved in arresting Jews, sending them into make-shift ghettos or guarding them. And a portion of them who witnessed the mass murder decided to flee, as with the aforementioned group of TDA police officers, but they fled quietly, without even trying to defend their Jewish neighbors with verbal protests. This is the sad history of the summer and fall of 1941 till the end of 1941, by which time the absolute majority of Lithuanian Jewish communities had been exterminated.
The only remaining Jews by that time were imprisoned in the ghettos established in Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai and Švenčionys.
Later the soldiers in the police battalions from Kaunas and elsewhere in Lithuania carried out their genocidal orders not just in Lithuania, but in Belarus, Poland and the Ukraine. Coincidence or not, their numbers were the same as the number of insurgent partisans in June of 1941, around 20,000.
Attempts by Lithuanian historians to disconnect the insurgent partisans of the June Uprising from the Holocaust are immoral. In 1999 Joseph Melamed published a list of around 5,000 Lithuanians who were involved in the mass murder of Jews. This list wasn’t complete, but if we go by it alone, around 25% of Lithuanians who took up arms were involved in Holocaust crimes. The Republic of Lithuania responded to the publication of this list by laying charges against Joseph Melamed, thus obscuring the sources used for compiling his list. (Note, Lithuania also tried to levy criminal charges against Yitzhak Arad, and threatened me with criminal charges for exposing the Holocaust crimes of Jonas Noreika).
Attempting to negate Melamed’s list, the Lithuanian Genocide Center performed their own “research” on the names, but at the conclusion of this project declined to publish their own list. They restricted themselves to saying about 2,039 names had been confirmed. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Lithuania in turn declined to investigate or even check the list, justifying their inaction by saying all the names were of people deceased. Nonetheless, the number released by the Genocide Center shows that even this institution, charged with denying and distorting the Holocaust at the national level, admits that up to 10% of citizens who took up arms during the Nazi occupation were involved in mass murder. Even so, the archives only conserve a fraction of the relevant documents. How many Holocaust criminals were never mentioned in any documents, and never appeared in testimonies by the people they murdered? Taken this into consideration, again we can state confidently that at least one-third of the insurgent partisans had Jewish blood on their hands. And therefore no lionization of the so-called June Uprising is acceptable
We don’t know when this obvious truth will be recognized by Lithuanian institutions hiding behind the cult of imaginary heroes. We only know that neither the insurgents of the June Uprising nor the soldiers of the police battalions who served the Nazis can be considered heroes.
Participants in the slaughter
Those Lithuanian “Partisans” that were not murdering, raping or robbing, were bystanders. They could have intervened to stop the murders, they chose not to. They enabled non-Jewish Lithuanians to murder Jewish Lithuanians. The best of them were silent bystanders to annihilationist racists, the worst of them today are among Lithuania’s pantheon of national heroes.
The Lithuanian government which claims the murderers are heroes, dishonor the memory of Jews murdered in Lithuania. They are effectively denying the Holocaust and continuing the dehumanization of Jews. If Russia today entered Lithuania and murdered 220,000 Lithuanians, would Lithuania consider them heroes? No. That designation is limited only to Lithuanians that murdered Jews.
And so, upon a lie, Lithuania has built national solidarity and national identification. They show that facts are disposable, they need only a diligence to myths and lies, enforced by corrupt Courts and ideological leadership. What will happen to Lithuania‘s national cohesion when their population eventually discovers how much they have been deceived by their national government? When they recognize that their foundation myths are mostly frauds?
Lithuania‘s national lie is enabled also by Jewish organizations that give Lithuania a platform to disseminate their frauds in front of unsuspecting Jews. This, while not holding Lithuania to account for their Holocaust lies. When Yad Vashem allows the Lithuanian Ambassador to disseminate lies from our holy place of memory, the very mission of Yad Vashem has been degraded. When AJC gives Lithuania an unrestricted platform and supports them in every way possible, while ignoring or excusing their Holocaust fraud, AJC has become an enabler of Holocaust distortion. Surely we deserve better. The only means we have to express our outrage against entities such as AJC is to withhold donations.
Lithuania offers the world a model on how to eliminate a hated group, declare themselves the rescuers of that group, claim they were actually the victims, and undermine the very institutions of that group that are supposed to preserve memory. Lithuania has built a new nation upon a total lie. Lithuania has taught the world how to get away with murder. This is their only lasting national legacy.
Lithuania has done it. Why not the Palestinian Authority? Why not Hamas? Why not Hezbollah?
The above was coauthored by Evaldas Balčiūnas.