Lithuania represents itself as a haven of human rights, yet the country is vigorous in protecting genocidal rapists as national heroes. Lithuanians’ deception is on a par with the annual “Holocaust Memorial Regret Show” they will produce for the world on January 27, 2022.
Any kind of sexual attack is a violent grab for power. It is meant to debase, dominate and humiliate. Rape leaves physical, psychological, and generational damage.
The mass rapes perpetrated during WWII by, inter alia, Japanese soldiers, Russian military personnel against German women, and Lithuanians against Jews, did not arrive full-blown during the 1940’s. There have been deliberate destructions of Jewish people as far back as two millennia. Thus began the “Just Jews” justifications.
Father Patrick Desbois, a Catholic priest and President of Yahad In Unum, said the “Holocaust of Jewish women in Eastern Europe constitutes a chapter of history that has barely been opened”. Through the Lithuanian government’s heavy-handed pseudo defense of Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators, they have now opened that door for closer examination of these crimes.
Many survivor testimonies from Lithuania describe the barbaric nature of the rape campaign by Lithuanians against Jews.
Ettie Zilber relates her mother’s and her Aunt’s testimonies describing their experiences as young Jewish girls in the city of Kovno/Kaunas. Nechama recalls, “The first week at the 7th Fort [Kaunas] there was no food, no washing, no facilities, no latrines. We were imprisoned in a place with a big hole and no water. Almost every night Germans and Lithuanians came and dragged out women and raped them; sometimes we never saw them again. It was so for seven nights.
Zlata also recounted the horrors of the 7th Fort in Kaunas in July, 1941, “I recognized a classmate of mine who was standing on a nearby hill…. He held a rifle and was guarding us. Funny, I used to tutor him in Lithuanian grammar. Imagine, he was a Lithuanian who did not know his own language well and suddenly here he was standing with a rifle over me. Seeing him was my first shock of realization of our situation…It was a difficult time; we were hungry and dirty and all we had to eat was stale green bread. The [Jewish] men were completely separated from us in a different field. The women huddled together in bunkers. At night, the guards came to look for girls”.
Confirmation about these violent rapes and murders-at the hands of Lithuanians at the 7th Fort [Kaunas] were also described in two books: one by a Jewish journalist survivor (Joseph Gar, 1948) and another by two Lithuanian historians (Petrikenas & Kosas, 2011).
The rapes in Lithuania were often personalized. Lithuanian neighbors raped their Jewish Lithuanian neighbors. They were proud of their rapes which were public spectacles as reported in Violeta Davoliute’s research paper;
“Miciuliene summarizes what her sister heard from her husband. He would come home and would tell her everything he saw:
“Good gracious, beautiful girls, sixteen or seventeen, wearing several dresses one on the top of another. They still hoped to live . . . And the partisans came, those whom we knew very well, our neighbour Gražys, and then Kalendra, they took them to the forest, raped them and then pushed them into the pit. And these girls still try to somehow dig themselves from under the dirt . . . [gesture of an attempt to the face of dirt].”
This horrifying image of rape and murder blends with talk about the impact of the violence on the sister’s family life: “This brother-in-law of ours was not a good man but when he would return home, he would hide his head under the pillow. My sister would ask: “Why aren’t you talking to me? Say something . . . ” And he would answer: “Shut up, my ears are going deaf from the horror . . . Young girls . . . They grab these children by their legs and toss them down.” When asked by Žukauskaite how she could know that such actions were really occurring, Miciuliene exclaims: “My God, how not to know? They were neighbours, we lived nearby! Gražys lived right next door, he walked around with a gun!” (Miciuliene 2009).”
Malka Gilis, in her testimony given to Lieb Koniuchowsky stated: “Every day and night the women had to withstand much trouble and various torments at the hands of the Lithuanian murderers. They would sneak in among the women at night, frightening and waking them. There were many cases of rape then. The murderers who had earlier murdered the husbands enjoyed themselves immensely as they raped the women.”
“A wealthy landowner took ten young girls to work in the fields. He kept them for a certain time, until the work in the fields was finished. The wealthy peasant only brought five girls back to the ghetto. He explained that the other five had been taken away to do field work for a brother of his near the town of Tryshkiai. A lengthy time passed, and the five girls did not return to the ghetto. The sisters who remained in the ghetto rode to the village to look for the five girls, but returned to the ghetto having learned nothing. Later it was discovered that the five girls had been raped, exploited for a while, and finally murdered in a horrible manner. (Those were the rumors among the women in the ghetto.) In general everyone knew that all the women in the countryside were forced to sleep with the peasants or their sons. Many women escaped from the countryside back into the ghetto. As Malke relates, most of those who were with the peasants in the villages were young girls, still children.”
Dvoyre Zif testified: “The Jews in the camp did not receive food. Every night the partisans took young, pretty girls out of the barn and raped them. In the morning they were brought back to the barn. With tears in their eyes, the women related their awful experiences. Dvoyre still remembers the following girls and women who were raped by the Lithuanian degenerates: Hene Lazer, aged 18; Yehudis Kravitsky, aged 22; Ele Milner, aged 17; and Mrs Sandler, aged 30. They used to come into the barn drunk and shine flashlights into the women’s faces. They beat their victims murderously in the barn and forced them to come along.”
Dvoyre Lazarsky and Frida Praz testified: “Ten women who spent that day lying hidden in town, in the bushes and in the grain fields, were caught by the partisans and taken to the camp prison. The murderers were still stuffing themselves and getting drunk in celebration of the murder of the 350 men. It was the third day after the shooting of the 350 men. The Lithuanian degenerates raped the ten women that night, and shot them on the spot in the camp.”
“Among the escapees was the young, pretty woman Golde Kaplan. The peasants found her hiding in the grain, and raped her. In the middle of the night the rapists brought her to her home in the city. She lay unconscious in bed for several days. Golde remained in the city from then on. The murderers extorted a large sum of money from Golde’s father.”
Illana Klevansky from Australia, whose mother and aunt were Lithuanian Jewish Survivors imprisoned in Stutthof Concentration Camp said: “My mother, Henny Kagan Hitner, often told me that the deliberate and sadistic cruelty of their Lithuanian guards, both in the Kovno Ghetto and Stutthof Concentration Camps were simply beyond all known acts of evil. The guards would bash babies heads together, in front of the child’s mother, or throw Jewish babies against the sides of trucks or against the electric fences. For pleasure. For sport. Simply because they were Jewish babies. In Memel, Lithuania, the Lithuanian collaborators shot my grandfather, Tevye Kagan, and my uncle Hessel, who was only 17, at point blank range…. simply because they were Jewish. I must stress—- these murderers were not German SS—- they were Lithuanians. My Mother told me how Lithuanians took joy in raping the most innocent Jewish girls, as violently and publicly as they could, and took especial joy in child rape“.
Marylin Kingston, PhD, member of the Council of Advisors at the Israeli American Civic Action Network, whose mother Cesia Kingston was also a prisoner at Stutthof Concentration Camp said: “The degradation and evil was staggering. These future heroes took great delight in torturing and debasing the Jewish victims.”
Risa Silbert who survived Stutthof said: “There was no way to shut your ears, your nose, your eyes, or your mouth because the absolute, unmitigated evil could not be shut out in any way, shape or form. Lithuanians felt the joy of conquering heroes while attacking defenseless girls, women and children; they enjoyed it. Let there be no doubt of the sordid imaginations of these Lithuanian miscreants simply because one cannot stoop that low”.
Rape was par for the course when it came to Jews being hurt by their Lithuanian neighbors who had been given the right to mete out death and pain. Rape of Jews was a spectator sport. All this depravity lacked was any sort of compassion on the part of the rapists / murderers towards their Jewish victims. German Nazis were generally prohibited from raping Jews under pain of execution (although it was still widespread).
Balys Sruoga, the famed Lithuanian poet, playwright, critic and literary theorist was held in Stutthof Concentration Camp alongside Jonas Noreika. They were incarcerated as “Honored Prisoners” on the personal orders of Heinrich Himmler, one of the main sociopathic architects of the Holocaust. Sruoga’s best known work is the novel Forest of the Gods (Dievų miškas), allegedly based on his own life experiences as a prisoner in Stutthof. Sruoga supposedly stated that he, Noreika and the other Lithuanians were permitted to “visit” the women in the camp. What exactly did he mean by “visit”?
In Birth, Sex and Abuse: Women’s Voices under Nazi Rule, Beverley Chalmers reports that there was a “brothel” in the Stutthof camp. These women did not “volunteer” to be prostitutes for Nazis, Noreika and his fellow “Honored Prisoners”, along with Lithuanians and camp guards. These women were slaves, savagely used and abused and then murdered. Young Jewish virgins in the concentration camp were made available for use by Holocaust perpetrators such as Noreika.
These Jewish victims were in no position to refuse or protest. They were sick, starved, beaten, and terrorized. The Lithuanian “Honored Prisoners” were well fed – having been given preferential treatment. They were young, strong, vigorous, energetic and healthy. They were bored, looking for activity, and they were free to entertain themselves at the expense of Jewish victims to the depth of their own depravity. Of the 36 Lithuanian “Honored Prisoners”, at least nine were known to be Holocaust perpetrators. They came from a Lithuanian culture where rape of Jewish women was acceptable and inconsequential. The context of their existence was that Jews had yet to be murdered and were only awaiting their consumption until their turn for slaughter. Without question, any sexual relations by these 36 Lithuanians in the Stutthof concentration camp was without consent, without regard for the women, and absolutely, unquestionably, rape.
Individual Lithuanians try to argue that there was an exchange of food for sex, and this constituted consent. Given their elevated status, Sruoga, Noreika and their gang had food to spare. They also received vitamins in their packages from home. Instead of being compassionate to Jewish victims, they used their privilege to ”visit” starving victims with a promise of food. Offering deliverance from death by starvation is not consent. It is despicable and cynical manipulation. Those “visiting” Jewish women in Concentration Camps were not seeking social intercourse, they were rapists and perpetrators.
The Government of Lithuania has stated in court that all materials on Noreika have been comprehensively reviewed. The Lithuanian Government, Lithuanian courts, Lithuanian Public Prosecutor and indeed the Lithuanian President have all worked together to maintain Jonas Noreika as a leading national hero of the Lithuanian nation. It is without any question that Noreika was a genocidal murderer of Jews. It is also safe to assume that he was a rapist. Sexual deviance and sexual violence were part and parcel of the treatment of Jewish victims.
Every day in Lithuania, thousands of modern Lithuanians pass monuments and memorials honoring Jonas Noreika (and his ilk) and their “virtues”. Thousands of Lithuanian children have been educated in a school honoring Noreika’s “virtues”. Inadvertently, the Lithuanian State teaches that murderers, rapists and thieves are the epitome of national virtues. This, at the same time that Lithuania holds on their statute books some of the broadest anti-gay laws anywhere in the world, including a “homosexual propaganda law” even criminalizing discussion of homosexuality with children. Lithuania’s claims of being a human rights haven are absurd.
In 1993 the United Nations (UN) Commission on Human Rights declared systematic rape and military sexual slavery to be crimes against humanity, punishable as violations of women’s human rights. In 1995 the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women specified that rape by armed groups during wartime is a war crime.
Is it not incumbent on us all to ask how can it be that in 2022, the Lithuanian Government continues to honor these abusers as their national heroes?
Were Noreika and Sruoga rapists? Are rapists heroes? The victims were, after all, “Just Jews”.
With thanks to Dr. Melody Ziff.