On November 24, 2018 the German Government announced they will charge a 95 year old man with 36,000 counts of accessory to murder during his “service” as a guard at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. Guards at concentration camps participated in murders of Jews, that was part of their job.
German courts convicted Oskar Groening, an accountant at Auschwitz, and Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the same camp, for complicity in mass murder. This month, November 2018, a former Nazi concentration camp guard, Johann Rehbogen, has been placed on trial in Muenster, Germany, accused of complicity in mass murder at the Stutthof concentration camp. Germany is working to punish the last remaining Holocaust perpetrators for their crimes against humanity.
The genocide of Lithuanian Jews had already been largely completed by January 1942, when Germany formally followed the same path as Lithuania at the Wannsee Conference; to now also commit genocide of Jews throughout Europe. Both Lithuania and Germany were intent on murdering Jews.
Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejys was the Chief of Police in Pilviškės, Lithuania during the genocidal spree in 1941 when the majority of Lithuanian Jews were slaughtered. We have no knowledge that Baltūsis-Žvejys murdered Jews in Pilviškės by his own hand, but as local Chief of Police, it is simply not credible that he did not know of the mass slaughter. In most of Lithuania, local Lithuanians were responsible for committing the murders.
As Chief of Police, Baltūsis-Žvejys was responsible for law enforcement and protecting the local population, including Jewish Lithuanians. He did not. As a law enforcement officer, he was responsible for enforcing the laws preventing damage to property and arresting looters; there are no records that he did so. As Chief of Police, it would have been impossible for him to have been unaware that the Jewish population of Pilviškės had suddenly disappeared in a frenzy of racist, annihilationist violence.
The Jewish population of Pilviškės was well known for its learned population, Jews were an open segment of local society. Suddenly vacant buildings, sharing of Jewish loot, and gossip about missing Jews would have been impossible to miss. Baltūsis-Žvejys was either massively blind to everything around him and utterly incompetent, or he was a participant or bystander in these crimes against humanity.
Many archives were deliberately destroyed at the end of the war, thereby hiding evidence of crimes. Without testimony and documents, we are unable to determine if Baltūsis-Žvejys was a monster, or just completely incompetent.
During the period 1943-1944, Baltūsis-Žvejys was promoted to the position of the Commander of the 3rd Company of the 252nd Battalion of the Lithuanian Police. His unit commanded the guards at the Majdanek Concentration Camp, and he was the Boss. Baltūsis-Žvejys received his promotion because he was so highly efficient, extremely competent, and very loyal to Nazis, this promotion was his reward for outstanding service.
Majdanek was a mass extermination site to murder Jews and others on an industrial scale, it was located within the city limits of Lublin, Poland, and very public. The smell of death hung heavy in the air, local Poles complained about the stench coming from this Nazi camp guarded by Lithuanians, led by Baltūsis-Žvejys.
Russian prisoners of war held in Majdanek were forced to sleep in the open during the Polish winter, slave labor units worked on the outside of the concentration camp, Jews and others were systematically murdered in gas chambers inside the camp. Tens of thousands of Jews and other prisoners were forcibly herded into Majdanek, human ashes came out, frequently used as agricultural fertilizer. Lists of the killing camp guards survive, the leader of these guards is well documented as Baltūsis-Žvejys.
On November 3, 1943, 18,400 Jews were murdered in Majdanek in one single day. This was called “Operation Harvest” with Jewish lives, including Jewish infants being “harvested”.
Between December 1943 and March 1944, Majdanek received approximately 18,000 “invalids” many of whom, upon entry, were gassed in the gas chambers using Zyklon B. On January 21, 1944, 600 victims were shot and murdered, on January 23, 1944, 180 were shot and murdered, on March 24, 1944, 200 were shot and murdered. At a minimum, at least 60,000 Jews were murdered at Majdanek. In addition, there were tens of thousands of other victims.
After his “service” at Majdanek, Baltūsis-Žvejys returned to the now “Jew free” Lithuania. This “Jew free” Lithuanian status had been unanimously advocated by Lithuania’s national leaders in 1941. (see notes below)*.
On June 1, 1950, Baltūsis-Žvejys was awarded with all degrees of the Lithuanian Battle Cross of Freedom (with swords).
On December 17, 1997, the independent Lithuanian state posthumously recognized Baltūsis-Žvejys’s status as a volunteer soldier.
On October 31, 2002, the Lithuanian President issued a posthumous decree naming him as a Colonel and issuing him state honors.
The current head of the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania is Teresė Birutė Burauskaite. Her government role is to provide the Lithuanian narrative of the Holocaust. In 2015 Burauskaite was questioned about the national hero status awarded to Baltūsis-Žvejys. She explained that since Baltūsis-Žvejys served on the “outside of the camp” accusations against him are “simply tales and stretching the facts”.
This “simply tales and stretching the facts” narrative means that Baltūsis-Žvejys could not have known about the tens of thousands of murders under his domain, and she believes that he could not have known about any murders during his tenure as Police Chief.
In order to believe that these are “simply tales and stretching the facts”, one would have to believe that the many guards at Majdanek who butchered Jews, did not inform their boss of their actions. He did not see what was happening around him. He did not hear the gunshots, he did not hear the screams as victims were beaten and murdered, and he did not smell the crematoria burning the bodies of his victims. He was unable to see through the barbed wire fence. He was the boss, but he was “outside” and therefore not culpable.
Baltūsis-Žvejys was not unaware. He saw, heard and smelled the grotesque reality. He was Commander and responsible for all under his domain. As leader, he set the example for his staff to follow, and he did so with remarkable precision. Dozens of guards who served at Majdanek have been tried and convicted for their crimes by countries other than Lithuania.
Hermine Braunsteiner Ryan was a female guard at Majdanek known to victims as the “Stomping Mare”. She is said to have whipped women to death, grabbed children by their hair and thrown them onto trucks prior to being taken to be murdered in the gas chambers, hanged young female prisoners and stomped at least one elderly woman to death with her jackboots. If we accept the Lithuanian government premise, then Baltūsis-Žvejys was unaware of any of these atrocities as he was “outside”.
Applying the standard as set forth by the Lithuanian Government, Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler might well be construed to have been “outside”, and unaware of atrocities under their domain. Accusations against them would be considered “simply tales and stretching the facts”. These absurd arguments could only be made by the most ideologically dishonest, catering to the most thoughtless and willfully ignorant. Independent Lithuania has used similar strategies to avoid punishing a single Holocaust perpetrator.
According to the President of Lithuania at the time of Baltūsis-Žvejys’s honors, the collaborator’s leadership was exemplary. The Lithuanian President saw no relevance in Baltūsis-Žvejys’s service at Pilviškės and Majdanek. Millions of Jewish victims of Lithuanians have no relevance to the Lithuanian government.
The Lithuanian Government deems Holocaust perpetrators as “completely innocent” unless they were tried and convicted during their lifetime. Lithuania vigorously opposed placing Holocaust perpetrators on trial during their lifetimes, therefore, those heroes that persecuted Jews are not guilty of any crime. Lithuania does not apply this standard elsewhere. Were Hitler and Stalin to be examined under this standard, they would emerge “completely innocent”.
On January 15, 2019, Burauskaite will represent the official stance of the Lithuanian Government in the Lithuanian courts, arguing that a confirmed Holocaust perpetrator, Jonas Noreika should not be considered guilty for his culpability as a Holocaust perpetrator, and that he should remain a national hero. Inventing and defending the good reputation of a Holocaust perpetrator is the ultimate example of Holocaust fraud. This will be the first time that a European Government has gone to court to defend a Nazi. Lithuanian Courts have a reputation for lacking independence, they are subject to political pressure. There can be no expectation of findings of fact. Truth will eventually emerge via the European Court of Human Rights. This case and its implications will be studied in Universities and described in future history books.
Is it not time for truth to set the youth of Lithuania free of their historical burden, or will the deceptions continue to taint the nation for generations? To date, Lithuania has shown no willingness to confront their past, any judicial ruling that honestly addresses the facts will indicate a break with their past. This test case will determine if Lithuania has the capacity for truth; unfortunately, Lithuania is probably destined to fail this moral test. The current powers in Lithuanian society have no regard for the continued burden they impose on their youth. German youth have been liberated through truth, Lithuanian youth have been additionally burdened by the continuous deceptions of their government.
Both Germany and Lithuania are members of the European Union and of the NATO defense alliance. Germany prosecutes guards that served at death camps with chagrin for their crimes, Lithuania glorifies Holocaust perpetrators with national honors. Such is the divergence between the current value systems of Germany and Lithuania.
Lithuania is a member of the NATO military alliance. Should your country’s soldiers one day have to risk their lives to defend a nation that lionizes Holocaust perpetrators as national heroes?
*(The “Jew free” Lithuanian status had been unanimously advocated by Lithuania’s national leaders in 1941, by Škirpa and the Lithuanian Activist Front, Maceina, Valiukėnas, Raila, Naujokaitis, Prapuolenis, Damušis, Narutis, by the Republic of Lithuania’s senior diplomats Lozoraitis and Klimas, by Brazaitis-Ambrazevičius and Lithuania’s Provisional Government, Raštikis, Noreika, by the Lithuanian rebel press, including Bauba, Žymantas-Žakevičius, Miglinas, Pauža, by the Lithuanian Nationalist Party, Brunius, Taunys and Puodžius, by Lithuania’s General Councillors, including Germantas-Meškauskas, by Lithuania’s partisans and police, and more.)