The Holocaust in Lithuania

The Holocaust in Lithuania was a genocide perpetrated by German n, which between 1941 and 1944 the Jewish population of Lithuania was destroyed almost completely. About 200,000 Jews were mainly killed by members of this established Einsatzgruppen and their helpers. A considerable number of Lithuanians are involved in pogrom s and the murder of the Jewish population.


The First Lithuanian Republic was founded in February 1918. They lost the majority in 1920 Polish inhabited areas around Vilnius Lithuania to Poland, Kaunas became the “temporary capital” of Lithuania. Late September 1939 the Soviet Union declared in the German-Soviet Border and Friendship Treaty Lithuania to their area of interest, handed over immediately the area of Vilnius in Lithuania, but at the same time stationed troops and undermined the sovereignty of the state. In June 1940, the Red Army marched into Lithuania and the 3rd August 1940, the country was incorporated as “Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic” in the USSR.

From then pursued, the NKVD arrested or abducted persons were accused of counter-revolution ary, anti-Soviet sentiments or economic sabotage. More than 20,000, according to other data, even up to 35,000 Lithuanians were in the period from 14 to 22 Deported in June 1941 (the day of the German attack on the Soviet Union) by force to Siberia.

Jewish minority

Prior to 1939, lived in Lithuania 150000-155000 Jews. Must be added Projected about 80,000 Jews from Vilnius (city and administrative area), which came after the transfer of the territory to the Soviet Union in October 1939 to Lithuania. Approximately 10,000 Jews managed to escape later in the Soviet Union.

Lithuanian nationalists define their national identity through their language, but the everyday language of the Jewish minority was Yiddish, regional partly Polish or Russian. According to historian s caused the political situation between 1938 and June 1941 “severe shock” or even a “perfect disruption” of the Lithuanian society and reinforced anti-Semitism to violent forms. The escalation of hostile feelings led, for example, the equal treatment prescribed by the Soviets during the occupation of offices. In the perception of Lithuanians, Jews were privileged by the Soviets, they were also accused of collaboration. Their participation and influence in the Communist Party were greatly overestimated. Several thousand Jews and Poles were among the “anti-Soviet elements” who were taken immediately before the German invasion -. Perception in the Lithuanian these groups of victims are not present.


Immediately after the German attack on the Soviet Union at the beginning of the German-Soviet war, the Wehrmacht marched into Lithuania in June 1941. Many Lithuanians felt that this was liberation by the Red Army of the Soviet Union. It came immediately after the invasion to tolerated by the Germans and partly also secretly prompted violent attacks on Jewish citizens through national patriotic Lithuanians. While the number of Jews killed is estimated to be at least four thousand.

German military personnel who witness in the murder of Jews in Kaunas, Vilnius or constructed here, did not intervene. As the commander of the army rear area North, Franz von Roques, his manager Wilhelm von Leeb reported by the mass shootings in Kaunas, his restraint was recommended. Roques itself, said that the Jewish problem could not be solved in this way, probably, but the sterilization of all male Jews is the safest solution.

The German leadership had been before the war provided a civil administration for the territory to be conquered, the Hinrich Lohse was assumed as the Reich Commissariat Ostland. According to a draft of the “Provisional guidelines for the treatment of Jewish citizens” should the rural area of Jews are “cleaned” and taken anti-Jewish measures. The head of Einsatzgruppe A, Walter Stahlecker, these measures complained on 6 August 1941, as not taking into account the “new ways to clean up the Jewish question”. He proposed a “nearly 100% immediate cleansing of the entire eastern country,” the “prevention of the proliferation of the Jews” and a Ghettosierung as “a substantial improvement of the later collected transported away in a non-European Jewish reservation” before. But actually began a little later members of his task force with a planned mass murder: On 15 and 16 August 1941 was SS Lieutenant leader Joachim Hamann 3200 shoot Jews, among them many women and children. Appropriate instructions Heinrich Himmler’s probably indulged the end of July 1941.

The German civil officials attended the murders not only point approvingly. As well as army officers also were excited to massacre itself. In the first half of August 1941 called for county and area commissioners several times to get killed “unproductive” Jews. In Lithuania, the Jews were instructed warehouse in approximately 100 s and ghetto. Unlike the planned for a long time carefully screened Jewish neighborhoods in the larger cities, it was the smaller ghettos in the countryside often only synagogue n or barns, in the you imprisoned the Jews often under adverse living conditions and without adequate supplies. As a result of self-inflicted spread infectious diseases among inmates, the risk of disease was in some cases as an excuse to let this kill Jews by the “Wrecking Crew” Hamann.

The sinking of the Lithuanian Jews took place essentially by the end of 1941. Never before have so many Lithuanian Jews died in such a short time. By October, about 80,000 Jews were killed. In the so-called hunters report the perpetrators listed the exact daily data, the number of crime scenes and murder victims. Up to 1 December 1941 then 137 346 people were “executed”, not included in this figure are the Jews who had been murdered until October in the northwestern regions of Lithuania from SWAT second. The minutes of the Wannsee Conference, on 20 Took place in January 1942, the number of remaining Jews numbered for Lithuania to 34,000.

End of 1941 lived in Lithuania, including the Vilnius area only 43,000 of 215,000 Jews before. The majority of the Jews in Lithuania not attracted, as in neighboring Latvia, in urban ghettos and were not deported to concentration camps, but together near their residence in makeshift collection points and soon shot out of the excavated pits. The biggest “action” of this destruction committed in the Ninth Fort in Kaunas and Ponar forest south of Vilna.

1942 began a second phase of the killings. The surviving Jews served the war economy as forced laborers. The Wehrmacht built for about 43,000 “able-bodied” Jewish forced laborers and concentration camp chewing their relatives, the Vilna Ghetto and Schaulen and several smaller ghettos. In the third phase of the Holocaust in Lithuania from April 1943 to July 1944 the occupiers dissolved the ghettos and camps, and brought the remaining Jews of Kaunas and Siauliai order.


The Red Army was the state of Lithuania in 1940 under military occupation. Many Lithuanians saw the German troops on 22 June 1941 arrived liberators. The German authorities granted to the government in the first days of an apparent independence. On 5 August solved the occupiers this provisional government (Laikinoji Vyriausybė) again. The Prime Minister Kazys Škirpa, in exile in Berlin, was provided by the National Socialists under house arrest and later, as some other members of the provisional government, sent to concentration camps.

SS brigade leader Franz Walter Stahlecker found it during the invasion “surprisingly not easy at first to put there in Kovno / Kaunas a pogrom greater extent in transition”. In his report of 15 October 1942 it said that it was finally succeeded with the help of a Lithuanian partisan group, triggering a pogrom, “without any outward German order or German suggestion was recognizable.” A marauding group of militant Lithuanians led by Algirdas Klimaitis led the first pogrom in the night of 25 to 26 Through June 1941 in Vilnius, burned down a Jewish residential area with 60 houses, killing 1,500 Jews and others in subsequent nights 2300.

On 24 Installed in June 1941 and the German secret police, the Lithuanian secret police (Saugumo Policija). They also worked the occupiers in the Holocaust into their hands. Some Nazi officials appreciated the zeal of Saugumo Policija higher than that of the Gestapo. The devastating effect of the anti-Semitic Lithuanian forces had the Sonderkommando Ypatingasis Bury from the region of Vilnius, thousands of Jews, Poles, and others killed in Paneriai (Ponar the massacre). Also the Lithuanian workers Guard participated in the Holocaust. Many Lithuanian supporters of the German police came from the fascist organization Iron Wolf. The local population worked the occupiers in the killing of Jews with preparations and logistics. Although not all Lithuanians citizens were called the Holocaust for many good and even risked their lives by hiding Jews, the high degree of collaboration with the German occupiers but is a characteristic of the Holocaust in Lithuania. With a population of just under three million, of which approximately 80% ethnic Lithuanians, some tens of thousands took an active part in the killings of Jews, only a few hundred resisted including many citizens of the Polish minority in Lithuania.

Interpretations and processing

Some historians see the Holocaust in Lithuania, the earliest form of the so-called “final solution” to the destruction of the “World’s Jewry” and thus set the beginning of the Holocaust in the summer of 1941 in Lithuania. Wolfram Wette interprets this section as the “overture” of genocide against its mechanization through the gas chambers and crematoria of high performance stationary factories of death.  Controversially discussed whether and when to use groups received an express command, all Jews – men, women and children – to murder in the conquered territories. Meanwhile, you can prove that the murders captured more and more groups of victims only in the course of weeks. The initiative shifted from a hierarchical chain of command to the offender on the spot which added to the leeway granted to them. Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer show examples based on statements of two disinterested German Wehrmacht from Vilna, that this mass murder in the found “frame of reference” did not appear to be illegal or immoral.

Helmut Kraus Nick describes it as “one of the most painful chapters in German military history” and a violation of the most basic duties of an occupying force that the German Wehrmacht not intervened, totschlugen Lithuanian perpetrators as hundreds of Jews. Wolfram Wette sees beyond the inaction of the other army officers, by the actions of the Einsatzgruppen and their Lithuanian helpers murder was covered, a “precedent”, the prefiguring the way forward.

The majority of the organization, the preparations for the assassination and the shooting was carried out by Lithuanian willing helpers. Not only Lithuanian auxiliary police battalions as “direct perpetrators”, but also local helpers were involved by administrative preparation and personnel support. Historians refer to sources such as the hunter-report and emphasize unequivocally “clear and exclusively German responsibility.” Without racial-ideological requirements, without “the German Inititaive without the German criminal groups, it would not come to the Holocaust in Lithuania”. The use of Group 3 is highlighted as a “primary force in organizing the murder”.

The Soviets tied for political reasons after the Second World War, the work of extermination of the Jews in the Baltic states. The memorial plaques not only mentioned the suffering of the “native citizen” under the occupation of Nazi German Reich, but the Jews in particular. Nazi collaborators were not or only slightly usually punished for crimes against Jews.

Only since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1990, the country began a discussion on the work of the Holocaust. In the foreground of perception, however, is the victim of its own role during the “Russian Years” 1940-1941 and 1944-1989. Lithuania was the first former Soviet republic wrote the protection of sites of the Holocaust in their constitution after independence. In 1995, a formal apology to the Jewish people spoke of the Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas before the Israeli Knesset Parliament for Lithuania’s participation in the Holocaust from. The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the slow pace of work and throws the Lithuanian authorities not to bring war criminals to justice.

In the late 1950s, the West German judiciary began with the processing of the crimes. Thus, in the so called Ulm process were convicted in 1958 of ten participants in the Holocaust in Lithuania to imprisonment, including the submerged after the war SS-Standartenführer Hans-Joachim Böhme for complicity in the murder of Jews in 3907 cases.

In April 1961, five perpetrators in Aurich came to court, including the doctor, he Borkum Werner shyness and riding instructor Karl Struve, who were both involved in Lithuania SS leaders in massacres. Both received mild sentences, which were increased three years later after a revision to ten and nine years in prison. Other processes followed, including in September 1961 in Dortmund against the Gestapo members Alfred Krumbach, William Gerke and Hermann Ernst year. Krumbach after the war was an official of the Protection of the Constitution and it came in the Ulm Einsatzgruppen Trial as a witness. There he was, however, identified by other witnesses as perpetrators and arrested in the courtroom. Before the circuit court in Dortmund he received for participation in the killing of 827 people in Lithuania four years and six months in prison.

Holocaust in Lithuania

Lithuanian collaboration

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