Generally speaking, Einsatzkommando 3 conducted the Holocaust in Lithuania, and Einsatzkommando 2 conducted the Holocaust in Latvia. They were both part of Einsatazgruppe A. However, these killings at Plungė and Telšiai do not appear in the famous report by Karl Jäger, the leader of Einsatzkommando 3. From Einsatzgruppe A leader Walter Stahlecker's report of October 15, 1941, we know that there was a unit (I think about 30 Germans) of Einsatzkommando 2 based in Šiauliai, Lithuania (Schaulen in German), which was (nominally) responsible for the killing of 42,000 Jews in Lithuania. Who was in charge of this unit?
Schaulen Gebietskommissar Hans Gewecke talked in an interview (taped covertly) about a Dr.Scherni. See page 47. In the English translation of the transcript it is written Dr.Scherzi.
Was there any such Dr.Scherni or Dr.Scherzi in the SS, SD or similar unit?" have not had any dealings with Jaeger, I had no dealings with anybody from the SS and have personally with nobody –I have to correct myself – the exception was Dr. Scherzi.... [...] At the very beginning. He was chief or deputy chief of the security police, the security police stationed in Schaulen. A very well read, very educated man with whom I talked already for that reason, who... if he himself had participated in extermination actions against Jews that happened before my time –he was there already before my time –if he led them, participated in them, I don’t know."
The Einsatgruppe A deputy Karl Tschierschky had a similar name. But he wasn't a Ph.D., as far as I can tell.
It is strange that Gewecke says about himself that he came to Šiauliai around July 10 although the civil administration was established in Riga only in July 17 and announced in the Šiauliai newspaper only on August 3.
In the Plungė killings it seems that there were only two Germans, who were left behind by the Wehrmacht and were the nominal German commandants. From what the locals say, they were the ones least fit for the front, and drinkers. At the killings they simply served refreshments. The town and the whole region was run by Captain Jonas Noreika and several other officers. They even declared a mobilization obligating young men in the area to serve in the name of Lithuania. I have a written a long Query Regarding Jonas Noreika's Criminal Gang and posted it at his granddaughter Silvia Foti's website.
In my understanding, this mass murder on July 12-13 of the 1,800 Jews of Plungė was the first such killing in Nazi-occupied Europe where all Jews were killed, including women, children, and the elderly. Or was there an early killing of that magnitude? It's very strange that such a historic event took place with hardly any Germans present.
In the killing of the Telšiai men there seem to have been 8 Germans (I think SS) and 50 to 60 Lithuanian partisans. The organizer was Noreika's deputy, Telšiai police chief Bronius Juodikis. I think these Germans were part of that Šiauliai unit. They were very sadistic and I think of them as sadism tourists. But certainly Juodikis must have been the main organizer and invited them. They were there to grant authority, to have communication, and to represent the Reich's treasury. That's how I understand it based on the testimony.
My main question is who was nominally in charge? In 1968 the West German prosecutors questioned Lithuanian historian Zenonas Ivinskis about the killings, because they had no idea themselves, and he was from Plungė. They asked the Soviets, and after reinvestigating, they answered much as I have above. Nobody knew.
My theory is that Heydrich allowed Pranas Germantas-Meškauskas to do as he liked with this pocket of Lithuania and that Noreika fulilled Germantas's wishes to kill all of the Jews. Plungė Jew Olšvangas who went to high school with Germantas has written about Germantas's wish. And in the LCVA archive I found the permits to carry guns, which were being used in 1942 as paper for new documents. These permits were issued to the Lithuanian National Socialist Police of Telšiai. The term is very odd because Germantas-Meškauskas was the only Lithuanian allowed to use such a term, as Škirpa notes in his memoirs, for generally the Nazi brand was not for export, as Hitler had said. Germantas knew Heydrich personally because he had been his translator. Germantas was in Berlin during the first Soviet-occupation of Lithuania before the Nazi invasion. Before the war Noreika made secret trips back and forth to Germany. At the start of the war, Noreika was in the fields with his rebels, that is, five farmers and five high schoolers. German scouts on motorcycles whisked him away to Memel/Klaipėda and he came back with armbands that allowed them all to keep their guns. And then that day, on June 24, he headed to see the Telšiai Commandant. So I presume that he had those gun permits and that the reason he became the leader of the Lithuanian Activist Front in the region was because he had the best contact with the Germans. He was only a 30 year old captain with not much experience in life.
I have written to the Freiburg archive to ask what files they have for the Commandants in Kaunas, Šiauliai, Telšiai and Plungė. They gave a very thoughtful reply but I need to pursue that further. I don't know German so I appreciate any help in thinking through what questions to ask the archive.
Making progress on this mystery is helpful because Grant Gochin, who I am working for, has taken Lithuania's Genocide Center to court, after they have responded to our query by refusing to change their assessment of Noreika as a person who may be honored as a Lithuanian anti-Soviet hero. Also, it's a very curious mystery, and a strange moment in history which may have contributed to the acceleration of the Holocaust.