What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

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Post by David Thompson » 04 Feb 2008 06:55

Michael -- (1) You wrote:
One is 25 June 1941, given by Bendinskas, who was a senior officer in the Lithuanian Activist Front, and who may be presumed to have received reports about the events from other members of the LAF who were involved or who witnessed the events.

That date is also accepted by Simas Ycikas, of the Hebrew University, obviously not an apologist for Lithuanian nationalists. According to both Bendinskas and Ycikas, the German occupation began on 26 June.

The presence of German witnesses and German photographers at the scene belie the notion that the incident occured before the German occupation, and the account of Colonel (Oberst) von Bischoffshausen at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 933#675933 indicates that 16th Army headquarters had already been set up in Kovno (Kaunas) at the time the murders occurred (a fact you noted at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 696#676696 ). This strongly suggests a date after the German occupation began on 26 June. Another circumstance against the 25 June date is Stahlecker's report stating that the first "self-cleansing" actions didn't begin until the evening of 25-26 June 1941:
During the first pogrom, in the night of 25/26 June, more then 1,500 Jews were eliminated by the Lithuanian partisans, several synagogues were set on fire or destroyed by other methods and a Jewish quarter of about sixty houses was burnt down.

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 142#677142 . Since the garage murders took place in broad daylight, the earliest that would have happened is 26 June.

(2) You also wrote:
I tend to accept the version by Bendinskas, since it runs contrary to his own self-interest in that it tends to inculpate him and his fellow Lithuanian nationalists.

Bendinskas had the opportunity to avoid responsibility for the killings and to exculpate his fellow Lithuanian nationalists by stating that the killings occurred on 27 June, were carried out under German orders, and were not an expression of Lithuanian wishes.

However, he did not do that. He admitted that the killings were carried out on 25 June, that they were perpetrated by Lithuanians acting on their own initiative, and that the killers were motivated by hatred for the persons they were killing. He admitted that the killings were wrong and inhumane, and a stain upon the reputation of the Lithuanian nationalists who had risen up against their Soviet persecutors.

For the above reason, I accept the account by Bendinskas.
Bendinskas may have been unaware of the role of the German security police in instigating the killings.

Col. von Bischoffshausen's account states that he and the other officers were told that the massacres were of Lithuanian origin:
At the staff office I subsequently learned that other people already knew about these mass executions, and that they had naturally aroused in them the same feelings of horror and outrage as they had in me. It was, however, explained to me that they were apparently a spontaneous action on the part of the Lithuanian population in retaliation against the collaborators and traitors of the recently ended Russian occupation. Consequently these cruel excesses had to be viewed as purely internal conflicts which the Lithuanian state itself had to deal with, that is, without the intervention of the German army. Orders to this effect had been received `from above'.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 933#675933

However, we know from SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Polizei Dr. Stahlecker's report of 15 Oct 1941 for Einsatzgruppe A, that the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo) had instigated the killings in Kaunas (Kovno):
Similarly, native anti-Semitic forces were included to start pograms against Jews during the first hours after capture, though this inducement proved to be very difficult. Following out orders, the Security Police was determined to solve the Jewish question with all possible means and most decisively. But it was desirable that the Security Police should not put in an immediate appearance, at least in the beginning, since the extraordinarily harsh measures were apt to stir even German circles.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 402#540402

and
In Lithuania this goal [local "self-cleansing" actions] was achieved for the first time in Kaunas through the deployment of partisans. It was initially surprisingly difficult to set a fairly large-scale pogrom in motion there. The leader of the above-mentioned partisan group, Klimatis, who was the first to be recruited, succeeded in starting a pogrom on the basis of instructions he had been given by the small advance party that had been deployed in Kovno without any German orders or incitement being discernible.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 142#677142

Once we understand that Stahlecker had orders to conceal the German role in instigating the killings, these quotes from Colonel von Bischoffshausen are instructive:
During dinner a staff officer came up to the Commander-in-Chief (Generaloberst Busch) and informed him that the mass murders had started again in the town. General Busch replied that this was an internal dispute; he was at that moment powerless to take action against it and had been forbidden to do so. He hoped, however, to receive new instructions from above before long.
and
When I left the staff headquarters the general instructed me to inform Army Group of the situation in Kovno. I remember with what outrage and concern my report was received by Army Group, but here too they believed they could still hope that indeed these were purely internal matters. I also learnt here that the military had been forbidden by the higher authorities to take any steps whatsoever. This was exclusively the job of the SD.
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 933#675933

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Post by Grellber » 07 Feb 2008 17:24

OK: I´m an amateur. But I also feel that the Bendiskas testinomy can not be gripped just from thin air.
At the the 27:th however -Only jews were killed.
I DO share the opinion that we actually have TWO events, The first less known as it was witnessed by less persons and maybe not photographed at all. The secont being the one directed towards the ethic minority of Jews as such.

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Post by michael mills » 08 Feb 2008 01:48

Bendinskas may have been unaware of the role of the German security police in instigating the killings.
That is a possibility, but it does not explain why Bendinskas stated that the killings at the Lietukis garage occurred on 25 June. Nor does it explain why Bendinskas presents the event as an entirely Lithuanian affair, without any Germans being present at all.

There seems to be no reason why Bendinskas would have moved the event forward from a date after 26 June, when the German occupation began. His account shows that the date of 25 June was not picked out of thin air; the chronology he presents, from the time of the Soviet retreat to the lynchings in the Lietukis garage, is internally consistent.

The testimony by Bendinskas cannot simply be set aside as inconvenient, without at least an attempt to explain the discrepancies between it and claims made by Stahlecker and others several months after the events occurred (in some not until post-war interrogations). I have presented reasons why Stahlecker's claims to have controlled Lithuanian anti-Jewish actions from the very beginning should not be taken at face value, and I note that the Israeli historian Dina Porat takes a similar view.

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Post by David Thompson » 08 Feb 2008 02:23

Michael -- You wrote, after quoting me:
Bendinskas may have been unaware of the role of the German security police in instigating the killings.

That is a possibility, but it does not explain why Bendinskas stated that the killings at the Lietukis garage occurred on 25 June. Nor does it explain why Bendinskas presents the event as an entirely Lithuanian affair, without any Germans being present at all.

There seems to be no reason why Bendinskas would have moved the event forward from a date after 26 June, when the German occupation began. His account shows that the date of 25 June was not picked out of thin air; the chronology he presents, from the time of the Soviet retreat to the lynchings in the Lietukis garage, is internally consistent.
Since Bendinskas wrote well after the events of 1941, it seems to me that a lapse of memory or a mistake in date are the most likely explanations. Most folks have difficulty recalling exact dates even after only three or five years have gone by. Also, like all recollections, the account given by Bendinskas is subject to whatever information may or may not have been available to him.

You also wrote:
The testimony by Bendinskas cannot simply be set aside as inconvenient, without at least an attempt to explain the discrepancies between it and claims made by Stahlecker and others several months after the events occurred (in some not until post-war interrogations).
I don't think Bendinskas' account (as opposed to testimony) is inconvenient. It's actually valuable. However, since Stahlecker was killed in 1942 -- well before the war's end and only about 9 months after the pogroms in Lithuania -- and his accounts are much closer in time to the events than the account of Bendinskas, I'm inclined to give Stahlecker the benefit of the doubt where the accounts differ. We also have other accounts, such as that of Colonel von Bischoffshausen, which can be pieced together to form a fuller picture of what happened.

Finally, you wrote:
I have presented reasons why Stahlecker's claims to have controlled Lithuanian anti-Jewish actions from the very beginning should not be taken at face value, and I note that the Israeli historian Dina Porat takes a similar view.
As you know, I disagree with both your interpretation and that of Dina Porat. Unanimity of opinion on historiographical questions is rare, but discussion can encourage those who hold differing points of view to re-think and re-examine their theories, or find additional evidence to confirm them.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 Oct 2008 12:40

Hi Guys,

What, exactly, is at issue here?

Are we just trying to divide up shares of responsibility between Germans and Lithuanians?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by michael mills » 28 Oct 2008 13:20

Are we just trying to divide up shares of responsibility between Germans and Lithuanians?
No, what we are trying to do is to determine the cause of the lynchings at the Lietukis garage.

That is, was this a spontaneous outburst of mob violence on the part of a group of Lithuanians, taking a gruesome revenge for the year of Soviet oppression from which they had just been released due to the flight of the Soviet administration in the face of the rapid German advance, with the victims being collaborators (perhaps Jewish) with the Soviet regime?

Or was it a charade, carefully orchestrated by the newly arrived Germans for the purpose of giving a false impression of popular anti-Jewish animus on the part of the Lithuanian population, with the victims being innocent Jews rounded up at random to play the role of "collaborators"?

The answer to that question is crucial, since it goes to the heart of the force that drove the extermination of the Jewish minority in Lithuania and other areas captured by the Germans after 22 June 1941. Was that force entirely generated by the German invaders, deriving ultimately from some kink in Hitler's mind? Or was a large part of it generated by the people of the conquered territories themselves?

I hold to the view that it was the readiness of Lithuanians and of other population groups formerly under Soviet domination to take a most brutal revenge on the Jews living in their midst that demonstrated to the incoming Germans that the most extrreme measures against the Jewish population were feasible and would be supported, or at least not opposed, by large parts of the population of the occupied territories.

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Dieter
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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by Dieter » 28 Oct 2008 17:09

OK, now I'm TOTALLY confused!
Didn't the post war testimony of the German photographer himself identify the "Death Dealer" as Maj. Mecys Paskevicius? From what I've read on the net, he snuck into the U.S. after the war using the assumed name of Mike Pasker and suffered multiple strokes and died at the age of 92 on Oct. 3, 1993 in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. While extradition proceedings were taking place, he was found mentally incapable of defending himself.
THEORY: And as for the mass murder at the garage, it MAY very well have been a case of already historically anti-semitic Lithuanians trying to save their own skins by showing off to their new German occupiers that they were on "the same side" as far as hating the Jews was concerned.
Sadly, there was a lot of that, too much of that in those days.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by michael mills » 29 Oct 2008 00:24

Didn't the post war testimony of the German photographer himself identify the "Death Dealer" as Maj. Mecys Paskevicius?
Is there any more information on this claimed identification of the rather pompously named "death-dealer" (actually one of a number of Lithuanians who participated in the lynchings)?
And as for the mass murder at the garage, it MAY very well have been a case of already historically anti-semitic Lithuanians trying to save their own skins by showing off to their new German occupiers that they were on "the same side" as far as hating the Jews was concerned.
That is a possible interpretation, but the problem with it is that it is entirely ideologically-based, rather than based on the evidence. It presumes that Lithuanian Jews, or to be more precise groups of them, could not possibly have done anything to make Lithuanians hate them, and therefore any violence inflicted on them by Lithuanians could not have represented the desire of the latter, but rather that of the German invaders, with whom the Lithuanian perpetrators were merely trying to ingratiate themselves.

The concept "already historically anti-Semitic Lithuanians" is at variance with historical fact. There had not been strong anti-Jewish sentiment among ethnic Lithuanians before 1940; Lithuanian national self-assertion had been directed primarily against Poles and Russians, their former dominators. Indeed, when Lithuania first gained independence in 1919, the Jewish minority, which was largely urban and middle-class, was seen by Lithuanian nationalists as a useful counterweight to the influence of the Polish minority, which due to its cultural dominance was seen as a threat and hindrance to the emergence of an ethnic Lithuanian elite.

The strong anti-Jewish sentiment shown by so many Lithuanians in 1941 seems to have been mainly a result of their experience of one year of extremely oppressive Soviet rule, which had been marked by the highly visible collaboration of large parts of the Jewish minority, particularly of the Jewish youth. That attitude of Lithuanians toward the Jewish minority in their country might be compared to that of many East European people toward the ethnic German minorities in their countries in 1945, which was a result of their experience of oppressive German occupation and the collaboration of many ethnic Germans in it. Lynchings of ethnic Germans in 1945 similar to those that took place at the Lietukis garage in 1941 were quite common, for example in Prague after the German retreat in May.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 29 Oct 2008 12:43

Hi Michael,

So, in essence, are you proposing that the extent of Lithuanian collaboration in the Nazi project against Jews was largely the result of a misidentification of Jews generally with the activities of some Jewish Bolsheviks over the short period of June 1940-June 1941?

And are you proposing that the garage incident might be symptomatic of this?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by michael mills » 30 Oct 2008 07:51

I would not use term "misidentification".

Lithuanians were well aware that the great majority of the Jews living in their country had welcomed the Soviet takeover, if only because it was clearly better for the Jews than the alternative of German rule.

That put the Jewish minority at odds with the great majority of the Lithuanian population who, if faced with the choice, regarded German rule as preferable to Soviet.

For most Lithuanian Jews, it was a matter of passive acceptance of Soviet rule as the lesser of two evils; only a small number collaborated in way that harmed the welfare of Lithuanians, for example by joining the security police and participating in repressions. Nevertheless, the general Jewish preference for Soviet rule caused the Jewish population as a whole to be judged by the activities of those few. It was a matter of generalisation rather than misidentification.

The lynchings at the Lietukis garage most probably were targeted at actual, identified collaborators. The later massacre of the rural Jewish population of Lithuania during the summer of 1941 by bands of Lithuanian partisans loosely overseen by a small group of 8-10 Germans (members of EK 3) was more a result of the Jews in general being blamed for the sins of a few.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 30 Oct 2008 13:48

Hi Michael,

You write: "Lithuanians were well aware that the great majority of the Jews living in their country had welcomed the Soviet takeover, if only because it was clearly better for the Jews than the alternative of German rule."

What is the evidence for this?

Logic would suggest that most Lithuanian Jews would have preferred a continuation of an independent Lithuania than occupation by either Germany or the USSR.

You also write: "The lynchings at the Lietukis garage most probably were targeted at actual, identified collaborators."

Again, what is the evidence for this?

You seem to be making enormous presumptions about the attitudes of Lithuanan Jews generally and the activities of the victims at Lietukis without offering any supporting evidence at all.

Cheers,

Sid.

michael mills
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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by michael mills » 30 Oct 2008 15:31

Sid,

If you look back through this thread, you will see that I started it by posting a detailed account of the lynchings at the Lietukis garage by a former member of the Lithuanian Activist Front, a nationalist group.

That account is evidence that the persons lynched were servants of the former Soviet administration, caught while trying to escape.

How you weigh up that evidence, whether you want to accept it or reject it, is up to you. But don't say that I have not presented any.

In 1939, the continued existence of an independent Lithuania was no longer viable; the only options open to the country were domination by Germany or domination by the Soviet Union. Given that choice, most ethnic Lithuanians preferred the former, while Jews preferred the latter, for obvious reasons.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 01 Nov 2008 12:10

Hi Michael,

The "detailed account" of the killings you posted at the head of this thread appears neither to be detailed nor by an eye witness. It contains no names of either perpetrators or victims and therefore does not appear to be an authority as to what actually happened. Add in the partisan nature of the source and one is left with little substantive or reliable to work with. There appears to be no evidence to "weigh up".

He claims that coincidentally most of those killed were Jews, but offers no identification of either them or anyone else killed on site. Do we have the names of any non-Jews known to have been killed on site? If we haven't, this looks like a typical pogrom for which post facto excuses are being offered.

You moved somewhat from you initial proposition that "Lithuanians were well aware that the great majority of the Jews living in their country had welcomed the Soviet takeover", presumably because this overstated the case.

It might be the case that to most Lithuanian Jews the USSR represented the lesser of two evils in 1941, but this is rather different from the great majority of Jews welcoming a Soviet take over, with its implications of group collaboration in the exercise. I don't know the social status of Lithuania's Jewish population, but if it had the high professional and commercial middle class content of many other Eastern European Jewish communities, many of its members would have had a lot to lose through occupation by the "Workers' Paradise"!

I would suggest that if it is true that "Lithuanians were well aware that the great majority of the Jews living in their country had welcomed the Soviet takeover" (and you have offered no evidence to support this) then they were in error and that there was, indeed, a misidentification of Jews generally with the activities of some Jewish Bolsheviks over the short period of June 1940-June 1941.

The Lietukis Garage massacre might be evidence of this misidentification, or it might have been a focused attack on collaborators, or it might have been an old fashioned pogrom, or it might have been engineered by the first Germans on the scene. However, whichever it was, I don't see that you are justified in making generalisations about favourable Lithuanian Jewish attitudes to occupation by the USSR.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by michael mills » 02 Nov 2008 05:57

Sid,

In this thread I have presented arguments why I think the account by Bendinskas can be regarded as basically reliable, despite its partisan nature. I am not going to repeat them here.

I see no reason to reject the account given by Bendinskas, even though he does not claim to be an eyewitness. It must be based on reports by LAF men under his command who had taken control of the Lietukis garage, who had captured the Soviet officials who went there on 23 June to commandeer transport to make their escape, who had guarded those captured officials being held at the garage and other Soviet officials who were captured elsewhere and brought to the garage, and finally witnessed the lynching on 25 June of 10 to 20 of the prisoners by Lithuanian opponents of the former Soviet regime who had just been liberated from prison on that day.

His account is internally consistent, is not self-exculpatory, and the source of his information is credible.

As I have said, the Bendinskas account needs to be weighed against other versions of the events. Any opposing version would need to give the same sort of details he does, ie who the victims were (not necessarily their names), how theyvictims came to be at the Lietukis garage, why the lynchings took place at that place in particular, who the lynchers were (again not necessarily their names, just the group they belonged to, and how they came to be at the Lietukis garage).

In the absence of any opposing account that is as consistent as that given by Bendinskas, I see no reason to reject his account out of hand, although that does not mean that it absolutely must be the sole truth on the matter.

Sid, you are free to dismiss the Bendinskas account out of hand, if you wish to do so. But you do not strike me as a person who knows anything at all about the modern history of Lithuania and the socio-economic, political and ethnic conditions there in 1941. Your bumptious rejection of Bendinskas seems to be based on particular views of the experience of the Jewish minority in Eastern Europe that you appear unwilling to see challenged.

I suggest you actually read something about events in Lithuania in 1941. In this thread I have named two books from which I drew the bulk of the material posted by me.

One of those books is "Bitter Legacy: Confronting the Holocaust in the USSR", edited by Zvi Gitelman. I referred to two essays in that book dealing specifically with Lithuania, they being:

"Lithuanian-Jewish Relations in the Shadow of the Holocaust", by Simas Ycikas of the Hebrew University; and

"Nazi Policy toward the Jews in the reichskommissariat Ostland, June-September 1941: from White Terror to Holocaust in Lithuania", by Michael McQueen.

Get the book and read it.

The other book is "The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation", edited by David Cesarani. It contains an essay called "The Holocaust in Lithuania" by the Israeli scholar Dina Porat. In that essay, Ms Porat says the following (p. 166):
In short, it was a combination of a complex of factors such as national traditions and values, religion (Orthodox Catholic, in this case), severe economic problems and tragically opposed political orientations. Lithuanian Jews supported the Soviet regime in Lithuania during 1940-41, being partly of socialist inclination, and in the full knowledge that 'life imprisonment [Soviet regime] is better than life {sic! death?} sentence [Nazi rule]', as in the Yiddish saying [my emphasis]. By contrast, the Lithuanians fostered hopes of regaining, with German support, the national independence that the Soviets extinguished, as a reward for anti-Jewish and anti-Bolshevik stances. During the Soviet rule of Lithuania these feelings heightened and burst out following the German invasion. One might say that the Germans provided the framework and the legitimation for the killing of Lithuania's Jews, while the national aspirations and the hatred for communism [of the Lithuanians] provided the fuel. Still this is not a full explanation for such brutality, especially as there was no tradition of pogroms in Lithuania. Not all Lithuanians took part in the killings, and one cannot depict all of them as murderers. At least one thousand Lithuanians sheltered Jews, thereby risking their own and their families' lives. A few tens of thousands took active part in the mass murders while the rest were either apathetic or aggravated the misery of the Jews in lesser ways than actual killing.
So, as you see, there is evidence for a general preference for the Soviet regime in Lithuania by the Jews of that country.

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Re: What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?

Post by David Thompson » 02 Nov 2008 16:46

Please avoid personal remarks in posts.

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