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

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

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

Postby michael mills » 08 Apr 2005 03:10

On 25 June 1941, members of the advance guard of the German Wehrmacht that had just entered Kaunas on that day photographed a crowd of Lithuanians beating to death a group of 10-20 men on the street in front of the Lietukis garage.

One of the photographs shows the victims lying in pools of blood, being beaten by men wielding metal poles.

Another photo shows a young man posing with a metal pole in his hand.

After the war, the photographs appeared in Soviet official publications alleging complicity by anti-Soviet Lithuanian nationalists in crimes committed by the German occupiers.

Since then the photographs have become famous, usually presented as evidence of an unprovoked pogrom against totally innocent Lithuanian Jews carried out by criminal elements.

But what actually happened at the Lietukis garage on that day, and what was the background?

In the book “Bitter Legacy: Confronting the Holocaust in the USSR”, edited by Zvi Gitelman (Indiana University Press, 1997), there is a chapter “Lithuanian-Jewish Relations in the Shadow of the Holocaust”, introduced and annotated by Simas Ycikas, research associate of the Centre for Research and Documentation of East European Jewry, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

That chapter contains, among other interesting material, an account of the incident at the Lietukis garage published in 1989 in the journal “Pergale” , a monthly literary and artistic journal, organ of the (Soviet) Union of Writers of Lithuania, no 3 (1989), pp 130-31, no. 4, pp. 113-14.

The account was written by one Alexandras Bendinskas, who in 1941 had been a member of Lietuviu Aktivystu Frontas (Lithuanian Activist Front, an anti-Soviet nationalist resistance organization), and had originally appeared under the title “Death in the Lietukis Garage” in the journal “Gimtatis Krastas”, weekly published by the Teviske Association for Cultural Ties with Countrymen Abroad (no 32, August 10-16, 1989).

Here is the “Pergale” account, as reproduced by Ycikas. Deletions indicated by […..] are by Ycikas. It is on pages 200-202 of the book “Bitter Harvest”.

This article deals with events which took place on June 25, 1941, in the Lietukis garage in Kaunas. Abroad this was referred to as an anti-Jewish pogrom. In 1941 Alexandras Bendinskas, the author of the article, was a member of the staff (later chief of staff) of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF), and during the tragedy he was responsible for the protection of trade, industrial, and transport facilities. He spent many years in Soviet places of interrogation, concentration camps, and deportation. He admits to having been an LAF activist. What we are printing here is Bendinskas’s version. If there are people who know that it happened differently, we shall publish well-based testimony of theirs.

Certain security services even today treat in a one-sided way the uprising of June 22-25, ie before the entry of the Germans into Kaunas, and the events of June 26-30 (already after the Germans had occupied Lithunania).

The uprising which was prepared and carried out by the LAF and people who joined them, was doomed. The majority paid for their involvement with their lives.

What took place in the Lietukis garage? I hereby testify and assert that there were killed a few more than ten people, or perhaps fewer. The people were murdered cruelly. The very fact that people were killed without sentencing by any court. Without accusation, by people who were foloeing only their passions, cannot be justified either legally or morally. The fifth commandment says: “Thou shalt not kill”. In regard to how it happened there are no documents on either the one or, apparently, on the other side. Those who prepared the uprising and participated in it can present several facts which explain the prehistory and circumstances of this painful event.

On June 13, 14, and 15, during the deportation of people from Lithuania, trucks were employed from Lietukis and other facilities. People’s moaning had not yet ceased when on June 17-18 a rumour began circulating about the preparation of still another deportation of people to Siberia on even a grander scale. We staff members of LAF gathered to consider what to do. At that time, at all enterprises and transport facilities groups of “fives” were organized; their task was not to allow the Red Army to blow up water pipes, the power station, telephone exchange, railway bridge, bread bakery, etc, and not to allow the pillaging of enterprises, stores, or the appropriation of means of transport.

What was to be done if war did not break out and the deportations were repeated? It was decided to resist by force. […….] The order was given to the transport “fives” to sabotage as many vehicles as possible.

The fatal day, June 22. The primary evil was Bolshevism, which we already knew. With our own eyes we had seen the mass arrests, the deportation of families without trial or accusation. The secondary evil was war. We had to choose war, ie the lesser evil. Although the nucleus of the staff of LAF consisted of military personnel, in the event of war it did not have strategic plans, maps, and hardly had any weapons. Following orders, the members of the staff who were responsible for enterprises, institutions, and other facilities, acted automatically. Some “fives” were autonomous. From the beginning of the war they acted independently, in accordance with local circumstances and depending on the situation at the moment. [………]

What occurred on the “side of the Bolsheviks” I and others did not know. But already on the evening of June 22 in the general commotion the Bolsheviks began to flee en masse. But not everyone fled on the first day. Some top security, police, Party and government officials remained to destroy documents which testified to their crimes and their scope, the lists of their agents, the direct involvement of Moscow in provocations of that time. Among these zealous ones were Russians, Lithuanians, and Jews. Toward evening on June 23, security personnel (the majority of whom were investigators) also decided to save themselves. They ran to the Lietukis garage for cars. They were caught by one of the “fives”, disarmed and locked up in the garage, since the prison and security departments were not yet fully in our hands. Furthermore, street battles were going on. In some plants and institutions the security departments were broken into and lists were used to find out the names of their heads. Some of these were caught and they also were put into the garage. On June 25, some political prisoners liberated from Soviet jails found out that security personnel were being held in the garage. They came to check this out and recognized some of them. There began something which no one could have foreseen in advance: filled with malice, their backs bloody, driven by revenge, with broken fingers, some had lost their families carried off in train cars to Siberia, the former prisoners killed those held in the garage. They beat them with whatever they found in the garage – with metal bars, with spades, etc. It was a terrible sight! The Lord’s commandment “Thou shalt not kill” was broken. There are people still alive who saw this execution. They are known to me. Neither I nor others whom I know find any just9ification for the bacchanalia of death.

What kind of people were killed in the Lietukis garage? Most authors who wrote about this event have presented it as a pogrom of Jews. Was it that in fact? According to my information, the majority of those killed were investigators of the security organs and heads of the “special departments” of enterprises and institutions; they were killed as officials rather than as representatives of a certain nationality. It turned out that a majority of the victims were Jews (documents found show this).

One is amazed by the manipulations of authors who in describing this crime continually inflate the figures. AT the time of the uprising, people spoke of more than ten killed. Later the Soviet press reported thirty, subsequently forty, and recently the respected E Zilberis already mentioned seventy. Only competent legal organs can establish the number killed, the identity of the victims and the circumstances of this horrible event; if necessary – with the participation of foreign observers. All the spots in this ugly incident of our country – the white ones, the black ones, and the red ones – must be clarified.


The E Zilberis referred to was Emanuelis Zilberis, chairman of the Jewish Cultural Society in Kaunas.

jv
In memoriam
Posts: 415
Joined: 20 Nov 2004 22:08
Location: Australia

What really happened in Kaunas?

Postby jv » 08 Apr 2005 07:59

I suggest you read "The Good Old Days" The Holocaust as Seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders on the progroms in Kaunas and elsewhere in Lithuania (the chapter entitled "Each time a victim was beaten to death they started to clap") . There is also an excerpt from Stahlecker's report: "Initially difficult to set a pogrom in motion". I'm sure you can get a copy. jv

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 08 Apr 2005 12:11

For interested readers -- A substantial extract from Stahlecker's report, referred to above, can be found at:

Comprehensive Report of Combat Group A up to 10/15/1941
viewtopic.php?t=60197

The events at Lietukis garage were just a part of the widespread killings which took place when the Germans occupied Kaunas (Kovno/Kowno). Dr. Walter Stahlecker, the commander of Einsatzgruppe A, was able to get a pogrom started in Kaunas, which was meant to suggest that the Jewish victims were hated by the inhabitants of the region. In this extract from the report, Stahlecker gives the death toll in these pogroms:

3. Action against Jewry. From the beginning it was to be expected that the Jewish problem in the East could not be solved by pogroms alone. In accordance with the basic orders received, however, the cleansing activities of the Security Police had to aim at a complete annihilation of the Jews. Special detachments reinforced by selected units in Lithouania partisan detachments, in Latvia units of the Latvian auxiliary police therefore performed extensive executions both in the towns and in rural areas. The actions of the execution detachments were performed smoothly. When attaching Lithouanian and Latvian detachments to the execution squads, men were chosen whose relatives had been murdered or removed by the Russians.

985

Especially severe and extensive measures became necessary in Lithouania. In some places -- especially in Kowno -- the Jews had armed themselves and participated actively in franc tireur war and committed arson. Besides these activities the Jews in Lithouania had collaborated most actively hand in glove with the Soviets.

The sum total of the Jews liquidated in Lithouania amounts to 71.105.

During the pogroms in Kowno 3.800 Jews were eliminated, in the smaller towns about 1.200 Jews.

This should provide the readers with a little more background to the events at Lietukis garage, which took place at the same time and in the same area as the progroms. For additional perspective on the pogroms, see:

The "Woldemaras Supporters" of Lithuania
viewtopic.php?t=61404

As jv pointed out, the book The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders, edited by Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess, Free Press, New York: 1991, pp. 28-35, contains five separate accounts by German eyewitnesses of a massacre in Kaunas in which the victims were beaten to death. Lietukis garage is not mentioned by name, but several of the reports refer to a nearby petrol station:

2. `Cheers and laughter' Mass murder in Kovno

Report of an Oberst:*

Before the start of the Russian campaign, between 21 June and 1 July 1941, the staff of Army Group North under the command of Field Marshal Ritter von Leeb was based at `Waldfrieden', a health resort some 10 km from Insterburg.
As Adjutant (11a) to this staff I received orders to travel to 16th Army HQ, which was stationed in Kovno, and arrange quarters for the staff of the army group liaising with them. I arrived on the morning of 27 June. While I was travelling through the town I went past a petrol station that was surrounded by a dense crowd of people. There was a large number of women in the crowd and they had lifted up their children or stood them on chairs or boxes so that they could see better. At first I thought this must be a victory celebration or some type of sporting event because of the cheering, clapping and laughter that kept breaking out. However, when I inquired what was happening I was told that the `Death-dealer of Kovno' was at work and that this was where collaborators and traitors were finally meted out their rightful punishment! When I stepped closer, however, I became witness to probably the most frightful event that I had seen during the course of two world wars.

On the concrete forecourt of the petrol station a blond man of medium height, aged about twenty-five, stood leaning on a wooden club, resting. The club was as thick as his arm and came up to his chest. At his feet lay about fifteen to twenty dead or dying people. Water flowed continuously from a hose washing blood away into the drainage gully. Just a few steps behind this man some twenty men, guarded by armed civilians, stood waiting for their cruel execution in silent submission. In response to a cursory wave the next man stepped forward silently and was then beaten to death with the wooden club in the most bestial manner, each blow accompanied by enthusiastic shouts from the audience.

*See table of ranks, page 280.

28

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'. I was also told that the public executions had already been forbidden and it was hoped that this prohibition order would be sufficient to restore calm and order.

That same evening (27 June) I was the guest of the army staff. 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. The entire night volleys of rifle and machine-gun fire could be heard, which indicated that further shootings were taking place outside the town, probably in the old fortress.

The following day I did not see any more executions of the type I had witnessed the previous day in the streets. Instead, however, long columns consisting of some forty to fifty men, women and children, who had been driven out of their homes, were herded through the streets by armed civilians. A woman ran out of one of these columns and threw herself down in front of me and on bended knees begged with outstretched hands for help and mercy before she was roughly pushed back into line. I was told that these people were being taken to the city prison. I assume, however, that the route they were taking led directly to their place of execution.

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.

By the time the staff of Army Group arrived in Kovno on 1 July the

29

town itself had become calmer. However, civilians were being rounded up and led away on a daily basis. The squads of guards now wore a kind of militia uniform of German origin. Amongst these men there were also members of the SD who had, as I subsequently learned, started their activities in Kovno on 24 June.


Report of a photographer:

At the beginning of the Russian campaign on the morning of 22 June 1941 I was transferred with my unit to Gumbinnen. We remained there until the following Tuesday, 24 June 1941. On that Tuesday I was ordered to transfer from Gumbinnen to Kovno with an advance party. I arrived there with the head of an army unit on Wednesday morning (25 June 1941). My assignment was to find quarters for the group following us. My job was made substantially easier because we had already pinpointed a number of blocks of houses for our unit on an aerial photograph of Kovno that had been taken beforehand.

There were no more significant clashes in the city. Close to my quarters I noticed a crowd of people in the forecourt of a petrol station which was surrounded by a wall on three sides. The way to the road was completely blocked by a wall of people. I was confronted by the following scene: in the left corner of the yard there was a group of men aged between thirty and fifty. There must have been forty to fifty of them. They were herded together and kept under guard by some civilians. The civilians were armed with rifles and wore armbands, as can be seen in the pictures I took. A young man – he must have been a Lithuanian – . . . with rolled-up sleeves was armed with an iron crowbar. He dragged out one man at a time from the group and struck him with the crowbar with one or more blows on the back of his head. Within three-quarters of an hour he had beaten to death the entire group of forty-five to fifty people in this way. I took a series of photo-graphs of the victims... .

After the entire group been beaten to death, the young man put the crowbar to one side, fetched an accordion and went and stood on the mountain of corpses and played the Lithuanian national anthem. I recognized the tune and was informed by bystanders that this was the national anthem. The behaviour of the civilians present (women and. children) was unbelievable. After each man had been killed they began to clap and when the national anthem started up they joined in singing and clapping. In the front row there were women with small

31

children in their arms who stayed there right until the end of the whole proceedings. I found out from some people who knew German what was happening here. They explained to me that the parents of the young man who had killed the other people had been taken from their beds two days earlier and immediately shot, because they were suspected of being nationalists, and this was the young man's revenge. Not far away there was a large number of dead people who according to the civilians had been killed by the withdrawing Commissars and Communists.

While I was talking to the civilians an SS officer came up to me and tried to confiscate my camera. I was able to refuse since in the first place the camera was not mine but had been allocated to me for my work, and second I had a special pass from 16th Army High Command, which gave me authorization to take photographs everywhere. I explained to the officer that he could only obtain the camera if he went through Generalfeldmarschall Busch, whereupon I was able to go on my way unhindered.


Report of a lance-corporal in 562nd Bakers' Company:

In the summer of 1941 I was a lance-corporal in 562nd Bakers' Company, field post number 07048, which was detailed to 16th Army. Shortly before the hostilities began against Russia we were in Rastenburg, which was where we were when the Russian campaign started on Sunday, 22 June 1941. On 23 June 1941 we crossed the German–Russian border at Wirballen. We arrived in Kovno in the late afternoon of the same day, where we were allocated quarters at a Russian barracks the name of which I do not know. On our way through the city of Kovno before we had reached our quarters, I saw a crowd of people gathered in a square somewhere in the centre of the town. I stopped my vehicle to find out what was going on. I had to climb on to my vehicle to be able to see as my view was blocked by a wall as well as the large number of people standing round. From where I was standing I saw Lithuanian civilians beating a number of civilians with different types of weapon until they showed no more sign of life. Not knowing why these people were being beaten to death in such a cruel manner, I asked a medical-corps sergeant standing next to me whom I did not know personally. He told me that the people being beaten to death were all Jews who had been apprehended by Lithuanians in the city and had been brought to this

32

square. The killings were carried out by recently released Lithuanian convicts. Why these Jews were being beaten to death I did not find out. At that time I had not formulated my own thoughts about the persecution of the Jews because I had not yet heard anything about it. The bystanders were almost exclusively German soldiers, who were observing the cruel incident out of curiosity.

When I reached the square where the Jews were being beaten there must have been about fifteen dead or seriously injured people lying there on the ground. About five Lithuanian ex-convicts were just in the process of beating some more Jews. As far as I could make out, the convicts were wearing white shirts and dark trousers or dark-coloured training suits. As I was an amateur photographer I took two photo-graphs of this unbelievable incident from where I was standing on top of my vehicle. As I had finished the film I took it out of the camera in order to put in a new one. Just then I was confronted by an officer of the Wehrmacht, a paymaster I think, who told me that it was not permitted to take photographs of such events. I had to give him my particulars and the name of my unit and he confiscated the camera. I was only able to save the pictures because I had already taken the film out of the camera. In the pictures you can clearly see five Lithuanian convicts with clubs and cudgels in their hands hitting the Jews, who are lying on the ground. There are also some members of the Lithuanian `Freikorps' wearing armbands on their left arms. These `Freikorps' people rushed back to the square with more Jews who were likewise beaten to death by the convicts. The Jews that were lying on the ground did not all die straight away. After they had been led into the square they were hit on the head or in the face indiscriminately and immediately fell stunned to the ground. Then they were beaten by the convicts until they no longer showed any sign of life. Then yet more Jews were led to the square and they too were beaten in the same way. I stayed in total some ten minutes at the scene of this cruel event and then left and continued my journey. While I stayed in the square I witnessed the beating to death of some ten to fifteen Jews. . . .

Before they were beaten to death, the Jews prayed and murmured to themselves. Some of them also said prayers to themselves as they lay badly wounded on the ground.


33

Report of a sergeant-major from 562nd Bakers' Company:

In 1941 at the beginning of the Russian campaign I was a Hauptfeldwebel (sergeant-major) in 562nd Bakers' Company, which was under the command of 16th Army. In the spring of 1941 we were transferred from France to East Prussia. Shortly before the beginning of hostilities we were in Rastenburg. If I remember correctly, we crossed the border at Stalluponen on 23 or 24 June 1941 and then travelled in the direction of Kovno (Kaunas). I no longer remember today the exact date we moved into Kovno, but I think we arrived two or three days after the town had been taken. To my knowledge, the whole unit entered Kovno together; a special advance party was not necessary. We were quartered in an old Russian barracks and immediately started to make bread for the troops. I think it must have been one day after we had arrived in Kovno that I was informed by a driver in my unit that Jews were being beaten to death in a nearby square. Upon hearing this I went to the said square. As I recall, other members of our unit also went there or went there together with me. The square was about twenty metres in area and cobbled. One side of the square abutted the road, two sides were lined with houses and the back gave on to open ground, perhaps a park.

In the square I saw civilians, some in shirtsleeves, others wearing other types of clothing, beating other civilians to death with iron bars. I was not able to tell whether the victims were Jews. Someone, however, remarked at the time that these were the Jews who had swindled the Lithuanians before the Germans had arrived. I heard from some soldiers standing near by, whom I questioned, that the victims were being beaten to satisfy a personal desire for vengeance. When I reached the square, there were about fifteen to twenty bodies lying there. These were then cleared away by the Lithuanians and the pools of blood were washed away with water from a hose. Upon asking where the bodies were being taken to, I learned that they were being taken to the cemetery. I saw the Lithuanians take hold of the bodies by their hands and legs and drag them away. Afterwards another group of offenders was herded and pushed on to the square and without further ado simply beaten to death by the civilians armed with iron bars. I watched as a group of offenders were beaten to death and then had to look away because I could not watch any longer. These actions seemed extremely cruel and brutal. A great many German soldiers as well as Lithuanians watched these people being beaten to death. The soldiers did not express assent or disapprobation

34

for what was happening. They did not interfere one way or the other. The Lithuanian civilians could be heard shouting out their approval and goading the men on.


Report of a further member of 562nd Bakers' Company:

In the middle of the square there was a depression in the ground where cars were washed. From the side a man was spraying water on to the people lying on the ground. When they managed to raise themselves slightly they were once again beaten with an iron object. I then saw that they were being beaten with spring-plates.

I . . . arrived when the people were lying on the ground and were being sprayed with water. Then they carried away the bodies and then it all started over again. The new victims came from the group of seventy men who carried away the bodies. They had to line up in a semicircle round the dip in the ground. They were then beaten from all sides. There may have been six people doing the beating. . . . Naturally I asked who the men doing the beating were. Apparently they were Latvian [sic] freedom fighters. I could not comprehend this. The people who were making sure no one entered the square were wearing armbands and carried carbines. At no time were any shots fired. Standing round the square were members of the Wehrmacht, like me. We could not believe what was happening and after some time we went away.

I could only watch the incident up to when the next group of people were beaten to death. Then I had to leave the square because I could not watch any more. My friends left with me.

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 09 Apr 2005 05:14

Both JV advises me to read an account in the book "The Good Old Days", and David Thompson has provided some excerpts from that account.

But neither has analysed the reports made by the German witnesses, or attempted to determine the extent to which they confrim or refute the account of the Lithuanian LAH member, Alexandras Bendinskas.

In the first place, we are entitled to enquire after the circumstances in which the five reports by German eyewitnesses were made.

Were they made in the course of an interrogation by their Soviet captors? If they were, then there is a suspicion that their statements have been "massaged" to reflect the Soviet version of the events, ie that these were the acts of criminals against innocent victims rather than a popular uprising against Soviet oppression.

In that regard, it is important to note that statements by Germans that appear in the records of West German trials quite often were not made at the trials themselves, but were records of post-war Soviet interrogations that were subsequently forwarded to West German legal authorities for use in West German trials.

Another immediately obvious thing is the variation between the five German eyewitnesses as to the date on which the incident at the Lietukis garage occurred.

The colonel states that it took place on 27 June, the day he arrived in Kaunas.

The photographer states that it took place on Wedenesday 25 June, the day he arrived in Kaunas with an advance party, accompanying the head of an army unit. His account therefore corresponds to the reality that German units first arrived in Kaunas on 25 June, and also agrees with the account of Bendinskas that the incident took place on that day. He claims to have taken the famous photographs.

The lance-corporal in 562 Baker's Company states that the incident took place on 23 June, the day he arrived in Kaunas with his company. He also claims to have taken the famous photographs.

The sergeant-major from 562 Baker's Company states that the incident took place on the day after his arrival in Kaunas, which was two or three days after the town was taken by the Germans. Since the first Germans arrived in Kaunas on 25 June, that implies a date of 28 June at the earliest.

The further member of 562 Baker's Company does not give a date.

We may conclude that the photographer actually witnessed the scene, since he gives the correct date of 25 June, which is confirmed by the Lithuanian witness Bendinskas. Furthermore, his statement that he arrived on that day with an advance party of the German is consistent with historical reality, since the first advance parties of the German army did in fact enter Kaunas on 25 June.

We may also conclude that it was he who took the famous photographs, since that after all was the function of a photographer.

The photographer also states that the motive for the massacre was revenge on the part of the young man who killed the victims with a crowbar; his parents had been killed by the Soviets two days before as nationalists. That is consistent with the historical reality that the Soviets killed a number of Lithuanian nationalist prisoners they were holding just before they fled on 22 or 23 June. There is also a reference to the bodies of a large number of persons killed by the withdrawing commissars and Communists.

Those statements by the photographer are consistent with the account of Bendinskas, who says that the victims were killed for revenge. It also tends to back up the claim of Bendinskas that the victims were apprehended officials of the Soviet secuirty apparatus; they were precisely the sort of people that the young man would want to take revenge on.

The detail about the young man climbing onto the pile of bodies and playing the Lithuanian national anthem on an accordion sounds like "lurid embellishment", although there is a slim possibility that it might be true.

The number of victims he gives, forty to fifty, may also be an exaggeration.

More analysis to follow.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 09 Apr 2005 06:28

Michael -- You asked and remarked:
In the first place, we are entitled to enquire after the circumstances in which the five reports by German eyewitnesses were made.

Were they made in the course of an interrogation by their Soviet captors? If they were, then there is a suspicion that their statements have been "massaged" to reflect the Soviet version of the events, ie that these were the acts of criminals against innocent victims rather than a popular uprising against Soviet oppression.

In that regard, it is important to note that statements by Germans that appear in the records of West German trials quite often were not made at the trials themselves, but were records of post-war Soviet interrogations that were subsequently forwarded to West German legal authorities for use in West German trials.

Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess, the editors of The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders, give these sources for the five statements (at p. 283):

(1) Report of Oberst a.D. von Bischoffshausen of 19.4.59 at ZSt: 207 AR-Z 14/58, p. 297 ff.

(2) Statement of photographer Gunsilius of 11.11.58: 207 AR-Z 14/58, p. 133 ff.

(3) Statement of a Gefreiter [lance-corporal] from Bakers' Coy Röder 8.7.59: 2 AR-Z 21/58, p. 3647 ff.

(4) Statement of sergeant of Bakers' Coy Lesch of 8.7.59: 2 AR-Z 21/58, p. 3657 ff.

(5) Statement of further member of Bakers' Coy (Schmeink) of 2.8.60: 204 AR-Z 21/58, p. 116.


From this we can see that the statements of the German witnesses were given at various times between 1958 and 1960, during the course of a West German investigation. None of the accounts indicates that the witnesses were anything other than bystanders (as opposed to potential defendants), nor is there any indication, given the years in which the statements were made, that they resulted from any post-war Soviet interrogation. The USSR officially released its collection of German war criminals in 1955-1956.

I noticed that Alexandras Bendinskas, the author of the article you cited, "spent many years in Soviet places of interrogation" and that his article was "published in 1989 in the journal “Pergale” , a monthly literary and artistic journal, organ of the (Soviet) Union of Writers of Lithuania". Do you think these circumstances may have affected his story?

In regard to the murders at the Lietukis garage, I'm inclined to accept the eyewitness accounts as likely to be more fully accurate. I don't think, based on his account, that we can assume Bendinskas was an eyewitness to the murders. Bendinskas did not explicitly claim to have seen and apparently did not actually see the event. As Bendinskas put it, "There are people still alive who saw this execution. They are known to me."; and "According to my information, the majority of those killed were investigators of the security organs and heads of the “special departments” of enterprises and institutions; they were killed as officials rather than as representatives of a certain nationality."

Also, Bendinskas' account is undated. We only know when it was published. It may be been given as late as thirty years after those of the German witnesses.

My impression is that it is unlikely that Bendinskas saw the events at all, but if he did, he must have left before the end of the show.

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 09 Apr 2005 14:35

Now to the first statement, that of Colonel von Bischoffshausen.

Von Bischoffshausen claims that he witnessed the event on 27 June, the day he arrived in Kaunas. However, Bendinskas and the photographer Gunsilius both agree that the event actually took place two days earlier, on 25 June.

Since Bendinskas was a senior member of the LAF, the organisation which took the Soviet security officials prisoner and held them in custody for two days at the Lietukis garage, it is probable that he received reports from the LAF men who were guarding the prisoners and who witnessed the lynching. Accordingly, we can accept his date.

Therefore, if von Bischoffshausen did not arrive in Kaunas until 27 June, he did not witness the incident but must have heard about it from others.

Could he have been mistaken about the date of his arrival in Kaunas? Might he have actually arrived two days earlier?

In his statement, he says that he had orders to report to the headquarters of 16th Army which was stationed in Kaunas, ie it was already there when he arrived.

It is unlikely that 16th Army HQ was already established in Kaunas on 25 June, the day on which the German advance guard was just entering Kaunas. However, it could well have been established two days later, on 27 June.

Since von Bischoffshausen reported to 16th Army HQ, he must indeed ahve arrived in Kaunas on 27 June, and hence he could not have witnessed the incident himself.

Thus, we can probably dismiss Colonel von Bischoffshausen as an eyewitness. Nevertheless, certain features of his account, which he must have learned from others, are of interest.

For example, he reiterates that the lynching was a "spontaneous action on the part of the Lithuanian population in retaliation against the collaborators and traitors of the recently ended Russian occupation", which is totally consistent with the account given by Bendinskas. At a number of points he states that this was an "internal matter" for the Lithuanians, and that the German commanders had seen it as such.

We may surmise that the incident was reported back to the commanders of the German forces entering the city, that they investigated it, perhaps by making enquiries with the LAF, and concluded that it was one group of Lithuanians settling scores with another, something in which the German Army should not intervene. Von Bischoffshausen must have learned all of this when he arrived on 27 June.

Now to the third statement, that of Lance-Corporal Röder of 562 Bakers' Company.

He claims to have arrived in Kaunas on 23 June, which is itself unlikely, and casts doubt on his veracity and claim to have witnessed the incident. A rear support unit such as a Bakers' Company is hardly likely to be included in the advance guard of an army entering an enemy city.

Unlike Colonel von Bischoffshausen and the photographer Gunsilius, he states that the victims were Jews, and that the perpetrators were convicts released from prison.

Again unlike von Bischoffshausen and Gunsilius, he states that the killings were carried out by a number of people, and does not single out one perpetrator.

The reference to the perpetrators as "convicts" show clear signs of "massaging" by Soviet interrogators. As Bendinskas tells us, the perpetrators were indeed Lithuanians who had just been liberated from prison, but they were political prisoners, anti-Soviet nationalists, not "convicts". However, it was common Soviet practice to malign all anti-Soviet activists as "criminals" and "hooligans"; the fact that Röder has adopted that Soviet nomenclature (which he repeats a number of times) is a clear indication of Soviet influence on his testimony.

Why he indentifies the victims as Jews is unclear. It is possible that Lithuanians in the crowd told German soldiers present that the victims were Jews, reflecting the widespread impression among Lithuanians at the time that members of the Soviet security forces were Jews.

On the other hand, it is possible that that element is something suggested to him. Perhaps one of his interrogators wanted to conceal the fact that the victims were members of the Soviet security forces,, ie possibly guilty of crimes against Lithuanians, and therefore suggested callingthe victims simply "Jews", ie presumed to be innocent.

Röder's claim to have taken the photographs of the incident is probably untrue, since Gunsilius, a professional photographer, also claims to have taken them, and his claim is more credible given that taking photographs was his function.

Röder also gives a detailed description of one of the photographs in his testimony, which suggests that he was looking at it at the time of making his statement. It is possible that he was shown the photograph and persuaded to confess to having taken it himself.

As to the number of victims, he initially states that he saw about fifteen dead or badly injured men lying on the ground. Possibly that is because he was shown the photographs, and that is what he saw in them. His statement that there were five perpetrators may also have been dictated by what he saw in the photograph.

The above number corresponds to what Bendinkas said about the number of victims, between 10 and 20. If that was the number of victims, then that is what the photographs would show, and that may be the reason for the consistency of the statements by Bendinskas and Röder on that point.

Röder goes on to say that more "Jews" were brought in to be killed, but that statement may simply have been an attempt by him to remove any contradiction between his initial impression, based on what he saw in the photograph, and the inflated numbers that his interrogators must have heard from other sources.

On balance, I think that Röder cannot be unreservedly accepted as an eyewitness to the incident.

With regard to the statement of Sergeant-Major Lesch of 562 Bakers' Company, he arrived too late to have seen the incident (on 27 or 28 June), and therefore cannot have been an eyewitness.

In other respects, his account of how and when he arrived in Kaunas rings true. One would expect a Bakers' Company to arrive not with the advance guard but a few days later, when things had settled down and they could set about baking bread.

His account mirrors that of Röder, and is possibly from the same source. However, he is a bit more coy about identifying the victims as Jews; presumably his interrogators suggested that idenfication to him, but he was not willing to go along with it completely. In addition, the identification of the perpetrators as "convicts" is missing.

Lesch must be rejected as an eyewitness if only because he arrived too late, and obviously does not know when the incident actually happened. Anything he knows about the incident must have been gained from other sources.

The final statement, that of Schmeink of 562 Bakers' Company may be a genuine eyewitness account, given the description of the surroundings, which are consistent with a garage.

His statement that the victims were beaten with spring-plates is consistent with that of Bendinskas, who stated that the beating was done with various items found in the garage.

Furthermore, he does not identify the victims as "Jews" or the perpetrators as "convicts", idicating that his testimony has not been "massaged" in that respect.

He correctly identifies the perpetrators as "freedom-fighters", which is what Lithuanian onlokers would have told him, even though he confused Lithuanians and Latvians, something that a German without an extensive knowledge of the Baltic area might easily do.

Schmeink indicates a total of about 70 prisoners from which the victims were taken. He does not give a figure for those he initially saw lying in the road being beaten. There is nothing to indicate that all 70 were in fact beaten to death, since Schmeink says that he left the scene.

There is in fact nothing in the five statements, whether they represent genuine eyewitness testimony or material heard from others, that contradicts the account given by Bendinskas, when allowances are made for some fairly obvious "massaging".

Three of the statements, those of von Bischoffshausen, Gunsilius and Schmeink do not identify the victims ethnically or in any other way. Therefore, they do not contradict the statement of Bendinskas that the victims were members of the Soviet security forces who had been apprehended by men of the LAF at the Lietukis garage in the act of seeking to escape, were kept in custody there for a couple of days, and then lynched by Lithuanian political prisoners who had just been liberated from prison.

Only Röder and Lesch identify the victims as Jews, and Lesch is rather hesitant in doing so. As a matter of fact, Bendinskas confirms that most of the victims were of Jewish nationality, which is not surprising given the high rate of Jewish collaboration with the Soviet occupiers; but they were killed as Soviet security men, not specifically as Jews.

The identification of the perpetrators as "convicts" by Röder confirms the statement of Bendinskas that they were Lithuanian nationalists just liberated from prison, since "convict" was the Soviet way of maligning those persons. It also indicates the extent to which Röder's testimony has been "massaged".

One of the interesting features is the image of the young blond man holding a long pole.

Bendinskas does not single out any one perpetrator, but states that the lynching was carried out by a number of liberated political prisoners.

Röder, Lesch and Schmeink agree with Bendinskas in saying that the beatings were carried out by a number of people, and do not single out one individual; Röder and Schmeink give a figure of five or six beaters.

On the other hand, von Bischoffshausen and Gunsilius both draw attention to a single individual who does most of the killing. Both describe him as a young man, with von Bischoffshausen giving a fuller description and calling him the "Death-dealer of Kovno".

The origin of the image is clear. There is exists a photograph of a young blond man holding a long pole or bar; the man appears to be posing for the photograph. Most probably the picture was taken by Gunsilius, the professional photographer.

The young man may have been participating in the beating, or he may simply have been an onlooker holding a pole. Possibly Gunsilius (or whoever took the photo), singled him out because of his striking appearance - young, blond, good-looking. He must have asked the young man to pose.

Subsequently, the story arose that this individual in particular played the prime role in the killing, although that is contradicted by the accounts of Bendinskas, Röder, Lesch and Schmeink. It is fairly obvious that the impetus for that story came from the photo itself, which is very striking, and not from objective reality.

Who invented the story about the young man is unclear, but it most likely has a Soviet origin. Whatever the case, both von Bischoffshausen and Röder have made the story the major feature of their statements, each adding different "lurid embellishments", the former about the "Death-dealer of Kovno" and the latter about the young man playing the Lithuanian national anthem on top of a pile of corpses on a harmonica. Whether the two German witnesses themselves invented those "lurid embellishments" is unclear, but I think it unlikely; it seems to me more likely that they borrowed those two topoi from somewhere.


In summary, there is no good reason to reject the account given by Bendinskas. As a senior staff-member of the LAF, he would have received first-hand reports from the LAF men who were on the scene, and who had been guarding the captured Soviet agents.

The fact that he told his story only in 1989 is not a reason to reject. It was in that year that Lithuania was beginning to free itself from the arthritic grip of Soviet domination, and persons like Bendinskas were able to come forward and tell their stories that ran counter to the official Soviet version of events which had been the only one permitted until then.

Furthermore, the fact that he spent time in a Soviet prison does not disqualify him. He was obviously a political prisoner, suffering a fate that would have been the norm for anti-Soviet Lithuanian nationalists who fell into Soviet hands.

Finally, one element that lends veracity to his account is that he did not take the obvious course of claiming that the lynching had been carried out by persons acting under German orders, and that it did not represent the actions of good Lithuanian patriots. Instead, he openly admits that the deed, which he calls a "crime" and an offense against the law of God, was perpetrated by his fellow Lithuanian nationalists, out of a wild desire for revenge on those who had persecuted them.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 09 Apr 2005 21:23

Michael -- I'm having some problems with your methodology in this thread. Alexandras Bendinskas' account is not clearly based on his own experiences or recollections of the murders at the Lietukis garage. It is also the furthest removed in time from the actual events. It is in partial conflict with the five eyewitness accounts.

The most likely explanation reconciling these discrepancies is that Bendinskas' account is largely true as far as it goes, but is missing important elements, such as the events following the initial killings of Soviet police officials. Notwithstanding this, you are using Bendinskas' essay (published under Soviet auspices) as the sole basis to separately evaluate each of the other accounts. Why is this approach the best and most suitable to accurately answer the question, "What really happened at the Lietukis garage, 25 June 1941?"

User avatar
Peter H
Member
Posts: 28605
Joined: 30 Dec 2002 13:18
Location: Australia

Postby Peter H » 10 Apr 2005 01:34

Eliezer Zilber's research on the identity of the victims would be of interest.

The only reference I can find of it online is here:

http://www.litjews.org/index.asp?DL=E&T ... SearchTXT=

DOCUMENTS ACCUSE
Eliezer ZILBER, an historian living in Israel, and a former member of the resistance movement in the Kovno Ghetto, called his presentation “New facts about the killings at the ‘Lietukis’ garage”.
In his work at the Lithuanian Central State Archive in Kaunas, E.Zilber confirmed the names of 10 of the 70 Jews who were killed by white-ribboners at the garage. The 10 men were not prison guards or NKVD agents, as certain representatives of Lithuanian society claim. They were No-chum Paulin, George Shtrom, Itzok Grin, Shloime Goldstein, Chaim Zilber, Aron Akab, Shmerl Finn, Lipe Segal, and Motle Sandle.... none of whom had anything to do with either prisons or the NKVD.

walterkaschner
In memoriam
Posts: 1469
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 01:17
Location: Houston, Texas

Postby walterkaschner » 10 Apr 2005 01:36

Over 50 years ago, while I was at college and attending a relatively small class in Psychology, the door flew open in mid-class and a seemingly distraught individual appeared, gesticulating and repeatedly shouting something while approaching the professor at the head of the class. When he reached the professor there was a loud noise and the professor fell to the floor; the intruder shouted something else, siezed the professor's notes and fled the room. The entire incident lasted less than a minute. The class was horrified until the professor got up, explained that the incident was only an experiment and asked each student to write down in as much detail as could be remembered just what exactly had transpired.

Does this recollection seem totally off topic? Well, IMHO it is highly relevant, because the recorded observations of the fifteen or so students in the class, made immediately after the incident, were so markedly different that one could readily wonder if we had all witnessed the same event! Although most recalled that the intruder was masculine, at least one thought he was a girl in slacks! Physical descriptions differed widely, as did recollections of what the intruder was shouting. Some thought they heard a shot, others that the small portable lecturn had fallen to the floor. Some had thought the professor had slipped and fallen, others that he had been shot, others that he had been knocked down. Etc., etc., etc.

One lesson I personally drew from the experiment was the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, and many years of subsequent experience, particularly in the practice of law, have served to confirm that conclusion. Even absent exterior pressures and influences, and with no ulterior motives whatsoever, people have a tendency to remember things differently, even immediately after witnessing an event. And memories tend to dim as they age. One can't tell how long the memories relied upon by Alexandras Bendinskas had aged before the telling, but we do know that those recorded by the Germans' testimonies were of events over 15 years old.

So I would suggest that discrepancies (and lacunae) among the various descriptions of the events at the Lietukis garage are to be expected and do not necessarily or totally discredit the basic accuracy of any of the accounts. On the other hand, if one considers the possibility that the killings described in the various accounts occured on more than one single day, the accounts are, apart from some minor discrepancies, remarkably in agreement as to the basic facts. This possibility is suggested by the 4 photos in The Good Old Days which - although no source is cited - were apparently included as taken at the scene of the killings and, IMHO, portray two separate incidents.

The first photo, on page 22, captioned "The Death-dealer of Kaunas", is a close-up of a young, rather handsome blond man probably in his mid-twenties, holding a thick tool or bar of shoulder-high length and standing in front of 6-8 corpses. He is wearing a white shirt with dark trousers and jacket, together with an unusually broad white belt and, although not entirely clear, he seems to be wearing an armband with insignia on the right sleeve of his jacket. In the background can be seen some twenty or more closely packed civilians (no children or clearly identifiable females) and two or three soldiers, presumably German. This could well be the "blond man of medium height, aged about twenty-five" whom Oberst von Bischoffshausen reported having seen "leaning on a wooden club, resting" with "at his feet...about fifteen to twenty dead or dying people."

The second, on page 26, captioned "Kaunas: Jews are publicly beaten to death by Lithuanians. German soldiers look on and take photographs" is a shot taken at about 30 - 40 feet and shows some twenty to thirty corpes with a large densely packed crowd in the background, some of which are indentifiably female, with several soldiers in uniform, presumably German. In the far right background, a few feet in front of the crowd, stands a man with his arms raised as if preparing to strike a body on the ground; although his face can not be distingished, he is blond, wearing a white shirt, dark trousers and jacket and an unusually broad white belt. I believe a fair conclusion can be drawn that the man featured in the first picture is the same man as appears in the background of the second, that both pictures were taken at the same event and at nearly the same time, and that this was the event that the Oberst either saw himself or heard described.

The third and fourth pictures both appear on page 30, and together bear the caption "Kaunas: mass murder, watched by German soldiers and tolerated by the army staff." The background of each shows a high brick or stone wall to the left which appear to be identical. In the foreground of the top picture, at a distance of perhaps 10-12 feet, are some 15-20 corpses, with three individuals standing among them, one in uniform(not German) with a slung rifle and armband on his jacket sleeve. In the background at about 50 feet are thinly spread out perhaps a dozen German soldiers looking on and only two or three civilians, seemingly all male. In the foreground of the bottom picture, taken a few feet closer and at a slightly different angle, are shown perhaps a dozen corpses, the closest one of which appears identical to the closest one in the top picture, with again three individuals standing among them, but only one of which could be identical with one in the first - the other two are dressed in dark trousers and with white shirts without jackets, one of whom in the forground is striking at a body on the ground. In the background are many more onlookers than in the top picture - probably 25 to 30 - about 50/50 German soldiers and male civilians. Although hard to tell, from the lighting and the composition of the onlookers I would guess that these two pictures were taken at the same spot, but at substantially different times and perhaps on different days.

And I also believe that a comparison of the first two pictures with the last two strongly suggest that they may portray two or possibly three different incidents, although perhaps at the same location, the first two being that described by Oberst von Bischoffshausen, in whose testimony as adjutant to the staff of Army Group North I would, all other things being equal, tend to place at least a modicum of greater credence simply due to his rank and office. His own report indicates that the incident he observed when arriving Kovno on the morning of June 27th was not the first to have taken place there. Upon arriving at staff headquarters that morning he was informed that incidents of that sort were already known, that orders "from above" had already been received not to intervene directly but that orders had already been issued forbidding public executions, with the hope that they would be obeyed. He also reports that at dinner the same evening the commanding General was informed that "the mass murders had started again in the town." (My emphasis) All of which suggests that the Colonel may have been an eye witness to an event which occured a day or two later that the one described by Alexandras Bendinskas and/or by the Bakers' Company witnesses.

So where does all that leave me? Well, I tend to accept most of Bendinksas' description as far as it goes. I'm prepared to believe that there was a round up on June 25 by the Lithuanian Activist Front of remaining Soviet ( both Russian and Lithuanian) informants, investigators and other security personnel, who were initially held in the Lietukis Garage and several of whom (but certainly more than 10, as the photos clearly show) were beaten to death by newly released political prisoners. Also that a majority of the victims on that occasion were Jews, who were killed not just because they were Jews but because they had participated in the horrors of the Soviet occupation. Also that the killings were done solely by Lithuanians and were "spontaneous" and not organized or even approved by the local German Wehrmacht command. ( I am well aware that Stahlecker's Report of October 15, 1941 gives credit to his own Einsatzgruppe "A" for having created the impression that "the local population itself had taken the first steps of its own accord as a natural reaction of decades of oppression by the Jewsand the more recent terror exerted by the Communists." Although that may be true as to later pogroms and mass murders, I find it hard to believe that the events at the Lietukis Garage could have been set up by the German security police within hours after the troops entered into the city, but far easier to believe that Stahlecker may have been stretching the truth some months after the fact to lean toward his own favor. To me the entire report has a highly self-congratulatory aroma.)

So , I am unwilling, just because of certain discrepancies of dates and other details, to entirely discredit the accounts of the German self-proclaimed witnesses, whether they were actually themselves eye-witnesses or were recounting something that they were told by others. (It is not at all unusual for one to eventually think, after a passage of time, that he had personally witnessed an event which he had only been told about but which had become so indelibly impressed upon his memory that he truly believed he had been an eyewitness to it.) As to the basics, apart from dates I don't see any great conflict among the accounts. And as to the apparent conflict in dates, I think it more likely than not, although I admit to a fair amount of uncertainty, that while the killings described indeed all took place at the Lietukis Garage, the round up of Soviet security participants did not stop on the 25th, the victims being continued to be delivered and killed there over the next two or three days - which, if correct, would resolve that apparent conflict in accounts.

Regards, Kaschner

Dan
Financial supporter
Posts: 3323
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 14:06
Location: California

Postby Dan » 10 Apr 2005 02:24

Great thread, thanks on behalf of everyone for the thoughts, sources and insights.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 10 Apr 2005 04:23

Here are the four photographs discussed by walterkaschner, taken from The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders, edited by Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess, Free Press, New York: 1991, pp. 23, 26 and 30. This is part 1 of 2:
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 10 Apr 2005 04:24

While these photographs are arguably out of compliance with the H&WC section rules posted at viewtopic.php?t=53962 , at this point the readers may have difficulty following the discussion without them. Part 2 (final):
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

David Thompson
Forum Staff
Posts: 22889
Joined: 20 Jul 2002 19:52
Location: USA

Postby David Thompson » 10 Apr 2005 04:52

Here is the extract from Dr. Stahlecker's report to which jv and walterkaschner referred, taken from The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders, edited by Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess, Free Press, New York: 1991, pp. 24-27. The editors give the source (at p. 283) as: `Einsatzgruppe A, Gesamtbericht bis zum 15. Oktober 1941', of Franz Walter Stahlecker, Head of Einsatzgruppe A. Nbg Dok. 180-L. Note that Stahlecker describes the first full day of the pogrom as 26 Jun 1941:

1. `Initially difficult to set a pogrom in motion'

Report by Stahlecker, head of Einsatzgruppe A

In accordance with orders Einsatzgruppe A marched into the assembly area on 23 June 1941, the second day of the eastern campaign, after the transfer of serviceable vehicles. Army Group North together with 16th and 18th Armies and Tank Group 4 had started the advance the previous day. It was now a matter of priority to establish swift contact with the leaders of the armies as well as the commanders of the rear army area. I am able to say that from the outset cooperation with the Wehrmacht was generally good, and in certain cases, as for example with Tank Group 4 under the command of General Höppner, extremely close, one might even say warm. Misunderstandings which arose in the first days with individual commands were in the main ironed out through personal discussions... .

Similarly, within a few hours of our entering the city, local anti-Semitic elements were induced to engage in pogroms against the Jews, despite the extremely difficult conditions. In accordance with orders the security police were bent on solving the Jewish question with extreme firmness using all the ways and means at its disposal. It was thought a good idea for the security police not to be seen to be involved, at least not immediately, in these unusually tough measures, which were also bound to attract attention in German circles. The impression had to be created that the local population itself had taken the first steps of its own accord as a natural reaction to decades of oppression by the Jews and the more recent terror exerted by the Communists.

In view of the fact that operations to extend the field of action were under way and the security police had their hands full, every attempt was made from the outset to ensure that reliable elements in the local population participated in the fight against the pests in their country, that is, the Jews and the Communists. Precautions, which will be described in more detail below, had to be taken when directing the first spontaneous self-cleansing actions that reliable people were engaged in the mopping-up work who could act as a permanent source of assistance to the security police. In order to do this the

24

activist forces had banded together into so-called partisan units in order to engage actively in the struggle against Bolshevism. According to their own accounts they lost 4,000 of their number.

In Kaunas four fairly large groups of partisans had formed with whom the advance party had immediately established contact. These groups had not been organized under one coherent leadership. Instead, each group tried to gain superiority over the others and to enter into closer association with the Wehrmacht so that they would be included in a military operation against the Soviet army and as a result the dominant group would be able to capitalize on the changes in the government of Lithuania and thus be able to form a new [Lithuanian] army. Whilst for political reasons military deployment of the partisans could not be considered, within a short time a 300-strong auxiliary group fit for action was formed from the reliable members of the undisciplined partisan groups under the leadership of the Lithuanian journalist Klimatis. This group, as it proved itself satisfactory, was deployed not only in Kaunas itself but also in numerous parts of Lithuania where it performed its duties, in particu-

26

lar preparation of and participation in the execution of large liquidation actions, under the constant supervision of the Einsatzkommando with no significant problems... .

In view of the fact that the population of the Baltic countries had suffered tremendously during their incorporation into the USSR under the leadership of the Bolsheviks and Jews, it could be assumed that after their liberation from this foreign domination they themselves would largely render harmless their enemies left behind in the country after the withdrawal of the Red Army. The task of the security police was to set these purges in motion and put them on to the right track so as to ensure that the liquidation goals that had been set might be achieved in the shortest possible time. It was equally essential to create an established and provable fact for the future that the liberated population had taken the hardest measures against their Bolshevik and Jewish adversaries of their own accord without directions from German authorities being discernible.

In Lithuania this goal 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. 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. On following nights 2,300 Jews were rendered harmless in the same way. In other parts of Lithuania there were similar actions following the example of Kaunas, albeit on a smaller scale, but which included Communists that had remained in the area.

The Wehrmacht units were briefed and showed full understanding for the action. As a result, the cleaning-up operations went off very smoothly. From the outset it was clear that the possibility of carrying out pogroms only presented itself during the first days of the occupation....

27

michael mills
Member
Posts: 8736
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 12:42
Location: Sydney, Australia

Postby michael mills » 11 Apr 2005 03:28

Here is an interesting extract from this site:

http://www.hagalil.com/archiv/99/12/litauen.htm


Es gelang Bruzas, den einzigen Überlebenden des Massakers an Juden in der Kaunasser "Lietukis"-Garagenanlage am 27. Juni 1941, den 74-jährigen Vaclovas aus Kaunas Vodzinskas zu finden. Vodzinskas bestritt vor der Fernsehkamera, daß junge Litauer 75 Juden mit Stangen und Metallbändern zu Tode geprügelt hätten und anschließend auf den Leichenberg geklettert seien, um auf dem Akkordeon die litauischen Hymne zu spielen. Vodzinskas sagte, er habe mit eigenen Augen gesehen, wie man den von der Eisenbahn herankommandierten betrunkenen Männern befohlen habe, den "Marsch der Juden von Slobodka" zu spielen. Die Männer, so Vodzinskas, hätten "irgendsoeine Polka gespielt und sind weitergegangen".


My translation:

Bruzas [a journalist for Lietuvos Rytas TV] succeeded in finding the sole survivor of the massacre of Jews in the Kaunas "Lietukis" garage on 27 June 1941, the 74-year-old Vaclovas Vodzinskas from Kaunas. In front of the TV camera Vodzinskas denied that young Lithuanians had beaten 75 Jews to death with poles and metal bars and afterwards climbed onto the pile of bodies to play the Lithuanian National Anthem on the accordion. Vodzinskas said that with his own eyes he had seen how drunken men ordered up from the railway had been commanded to play the "March of the Jews of Slobodka". According to Vodzinskas, the men had "played some such polka and then gone away".


So it seems that the tale told by the German witness Röder was indeed a "lurid embellishment" (although he did get the date right).

The young blond man was indeed at the scene, and he did strike with some sort of pole at least one of the men (already dead?) lying in the street, and he did pose for a photograph; those things are proved by the photographs themselves.

But according to the testimony of Vodzinskas, the tale that the young man then stood on the bodies to play the Lithuanian National Anthem is a fabrication, and a gross distortion of the fact that a song was sung by a group of men.

Konrad
Member
Posts: 45
Joined: 25 Jun 2004 00:41
Location: USA

Postby Konrad » 11 Apr 2005 05:19

The German language Jewish newspaper Hagalil (to which Mr. Mills referred) reported about Efraim Zuroff:

In Litauen beispielsweise wurden im Zweiten Weltkrieg 96 Prozent der 220.000 Juden von Litauern umgebracht – und zwar von Litauern, "die heute noch ganz unbedarft in Wilna in den Supermarkt fahren, um Milch einzukaufen". Die litauische Regierung ist nicht gerade begeistert über Zuroff.

(In Lithuania for example were during the second world war 96 percent of the 220,000 Jews killed by Lithuanians – that is by Lithuanians “who drive today unhindered in Vilna to buy milk”. The Lithuanian government is not exactly enthusiastic about Zuroff.)


http://www.hagalil.com/archiv/99/08/zuroff.htm


Return to “Holocaust & 20th Century War Crimes”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users