Information about how the government institutions of the Nazi occupation in Lithuania – district commissars, the Security Police and Security Service, the offices of the military commandants – enthusiastically carried out the Nazi program for the extermination of the Jews is, in essence, not new. Therefore, most of the documents in this chapter are about the role of the LAF (Lithuanian Activist Front) and the collaboration of Lithuanian administrative bodies and the police with the Nazis in perpetrating the Shoah in Lithuania – matters that are almost unknown to the general public.
As indicated by the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania (Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras – LGGRTC) in a note to the Seimas of the Lithuanian Republic, “part of the LAF program drawn up in Berlin (mainly by Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Maceina, who was chairman of the ideological commission, and Antanas Valiukėnas) was notable for its anti-Jewishness. Its sixteenth article announced that: ‘The Lithuanian Activist Front revokes the hospitality accorded to the Jewish national minority in Lithuania,’ i.e. ‘proclaims it to be outside the bounds of the law.’”
The appeals intended for Lithuania (and prepared mainly by Kazys Škirpa, who was leader of the LAF, and Bronys Raila, who was chairman of the propaganda commission) were saturated with National Socialist ideology and racist slurs concerning the Jews. The Jews were unconditionally identified with the Communists. They became the objects of appeals, posters, and caricatures full of the ugliest anti-Jewish insinuations, absurd accusations, and threats which spewed malice and hatred for the Jews.
That this agitation and propaganda reached Lithuania and that it was undoubtedly inspired by the LAF is even attested by the fact, indicated in the above-mentioned LGGRTC note to the Seimas of the Lithuanian Republic: “that the insurgents implemented the recommendation made in ‘Chapter VII: Carrying Out the Uprising’ of Instructions for the Liberation of Lithuania:
‘So that the Germans may distinguish the insurgents from the rest of the civilian population and not mistake them for armed local Communists, once the uprising has taken place, its participants shall put on their left arms white (cloth) bands with the letters T.D.A. (Tautinio darbo apsauga [National Work Guard]).’ White armbands were worn by most of the insurgents in various Lithuanian localities.”
Soon after the uprising, in a directive sent in July to the heads of districts and cities, to district boards and city mayors, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Provisional Government, Jonas Šlepetys, gave instructions “to issue the appropriate decrees so that all literate partisans, riflemen… take pen in hand and describe the deportations of the people, the beginning of the war, the activities of the partisans, and the Communist-Bolshevik-Jewish terror [emphasis added].” As can be seen from this information, during the early days of the war an anti-Jewish mood was already dominant in some places, and violations of the elementary civil rights of Jews had begun. Naturally, this directive from a minister stirred up even greater anti-Jewish feeling and activity.
During the early days of the uprising in June 1941, efforts had already begun to re-establish the administrative apparatus that had functioned in Lithuania before the occupation, the organs of local government, and the police, all of which immediately became involved in the anti-Jewish actions being perpetrated by the Nazi occupational structures.
As soon as the Provisional Government began to function, it enacted the Declaration on Economic Affairs, which provided that Jewish property nationalized by the Soviets would “remain the property of the Lithuanian state,” i.e. that the Jews would lose their property in every branch of the people’s economy, that their bank accounts, securities, etc. would not be returned to them.
Soon the Provisional Government approved Regulations on the Status of the Jews, whose introduction is a collection of the most vicious stereotypical anti-Jewish accusations. According to this act, the Jews were placed outside the bounds of the law. They lost elementary civil rights, were forced to wear badges degrading to human dignity and honor, and – most importantly – were removed from where they lived and resettled “in separate places intended for this purpose.”
All of this was in complete accordance with the Nazi strategy for the extermination of the Jews. Robbed, deprived of their rights, and forced into ghettos, the Jews became easy prey for murderers.
The above-mentioned LGGRTC note to the Seimas of the Lithuanian Republic states:
“While the Provisional Government was in power, the Sonderkommandos of the German Security Service and Gestapo used the re-established local governments to implement most of the orders discriminating against the Jews and to begin the process of setting up ghettos, and they used their own forces and those of the TDA battalion to begin the mass destruction of the Jews (preparations for these actions also involved the local police and the heads of some districts, cities, and civil parishes).
By August 5, about 38,000 Jewish citizens of Lithuania had become victims of the Holocaust. Zenonas Ivinskis, who was responsible for relations with
German institutions, urged the Provisional Government to condemn these massacres, but that was not done. […]
It can be stated that during the entire six weeks of its existence the Provisional Government not only failed to prevent the destruction of the Jewish community in Lithuania but also did not make an official protest. On the contrary, provisions discriminating against the Jews were enacted in decrees concerning denationalization and the restitution of property. […] In its session of June 30, the Government approved the financing of the National Work Guard (Hilfspolizeidienst) battalion and did not take steps to stop this financing when some of the soldiers in this battalion were used in the mass killing of Jews. During this same session, the Government approved the setting up of a concentration camp… […]
The Provisional Government very quickly lost any real chance of controlling the situation in Lithuania… Nevertheless, the enactment of discriminatory laws, the establishment of concentration camps, and indifference to the destruction of the Jews (no public resolutions condemning these acts were adopted, and Lithuanian military units that participated in the Holocaust were not brought under control) encouraged, in the Lithuanian society of that time, anti-Semitic attitudes and the participation of individuals and groups in the Jewish Holocaust. All this had a direct and real influence on the fate of the people of Lithuania – both the perpetrators and the victims of the Jewish Holocaust.”