The 1939 German ultimatum to Lithuania was an oral ultimatum which Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany, presented to Juozas Urbšys, Foreign Minister of Lithuania on 20 March 1939. The Germans demanded that Lithuania give up the Klaipėda Region (also known as the Memel Territory) which had been detached from Germany after World War I, or the Wehrmacht would invade Lithuania. The Lithuanians had been expecting the demand after years of rising tension between Lithuania and Germany, increasing pro-Nazi propaganda in the region, and continued German expansion. It was issued just five days after the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. The 1924 Klaipėda Convention had guaranteed the protection of the status quo in the region, but the four signatories to that convention did not offer any material assistance. The United Kingdom and France followed a policy of appeasement, while Italy and Japan openly supported Germany, and Lithuania was forced to accept the ultimatum on 22 March. It proved to be the last territorial acquisition for Germany before World War II, producing a major downturn in Lithuania's economy and escalating pre-war tensions for Europe as a whole.
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop, more commonly known as Joachim von Ribbentrop, was Foreign Minister of Nazi Germany from 1938 until 1945.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
Juozas Urbšys was a prominent interwar Lithuanian diplomat, the last head of foreign affairs in independent interwar Lithuania, and a translator. He served in the military between 1916 and 1922, afterwards joining the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1938 Urbšys was named its head and served in this position until Lithuania's occupation in 1940. Urbšys was imprisoned by the Soviet authorities in 1940 and deported to Siberia, where he spent the next 13 years in various prisons. Urbšys died in 1991, having lived long enough to see Lithuania's independence restored, and was buried in Petrašiūnai Cemetery, Kaunas.
|Events leading to World War II|
Klaipėda (German: Memel), an important seaport in East Prussia, was detached from Germany by Article 28 of the Treaty of Versailles and was governed by the Allies according to Article 99. France assumed administration of the region while Lithuania continued to lobby for its control, claiming that it should belong to Lithuania as it had a significant Lithuanian population (see Lithuania Minor) and was that country's only access to the Baltic Sea. Poland also laid claim to the territory. As the Allies were hesitant to make a decision and it seemed that the region would remain a free state much like the Free City of Danzig, Lithuania took the initiative and organized the Klaipėda Revolt in January 1923. km² and had a population of approximately 140,000.Soviet Russia and Germany supported the action. The region, as an autonomous territory with its own parliament (Klaipėda Parliament), was attached to Lithuania. The region covered about 2,400
Klaipėda is a city in Lithuania on the Baltic Sea coast. It is the third largest city in Lithuania and the capital of Klaipėda County.
East Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773 to 1829 and again from 1878 ; following World War I it formed part of the Weimar Republic's Free State of Prussia, until 1945. Its capital city was Königsberg. East Prussia was the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast.
The Treaty of Versailles was the most important of the peace treaties that brought World War I to an end. The Treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919 in Versailles, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which had directly led to World War I. The other Central Powers on the German side of World War I signed separate treaties. Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of Allied negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty. The treaty was registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on 21 October 1919.
During the 1920s, Lithuania and Germany maintained a relatively normal relationship as they were united by anti-Polish sentiment.In January 1928, after long and difficult negotiations, Germany and Lithuania signed a border treaty, which left Klaipėda on the Lithuanian side. However, tensions began rising in the 1930s after the Weimar Republic was replaced with Nazi Germany. An especially tense period came in February 1934 when the Lithuanian government arrested dozens of pro-Nazi activists. In response to these arrests and trials, Germany declared a boycott of Lithuanian agricultural imports. The boycott caused an economic crisis in Suvalkija (southern Lithuania), where farmers organized violent protests. However, after the plebiscite in Saar most of the pro-Nazi prisoners received amnesty. In the wake of the amnesties, Lithuanian prestige suffered both abroad and in Klaipėda, allowing Germany to strengthen its influence in the region.
The Weimar Republic is an unofficial historical designation for the German state from 1918 to 1933. The name derives from the city of Weimar, where its constitutional assembly first took place. The official name of the republic remained Deutsches Reich unchanged from 1871, because of the German tradition of substates. Although commonly translated as "German Empire", the word Reich here better translates as "realm", in that the term does not have monarchical connotations in itself. The Reich was changed from a constitutional monarchy into a republic. In English, the country was usually known simply as Germany.
Suvalkija or Sudovia is the smallest of the five cultural regions of Lithuania. Its unofficial capital is Marijampolė. People from Suvalkija are called suvalkiečiai (plural) or suvalkietis (singular). It is located south of the Neman River, in the former territory of Vilkaviškis bishopric. Historically, it is the newest ethnographic region as its most distinct characteristics and separate identity formed during the 19th century when the territory was part of Congress Poland. It was never a separate political entity and even today it has no official status in the administrative division of Lithuania. However, it continues to be the subject of studies focusing on Lithuanian folk culture of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the spring of 1938 Adolf Hitler personally stated that gaining Klaipėda was one of his highest priorities, second only to gaining the Sudetenland.When Poland presented its ultimatum to Lithuania in March 1938, Germany openly declared that in the event of a military clash between Poland and Lithuania, its army would invade Lithuania to capture Klaipėda and a large portion of western Lithuania. A week after Lithuania accepted the Polish ultimatum, Germany presented an eleven-point memorandum that demanded freedom of action for pro-German activists in the region and a lessening of Lithuanian influence there. Its points were worded in a deliberately vague manner, which would enable Germany to accuse Lithuania of violations. Lithuania chose to postpone dealing with the problem, hoping that the international situation would improve. In the meantime it hoped to give the German population no reasons for complaint.
The Sudetenland is the historical German name for the northern, southern, and western areas of former Czechoslovakia which were inhabited primarily by Sudeten Germans. These German speakers had predominated in the border districts of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia from the time of the Austrian Empire.
The 1938 Polish ultimatum to Lithuania was an ultimatum delivered to Lithuania by Poland on March 17, 1938. The Lithuanian government had steadfastly refused to have any diplomatic relations with Poland after 1920, protesting the annexation of the Vilnius Region by Poland. As pre-World War II tensions in Europe intensified, Poland perceived the need to secure its northern borders. Five days earlier, Poland, feeling supported by international recognition of the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, decided to deliver an ultimatum to Lithuania. The ultimatum demanded that the Lithuanian government unconditionally agree to establish diplomatic relations with Warsaw within 48 hours, and that the terms be finalized before March 31. The establishment of diplomatic relations would mean a de facto renunciation of Lithuanian claims to the region containing its historic capital, Vilnius.
A memorandum is a written message that may be used in a business office. The plural form of the Latin noun memorandum so derived is properly memoranda, but if the word is deemed to have become a word of the English language, the plural memorandums, abbreviated to memos, may be used..
This tactic did not prove successful: pro-Nazi propaganda and protests were rampant, even among the Lithuanian population, and the local government was powerless to prevent them.The Nazis physically harassed Lithuanian organizations. On 1 November 1938 Lithuania was pressured into lifting martial law and press censorship. During the December elections to the Klaipėda Parliament, pro-German parties received 87% of votes (25 seats out of 29) in the Klaipėda territory. Dr. Ernst Neumann, the chief defendant in the 1934 trials, was released from prison in February 1938 and became the leader of Klaipėda's pro-German movement. In December he was received by Adolf Hitler, who assured him that the Klaipėda issue would be resolved by March or April 1939. Neumann and other Nazi activists claimed the right of self-determination for the region and demanded that Lithuania open negotiations over the political status of Klaipėda. The parliament was expected to vote for a return to Germany when it convened on 25 March 1939. Germany's official channels maintained silence on the issue. Germany hoped that Lithuania would voluntarily give up the troubled region, and a public stance could have disturbed the sensitive discussions it was then engaged in with Poland over an anti-Communist alliance against the Soviet Union.
Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civilian functions of government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or major disaster, or in an occupied territory.
The Parliament of the Klaipėda Region was the parliament of the Klaipėda Region, an autonomous region of Lithuania. The parliament was established by the Klaipėda Convention of 1924 and the first elections took place in October 1925. In all elections pro-German parties received more than 80% of the vote. The major parties included the Memel Agricultural Party, Memel People's Party, and Social Democratic Party of the Memel Territory. The pro-German parliament often clashed with the pro-Lithuanian Klaipėda Directorate and the first three parliaments were dismissed before the end of their full three-year term. The parliament was disbanded after the ultimatum of March 1939 and subsequent Nazi German takeover of the region.
The right of a people to self-determination is a cardinal principle in modern international law, binding, as such, on the United Nations as authoritative interpretation of the Charter's norms. It states that people, based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no interference.
Rumors had reached the Lithuanian government to the effect that Germany had specific plans to take over Klaipėda. On 12 March Foreign Minister Urbšys represented Lithuania at the coronation of Pope Pius XII in Rome. On his return to Lithuania he stopped in Berlin with the hope of clarifying the growing rumors.On 20 March Ribbentrop agreed to meet with Urbšys, but not with Kazys Škirpa, who was asked to wait in another room. The conversation lasted for about 40 minutes. Ribbentrop demanded the return of Klaipėda to Germany and threatened military action. Urbšys relayed the verbal ultimatum to the Lithuanian government. Because the ultimatum was never set down in writing and did not include a formal deadline, some historians have downplayed its import, describing it as a "set of demands" rather than as an ultimatum. However, it was made clear that force would be used should Lithuania resist, and it was warned not to seek help from other nations. While a clear deadline was not given, Lithuania was told to make a speedy decision and that any clashes or German casualties would inevitably provoke a response from the German military.
Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, was head of the Catholic Church from 2 March 1939 to his death. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, most notably the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.
Kazys Škirpa was a Lithuanian military officer and diplomat. He is best known as the founder of the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) and his involvement in the attempt to establish Lithuanian independence in June 1941.
Lithuania secretly informed the signatories of the Klaipėda Convention about these demands, since technically Lithuania could not transfer Klaipėda without the approval of the signatories.Italy and Japan supported Germany in the matter, while the United Kingdom and France expressed sympathy for Lithuania but chose not to offer any material assistance. They followed a well-publicized policy of appeasing Hitler. The UK treated the issue in the same way as it had treated the Sudeten Crisis and made no plans to assist Lithuania or the other Baltic States if they were attacked by Germany. The Soviet Union, while supporting Lithuania in principle, did not wish to disrupt its relations with Germany at that point, since it was contemplating an alliance with the Nazis. Without any material international support Lithuania had no choice but to accept the ultimatum. Lithuanian diplomacy characterized the concession as a "necessary evil" that would enable Lithuania to preserve its independence and maintained the hope that it was merely a temporary retreat.
At 1:00 a.m. on 23 March Urbšys and Ribbentrop signed a treaty, effective 22 March, stating that Lithuania was voluntarily transferring the Klaipėda Region to Germany. The treaty comprised five articles:
Article I: The Klaipėda Region, cut off from Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, is reunited with the German Reich, effective today.
Article II: The Klaipėda Region is to be evacuated immediately by Lithuanian military and police forces. The Lithuanian Government will take care that the territory is left in orderly condition through the evacuation.
Both sides will name commissioners, so far as it will prove necessary, who are able to carry out the handing over of administration not held in the hands of autonomous authorities of the Klaipėda Region.
Regulations of the rest of the questions resulting from the exchange of State sovereignty, especially economic and financial questions, questions of officials as well as citizenship, are reserved for special agreements.
Article III: In order to make allowance for her economic needs, a Lithuanian free-port zone will be established for Lithuania in Klaipėda. Details will be expressively regulated in accordance with directions of an enclosure attached to this agreement.
Article IV: In order to strengthen their decision and to safeguard the friendly development of relations between Germany and Lithuania, both sides assume the obligation neither to proceed against the other by force nor to support an attack from a third side against one of the two sides.
Article V: This agreement becomes effective upon signature. In witness, whereof, the plenipotentiaries of both sides sign this treaty, prepared double in double original in the German and in the Lithuanian languages.
Berlin, March 22, 1939— Lithuania–Germany Treaty as quoted in The New York Times
Before the treaty was signed, German soldiers had already entered the port of Klaipėda. Adolf Hitler, on board the cruiser Deutschland , personally toured the city and gave a short speech. The armada sailing to Klaipėda included the cruiser Admiral Graf Spee , the light cruisers Nürnberg , Leipzig , and Köln ,two destroyer squadrons, three torpedo boat flotillas, and one tender flotilla. At the time the Lithuanian navy had only one warship, the Prezidentas Smetona , a 580-ton converted minesweeper. While the Germans were celebrating the return of the city, European politicians expressed fears that the Free City of Danzig would be Hitler's next target.
(in 000's litas)
(% of national total)
|Metals and machinery||2,377||10.6|
|Leather and fur||764||4.2|
|Paper and printing||20,744||57.6|
|Electricity and gas||4,938||28.6|
President Antanas Smetona's unconditional acceptance of a second ultimatum in the space of a little over one year became a major source of dissatisfaction with his authoritarian rule. The German ultimatum triggered a political crisis: the passive cabinet of Vladas Mironas was replaced by a cabinet headed by General Jonas Černius. For the first time since the 1926 coup d'état, the government included members of the opposition: Leonas Bistras, of the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party, was named Minister of Education and Jurgis Krikščiūnas, of the Lithuanian Popular Peasants' Union, was named Minister of Agriculture.Because other parties were banned, Bistras and Krikščiūnas were officially billed as independent private citizens. Four generals were now members of the cabinet as well. However, even the looming international crisis did not induce Lithuanian politicians to unite, and they continued to engage in petty political disputes.
The loss of its only access to the Baltic Sea was a major blow to the Lithuanian economy. Between 70% and 80% of foreign trade passed through Klaipėda.The region, which represented only about 5% of Lithuania's territory, contained a third of its industry. Lithuania also lost its heavy investments in the port's infrastructure. About 10,000 refugees, mostly Jews, left the region and sought shelter and support from the Lithuanian government. Lithuanians doubted the fate of their country: in March–April withdrawals of deposits in banks and credit institutions totaled almost 20% of total deposits. After the loss of Klaipėda, Lithuania drifted into the German sphere of influence, especially in terms of trade. At the end of 1939, Germany accounted for 75% of Lithuanian exports and for 86% of its imports. Germany and the Soviet Union concluded the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, dividing Eastern Europe into their respective spheres of influence. Not surprisingly, Lithuania was, at first, assigned to Germany. The Nazis went so far as to suggest a German–Lithuanian military alliance against Poland and promised to return the Vilnius Region, but Lithuania held to its policy of strict neutrality.
The Klaipėda Revolt took place in January 1923 in the Klaipėda Region. The region, located north of the Neman River, was detached from East Prussia, Germany by the Treaty of Versailles and became a mandate of the League of Nations. It was placed under provisional French administration until a more permanent solution could be worked out. Lithuania wanted to unite with the region due to its large Lithuanian-speaking minority of Prussian Lithuanians and major port of Klaipėda (Memel) – the only viable access to the Baltic Sea for Lithuania. As the Conference of Ambassadors favored leaving the region as a free city, similar to the Free City of Danzig, the Lithuanians organized and staged a revolt.
The general election in the Republic of Central Lithuania was an election to the Vilnius Sejm (parliament) of the Polish-dominated Republic of Central Lithuania on 8 January 1922. The new parliament was intended to formally legalize incorporation of Central Lithuania into Poland. Such measure was fiercely opposed by Lithuania, which claimed the territory for itself. The election was boycotted by non-Polish population and its results were unrecognized by either the Lithuanian government in Kaunas or the League of Nations. The elected parliament convened in February 1922 and, as expected, voted to incorporate the Republic into Poland. At the end of March 1922, Central Lithuania became Wilno Voivodeship of the Second Polish Republic.
The Foch Line was a temporary demarcation line between Poland and Lithuania proposed by the Entente in the aftermath of World War I. The line was proposed by Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch and was accepted by the Conference of Ambassadors in 1919. With small adjustments the line formed the basis of the inter-war Polish-Lithuanian border. The line left Vilnius (Wilno) on the Polish side. After World War II only its westernmost part, close to the town of Suwałki, remains true to the original concept of the line.
The German–Soviet Frontier Treaty was a second supplementary protocol, of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August. It was a secret clause as amended on September 28, 1939, by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union after their joint invasion and occupation of sovereign Poland. It was signed by Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov, the foreign ministers of Germany and the Soviet Union respectively, in the presence of Joseph Stalin. Only a small portion of the protocol, which superseded the first treaty, was publicly announced while the spheres of influence of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union remained classified. The third secret protocol of the Pact was signed on January 10, 1941, by Friedrich Werner von Schulenberg, and Molotov, wherein Germany renounced its claims to portions of Lithuania, only a few months before their anti-Soviet Operation Barbarossa.
The Suwałki Agreement, Treaty of Suvalkai, or Suwalki Treaty was an agreement signed in the town of Suwałki between Poland and Lithuania on October 7, 1920. It was registered in the League of Nations Treaty Series on January 19, 1922. Both countries had re-established their independence in the aftermath of World War I and did not have well-defined borders. They waged the Polish–Lithuanian War over territorial disputes in the Suwałki and Vilnius Regions. At the end of September 1920, Polish forces defeated the Soviets at the Battle of the Niemen River, thus militarily securing the Suwałki Region and opening the possibility of an assault on the city of Vilnius (Wilno). Polish Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski, had planned to take over the city since mid-September in a false flag operation known as Żeligowski's Mutiny.
First Seimas of Lithuania was the first parliament (Seimas) democratically elected in Lithuania after it declared independence on February 16, 1918. The elections took place on October 10–11, 1922 to replace the Constituent Assembly, which adopted the final constitution on August 1, 1922. The Seimas elected Aleksandras Stulginskis as the President of Lithuania and Ernestas Galvanauskas, as the new Prime Minister, was entrusted to form a new cabinet of ministers. However, no coalition could muster a majority and the Seimas was in a deadlock: Galvanauskas formed two cabinets, and both got 38 votes for and against. As the Seimas could not continue in such manner, it was dissolved on March 12, 1923. New elections were held in May.
The Third Seimas of Lithuania was the third parliament (Seimas) democratically elected in Lithuania after it declared independence on February 16, 1918. The elections took place on May 8–10, 1926. For the first time the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party were forced to remain in opposition. The coalition government made some unpopular decisions and was sharply criticized. Regular Seimas work was interrupted by a military coup d'état in December 1926 when the democratically elected government was replaced with the authoritarian government of Antanas Smetona and Augustinas Voldemaras. The Third Seimas was dissolved on March 12, 1927 and new elections were not called until 1936.
The Second Seimas of Lithuania was the second parliament (Seimas) democratically elected in Lithuania after it declared independence on February 16, 1918. It was the only regular interwar Seimas which completed its full three-year term from May 1923 to March 1926. The First Seimas, elected in fall 1922, was in virtual deadlock as no party or coalition could gain a majority. President Aleksandras Stulginskis was forced to dissolve it on March 12, 1923. The elections to a new Seimas took place on May 12 and May 13, 1923. The Christian Democrats gained two additional seats which were enough to give them a slim majority. At first they tried to form a coalition with the Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union. The Populists demanded lifting the martial law, prohibiting political campaigning in churches, and three portfolios in the new cabinet of ministers. The Christian Democrats were not inclined to satisfy the demands and the coalition broke apart in June 1924.
The Fourth Seimas of Lithuania was the fourth parliament (Seimas) elected in Lithuania after it declared independence on 16 February 1918. The elections took place on 9 and 10 June 1936, a bit less than ten years after the Third Seimas was dissolved by President Antanas Smetona. The Seimas commenced its work on 1 September 1936. Its five-year term was cut short on 1 July 1940 when Lithuania lost its independence to the Soviet Union. It was replaced by the People's Seimas in order to legitimize the occupation. Konstantinas Šakenis was chairman.
Soviet–Lithuanian Non-Aggression Pact was a non-aggression pact, signed between the Soviet Union and Lithuania on September 28, 1926. The pact confirmed all basic provisions of the Soviet–Lithuanian Peace Treaty of 1920. The Soviet Union continued to recognize Vilnius and Vilnius Region to Lithuania, despite the fact that the territories were under Polish control since the Żeligowski's Mutiny in 1920. It also recognized Lithuania's interests in the Klaipėda Region. In exchange Lithuania agreed not to join any alliances directed against the Soviet Union, which meant international isolation at the time when Soviet Union was not a member of the League of Nations. Ratifications were exchanged in Kaunas on November 9, 1926, and the pact became effective on the same day. The pact was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on March 4, 1927.
German–Estonian Non-Aggression Pact was signed in Berlin on June 7, 1939, by the Estonian and German Ministers of Foreign Affairs Karl Selter and Joachim von Ribbentrop. German–Latvian Non-Aggression Pact was also signed on the same day. Ratifications of the German-Estonian pact were exchanged in Berlin on July 24, 1939 and it became effective on the same day. It was registered in League of Nations Treaty Series on August 12, 1939. The pact was intended for a period of ten years.
The German–Latvian Non-Aggression Pact was signed in Berlin on June 7, 1939.
The Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty was a bilateral treaty signed between the Soviet Union and Lithuania on October 10, 1939. According to provisions outlined in the treaty, Lithuania would acquire about one fifth of the Vilnius Region, including Lithuania's historical capital, Vilnius, and in exchange would allow five Soviet military bases with 20,000 troops to be established across Lithuania. In essence the treaty with Lithuania was very similar to the treaties that the Soviet Union signed with Estonia on September 28, and with Latvia on October 5. According to official Soviet sources, the Soviet military was strengthening the defenses of a weak nation against possible attacks by Nazi Germany. The treaty provided that Lithuania's sovereignty would not be affected. However, in reality the treaty opened the door for the first Soviet occupation of Lithuania and was described by The New York Times as "virtual sacrifice of independence."
The occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany lasted from the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 to the end of the Battle of Memel on January 28, 1945. At first the Germans were welcomed as liberators from the repressive Soviet regime which occupied Lithuania prior to the German arrival. In hopes of re-establishing independence or regaining some autonomy, Lithuanians organized their Provisional Government. Soon the Lithuanian attitudes towards the Germans changed into passive resistance.
The Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to Lithuania before midnight of June 14, 1940. The Soviets, using a formal pretext, demanded to allow an unspecified number of Soviet soldiers to enter the Lithuanian territory and to form a new pro-Soviet government. The ultimatum and subsequent incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union stemmed from the division of Eastern Europe into the German and Russian spheres of influence in the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939. Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, fell into the Russian sphere. According to the Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty of October 1939, Lithuania agreed to allow some 20,000 of Soviets troops to be stationed at several bases within Lithuania in exchange for a portion of the Vilnius Region. Further Soviet actions to establish its dominance in its sphere of influence were delayed by the Winter War with Finland and resumed in spring 1940 when Germany was making rapid advances in western Europe. Despite the threat to the independence, Lithuanian authorities did little to plan for contingencies and were unprepared for the ultimatum.
The Klaipėda Convention was an international agreement between Lithuania and the countries of the Conference of Ambassadors signed in Paris on May 8, 1924. According to the Convention, the Klaipėda Region became an autonomous region under unconditional sovereignty of Lithuania.
Erdmonas Simonaitis was a Prussian Lithuanian activist particularly active in the Klaipėda Region and advocating its union with Lithuania. During the staged Klaipėda Revolt of 1923, he headed the pro-Lithuanian government of the region. For his anti-German activities, he was persecuted by the Nazis during World War II. He survived the Mauthausen-Gusen and Dachau concentration camps. After the war he remained in Germany and rejoined various Lithuanian organizations. He was awarded the Order of Vytautas the Great and Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas.
The Directorate of the Klaipėda Region was the main governing institution in the Klaipėda Region from February 1920 to March 1939. It was established by local German political parties to govern the region between the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and establishment of French provision administration. Instead of replacing it, the French legitimized the Directorate. It mainly represented German interests and supported the idea of leaving the region as a free city, similar to the Free City of Danzig. Dismayed Lithuanian government and Prussian Lithuanian activists, who campaigned for incorporation into Lithuania, organized the Klaipėda Revolt in January 1923. The revolt was staged as a popular uprising against the unbearable oppression by the German Directorate. The revolt was successful and the region was incorporated into Lithuania as an autonomous region, governed by the Klaipėda Convention of May 1924.