|Participant in the guerrilla war in the Baltic states|
|Area of operations||Baltic states|
|Part of||Occupation of the Baltic states|
|Allies||British, American and Swedish intelligence services, Finnish army|
The Forest Brothers (also Brothers of the Forest, Forest Brethren, or Forest Brotherhood; Estonian : metsavennad, Latvian : mežabrāļi, Lithuanian : miško broliai) were Baltic (Latvian and Lithuanian) and Estonian partisans who waged guerrilla warfare against Soviet rule during the Soviet invasion and occupation of the three Baltic states during, and after, World War II. Similar anti-Soviet Central and Eastern European resistance groups fought against Soviet and communist rule in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and western Ukraine.
The Red Army occupied the independent Baltic states in 1940–1941 and, after a period of German occupation, again in 1944–1945. As Stalinist repression intensified over the following years, 50,000 residents of these countries used the heavily forested countryside as a natural refuge and base for armed anti-Soviet resistance.
Resistance units varied in size and composition, ranging from individually operating guerrillas, armed primarily for self-defense, to large and well-organized groups able to engage significant Soviet forces in battle.
The term Forest Brothers first came into use in the Baltic region during the chaotic Russian Revolution of 1905. Varying sources refer to forest brothers of this era either as peasants revoltingor as schoolteachers seeking refuge in the forest.
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania gained their independence in 1918 after the collapse of the Russian Empire. The ideals of nationalism and self-determination had taken hold with many people as a result of having the independent states of Estonia and Latvia for the first time since the 13th century. At the same time, Lithuanians re-established a sovereign state, which had a rich former history, having been the largest country in Europe during the 14th century, but which was occupied by the Russian Empire since 1795. Allied declarations such as the Atlantic Charter had offered promise of a post-war world in which the three Baltic nations could re-establish themselves. Having already experienced occupation by the Soviet regime followed by the Nazi regime, many people were unwilling to accept another occupation.
Unlike Estonia and Latvia where the Germans conscripted the local population into military formations within the Waffen-SS, Lithuania never had its own Waffen-SS division. In 1944 the Nazi authorities had created an ill-equipped but 20,000-strong "Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force" under General Povilas Plechavičius to combat Soviet partisans led by Antanas Sniečkus. The Germans, however, quickly came to see this force as a nationalist threat to their occupation regime. The senior staff were arrested on May 15, 1944, with General Plechavičius being deported to the concentration camp in Salaspils, Latvia. However, approximately half of the remaining forces formed guerrilla units and dissolved into the countryside in preparation for partisan operations against the Red Army as the Eastern Front approached.
The guerrilla operations in Estonia and Latvia had some basis in Adolf Hitler's authorization of a full withdrawal from Estonia in mid-September 1944 – he allowed any soldiers of his Estonian forces, primarily the 20th Waffen-SS Division (1st Estonian), who wished to stay and defend their homes to do so[ citation needed ] – and in the fate of Army Group Courland, among the last of Hitler's forces to surrender after it became trapped in the Courland Pocket on the Courland Peninsula in 1945. Many Estonian and Latvian soldiers, and a few Germans, evaded capture and fought as Forest Brothers in the countryside for years after the war. Others, such as Alfons Rebane and Alfrēds Riekstiņš escaped to the United Kingdom and Sweden and participated in Allied intelligence operations in aid of the Forest Brothers.
While the Waffen-SS was found guilty of war crimes and other atrocities and declared a criminal organization after the war, the Nuremberg Trials explicitly excluded conscripts in the following terms:
The Tribunal declares to be criminal within the meaning of the Charter the group composed of those persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph, who became or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter, or who were personally implicated as members of the organization in the commission of such crimes, excluding, however, those who were drafted into membership by the State in such a way as to give them no choice in the matter, and who had committed no such crimes.
In 1949–1950 the United States Displaced Persons Commission investigated the Estonian and Latvian divisions and on September 1, 1950, adopted the following policy:
The Baltic Waffen SS Units are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended.
The Latvian government has asserted that the Latvian Legion, primarily composed of the 15th and 19th Latvian Waffen-SS divisions, was neither a criminal nor collaborationist organization.
The ranks of the resistance swelled with the Red Army's attempts at conscription in the Baltic states after the war, with fewer than half the registered conscripts reporting in some districts. The widespread harassment of disappearing conscripts' families pushed more people to evade authorities in the forests. Many enlisted men deserted, taking their weapons with them.
With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Joseph Stalin made a public statement on the radio calling for a scorched earth policy in the areas to be abandoned on July 3. About 10,000 Forest Brothers, which had organized themselves into countrywide Omakaitse (Home Guard) organizations, attacked the forces of the NKVD, destruction battalions and the 8th Army (Major General Ljubovtsev), killing 4,800 and capturing 14,000. The battle of Tartu lasted for two weeks, and destroyed a large part of the city. Under the leadership of Friedrich Kurg, the Forest Brothers drove out the Soviets from Tartu, behind the Rivers Pärnu – Emajõgi line. Thus they secured South Estonia under Estonian control by July 10.The NKVD murdered 193 people in Tartu Prison on their retreat on July 8.
The German 18th Army crossed the Estonian southern border on July 7–9. The Germans resumed their advance in Estonia by working in cooperation with the Forest Brothers and the Omakaitse. In North Estonia, the destruction battalions had the greatest impact, being the last Baltic territory captured from the Soviets. The joint Estonian-German forces took Narva on August 17 and the Estonian capital Tallinn on August 28. On that day, the red flag shot down earlier on Pikk Hermann was replaced with the flag of Estonia by Fred Ise only to be replaced yet again by a German Reichskriegsflagge a few hours later. After the Soviets were driven out from Estonia, German Army Group North disarmed all the Forest Brother and Omakaitse groups.
Southern Estonian partisan units were yet again summoned in August 1941 under the name of Estonian Omakaitse. Members were initially selected from the closest circle of friends. Later, candidate members were asked to sign a declaration that they were not members of a Communist organization. Estonian Omakaitse relied on the former regulations of Estonian Defence League and Estonian Army, insofar as they were consistent with the laws of German occupation.The tasks of the Omakaitse were as follows:
On 15 July, the Omakaitse had 10,200 members; on 1 December 1941, 40,599 members. Until February 1944 membership was around 40,000.
By the late 1940s and early 1950s the Forest Brothers were provided with supplies, liaison officers and logistical coordination by the British (MI6), American, and Swedish secret intelligence services. [ citation needed ]This support played a key role in directing the Baltic resistance movement, however it diminished significantly after MI6's Operation Jungle was severely compromised by the activities of British spies (Kim Philby and others) who forwarded information to the Soviets, enabling the KGB to identify, infiltrate and eliminate many Baltic guerrilla units and cut others off from any further contact with Western intelligence operatives.
The conflict between the Soviet armed forces and the Forest Brothers lasted over a decade and cost at least 50,000 lives. Estimates for the number of fighters in each country vary. Misiunas and Taagepera [ example needed ]estimate that figures reached 30,000 in Lithuania, between 10,000 and 15,000 in Latvia and 10,000 in Estonia. NKVD units dressed as forest brothers committed atrocities in order to discredit them and demoralize the civilian population.
In Estonia 14,000–15,000 men participated in the fighting between 1944 and 1953: The Forest Brothers were most active in Võru County along the borderlands between Pärnu and Lääne Counties that included significant activity between Tartu and Viru Counties as well. From November 1944 to November 1947, they carried out 773 armed attacks killing about 1000 Soviets and their supporters. At its peak in 1947, the organization controlled dozens of villages and towns, creating considerable nuisance to the Soviet supply transports that required an armed escort.August Sabbe, one of the last surviving Forest Brothers, was discovered in 1978 by KGB agents posing with his fellow fishermen. Instead of surrendering he leaped into the Võhandu stream and got hooked onto a log, drowning in the process. The KGB insisted that the 69-year-old Sabbe had drowned while trying to escape, a theory difficult to credit given the shallow water and lack of cover at the site.
There were numerous attempts to hunt down relatives of the Forest Brothers. One of the Estonians who managed to escape the deportations was Taimi Kreitsberg. She recalled that Soviet officials "...took me to Võru, I was not beaten there, but for three days and nights I was given neither food nor drink. They told me they were not going to kill me, but torture me [until] I betrayed all the bandits. For about a month they dragged me through woods and took me to farms that were owned by the relatives of Forest Brothers, and they sent me in as an instigator to ask for food and shelter while the Chekists themselves waited outside. I told people to drive me away, as I had been sent by the security organs."
In Latvia, preparations for partisan operations were begun during the German occupation, but the leaders of these nationalist units were arrested by Nazi authorities.Longer-lived resistance units began to form at the end of the war; their ranks were composed of former Latvian Legion soldiers as well as civilians. On 8 September 1944 in Riga, the leadership of the Latvian Central Council adopted a Declaration on the restoration of the State of Latvia. It was intended to restore de facto independence to the Latvian republic. In addition it was hoped international supporters would take advantage of the interval between changeovers of the occupying powers. The Declaration prescribed that the Satversme is the fundamental law of the restored Republic of Latvia, and provided for the establishment of a Cabinet of Ministers that would organise the restoration of the State of Latvia.
Some of the most prominent LCC accomplishments are related to its military branch – General Jānis Kurelis group (the so-called "kurelieši") with Lieutenant Roberts Rubenis battalion which carried out the armed resistance against Waffen SS forces.
The number of active combatants peaked at between 10,000 and 15,000, while the total number of resistance fighters was as high as 40,000.One author gives a figure of up to 12,000 grouped into 700 bands during the 1945–55 decade, but definitive figures are unavailable. Over time, the partisans replaced their German weapons with Soviet makes. The Central Command of Latvian resistance organizations maintained an office on Matīsa Street in Riga until 1947. In some 3,000 raids, the partisans inflicted damage on uniformed military personnel, party cadres (particularly in rural areas), buildings, and ammunition depots. The Communist authorities reported 1,562 Soviet personnel killed and 560 wounded during the entire resistance period.
One account of a typical Forest Brothers action is provided by Tālrīts Krastiņš. He, a reconnaissance soldier of the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian), was recruited with 15 other Latvians into a Nazi stay-behind unit at the close of the war. Escaping to the forest, the group, led by Krastiņš, avoided all contact with local residents and relatives, robbing trucks for money while simultaneously maintaining an apartment in the center of Riga for reconnaissance operations. At first they operated by assassinating low-level Communist party managers, but later focused their efforts on attempting to assassinate the head of the Latvian SSR, Vilis Lācis. The group recruited a Russian woman working at the Supreme Soviet of the Latvian SSR who informed them about Lācis' transportation schedule. They set up a roadside ambush when Lācis was traveling from Riga to Jūrmala, but shot up the wrong car. The second attempt likewise relied on a female collaborator, but one who proved to be an undercover NKVD agent. The entire group was apprehended and sentenced to prison in 1948.
The Latvian Forest Brothers were most active in the border regions, including Dundaga, Taurkalne, Lubāna, Aloja, and Līvāni. In the eastern regions, they had ties with the Estonian Forest Brothers; and in the western regions, with the Lithuanians. As in Estonia and Lithuania, the partisans were killed off and infiltrated by the MVD and NKVD over many years. As in Estonia and Lithuania, assistance from Western Intelligence was severely compromised by Soviet counter-intelligence and Latvian double agents such as Augusts Bergmanis and Vidvuds Sveics.Furthermore, the Soviets gradually consolidated their rule in the cities: help from rural civilians was not as forthcoming, and special military and security units were sent to control the partisans. The last groups emerged from the forest in 1957 to promptly surrender to the authorities.
Among the three countries, the resistance was best organized in Lithuania, where guerrilla units controlled whole regions of the countryside until 1949. Their armaments included Czech Skoda guns, Russian Maxim heavy machine guns, assorted mortars and a wide variety of mainly German and Soviet light machine guns and submachine guns.When not in direct battles with the Red Army or special NKVD units, they significantly delayed the consolidation of Soviet rule through ambush, sabotage, assassination of local Communist activists and officials, freeing imprisoned guerrillas, and printing underground newspapers.
On July 1, 1944, Lithuanian Freedom Army (Lithuanian: Lietuvos laisvės armija, LLA) declared the state of war against Soviet Union and ordered all its able members to mobilize into platoons, stationed in forests and do not leave Lithuania. The departments were replaced by two sectors – operational, called Vanagai (Hawks or Falcons; abbreviated VS), and organizational (abbreviated OS). Vanagai, commanded by Albinas Karalius (codename Varenis), were the armed fighters while the organizational sector was tasked with passive resistance, including supply of food, information, and transport to Vanagai. In the middle of 1944, Lithuanian Freedom Army had 10 000 members.The Soviets killed 659 and arrested 753 members of the Lithuanian Freedom Army by January 26, 1945. Founder Kazys Veverskis was killed in December 1944, the headquarters were liquidated in December 1945. This represented the failure of highly centralized resistance, as the organization was too dependent on Veverskis and other top commanders. In 1946 remaining leaders and fighters of LLA started to merge with Lithuanian partisans. In 1949 all members of presidium of Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters - captain Jonas Žemaitis-Tylius, Petras Bartkus-Žadgaila, Bronius Liesys-Naktis ir Juozas Šibaila-Merainis came from LLA.
Supreme Committee for the Liberation of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Vyriausiasis Lietuvos išlaisvinimo komitetas, VLIK), was created on November 25, 1943. VLIK published underground newspapers and agitated for resistance against Nazis. Gestapo arrested most influential members in 1944. After the reoccupation of Lithuania by the Soviets, VLIK moved to the West set its goal to maintain non-recognition of Lithuania's occupation and dissemination of information from behind the iron curtain – including the information provided by the Lithuanian partisans.
Former members of Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, Lithuanian Freedom Army, Lithuanian Armed Forces, Lithuanian Riflemen's Union formed the basis of Lithuanian partisans. Farmers, Lithuanian officials, students, teachers, even the pupils joined the partisan movement. The movement was actively supported by the society and the Catholic church. It is estimated that by the end of 1945, 30 000 armed people stayed in forests in Lithuania.
The partisans were well-armed. During the 1945-1951 Soviet repressive structures seized from partisans 31 mortars, 2,921 machine guns, 6,304 assault rifles, 22,962 rifles, 8,155 pistols, 15,264 grenades, 2,596 mines, and 3,779,133 catridges. The partisans usually replenished their arsenal by killing istrebiteli, members of Soviet secret-police forces or by purchasing ammunition from Red Army soldiers.Every partisan had binoculars and few grenades. One grenade was usually saved to blow themselves and their faces to avoid being taken as prisoner, since the physical tortures of Soviet MGB/NKVD were very brutal and cruel, and be recognised, to prevent their relatives from suffering.
Captured Lithuanian Forest Brothers themselves often faced torture and summary execution while their relatives faced deportation to Siberia (cf. quotation). Reprisals against anti-Soviet farms and villages were harsh. The NKVD units, named People's Defense Platoons (known by the Lithuanians as pl. stribai, from the Russian : izstrebiteli – destroyers), used shock tactics such as displaying executed partisans' corpses in village courtyards to discourage further resistance.
The report of a commission formed at a KGB prison a few days after the October 15, 1956, arrest of Adolfas Ramanauskas ("Vanagas"), chief commander of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters, noted the following:
The right eye is covered with haematoma, on the eyelid there are six stab wounds made, judging by their diameter, by a thin wire or nail going deep into the eyeball. Multiple haematomas in the area of the stomach, a cut wound on a finger of the right hand. The genitalia reveal the following: a large tear wound on the right side of the scrotum and a wound on the left side, both testicles and spermatic ducts are missing.
Juozas Lukša was among those who managed to escape to the West; he wrote his memoirs in Paris - Fighters for Freedom. Lithuanian Partisans Versus the U.S.S.R. and was killed after returning to Lithuania in 1951.
Pranas Končius (code name Adomas) was the last Lithuanian anti-Soviet resistance fighter, killed in action by Soviet forces on July 6, 1965 (some sources indicate he shot himself in order to avoid capture on July 13). He was awarded the Cross of Vytis posthumously in 2000.
Benediktas Mikulis, one of the last known partisans to remain in the forest, emerged in 1971. He was arrested in the 1980s and spent several years in prison.
By the early 1950s, the Soviet forces had eradicated most of the Forest Brother resistance. Intelligence gathered by the Soviet spies in the West and KGB infiltrators within the resistance movement, in combination with large-scale Soviet operations in 1952 managed to end the campaigns against them.
Many of the remaining Forest Brothers laid down their weapons when offered an amnesty by the Soviet authorities after Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, although isolated engagements continued into the 1960s. The last individual guerrillas are known to have remained in hiding and evaded capture into the 1980s, by which time the Baltic states were pressing for independence through peaceful means. (See Sąjūdis, The Baltic Way, Singing Revolution)
Many Forest Brothers persisted in the hope that Cold War hostilities between the West, which never formally recognized the Soviet occupation, and the Soviet Union might escalate to an armed conflict in which the Baltic states would be liberated. This never materialized, and according to Mart Laarmany of the surviving former Forest Brothers remained bitter that the West did not take on the Soviet Union militarily. (See also Yalta Conference). When the brutal suppression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 did not bring about an intervention by, or a supportive response from, Western Powers, organized resistance in the Baltic States declined further.
As the conflict was relatively undocumented by the Soviet Union (the Baltic fighters were formally charged as common criminals), some consider it and the Soviet-Baltic conflict as a whole to be an unknown or forgotten war.Discussion of resistance was suppressed under the Soviet regime. Writings on the subject by Baltic emigrants were often labelled as examples of "ethnic sympathy" and disregarded. Laar's research efforts, begun in Estonia in the late 1980s, are considered to have opened the door for further study.
In 1999, the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) enacted a declaration of independence that had been made on February 16, 1949, the 31st anniversary of the February 16, 1918, declaration of independence, by elements of the resistance unifiedunder the "Movement of the Struggle for the Freedom of Lithuania".
... a universal, organised, armed resistance namely, self-defence, by the Lithuanian State, did take place in Lithuania during 1944–1953, against the soviet occupation ... the goal ... was the liberation of Lithuania, relying upon the provisions of the Atlantic Charter and a sovereign right acknowledged by the democratic world, by bearing arms against one of the World War II Aggressors ... The Council of the Movement of the Struggle for Freedom of Lithuania ... constituted the supreme political and military structure ... and was the sole legal authority within the territory of occupied Lithuania.
In Latvia and Lithuania, Forest Brothers veterans receive a small pension. In Lithuania, the third Sunday in May is commemorated as Partisans' Day. In 2005 there were about 350 surviving Forest Brothers in Lithuania.
In a 2001 lecture in Tallinn, U.S. Senator John McCain acknowledged the Estonian Forest Brothers and their efforts.
The Canadian film Legendi loojad (Creators of the Legend) about the Estonian Forest Brothers was released in 1963. The film was funded by donations from Estonians in exile.
The 1966 Soviet drama film Nobody Wanted to Die (Lithuanian : Niekas nenorėjo mirti) by Soviet-Lithuanian film director Vytautas Žalakevičius shows the tragedy of the conflict in which "a brother goes against the brother." The film garnered Žalakevičius the USSR State Prize and international recognition, and is the best-known film portrayal of the conflict.
The popular Soviet Latvian TV film Long Road in the Dunes (1980-1982) touches the topic of Latvian Forest Brothers from a Soviet perspective.
A 1997 documentary film We Lived for Estonia tells the story of the Estonian Forest Brothers from the viewpoint of one of the participants.
Another popular Latvian TV series, Likteņa līdumnieki , produced by Latvijas Televīzija from 2003 to 2008, shows the impact of the struggle (and other historical events from 1885 to 1995) on the life of the Nārbuļi family and their homestead.
The 2004 film Utterly Alone (Lithuanian : Vienui Vieni) portrays the travails of Lithuanian partisan leader Juozas Lukša, who travelled twice to Western Europe in attempts to gain support for the armed resistance.
The 2005 documentary film Stirna tells the story of Izabelė Vilimaitė (codenames Stirna and Sparnuota), an American-born Lithuanian who moved to Lithuania with her family in 1932. A medical student and pharmacist, she was an underground medic and source of medical supplies for the partisans, eventually becoming a district liaison. She infiltrated the local Komsomol (Communist Youth), was discovered, captured, and escaped twice. After going underground full-time, she was suspected of having been turned by the KGB as an informant and was nearly executed by the partisans. Her bunker was eventually discovered by the KGB and she was captured a third time, interrogated and killed.
The 2007 Estonian film Sons of One Forest (Estonian : Ühe metsa pojad ) follows the story of two Forest Brothers in southern Estonia, who fight with an Estonian from the Waffen-SS against the Soviet occupants.
The 2013 novel Forest Brothers by Geraint Roberts, follows the fortune of a disgraced British Navy officer who returns to Estonia in 1944 for British Intelligence. Many of the people from his past who aid him have taken to the forest, during the ongoing conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union.
Recent examples in Latvian cinematography include the 2014 film Alias Loner (Latvian : Segvārds Vientulis), depicting the story of high-ranking resistance fighter and Catholic priest Antons "Vientulis" Juhņevičs and the 2019 TV series Sarkanais mežs ("Red Forest") about Latvian agents sent by MI6 into Soviet-occupied Latvia to find support among local partisans under Operation Jungle.
The last known Forest Brother was Jānis Pīnups, who came out of hiding only in 1995. He had deserted from the Red Army in 1944 and was presumed missing in action by Soviet authorities in Latvia.He was rendered unconscious during a battle and left for dead. He decided to return home, where he started hiding in the nearby forest out of fear that his family would be deported, if his desertion was discovered. About 25 years after going into hiding he was forced to seek medical assistance and started acting more freely thereafter. Still only his siblings and, later on, the nearest neighbors were aware who he was, even the rest of his family only learned he had not been killed in the war after he came out of hiding.
The occupation of the Baltic states involved the military occupation of the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—by the Soviet Union under the auspices of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1940. They were then annexed into the Soviet Union as constituent republics in August 1940, though most Western powers and nations never recognised their incorporation. On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union and within weeks occupied the Baltic territories. In July 1941, the Third Reich incorporated the Baltic territory into its Reichskommissariat Ostland. As a result of the Red Army's Baltic Offensive of 1944, the Soviet Union recaptured most of the Baltic states and trapped the remaining German forces in the Courland pocket until their formal surrender in May 1945. The Soviet "annexation occupation" or occupation sui generis of the Baltic states lasted until August 1991, when the three countries regained their independence.
The Battle of Narva was a military campaign between the German Army Detachment "Narwa" and the Soviet Leningrad Front fought for possession of the strategically important Narva Isthmus on 2 February – 10 August 1944 during World War II.
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements. The most common use in present parlance in several languages refers to occupation resistance fighters during World War II.
After Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Army Group North reached Estonia in July. Initially the Germans were perceived by most Estonians as liberators from the USSR and its repressions, having arrived only a week after the first mass deportations from the Baltic States. Although hopes were raised for the restoration of the country's independence, it was soon realized that they were but another occupying power. The Germans pillaged the country for their war effort and unleashed The Holocaust in Estonia during which they and their collaborators murdered tens of thousands of people. For the duration of the occupation, Estonia was incorporated into the German province of Ostland.
The occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany was completed on July 10, 1941 by Germany's armed forces. Latvia became a part of Nazi Germany's Reichskommissariat Ostland—the Province General of Latvia. Anyone not racially acceptable or who opposed the German occupation, as well as those who had cooperated with the Soviet Union, were killed or sent to concentration camps in accordance with the Nazi Generalplan Ost.
During World War II, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union (1940–1941), Nazi Germany (1941–1944), and the Soviet Union again in 1944. Resistance during this period took many forms. Significant parts of the resistance were formed by Polish and Soviet forces, some of which fought with Lithuanian collaborators. This article presents a summary of the organizations, persons and actions involved.
Juozas Lukša also known by the pseudonym Daumantas or Skirmantas was one of the most prominent post-World War II leaders of the Lithuanian partisans, the anti-Soviet armed resistance. In 2003, director Jonas Vaitkus released a movie based on his life, Utterly Alone. In 2014, co-directors Jonas Ohman and Vincas Sruoginis released a documentary, The Invisible Front, of Lukša and his fellow Forest Brothers. fighters During the first occupation by the Soviet Union in 1940–41, Lukša was a member of the Lithuanian Activist Front. Opposing the Soviets, he was caught and imprisoned in Kaunas. After the war started in the Eastern Front and Nazi Germany invaded Lithuania, Lukša was released.
The occupation of the Baltic states by Nazi Germany occurred during Operation Barbarossa from 1941 to 1944. Initially, many Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians considered the Germans as liberators from the Soviet Union. The Balts hoped for the restoration of independence, but instead the Germans established a provisional government. During the occupation the Germans carried out discrimination, mass deportations and mass killings generating Baltic resistance movements.
Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, concerning the partition and disposition of sovereign states, including Estonia, and in particular its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939.
The Tallinn Offensive was a strategic offensive by the Red Army's 2nd Shock and 8th Armies and the Baltic Fleet against the German Army Detachment Narwa and Estonian units in mainland Estonia on the Eastern Front of World War II on 17–26 September 1944. Its German counterpart was the abandonment of the Estonian territory in a retreat codenamed Operation Aster.
The Omakaitse was a militia organisation in Estonia. It was founded in 1917 following the Russian Revolution. On the eve of the Occupation of Estonia by the German Empire the Omakaitse units took over major towns in the country allowing the Salvation Committee of the Estonian Provincial Assembly to proclaim the independence of Estonia. After the German Occupation the Omakaitse became outlawed.
The Tartu Offensive Operation, also known as the Battle of Tartu and the Battle of Emajõgi was a campaign fought over southeastern Estonia in 1944. It took place on the Eastern Front during World War II between the Soviet 3rd Baltic Front and parts of the German Army Group North.
Latvian national partisans were the Latvian national partisans who waged guerrilla warfare against Soviet rule during and after Second World War.
The Lithuanian partisans were partisans who waged a guerrilla warfare in Lithuania against the Soviet Union in 1944–1953. Similar anti-Soviet resistance groups, also known as Forest Brothers and cursed soldiers, fought against Soviet rule in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Galicia. It is estimated that a total of 30,000 Lithuanian partisans and their supporters were killed.
Destruction battalions, colloquially istrebitels abbreviated: istrebki (Russian), strybki (Ukrainian) were paramilitary units under the control of NKVD in the western Soviet Union, which performed tasks of internal security on the Eastern Front and after it. After the Fall of the Soviet Union the battalions were deemed to be a criminal organisation by Estonian government.
The Soviet Union occupied most of the territory of the Baltic states in its 1944 Baltic Offensive during World War II. The Red Army regained control over the three Baltic capitals and encircled retreating Wehrmacht and Latvian forces in the Courland Pocket where they held out until the final German surrender at the end of the war. The German forces were deported and the leaders of Latvian collaborating forces were executed as traitors. After the war, the Baltic territories were reorganized into constituent republics of the USSR until they declared independence in 1990 amid the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Guerrilla war in the Baltic states or the Forest Brothers resistance movement was the armed struggle against Soviet rule that spanned from 1940 to the mid-1950s. After the occupation of the Baltic territories by the Soviets in 1944, an insurgency started. According to some estimates, 10,000 partisans in Estonia, 10,000 partisans in Latvia and 30,000 partisans in Lithuania and many more supporters were involved. This war continued as an organised struggle until 1956 when the superiority of the Soviet military caused the native population to adopt other forms of resistance. The guerrilla movement in the post-war Baltic states was of a size proportionately similar to that of the Viet Cong in South Vietnam.
The Lithuanian Freedom Army was a Lithuanian underground organization established by Kazys Veverskis, a student at Vilnius University, on December 13, 1941. Its goal were to re-establish independent Lithuania via political and military means. During the Nazi Germany occupation it opposed German policies, but did not begin armed resistance. The armed struggle began in mid-1944 when Red Army reached the Lithuanian borders after the Minsk Offensive. The LLA became the first wave of the Lithuanian partisans, armed anti-Soviet guerrilla fighters. It attempted to become the central command of the armed struggle. However, the organization was liquidated by the Soviet security forces by April 1946. The remnants of the organization were absorbed by other partisans. The guerrilla war continued until 1953.
The Central and Eastern European anti-Communist insurgencies fought on after the official end of the Second World War against the Soviet Union and the communist states formed under Soviet occupation and support.
Dainava military district is a military district of Lithuanian partisans which operated in 1945–1951 in the counties of Alytus, Lazdijai and Varėna in Dainava (Dzūkija). The most significant battles: on May 17, 1945, in the Kalniškės Forest of the Simnas rural district in the Alytus district ; on June 14, 1945, in the Varčia Forest of the Daugai rural district.