Martin Weiss (21 February 1903 – 1984)was a Nazi official and de facto commander of the Vilna Ghetto and a Holocaust perpetrator. He was also the commander of the notorious Nazi-sponsored Ypatingasis būrys killing squad, which was largely responsible for the Ponary massacre where approximately 100,000 people were shot.
He was born to a well-to-do Protestant family in Karlsruhe. Weiss followed his father's steps and received education in plumbing and heating installation. He was an apprentice in his father's shop.In 1923–1927 Weiss lived in South America, helping his brother to establish a farm. After his father's death in 1928, Weiss took over the family business. Two years later he got married. Weiss and his wife had three children.
He was not particularly interested in politics and joined Reiter SS, a branch of Schutzstaffel (SS) that focused on horsemanship and equestrianism, in 1934.In 1937, he also joined the National Socialist German Workers Party. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht. Because of his SS membership, he was placed in a Waffen-SS mechanical supply unit, with which he took part in the Battle of France. In August 1940, he returned to his hometown and resumed the family business.
In spring 1941, he was drafted again and assigned to Einsatzkommando 3, part of the Einsatzgruppe stationed in Bad Düben.In October 1941, he was assigned to work in the Office of the Commander of Security Police ( Sicherheitsdienst or SD) and Security Police ( Sicherheitspolizei or Sipo) in Vilnius, then part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland. Weiss held this position until July 1944. He was responsible for all aspects of the repression against the Jewish population of Vilnius, which is estimated to have been around 50,000 during the Holocaust. Despite his low rank of technical sergeant (SS-Hauptscharführer ), he was in charge of the Vilna Ghetto and nearby Lukiškės Prison, as well as commanded the Ypatingasis būrys killing squad responsible for the Ponary massacre until 1943. He personally supervised 13 to 15 executions at the site. In July 1943, Weiss became chief of the Gestapo prison in Vilnius in occupied Lithuania. In September 1943, he was selected to coordinate the work of the Sonderkommando 1005 to erase evidence of Jewish exterminations i.e unearthing and burning of the corpses.
On 27 March 1944, the children under age 16 of Kailis forced labor camp were rounded up in an operation (Kinderaktion) commanded by Weiss. They were taken to the train station; their further fate is not known.
Weiss was noted by the inmates of the ghetto for his merciless cruelty and frequent beatings. In one instance he shot a man on the spot for trying to bring a few potatoes and a bit of fish through the ghetto gates. There are reports of other German soldiers willing to pardon a Jew, but being afraid to do so knowing that Weiss would certainly not approve such an action.Because of his cruel and capricious conduct in sending Jews of the ghetto to the killing grounds at Ponary, Weiss was known in the ghetto by the paradoxical nickname "Weiss, das Schwarz" or "White, the Black".
Weiss was arrested in May 1949. In February 1950, a court in Würzburg found him guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In 1970, his sentence was suspended and revoked in 1977.
Paneriai is a neighborhood of Vilnius, situated about 10 kilometres away from the city center. It is the largest elderate in the Vilnius city municipality. It is located on low forested hills, on the Vilnius-Warsaw road. Paneriai was the site of the Ponary massacre, a mass killing of as many as 100,000 people from Vilnius and nearby towns and villages during World War II.
The Schutzmannschaft or Auxiliary Police was the collaborationist auxiliary police of native policemen serving in those areas of the Soviet Union and the Baltic states occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler established the Schutzmannschaft on 25 July 1941, and subordinated it to the Order Police. By the end of 1941, some 45,000 men served in Schutzmannschaft units, about half of them in the battalions. During 1942, Schutzmannschaften expanded to an estimated 300,000 men, with battalions accounting for about a third, or less than one half of the local force. Everywhere, local police far outnumbered the equivalent German personnel several times.
The Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force or LTDF was a short-lived, Lithuanian, volunteer armed force created and disbanded in 1944 during the German occupation of Lithuania. LTDF was subordinate to the authorities of Nazi Germany and Its goal was to fight the approaching Red Army, provide security and conduct Nazi security warfare within the territory, claimed by Lithuanians. LTDF had some autonomy and was staffed by Lithuanian officers, their most notable commander being Lithuanian General Povilas Plechavičius. LTDF quickly reached the size of about 10,000 men. After brief engagements against the Soviet and Polish partisans, the force self-disbanded, its leaders were arrested and sent to concentration camps, and numerous of its members were executed by the Nazis. Many others were either drafted into other Nazi auxiliary services or started forming an armed anti-Soviet resistance, also known as Forest Brothers. The Union of Soldiers of the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, a veterans organization, was founded in 1997.
Ypatingasis būrys or Special SD and German Security Police Squad (Lithuanian: Vokiečių Saugumo policijos ir SD ypatingasis būrys, Polish: Specjalny Oddział SD i Niemieckiej Policji Bezpieczeństwa, also colloquially strzelcy ponarscy was a Lithuanian killing squad also called the "Lithuanian equivalent of Sonderkommando", operating in the Vilnius Region. The unit, primarily composed of Lithuanian volunteers, was formed by the German occupational government and was subordinate to Einsatzkommando 9 and later to Sicherheitsdienst and Sicherheitspolizei.
Local Self-Defence in Lithuania during the Nazi occupation consisted of voluntary units formed from the local population to protect villagers from the raids of the armed Soviet underground. Although originally banned, German authorities provided moderate support by 1943-44.
The issue of Polish and Lithuanian relations during World War II is a controversial one, and some modern Lithuanian and Polish historians still differ in their interpretations of the related events, many of which are related to the Lithuanian collaboration with Nazi Germany and the operations of Polish resistance organization of Armia Krajowa on territories inhabited by Lithuanians and Poles. In recent years a number of common academic conferences have started to bridge the gap between Lithuanian and Polish interpretations, but significant differences still remain.
The Ponary massacre or Paneriai massacre was the mass murder of up to 100,000 people, mostly Jews, Poles, and Russians by German SD and SS and their Lithuanian collaborators, including Ypatingasis būrys killing squads, during World War II and the Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ostland. The murders took place between July 1941 and August 1944 near the railway station at Ponary, a suburb of today's Vilnius, Lithuania. Some 70,000 Jews were murdered at Ponary, along with up to 20,000 Poles, and 8,000 Russian POWs, most of them from nearby Vilna (Vilnius), and its newly-formed Vilna Ghetto.
The Kaunas pogrom was a massacre of Jews living in Kaunas, Lithuania, that took place on June 25–29, 1941 – the first days of the Operation Barbarossa and of Nazi occupation of Lithuania. The most infamous incident occurred in the Lietūkis garage, where several dozen Jewish men were publicly tortured and executed on June 27, most of them killed by a single club-wielding assailant nicknamed the "Death Dealer." After June, systematic executions took place at various forts of the Kaunas Fortress, especially the Seventh and Ninth Fort.
The Holocaust in German occupied Lithuania resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian (Litvaks) and Polish Jews, living in Generalbezirk Litauen of Reichskommissariat Ostland within the Nazi-controlled Lithuanian SSR. Out of approximately 208,000–210,000 Jews, an estimated 190,000–195,000 were murdered before the end of World War II, most between June and December 1941. More than 95% of Lithuania's Jewish population was massacred over the three-year German occupation—a more complete destruction than befell any other country affected by the Holocaust. Historians attribute this to the massive collaboration in the genocide by the non-Jewish local paramilitaries, though the reasons for this collaboration are still debated. The Holocaust resulted in the largest-ever loss of life in so short a period of time in the history of Lithuania.
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.
RollkommandoHamann was a small mobile unit that committed mass murders of Lithuanian Jews in the countryside in July–October 1941, with an estimated death toll of at least 60,000 Jews. The unit was also responsible for many murders in Latvia from July through August, 1941. At the end of 1941 the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry was effectively accomplished by Hamann's unit in the countryside, by the Ypatingasis būrys in the Ponary massacre, and by the Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas (TDA) in the Ninth Fort in Kaunas. In about six months an estimated 80% of all Lithuanian Jews were killed. The remaining few were spared for use as a labor force and concentrated in urban ghettos, mainly the Vilna and Kaunas Ghettos.
The Supreme Committee for the Liberation of Lithuania or VLIK was an organization seeking independence of Lithuania. It was established on November 25, 1943, during the Nazi occupation. After World War II it moved abroad and continued its operations in Germany and the United States. VLIK claimed to be the legal representative of the Lithuanian parliament and government, but did not enjoy international recognition. It was dissolved in 1990 when Lithuania re-established its independence.
Adolfas Ramanauskas, code name Vanagas, was a prominent Lithuanian partisan and one of the leaders of the Lithuanian resistance. Ramanauskas was working as a teacher when Lithuania was re-conquered by the Soviet Union from Nazi Germany in 1944–45. He joined the anti-Soviet resistance, advancing from a platoon commander to the chairman of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters. From 1952 he lived in hiding with fake papers. Betrayed, he was arrested, tortured, and eventually executed by the KGB, the last partisan commander to be captured.
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.
Švenčionys or Svintsyan Ghetto was a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Švenčionys. It operated from July 1941 to April 1943. At its peak, the ghetto housed some 1,500 prisoners. It was located in what today is a city park; the location is marked by a wooden menorah carved by Juozapas Jakštas.
The Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalions were paramilitary units (battalions) formed during the occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1944. Similar units, known as Schutzmannschaft-Bataillonen, were organized in other German-occupied territories of Eastern Europe. In Lithuania, the first battalions originated from units formed during the anti-Soviet Uprising of June 1941. Lithuanian activists hoped that these units would become the basis for the reestablished Lithuanian Army. Instead, these units were absorbed into the German military apparatus and aided German forces: guarded strategic objects, engaged in anti-partisan operations, participated in the Holocaust. The 12th and the 13th battalions, tracing their roots from the Tautinio darbo apsaugos batalionas (TDA), were particularly active in the executions of the Jews and were responsible for estimated 78,000 Jewish deaths in Lithuania and Belarus. While the battalions were often deployed outside Lithuania, they generally did not participate in combat. In total, 26 battalions were formed and approximately 13,000 men served in them. In July–September, 1944, the remaining units were combined into two Lithuanian Volunteer Infantry Regiments.
Juozas Bulavas was a Lithuanian legal scholar, academic, political and social figure, and member of the Seimas.
Bruno Kittel was an SS - Oberscharführer official who oversaw as nazi official the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943. He became known for his cynical cruelty and disappeared after the war.
Kailis forced labor camp was a Nazi labor camp for Jews in Vilnius during World War II. It was based on a pre-war fur and leather factory and mostly produced winter clothing for the German military. At its peak, after the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943, the camp housed about 1,500 Jews. The camp was liquidated and its workers executed at Ponary on 3 July 1944, just ten days before Red Army captured the city.
Jonas Noreika, also known by his post-war nom de guerre Generolas Vėtra, was a Lithuanian army officer, anti-Soviet rebel, Nazi collaborator, Nazi hostage, and anti-Soviet partisan.