Resistance in Lithuania during World War II

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Eastern Front, June 1941-December 1941
Eastern Front, August 1943-December 1944 Eastern Front 1943-08 to 1944-12.png
Eastern Front, August 1943-December 1944

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.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Lithuania Republic in Northeastern Europe

Lithuania, officially the Republic of Lithuania, is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. Lithuania is considered to be one of the Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, to the east of Sweden and Denmark. It is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the south, and Kaliningrad Oblast to the southwest. Lithuania has an estimated population of 2.8 million people as of 2019, and its capital and largest city is Vilnius. Other major cities are Kaunas and Klaipėda. Lithuanians are Baltic people. The official language, Lithuanian, along with Latvian, is one of only two living languages in the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

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First Soviet occupation

In 1940, President Antanas Smetona fled to Germany, not wanting his government to become a puppet of the Soviet occupation. Soviet attempts to capture him were unsuccessful, and he was able to settle in the United States.

Antanas Smetona First President of Lithuania from 4 April 1919 until 19 June 1920

Antanas Smetona was one of the most important Lithuanian political figures between World War I and World War II. He served as the first President of Lithuania from 4 April 1919 to 19 June 1920. He again served as the last President of the country from 19 December 1926 to 15 June 1940, before its occupation by the Soviet Union. He was also one of the most prominent ideologists of nationalism in Lithuania.

In 1940, Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas, and his wife Yukiko disobeyed orders and saved thousands of Jewish refugees from Poland by granting them visas. [1]

Chiune Sugihara Japanese diplomat, Righteous Among the Nations

Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese government official who served as vice consul for the Japanese Empire in Kaunas, Lithuania. During the Second World War, Sugihara helped some six thousand Jews flee Europe by issuing transit visas to them so that they could travel through Japanese territory, risking his job and his family's lives. The fleeing Jews were refugees from German-occupied Western Poland and Soviet-occupied Eastern Poland, as well as residents of Lithuania. A few decades after the war, in 1985, the State of Israel honored Sugihara as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for his actions. He is the only Japanese national to have been so honored.

Japan Country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Kaunas City in Lithuania

Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and the historical centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city and the centre of a county in Trakai Municipality of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. In the Russian Empire, it was the capital of the Kaunas Governorate from 1843 to 1915.

In 1941, the Lithuanian Activist Front (Lithuanian : Lietuvos Aktyvistų Frontas) formed an underground government, and following the June uprising, the Provisional Government of Lithuania maintained sovereignty for a brief period.

Lithuanian Activist Front or LAF was a short-lived resistance organization established in 1940 after Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union. The goal of the organization was to liberate Lithuania and re-establish its independence. It planned and executed the June Uprising and established the short-lived Provisional Government of Lithuania. The Government self-disbanded and LAF was banned by Nazi authorities in September 1941. LAF remains controversial due to the part of its members anti-Semitic and anti-Polish views, however the Provisional Government that was formed by LAF and other high-ranking Lithuanian officials related with LAF, including President Kazys Grinius and Bishop Vincentas Brizgys, actively tried to protest against the Nazis' Holocaust activity and protect the Jewish population at their power, which was sadly very limited after the German occupation of Lithuania during World War II.

Lithuanian language Language spoken in Lithuania

Lithuanian is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Lithuanians and the official language of Lithuania as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.9 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 200,000 abroad.

Provisional Government of Lithuania

The Provisional Government of Lithuania was a temporary government aiming for independent Lithuania during the last days of the Soviet occupation and the first weeks of German Nazi occupation in 1941.

Nazi German occupation

Soviet partisans began sabotage and guerrilla operations against German forces immediately after the Nazi invasion of 1941. The activities of Soviet partisans in Lithuania were partly coordinated by the Command of the Lithuanian Partisan Movement headed by Antanas Sniečkus and partly by the Central Command of the Partisan Movement of the USSR. [2]

Soviet partisans Wikimedia list article

The Soviet partisans were members of resistance movements that fought a guerrilla war against the Axis forces in the Soviet Union, the previously Soviet-occupied territories of interwar Poland in 1941–45 and eastern Finland. The activity emerged after the Nazi German Operation Barbarossa during World War II, and according to Great Soviet Encyclopedia it was coordinated and controlled by the Soviet government and modelled on that of the Red Army. The partisans made significant contributions to the war by frustrating German plans to exploit occupied Soviet territories economically, gave considerable help to the Soviet Army by conducting systematic strikes against Germany's rear communication network, disseminated political work among the local population by publishing newspapers and leaflets, and succeeded in creating and maintaining a feeling of insecurity among German forces.

Operation Barbarossa 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union during the Second World War

Operation Barbarossa was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort, to murder the rest, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.

Antanas Sniečkus Soviet politician

Antanas Sniečkus was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania from 15 August 1940 to 22 January 1974.

In 1943, the Nazis attempted to raise a Waffen-SS division from the local population as they had in many other countries, but due to widespread coordination between resistance groups, the mobilization was boycotted. The Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force (Lietuvos vietinė rinktinė) was eventually formed in 1944 under Lithuanian command, but was liquidated by the Nazis only a few months later for refusing to subordinate to their command. [3] [4] [5]

<i>Waffen-SS</i> armed wing of the Nazi Partys Schutzstaffel

The Waffen-SS was the armed wing of the Nazi Party's SS organisation. Its formations included men from Nazi Germany, along with volunteers and conscripts from both occupied and un-occupied lands.

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.

There was no significant violent resistance directed against the Nazis. Some Lithuanians, encouraged by Germany's vague promises of autonomy, [6] cooperated with the Nazis. Pre-war tensions over the Vilnius Region resulted in a low-level civil war between Poles and Lithuanians. [7] Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian units, primarily the Lithuanian Secret Police, [7] were active in the region and assisted the Germans in repressing the Polish population. In the autumn of 1943, the Armia Krajowa began retaliatory operations against the Lithuanian units and killed hundreds of mostly Lithuanian policemen and other collaborators during the first half of 1944. The conflict culminated in the massacres of Polish and Lithuanian civilians in June 1944 in the Glitiškės (Glinciszki) and Dubingiai (Dubinki) villages. See also Polish-Lithuanian relations during World War II.

Also in 1943, several underground political groups united under the Supreme Committee for the Liberation of Lithuania (Vyriausias Lietuvos išlaisvinimo komitetas, or VLIK). The committee issued a declaration of independence that went largely unnoticed. It became active mostly outside Lithuania among emigrants and deportees, and was able to establish contacts in Western countries and get support for resistance operations inside Lithuania (see Operation Jungle). It would persist abroad for many years as one of the groups representing Lithuania in exile. [8] [9]

Jewish partisans also fought against the Nazi occupation. In September 1943, the United Partisan Organization, led by Abba Kovner, attempted to start an uprising in the Vilna Ghetto, and later engaged in sabotage and guerrilla operations against the Nazi occupation. [10]

In July 1944, as part of its Operation Tempest, the Polish Home Army launched Operation Ostra Brama, an attempt to recapture that city. See also Polish–Lithuanian relations during World War II .

As of January 2008, 723 Lithuanians were recognized by Israel as Righteous among the Nations for their efforts in saving Lithuania's Jews from the Holocaust. [11] The total number of people who helped the Jews may be much higher. [12]

Second Soviet occupation

Lithuanian partisans, known as the Forest Brothers, began guerrilla warfare against the Soviet forces as soon as the front passed over them in 1944, and continued an armed struggle until 1953. The core of this movement was made up of soldiers from the Territorial Defense Force who had disbanded with their weapons and uniforms and members of the Lithuanian Freedom Army, established in 1941. The underground had extensive clandestine radio and press. [13] Thousands of people engaged in active and passive resistance against the Soviet authorities. [8] The various resistance organizations eventually united under the Movement of the Struggle for the Freedom of Lithuania (Lietuvos Laisvės Kovų Sąjūdis, or LLKS), issuing a declaration of independence in 1949 that would ultimately be signed into law by the independent Republic of Lithuania in 1999. [14] The most famous of these partisans is probably Juozas Lukša, author of several books during the resistance and the subject of a recent film.

While armed resistance ended in the 1950s, nonviolent resistance continued in various forms (e.g. through Lithuanians living abroad, the Catholic press, safeguarding local traditions and the Lithuanian language, the Sąjūdis movement, etc.), until 1991 when Russia recognized the independence declared by Lithuania on March 11, 1990.

Significance of February 16

February 16, the date that Lithuania first declared its independence in 1918, played an important symbolic role during this period. The call for volunteers for the Lithuanian Territorial Defense Force, the VLIK declaration of independence, and the LLKS declaration of independence were all made on February 16. This day has become a national holiday in Lithuania.

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Chiune and Yukiko Sugihara". Jewish Virtual Library . Retrieved 2006-06-29.
  2. Janavičienė, Audronė (2004-01-30). "Soviet Saboteurs in Lithuania (1941-1944)". Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania . Retrieved 2006-06-30.
  3. Peterson, Roger D. Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe, p. 164. Cambridge University Press, 2001-05-07. ISBN   0-521-77000-9
  4. Lane, Thomas. Lithuania: Stepping Westward. p. 57, Routledge (UK), 2002-08-23. ISBN   0-415-26731-5
  5. Mackevičius, Mečislovas. Lithuanian resistance to German mobilization attempts 1941-1944, Lituanus , Vol. 32, No. 4, Winter 1986. Ed. Antanas Dundzila. ISSN 0024-5089
  6. Piotrowski, Tadeusz (1998). Poland's Holocaust. McFarland & Company. p. 163. ISBN   0-7864-0371-3.
  7. 1 2 Snyder, Timothy (2003). The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999. Yale University Press. p. 84. ISBN   0-300-10586-X.
  8. 1 2 Kaszeta, Daniel J. Lithuanian Resistance to Foreign Occupation 1940-1952, Lituanus , Volume 34, No. 3, Fall 1988. Ed. Antanas Dundzila. ISSN 0024-5089
  9. Banionis, Juozas (2004-03-10). "The Liberation of Lithuania in the West under détente, 1970–1974". Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania . Retrieved 2006-06-29.
  10. Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Abba Kovner and Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto". About.com . Retrieved 2006-06-29.
  11. "Righteous Among the Nations - per Country & Ethnic Origin January 1, 2008". Yad Vashem . Retrieved 2009-02-04.
  12. Procuta, Genius. How Many Rescuers of Jews Were There?, Tėviškės Žiburiai , Missisauga, Ontario, Canada, 1999-03-16.
  13. Lane, p. 58
  14. Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. Law on the February 16, 1949 Declaration by the Council of the Movement of the Struggle for Freedom of Lithuania, Law No. VIII-1021, 1999-01-12, Vilnius.

Further reading

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