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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was no significant violent resistance directed against the Nazis. Some Lithuanians, encouraged by Germany's vague promises of autonomy,cooperated with the Nazis. Pre-war tensions over the Vilnius Region resulted in a low-level civil war between Poles and Lithuanians. Nazi-sponsored Lithuanian units, primarily the Lithuanian Secret Police, 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.
Lithuanian Freedom Army during the Nazi Germany occupation 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 headquarters was liquidated by the Soviet security forces (NKVD and KGB) by April 1946. Many Lithuanian Freedom Army fighters joined Lithuanian partisans.
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.
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.The total number of people who helped the Jews may be much higher.
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.Thousands of people engaged in active and passive resistance against the Soviet authorities. 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. 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.
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.
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, also known as Soviet Lithuania or Lithuania, was one of the constituent republics of the USSR between 1940–1941 and 1944–1990. After 1946, its territory and borders mirrored those of today's Republic of Lithuania, with the exception of minor adjustments of the border with Belarus.
Povilas Plechavičius was an Imperial Russian and then Lithuanian military officer and statesman. In the service of Lithuania he rose to the rank of General of the army in the interwar period. He is best known for his actions during the Lithuanian Wars of Independence, for organizing the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état and for leading a Lithuanian self-defence force during the German occupation of Lithuania.
The Forest Brothers were Baltic 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 June Uprising was a brief period in the history of Lithuania between the first Soviet occupation and the Nazi occupation in late June 1941. Approximately one year earlier, on June 15, 1940, the Red Army invaded Lithuania and the unpopular Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was soon established. Political repression and terror were used to silence its critics and suppress any resistance. When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, a diverse segment of the Lithuanian population rose up against the Soviet regime, declared renewed independence, and formed the short-lived Provisional Government. Two large Lithuanian cities, Kaunas and Vilnius, fell into the hands of the rebels before the arrival of the Wehrmacht. Within a week, the German Army took control of the whole of Lithuania. The Lithuanians greeted the Germans as liberators from the repressive Soviet rule and hoped that the Germans would re-establish their independence or at least allow some degree of autonomy. No such support came from the Nazis, who steadily replaced Lithuanian institutions with their own administration. The Reichskommissariat Ostland was established at the end of July 1941. Deprived of any real power, the Provisional Government disbanded itself on August 5.
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 its anti-Semitic and anti-Polish positions.
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.
Resistance movements during World War II occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from non-cooperation to propaganda to hiding crashed pilots and even to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns. In many countries, resistance movements were sometimes also referred to as The Underground.
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.
The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 was an independence declaration by Lithuania adopted on March 11, 1990, signed by all members of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania led by Sąjūdis. The act emphasized restoration and legal continuity of the interwar-period Lithuania, which was occupied by the USSR and lost independence in June 1940. It was the first time that an occupied state declared independence from the dissolving Soviet Union.
The Lithuanian TDA Battalions or TDA, were paramilitary units organized in June–August 1941 by the Provisional Government of Lithuania at the onset of Operation Barbarossa. Members of the TDA were known by many names such as Lithuanian auxiliaries, policemen, white-armbands, nationalists, rebels, partisans, or resistance fighters. TDA was intended as basis for the future independent Lithuanian Army, but soon it was taken over by Nazi officials and reorganized into the Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalions. The original TDA eventually became the 12th and the 13th Police Battalions. These two units took an active role in mass killings of the Jews in Lithuania and Belarus. Based on the Jäger Report, members of TDA murdered about 26,000 Jews between July and December 1941.
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.
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.
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 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 declared its independence.
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. While estimates related to the extent of partisan movement vary, but there seems to be a consensus among researchers that by international standards, the Baltic guerrilla movements were extensive. Proportionally, the partisan movement in the post-war Baltic states was of a similar size as the Viet Cong movement in South Vietnam.
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 Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters or Movement for the Struggle for Lithuanian Freedom was a resistance organization of the Lithuanian partisans, waging a guerrilla war against the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. The organization was established on February 10, 1949, during a meeting of all partisan commanders in Minaičiai village. Jonas Žemaitis was elected as the chairman of its presidium. On February 16, the 31st anniversary of the 1918 Act of Independence of Lithuania, the Union adopted a declaration proclaiming itself to be the supreme political and military authority in Lithuania. In 1996, after Lithuania regained independence in 1990, the Seimas (parliament) recognized the declaration as an official act of the Republic of Lithuania and Žemaitis as President of Lithuania. The organization and the partisan war were suppressed by the Soviet security agencies by 1953.
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.
Lithuanian Partisans Declaration of February 16, 1949 is a document, created by Lithuanian partisans and signed by Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters (ULFF) on February 16, 1949 in Minaičiai. By signing the declaration, the ULFF assumed responsibility to lead the restoration of independent democratic state of Lithuania, where equal rights for all citizens and social care is guaranteed. Document also states that "Communist party, as dictatorial and essentially opposite to the main aim of Lithuanian nation and keystone provision of the Constitution – independence of Lithuania, – is not considered a legal party". The declaration appeals to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lithuanian Constitution of 1922 and addresses whole democratic world asking for help.