A few people have commented that Lithuania’s Provisional Government just after the Nazi occupation in 1941 was similar to France’s Vichy Regime, especially regarding their sympathies for the Nazis and against Jews.
The difference, of course, is that the Vichy government has been called out for what it was—a willing participant in the Holocaust, while Lithuania’s Provisional Government has not been fully analyzed.
The reason is a mixture of outright denial and horror at the possibility, along with post-traumatic stress after being occupied by the Soviet Union for so many years. This has clouded its capacity for historical critical analysis of its own dark role in the massacre of 200,000 Jews. After all, it would make Lithuania look terrible.
Just like individuals, a nation needs to be psychologically healthy and strong *enough* to carefully and bravely assess its own past and take responsibility for its own actions.
When I originally started the research on my grandfather, I stayed away from naming any other individuals involved in the Holocaust. Focusing on my grandfather was more than enough. However, it eventually became apparent that he could have never acted alone and that he was part of a machine of national genocide. Yes, it was started by the Nazis, but too many Lithuanians at the highest levels fully participated. The Nazis could have never been so successful without the Lithuanians’ full cooperation.
The following information originally appeared in Grant Gochin’s Times of Israel blog on December 3, 2019. It wasn’t just a few individuals acting independently in killing Jews. It originated at the highest levels of its own Provisional Government.
Documentary evidence has emerged that Lithuania’s Provisional Government Prime Minister Juozas Ambrazevičius (Brazaitis) approved the organizing of a concentration camp for Jews. On August 1, 1941, in his capacity as Lithuanian Prime Minister, he signed the “Statute for the Jewish Situation.”
Brazaitis facilitated the legal structure of the implementation of the genocide of Jews in Lithuania. These documents were discovered, validated and published by the Lithuanian government.
What do with Jews: Madagascar or Massacre?
The first mass murders of Jews in the Holocaust began in Lithuania in June 1941. Germany had not yet determined to annihilate all the Jews of Europe; they had put forth the idea to relocate Jews to Madagascar, but the war made this plan impossible. Lithuania showed an alternative.
Between occupations by Russia and Germany in 1941, Lithuania was governed by an interim Provisional Government, led by Prime Minister Juozas Ambrazevičius Brazaitis. The Lithuanian Provisional Government displayed to Nazis how easily the Lithuanian population could be enticed into perpetrating genocide.
Murders of Jews began in Lithuania before the Nazis arrived. Upon their arrival Einsatzkommando 2 of the German security police was in charge of the murders. They reported the murder of 114,856 Lithuanian Jews as early as December 1, 1941. One hundred and thirty-nine Nazi personnel, of whom forty-four were secretaries and drivers, and ninety-five were murderers, directed this slaughter. Local Lithuanians enthusiastically and voluntarily conducted the killings. Thereafter, Germany introduce its Final Solution of the Jewish problem in January 1942.
At the end of the war, there were 60,000 Lithuanians in Western Europe, of whom 10,000 were slaves who had been liberated from concentration camps. Many sought asylum in western countries, including the US, which ostensibly barred entry to war criminals. Pragmatism ruled the West after the war, and authorities were willing to set aside any principles in the fight against Communism, and so, Nazi scientists were admitted to the US, along with those perceived to being able to counter Soviet influences.
This was often with the direct assistance of American intelligence officials. There were upwards of a thousand Nazis who were used by U.S. intelligence after the war by the CIA, the FBI, the military and other U.S. intelligence agencies — both in Europe as well as inside the United States, in Latin America, in the Middle East, even a few in Australia.
Ambrazevicius changed his name to Brazaitis
Like many other Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators, after the war, Lithuanian Prime Minster Ambrazevičius Brazaitis made his way to the US. To avoid detection, he lied about his identity, changed his name to from Juozas Ambrazevičius to Juozas Brazaitis, lied about having been Prime Minister, and then began to work for the CIA fighting the new Soviet threat. He knew that if his identity was exposed, he would be deported from USA. Brazaitis was just one of several Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators admitted to the US.
In the early 1970s, New York Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman was informed that American immigration authorities knew of many Holocaust perpetrators living in the US, and she called for an investigation.
Post war, the largest American Lithuanian War Veterans Association was partly under the leadership of Antanas Impulevičius who is identified as having murdered tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania and Belarus. The Department of Justice noted that up to 10 Battalion members who were with Impulevičius in Europe all lived within several blocks of each other in the South Philadelphia Lithuanian neighborhood. The very possibility of exposing any members of the Lithuanian Community was a source of stress for the Community as a whole, because it reflected badly on the entire Lithuanian displaced person community.
Lithuanians didn’t kill Jews, no they rescued them
A number of Lithuanians were denaturalized by US authorities after their identities and crimes were uncovered. The threat of deportation cased anxiety within the immigrant Lithuanian community; as a result, during the Cold War, no one in the Lithuanian communities spoke of anyone’s involvement in Holocaust crimes. Instead, many claimed that they had tried to rescue Jews. It became almost a local contest within that community to claim how many had tried to save Jews.
The Soviet Union occupied Lithuania and retained wartime archives. Nonetheless, it was almost impossible to hide Brazaitis’s crimes. Congresswoman Holtzman accused Brazaitis and the Lithuanian Provisional Government of crimes against Jews. These accusations were repeated by the New York Times, and an investigation launched. The purpose of the investigation was to consider the merit of allegations made by Congresswoman Holtzman.
The US Lithuanian Community’s National Board defended the Lithuanian Provisional Government. The matter was delegated to the US Department of Justice’s Department of Immigration and Naturalization. The findings of the investigation were presented to the US Congress Justice Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and International Law.
Brazaitis died in 1974, and so without having a live body to deport, the Immigration Service no longer had a legally valid reason to continue the investigation into Brazaitis, and was legally required to end their investigation.
After Brazaitis died, the investigation ended
The Subcommittee Chairman Joshua Eilberg wrote a letter on 1/13/75 stating that the investigation had been stopped. He appended the documentation of the investigation, from which it is apparent, that Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. reported to the US Congress that no evidence was found that the Lithuanian Provisional Government had legislated or executed any decree denying the rights of the Jewish minority. This determination was made after sending 110 form letters to individuals and agencies in Israel, Germany, the UK and the US, asking if they had derogatory information about “Ambrozevicius” which was a mis-spelling of the old identity Brazaitis had given after leaving Lithuania. The INS offered his incorrect year and place of birth, making any legitimate connection to Brazaitis impossible. Unquestionably, the answer from the respondents could only have been NO. Nonetheless, the review committee did not conclude that its allegations were false, but rather that the investigation had not elicited evidence to substantiate them.
Twenty-five years later, documentary evidence emerged that Brazaitis approved the organizing of a concentration camp for Jews. On August 1, 1941, in his capacity as Lithuanian Prime Minister, he signed the “Statute for the Jewish Situation.” Brazaitis facilitated the legal structure of the implementation of the genocide of Jews in Lithuania. These documents were discovered, validated and published by the Lithuanian government.
Lithuanian government claims Brazaitis was exonerated
During the past two years, on at least four occasions, the Lithuanian government has held up the 1975 Congressional letter claiming it is an “exoneration” and “rehabilitation” of Brazaitis by the US Judiciary and Congress, and by extrapolation, they claim this letter also exonerates other accused Holocaust perpetrators – specifically, Kazys Skirpa.
Neither Congress nor the Department of Justice have the power to exonerate; facts have had no effect on the Lithuanian Government’s efforts to cleanse the records of Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators in their effort to re-write the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania.
With Brazaitis, the current Lithuanian government has been caught using US Congressional documents in its attempt to cover up its Holocaust history. Their Public Prosecutor has been informed of this deception. Their Journalistic Ethics Investigation Unit has been informed of the Government’s falsification of Holocaust facts, and the Ombudsman of their Parliament has been informed. A member of US Congress has also notified the Lithuanian Prime Minister of this Holocaust distortion by its own government.
It remains to be seen if Lithuania will begin to tell the truth about its history, and if the American public will accept the misuse of US Congressional documents by the government of Lithuania for purposes of rewriting Holocaust history.
Wishing you Truth and Peace in the storms of your life,