The Holocaust Historiography Project

A Confession

Aleksandras Shtromas

“It is a fact that more than half of the membership of the tiny pre-Soviet Lithuanian Communist Party, about eight hundred people, were Jews. It is also a fact that these Jewish Communists in 1940 and 1941 played prominent roles in the Soviet occupation administration of Lithuania. The most notorious interrogators of the Lithuanian branch of the Soviet security police, the NKVD, were Lithuanian Jewish Communists, and many such Jewish Communists manned the NKVD detachments, which randomly arrested and deported to Siberia the alleged class enemies and other so-called “anti-Soviet elements” of Lithuania.

“… No wonder then that as soon as the Lithuanians got rid of the Soviets (this they did in a national uprising on the first day of the Soviet-German war [June 22, 1941], taking control of the country long before the German troops were able to occupy it), a series of wild Jewish pogroms broke out in the country, the first Jewish pogroms on Lithuanian soil in the whole 600-year-old history of Lithuanian-Jewish cohabitation. It is believed that in Kaunas alone 3,800 Jews were killed during these pogroms. Along with these spontaneous acts of violence the Lithuanian rebel troops started indiscriminately arresting Jews for their “collaboration with the Soviets” in a more organized but not less random fashion. In Kaunas, the thus-arrested alleged Jewish collaborators of the Soviets were assembled in a huge garage and cruelly massacred there the next day. My father was one of the victims of that Lietukis garage massacre. The German troops marched into Kaunas on the day of this massacre only to witness the last instants of that bloody orgy.

“… As a Jew, I must reject the assumption that we Jews forever were just the faultless and powerless victims of other peoples' abuse and injustices, and must admit our own faults, such as, for example: our certain insensitivity to some of the grave problems facing our gentile landsmen; our self-centeredness that only too often urged some of us to seek our particular goals without giving much consideration to how the achievement of these goals would affect the interests of others; the frivolousness that more than once led quite a number of us to assume that what is good for Jews must be even better for the gentiles. Too many of us, led by such considerations, were more than ready to engage ourselves thoughtlessly in all kinds of subversive and revolutionary activities threatening the integrity and even survival of our host countries. For this we have to confess our guilt.”

About the author

Aleksandras Shtromas is a professor of political science at Hillsdale College (Michigan), and was interned during the Second World War in the Kaunas (Lithuania) ghetto. This essay was published in The World & I (Washington, DC), February 1992, pp. 572, 577.

From The Journal of Historical Review, May/June 1994 (Vol. 14, No. 3), page 44.