Anti Jewish Pogroms in Lithuania and Latvia (1941)

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On the 18 December 1940, Adolf Hitler issued ‘Directive No.21 Operation Barbarossa’ to the Wehrmacht’s high command, which ordered them to prepare their army for an offensive war against the Soviet Union in the subsequent year.[1] On the 22 June 1941, the operation was initiated and the Wehrmacht began a mass invasion of Soviet territory. In their march towards Leningrad, Army Group North would first conquer Lithuania and Latvia, with both falling under full Nazi control by the 7 July 1941.[2] This occupation was to last approximately three years before the Soviet reoccupied both states in the summer of 1944.

During the first six months of the German occupation, anti-Jewish pogroms were instigated in hundreds of the countries’ villages, towns and cities. Instances of mass murder, assault, arson and thievery were commonplace, ultimately resulting in the death of tens of thousands of Jews. Uniquely, while the Jewish populations of other eastern European countries were primarily executed by the Einsatzgruppen battalions, in Lithuania and Latvia the majority of the Jews were murdered by native perpetrators.

Although these atrocities were committed in the early 1940s, it is only within the last thirty years that historians have begun to thoroughly research, analyse and discuss these pogroms. While there are other factors that prevented accurate studies from taking place prior to this period, the primary factor was the reestablishment of Soviet power in the Baltic States from 1944 to 1991. Due to its closed off nature, the Soviet Union made for an uncooperative environment, which in turn made it difficult for meaningful historical discussion to occur. However, this changed with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the establishment of Lithuanian and Latvian independence in 1991, as it allowed for a wealth of primary materials to be shared. This then allowed for accurate studies to begin to be undertaken.

The research over the past three decades has seen a number of studies address these pogroms. Historical fact has been established on a number of aspects, for example, it is undisputed where and when the pogroms took place, as well as how many took place.[3] However, while historians have come to a consensus on many aspects of the pogroms, there are still some issues that either remain contentious and continue to be discussed, or have yet to be fully addressed.

Before the historiography of each country’s experience of the Holocaust is explained, I believe there is one issue that needs to be addressed. This issue is how historians define a pogrom. For example, Christoph Dieckmann and Saulius Sužiedėlis only refer to those crimes committed against the Jews from late June to early July as pogroms.[4] They would justify this definition due to the more riotous nature of the crimes. While I can understand this justification to an extent, there are two points that I believe justify why the crimes that were committed up until early December should also be defined as pogroms. The first is that the Oxford Dictionary, among others, defines a pogrom as, ‘an organised massacre of a particular ethnic group, typically used when referring to the anti-Jewish massacres that occurred in eastern Europe’.[5] Considering that any activity involving any size of group of people requires some degree of organisation, all anti-Jewish massacres would fit this definition. The second point is that it would be almost impossible to create an accurate criterion that determines which massacres were pogroms and which were not. Hence, for this study, a pogrom shall be defined using the Oxford Dictionary definition.

In terms of the historiography regarding the Lithuanian Holocaust, East European Politics and Societies and Cultures recently published an article that summarises its current state. Although his work does not focus primarily on the pogroms, Stanislovas Stasiulis’ article identifies one of the main issues regarding these massacres.[6] This is the question of why hundreds of native Lithuanians participated in the killings of their Jewish neighbours. Due to both its importance in developing an accurate understanding of the Lithuanian Holocaust, as well as the inherent complexity of analysing motive, historians are continually researching and discussing this issue.[7] For example, Stasiulis mentions that according to Saulius Sužiedėlis there were five factors that led to the participation of Lithuanians in the Holocaust. Of those five, three are explicit motivations and include revenge for the 1940-41 Soviet occupation, virulent anti-Semitism, and nationalistic attitudes.[8] Another historian mentioned is Alfredas Rukšėnas, whose work focuses on the Kaunas 2nd Auxiliary Police Service Battalion. Rukšenas argues that the men in the battalion partook in the massacres out of feelings of nationalistic duty, fear of sanctions, sadistic addictions, and with the aim to benefit.[9] Although unmentioned by Stasiulis, Rukšenas’ work also identifies the different types of perpetrators that were prevalent in the police battalions. He breaks them down into these four groups: the patriots; the unemployed; those who suffered under Soviet rule; and those who were afraid that their prior association to the Soviet regime would have reprisals.[10] A final work identified by Stasiulis is Rūta Vanagaitė’s Our People, which explains one of the economic motivations behind the massacres. She explains that many members of Lithuanian society benefitted from the Holocaust as property was confiscated and sold for little to no money.[11] Overall, what can be determined from this historiography is that there is a tendency to either focus on a small case study or to only analyse a few motives, and that historians are yet to come to consensus on the issue.[12]

In a similar style to Stasiulis, Didzis Bērzinš’ has written an article which explains the current historiography on the Latvian Holocaust.[13] The article summarises the work of both native and foreign historians, highlighting their positive and negative aspects. When discussing foreign historiography, Bērzinš mentions the work of Dov Levin, which discusses Latvian-Jewish relations.[14] Katrin Reichelt, whose work focuses on the role of the Latvians in the implementation of the Holocaust, is then also mentioned.[15] Among others, Bērzinš praises these works for their ability to passionlessly address sensitive topics such as collaboration, the role of the local population, and anti-Semitic attitudes. However, the author highlights that in these previous studies there have been oversimplified generalizations about the attitudes and motivations of local inhabitants.[16] An example of this oversimplification would be to state that it was simply anti-Semitism that motivated locals to kill their Jewish neighbours. While this statement is correct in the sense that all of the killings were, by definition, anti-Semitic, it does not fully explain why the locals committed these acts. A similar critique of the current historiography is shown in historian Matthew Kott’s review of Reichelt’s previously referenced study. Kott comments that the author explains the ‘hows’ of Latvian participation brilliantly, but that a deeper analysis of anti-Semitism as a motivating factor would have been necessary for some of her answers to the ‘whys’.[17]

In the final paragraph of his work, Bērzinš summarises where he believes the historiography of the Latvian Holocaust needs supplemented. These include our understanding of local expressions of collaboration; how the Holocaust unfolded in different towns; decision-making in the various regions, including the cooperation between different levels; as well as our understanding of the role of local authorities.[18]

From surveying the secondary literature on the Lithuanian and Latvian pogroms, I would suggest that our historical understanding of what motivated Lithuanians and Latvians to participate in the pogroms is lacking. I believe that the historiography of both countries would benefit from a critical study that analyses not just some, but all of the motivations of the native perpetrators. After analysing these motivations, this study would then create a compendium that would not only explain the importance of each motivation overall, but would also show how each motivation affected each type of perpetrator differently.

In order to achieve this aim, this study will employ one main method. Although indirect witness accounts will also be consulted, the primary method of this study will be to analyse the eyewitness testimonies of the survivors, bystanders and perpetrators of the pogroms. This method has been chosen on the belief that if analysed carefully, testimony has the potential to uncover details of historical experience that indirect witness accounts cannot.[19] I would argue that the respective successes of both Christopher R. Browning’s and Jan Gross’ work legitimise this argument, and that the same type of study can applied to the Lithuanian and Latvian cases.[20]

In terms of challenges, there are a number which will need to be mitigated. The most blatant is the unreliability of post-war eyewitness testimony. Although testimony has been proven on many occasions to show this unreliability, for example in Lucy Dawidowicz’s study, there are still ways in which testimony can provide credible results.[21] Tests such as those employed in many of Browning’s studies will be employed in this study, and shall be explained in the first chapter. Another challenge has been the Coronavirus pandemic which has prevented historians from accessing any of the national archives. In an attempt to mitigate this issue, the primary materials of this study have been sourced from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other online archives. While the impact of the study will be affected overall, these sources can still provide some new historical insight into the topic, and hence make this a viable study. A final challenge is the language barrier which has made it difficult to utilise Lithuanian and Latvian sources. However, this has only been a problem for a few sources that I have found, as the majority are either spoken in or have been translated to English. Overall, so long as the scope of the study is limited, the motivations are analysed in depth, and the explanations are not oversimplified, the aforementioned criticisms of the previous historiography should be avoided.




Purposefully taking the life of another human being is an uncommon human behaviour. Although older than recorded history, and prevalent throughout it, the act of killing is rarely undertaken lightly by a perpetrator. It requires both a suitable environment, as well as strong psychological feelings that convince the individual that they are acting in their own best interests. These emotions can either be impulsive or harboured over a longer period. From researching the historical perpetrations of this act, I believe that there is only one constant that fits every perpetrator: that they have been driven by at least one of these five powerful emotions; fear, greed, fidelity, anger, or a lust for power.[22]

Although some may not agree that there is even one constant, they would certainly agree that there are several variables that must be considered when attempting to accurately analyse historical killings. The first is that while one can argue that there are five fundamental emotions, these emotions can be evoked by a potentially uncountable number of motivational factors. The second relates to primary materials of evidence, which can often both be limited in numbers, as well as unreliable. The third is that in many cases the perpetrator can be considered ‘ordinary’, i.e. has no prior history of violence, and so the task of understanding what motivated this type of individual to kill is made even more difficult.[23]

However, due to the importance of this task in forming our historical understanding of certain events, historians have had to devise new ways which make it possible to overcome these issues. The first is to identify key aspects for analysis, while the second is to utilise tests that allow us to assess the accuracy of sources. Considering that the pogroms in Lithuania and Latvia in 1941 are heavily affected by the aforementioned issues, this study will identify all key aspects, as well as utilise these tests, so that its analysis of the motivations of these perpetrators is as accurate as humanely possible.

The first aspect to be identified is who the perpetrators are. In the case of this study it is those native Lithuanians and Latvians who participated in the pogroms of 1941. However, it is obvious that attempting to analyse such a large number of perpetrators as one collective would ultimately lead to oversimplified conclusions. Therefore, it is essential that different types of perpetrators are identified and accordingly grouped. As already stated, Alfredas Rukšenas placed the members of the police battalions involved in the pogroms into four groups; the patriots, the unemployed, those who suffered under Soviet rule, and the insecure. While these may be fair groupings for his study, they are two reasons why I would suggest that they are not entirely suitable for this study. The first is that this study is looking at all perpetrators of the pogroms, not just the policemen, and the second is that some of these groupings are based on singular motives. For example, considering that perpetrators are typically driven by more than one motivation, it is too simplistic to group some individuals as patriots who only killed out of feelings of nationalism. Instead, I would suggest that the perpetrators be put into these groupings: young men including students, the unemployed, career policemen and those from rural areas. These groups have been chosen due to the similar experiences each group will have experienced in both the period prior to the pogroms as well as during them.

The second aspect is to identify all of the motivations that drove these perpetrators to kill. These motivations are primarily linked to one or two of the aforementioned psychological feelings. Stemming from a feeling of anger, there is the motivation of revenge that was partly incited by anti-Jewish propaganda that was disseminated by both the German occupiers and native far-right activists. Originating from the feelings of anger and fidelity is the motivation of nationalism that encouraged perpetrators to act aggressively in the hope of restoring their country’s respective national autonomies. From the feeling of fidelity also stems the motivations of duty and peer pressure. Stemming from the feeling of greed is the motivation of greed itself, and so the rewards that were offered to those who participated shall be addressed. From the feeling of power and greed comes the motivation of careerism, and from the feeling of power comes sadism. In terms of the final feeling of fear, there are two obvious motivations: a fear or the different that comes with inherited prejudice, and a fear of reprisals. Additionally, although not a motivating factor in its own right, the consumption of alcohol shall also be addressed as the inebriating effects it had affected many perpetrators ability to kill.

The final aspect to be identified are those sources which offer a genuine insight into the mind of a perpetrator. As stated by Zoë Waxman, and as shown in the works of Browning and Gross, eyewitness testimony has the potential to offer this information.[24] However, as already mentioned, this type of source is renowned for its unreliability. Therefore, in order to obtain any amount of accurate information from this type of source, I would suggest that there are five tests that should be undertaken when analysing perpetrator, bystander or victim testimony.[25]

The first is the self-interest test, which encourages a closer consideration of statements that go against the witness’s self-interest, or those statements which the witness can benefit from if they tell the truth. In terms of perpetrator testimony, the witness is likely to lie, mislead, obfuscate, minimise, or feign amnesia in order to benefit themselves.[26] Hence, when the perpetrator has nothing to gain from lying, they are more likely to be telling the truth. In term of bystander and victim testimony, this is far less likely, but it is still important that any self-interest be considered.

The second is the vividness test, which suggests that unusual attentions to detail should be further investigated. For example, descriptively explained colours, surroundings or smells. The third test is the possibility test, which checks that the witness’s claims are not contradicted by other evidence, or proven to have been impossible. The fourth test is the probability test which checks whether a statement coincides with a pattern of events that is either backed up by other testimonies or established by official documentation. If this is found to be the case, then the probability of the source speaking the truth is increased.

The final test is the limitations test, which analyses the historical, social and political context in which the source was written. It is more about observing and acknowledging certain limitations of the source rather than expunging them from the study for not meeting a certain criterion. For example, a source should not be ignored just because it was written decades after the event, rather this should just be considered when using it as historical evidence. With all of the motivations identified, the issues explained, and the techniques and tests that can be used to mitigate these issues ready to be employed, an accurate analysis of the motivations can now be undertaken.

Anti-Semitic Propaganda

Prior to the pogroms in 1941, anti-Semitism had been present in Europe for centuries. During this period, anti-Semitism continually mutated while oscillating from a feeling of the few to a feeling of the many. In the early 1930s, a new mutation of anti-Semitism was on the rise in many countries across the continent. The most notable inciters of this anti-Semitism were the German National Socialists who propagated a virulent anti-Semitic stance across all platforms of their mass media, while also implementing anti-Semitic political reform.[27] Similarly, in Lithuania and Latvia, there was a gradual rise in this anti-Semitism as a result of the propaganda spread by both the National Socialist movement as well as native far-right political movements such as the Lithuanian Activist Front and the Latvian Pērkonkrusts.[28] However, while this anti-Semitism was on the rise, it wasn’t until June 1940 that anti-Semitic propaganda began to resonate with a substantial proportion of native Lithuanians and Latvian. The Soviet ‘year of terror’ that lasted until June 1941 saw a drastic increase in anti-communist sentiment, which, as shall be shown, led to a similar sharp rise in anti-Semitic sentiment.

The Soviet occupation had dire consequences for the vast majority of Lithuanians and Latvians. Almost immediately, their respective governments were replaced by puppet governments, which had been chosen by those the Soviets, and headed by those they could control. By early August, each country had lost their respective national autonomies, with both countries being coerced into becoming incorporated into the Soviet Union.[29] Nationalisation then followed with firms of all sizes being taken over and run by the Soviet occupiers. Living standards drastically dropped as although the wages of the working classes increased, soaring inflation meant that the value of these wages decreased significantly.[30]

Yet while these political changes undoubtedly increased the anti-communist feelings of the native populations, the importance of these changes arguably pale into insignificance when compared to the arrests and deportations that steadily increased throughout the occupation. For example, by December 1940, an average of over two hundred Lithuanians were being arrested every week.[31] Citizens from all walks of life were unduly arrested; men who had been officers in the Lithuanian and Latvian armies, members of the clergy, and high-ranking civil servants among others.

Two testimonies have been found which explain the impact of these arrests and deportations on the native populations. In 2012, Lithuanian native Pranas Jurkus explained how arrests often led Lithuanian patriots being imprisoned and tortured by the Soviets:

‘They had occupied the whole building (Saint Anthony House, Kretinge). … downstairs, they had a prison…. they imprisoned Lithuanians, Lithuanian patriots…. They were chained at the tree and tortured and burned and genitals taken out and everything. There was torture like this in many places in Lithuania…. I know that this was done by the Russians and their helpers’.[32]

As a source, this statement appears relatively reliable as it is well known that the Soviets imprisoned many Lithuanian patriots, and that the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) regularly employed methods of torture during their interrogations. Yet, the witness also states that he, ‘only saw that when the Germans took over’, and so the possibility that the Germans exaggerated parts of what was shown to the native population should also be considered. Nevertheless, this source clearly shows the brutal torture that was inflicted on a number of innocent Lithuanians.

Asides from potentially being tortured, those who were arrested faced the often-deadly possibility of being deported. For eyewitness Danguole Gabis, a native Lithuanian from Kaunas, this meant seeing her mother be deported in June 1941. In 2015, she explained that her mother was kept in prison, interrogated and badly beaten before being deported.[33] She added further that her mother received no specific charge of crimes, yet was sentenced to serve fifteen years in the Altai mountains.[34] This type of case, which was based on little to no evidence, was commonplace during the occupation, as thousands of native Lithuanians and Latvians were unjustly taken away from their homes during the occupation.[35] In total, the Soviets deported approximately 35,000 Latvians as well as 34,000 Lithuanians over the course of the occupation.[36]

By mid-June 1941, the livelihood of almost every native Lithuanian and Latvian had been negatively affected by the Soviet occupation, and as a result, anti-communist sentiment was strongly felt throughout both countries. Unfortunately, at the same time, anti-Semitic sentiment had also risen to a similar level. As shall be shown, this was partly due to the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda, which redirected the native citizens’ anger against the Soviets to anger against their Jewish neighbours.

 Distributed underground during the Soviet occupation and publicly during German occupation, the propaganda’s overriding message was the idea of the Judeo-Bolshevism.[37] As explained by Paul Hanebrink, this idea suggested that Communism was created by a Jewish conspiracy and that Jews were therefore to blame for the crimes committed by Communist regimes.[38] As stated at the time by one Latvian propagandist, ‘the concepts of Jewry and communism are synonyms’.[39] In an attempt to build its credibility, those propagating this conspiracy utilised a mixture of factual and fictional information. One of the facts it used was that a substantial number of Jews were communist sympathisers. There are a number of sources that support this claim, for example, the testimonies of Ada Ustjanauskas and Algimantas Gureckas. In 2008, Jewish Lithuanian Ada Ustjanauskas stated what she witnessed in Kaunas:

‘Well you cannot deny it, you have pictures, you see who stood in our main street accepting the Soviet army…. The people with red flags standing and greeting the Soviet Army were the Jewish factory element… What remained in people’s memories were the red flags and who are (flew) the red flags’.[40]

While in 2010, Lithuanian ex-serviceman Algimantas Gureckas, described a similar situation in Panevėžys:

‘I saw the first communist demonstration in Panevėžys in the main square…. maybe 50 – 60 people there…. and it just seemed like all of the people were Jewish’.[41]

What is seen in these sources is that both witnesses suggest that it was primarily Jews who were involved in the pro-Soviet demonstrations near the start of the Soviet occupation. These are both plausible statements, as the photos mentioned by Ada Ustjanauskas do exist, and these events are documented. This also would appear to match a similar situation in Latvia, as according to Prit Buttar, during the 1940 summertime pro-Soviet demonstrations in Riga, the majority of those involved were ethnic Russians or Jews.[42] Having said that, Buttar does not reference any primary evidence when making this statement, which perhaps makes his statement less credible evidence.

However, the points explained here are not the only truths that can be observed from these sources. As Ada Ustjanauskas hints, many middle and upper class Jews were not involved in the protests. It can be assumed that the majority of wealthier Jews were likely anti-communist due to the fact that, as Jewish Latvian Leya Koltun explained in 2001, they knew that their enterprises would be nationalised under a Soviet regime.[43]

Another truth, which Algimantas Gureckas added, is that there were over a thousand Jews living in Panevėžys at the time of the protest that he witnessed. This means that even if his belief is true, that all involved in this protest were Jewish, a maximum of only 5-6% of the Panevėžys Jewish population could have been involved. Unfortunately, this important additional information was left out of the anti-Semitic propaganda by the propagandists, as they only included truths that fitted their intended narrative.

As stated previously, anti-communist sentiment reached its peak as a consequence of the arrests, and the subsequent deportations and murders that came with them. As explained by Edward Anders, a Jewish Latvian from Liepaja, the propagandists exploited these crimes to strengthen anti-Semitic feelings and ultimately incite pogroms.[44] Their exploitation in anti-Semitic propaganda, as well as why some Latvians believed in this propaganda are shown in this example from Fred Wildauer, a Jewish Latvian from Riga. In 1982 he stated:

‘The rumours went around. If somebody said, “well, wait a minute now. the Jews didn’t do it, because there were a lot of Jews deported too” the Latvians said, “no, those Jews only went there as supervisors! They just like to make it look good!” … when the Germans came into the city, the daily newspaper, was a black border around it in memoriam of the deported people. They counted them as dead, all the deported people. And whenever there was a Jewish name, it was eliminated’.[45]

This testimony again shows how the propagandists hid any truths that went against their anti-Semitic message, and how through this technique they managed to convince a large number of natives to appropriate the blame for these crimes with the Jewish population. However, it is important to take into account the date in which this interview took place. In 1982, Latvia was still a part of the Soviet Union, and so this pro-Soviet environment could have affected the accuracy of this testimony. In the case of Lithuania, the same appropriation of blame is shown in this statement from Cesare Ugainskis, a native Lithuanian from Kaunas, ‘there were a lot of opinions that I recall among people that said, well, the Jews are getting what they deserve’.[46] While the context of this statement is less questionable given that it was taken in a free Lithuania in 2013, this quote is rather vague on why these people held this opinion. Given that it states that the Jews were ‘getting what they deserve’, I would suggest that this hints towards a feeling of revenge, which will have likely been fuelled, at least partly, by this propaganda.

As a result of this propaganda, all Jews began to ‘experience that hatred’, and were treated as if they were communists.[47] This mass experience of persecution is shown in many of the pogroms, where Jews were shot alongside communists. This was the case in the Lithuanian pogroms at Veliuona, Skuodas, Antkalnis, Velžis, Kėdainiai, Krekenava, Kretinge and Saldutškis.[48] In the Latvian towns of Liepaja and Plavinas this was also the case.[49] Algimantas Gureckas, supplements this argument when stating:

‘People, you know, just under suspicion that somebody was in the Communist organisation or something, were taken out and shot, without any inquiry, without any court, without any procedure… and a lot of innocent people were just killed’.[50]

Given that Judeo-Bolshevism was being propagated at this time, it is probable that in this instance, those who were being suspected of communist activities were in fact Jews. Considering that this took place in Panevėžys, it is entirely probable that this collective shooting of communists and Jews occurred at more than just the ten pogroms already mentioned.

Overall, from the evidence found in these sources, I would suggest that there is a three-part concatenation that can be observed. This concatenation potentially shows how members of each of the aforementioned groupings of perpetrators would have likely been motivated by an anger or revenge associated to anti-Semitic propaganda. The first part was the suffering that each group faced during the occupation. For the younger perpetrators who signed up to join the police battalions, they will likely have known friends and family who had been deported by the Soviets. Some evidence that would supplement this argument is the October 1941 report written by Franz Stahlecker, the commander of the Schutzstaffel (SS) for Reich Kommissariat Ostland (RKO), who explicitly wrote that they aimed to recruit men ‘whose family members and relatives had been murdered or taken away by the Russians’.[51] For the unemployed, they will have either become such as a result of the Soviet regime, or struggled to find work under it.[52] In 2018, Jonas Mekas, a native Lithuanian from Biržai, explained that the rural population felt aggrieved by the Jews and Russians who had implemented a similar regime to the one that the rural population liberated themselves from twenty years’ prior.[53] He adds that this had an important effect on why this population ignored or participated in the pogroms. The only group who may have been less influenced by this propaganda were those career policemen, who were arguably less susceptible to this propaganda, and more focused on their individual agenda. The second part was the increased exposure to the anti-Semitic propaganda which propagated the idea of Judeo-Bolshevism during the period. While some genuinely believed in this conspiracy, others more likely chose to believe in its message, as it gave them the opportunity to blame the Jews for Soviet crimes. The final part of the concatenation is the German invasion, which gave these perpetrators a suitable environment in which they could enact their revenge against their supposed Jewish enemies.

Although it is extremely difficult to accurately analyse, a final point that should be at least be considered is whether the lust for revenge was still a significant motivator during the pogroms that occurred in the final months of 1941. It is possible that over time this feeling dwindled for those perpetrators who felt that during the initial pogroms they enacted fair revenge. Therefore, based on all of the evidence and analysis shown throughout this section, I would have to argue that revenge was a strong motivator for the majority of the groups of perpetrators, and that anti-Semitic propaganda was influential in instilling this feeling. However, I would also suggest that it is plausible that as more and more Jews were killed, its influence in motivating the pogroms may have gradually diminished.


Prior to achieving full independence in 1918 and 1920 respectively, Lithuania and Latvia had been struggling for centuries to liberate themselves from foreign rule. Up until those dates their most recent occupier had been Russia, who had been oppressing both countries since the late eighteenth century.[54] Hence, when national autonomy was finally achieved, it became the top priority of each respective government to ensure that the autonomy of their nation was to be protected and preserved. Unfortunately, as previously explained, their respective autonomies lasted just over two decades, with both countries being invaded by the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940. The effect of the subsequent occupation was a reigniting of strong nationalistic sentiment among each nation’s citizens.[55]  This sentiment stemmed from both the feeling of anger that was incited by the aforementioned suffering that occurred during the occupation, as well as the feeling of fidelity which encouraged the natives to seek a reestablishment of their respective national autonomies.

This nationalism has rightly been identified by historians as a motivator for the pogroms. The main argument that appears in most works is that many native Lithuanians and Latvians believed that participating in the pogroms would eventually lead to a reestablishment of each country’s respective independence.[56] This is highlighted by Dov Levin, who states that supporting the Jewish population would have be detrimental to national interests if they wished to establish their independence after the German invasion.[57] In attempting to address this argument, I have found numerous testimonies that both supplement its hypothesis, as well as criticise it.

Unfortunately, either due to a lack of availability or perhaps because it does not exist, I was unable to find any testimony that can provide evidence for the Latvian case. Yet, there are some other materials that can potentially provide some insight. For example, Andrejs Plakans explains that during the first days of the German invasion, a Latvian government began to form, and that the Bank of Latvia reopened, which intended to renew the national currency.[58] This perhaps provides some credibility to the main argument, that these changes could have encouraged some to believe that a free Latvia was possible. In fact, as is seen in these minutes of a conference of the German State Chancellery, the Germans intended to give the impression that the reestablishment of Latvian independence was indeed a possibility:

‘We must be clear to ourselves that we will not be liberating these provinces. In relation to this, the following must happen:

1. We stress that we are bringers of freedom’.[59]

However, these positive changes and the German pretence does not appear to have lasted long, as by mid-July the idea of a free Latvia began to diminish. On the 11th of July, Riga Commandant, Colonel Peterson, instructed that wearing any former national army uniforms was to be forbidden, including those worn by the self-defence forces and police battalions.[60] By the 25th of July, Latvians could no longer carry weapons or wear the nationalist symbol of the red-white-red armband.[61] All of this evidence regarding the Latvian case will all be considered in the overall conclusion to this section.

Fortunately, there is no lack of testimonies discussing the Lithuanian case, and there are a number which offer valuable insight on this motivation. In terms of the main argument, there are two accounts which directly concur with its hypothesis. The first is from Algimantas Gureckas, who stated:

‘What we thought is going to happen… not quite independent, but something like Hungary, or Slovakia… will be independent country together with Germany’.[62]

This statement makes an important point, and raises the question of whether it was reasonable for native Lithuanians, and perhaps also for Latvians, to assume that they could become semi-protectorates under Germany. After all, it is documented that both peoples held themselves in relatively high regard in terms of their racial purity, and so they may have believed that they were worthy of at least the same treatment as Hungarians and Slovakians.[63] This is perhaps more likely for the students who had been directly exposed to, and believed the eugenics theories that were being taught under Antanas Smetona’s Lithuanian government and Karlis Ulmanis’ Latvian government in the 1930s. If this really was the case, then it would be plausible that certain groups of perpetrators could have been strongly motivated by nationalistic feelings.

Another account that supplements the initial argument is from Aleksandras Bendinskas, an ex-member of the Lithuanian Activist Force (LAF), who in 2004 stated that he witnessed pogroms, but did not participate. When talking of the infamous pogrom that occurred at Kaunas’ Lietukis Garage, he justifies these killings by stating that the number of Jewish lives lost ‘paled in comparison’ to the 162 of ‘our own’ who had been killed during the fighting that occurred during the Soviet retreat.[64] He argues that during this ‘war-time tumult’, ‘when the war is raging’, casualties are going to be taken by both sides. This statement would suggest that he, and perhaps also his comrades, believed that the crimes committed against the Jews were mere consequences of Lithuania’s fight of independence. While the pogroms were evidently not simply mere consequences of war, assessing the accuracy of what these perpetrators believed is not the question here. The real question is whether they genuinely believed this argument. Given the expressive nature of the testimony; that holding this belief was both possible and plausible; and that after sixty years, this witness is still pushing this justification; it could be argued that he, and perhaps other members of the front, believed that the pogroms were necessary if they were to achieve their nationalist aims.

While only two accounts could be found that directly concur with the main argument, there are some more which offer information that could potentially show the importance of nationalism as a motivation. The first is from Aleksandras Icikavičius, a Lithuanian native from Skuodas, who in 2010 described the clothing of the perpetrators participating in the pogrom in his hometown. He explains that ‘some had the Rifleman Union uniform; some were with our old Lithuanian military uniform’.[65] He adds further that one individual was wearing a ‘Cross of Vytis’, which was a pre-war medal that was rewarded to those who heroically defended Lithuania’s independence.[66] While most were observed to have been wearing civilian clothes, this account shows that ex-military men chose to wear their old uniforms. These uniforms and medals, were both symbols of an independent Lithuania, which would strongly suggest that those who wore them, believed and acted in its cause. Considering that ex-military men made up a significant proportion of those who were made unemployed during the Soviet occupation, it would be reasonable to argue that this group of men were likely encouraged by both their nationalist fidelity and their anger towards the Soviets to participate in pogroms.

In 1990, Jewish Lithuanian Ralph Codikow explained the deeply saddening situation that his family experienced at the Kaunas Ninth Fort. He explains that when they arrived at the fort, the Lithuanians and Germans separated the men from the women and children, meaning that himself and his mother were made to part ways with his father. Sometime soon after this separation, the women and children learned that the men had been subsequently executed. However, they also learned that some had been spared execution and instead sent to the Yellow Prison in Kaunas. Those who were spared, the witness’ father among them, received this relatively special treatment on the account of them being ex-servicemen in the Lithuanian national army. After a small period of time, his father made a deal with a guard, offering him ‘officers uniform and boots’, so that he could visit him and his mother and tell them what had happened. [67] Unfortunately, he could not stay long as he had promised the guard he would return swiftly. It would be the last time that the witness would see his father as all of those sent to the Yellow Prison were later executed.

Although these Jewish ex-servicemen would only survive a short period longer, this case is certainly an interesting occurrence. Why the Lithuanian perpetrators choose to separate these men, and spare the lives of those who served their country previously, only to execute them a short time later is an extremely difficult question to answer. In terms of answering why they separated the men and spared their lives, a possible explanation would be that they held a greater degree of respect for those Jews who had previously demonstrated support for Lithuanian nationalism. With regards to answering why they were subsequently executed, and not simply continued to be held at the Yellow Prison, a possible explanation could be drawn from the witness’ further comments. He states that he was, ‘sure they (the Germans) gave all the orders’, which could suggest that the Lithuanian perpetrators did not intend to eventually execute the Jewish ex-service men, but rather were eventually coerced into doing so by their German superiors.[68] Of course, these speculative explanations are just two of many possibilities that cannot be proven or disproven without further evidence. However, while the evidence is limited, these explanations are possible, and should at least be considered when trying to understand the importance of nationalism in motivating perpetrators of the pogroms.

The final testimony that potentially shows the importance of nationalism in motivating native perpetrators to participate in the pogroms is from Jewish Lithuanian Samuel Sherron. In Pennsylvania 1983, he explained that while being held prisoner at his local synagogue in Skuodas, some Jewish women from the town tried to bring food for them. He states that ‘the SS started to shoot over their heads, so they thought they were going to be shot, so they ran away’.[69]  However, this conversation continues as shown:

‘Sherron: one of these White Band Lithuanians… he brought it up, a package for me from my mother. Some food.

Q: Some food.

Sherron: Some food but they, they took it away afterwards anyway.

Q: But he tried?

Sherron: He tried, yes’.[70]

First of all, it should be mentioned that this source would appear to pass all of the tests that which assess the credibility of the source. It is both possible and plausible, and it would appear that the witness would not benefit from lying, or lose out by telling the truth in this situation. The vividness of his testimony would also suggest it to be more credible.

Secondly, what can be seen from this source is a native perpetrator showing some sympathy towards the witness and an active effort to help him. Unfortunately, this food package was confiscated by either the German SS men or his fellow countrymen. Yet, while the gesture was in vain, it perhaps shows a distinct lack of anti-Semitic feeling towards the Jewish witness. This begs the question of why this perpetrator would be involved in this pogrom if he was not driven by racial hatred. Instead, I would suggest that he was primarily motivated by a fidelity to his country, and or his fellow countrymen, and willingly participated in them on the belief that it was in the country’s best interests. I believe this is plausible as it is difficult to see what other motivation could have incited this kind behaviour. Now, of course, this is just one example of kindness, and so it is difficult to make an argument that a large number of perpetrators were similarly motivated. However, when used in conjunction with the evidence given prior, I believe that this example aids the argument that hypothesises nationalism as an influential motivator for many Lithuanian natives.

Overall, the testimonies shown would suggest that nationalistic feelings were prevalent among a significant number of the native perpetrators of the pogroms. The hopes of restoring national autonomy are made clear in examples such as that from Aleksandras Bendinskas. When we also have evidence that native perpetrators witnessed Slovakia and Hungary be granted the right to become semi-protectorates, it is perhaps justifiable as to why some of these men believed that participating in the pogroms and assisting the Germans would ultimately let them achieve their national goals. Hence, this evidence would suggest that the main argument is correct in its hypothesis.

The further examples of Lithuanian perpetrators wearing old national army uniforms and medals, giving Jewish ex-military men relatively special treatment, and even acting kindly in one example, show evidence of the nationalistic sentiment and fidelity felt amongst a number of perpetrators. While these are just a few examples, there are two reasons which perhaps makes it more reasonable to build conclusions from them. The first is that there is little evidence which has been found which negates the argument that they supplement. The second is that given that these testimonies come from a range of different towns and cities across Lithuania, it would not be unreasonable to assume that this nationalism was felt across the country. Therefore, on the whole it seems rational to conclude that nationalism was an important motivator for a significant number of Lithuanian perpetrators in participating in the pogroms.

Duty & Peer Pressure

The feeling of doing one’s duty and the feeling of doing right by one’s peers are two motivations that are closely linked. They both stem from the feeling of fidelity that has already been mentioned prior. One is motivated by an allegiance to a certain person or group, while the other is to a certain cause. Although they were likely influential motivations in the mass killings, perhaps unsurprisingly, given a distinct lack of perpetrator testimony available, I found no testimonies for either country that offer any insight on them. Similarly, with regards to other sources, it was extremely difficult to find any materials with potential information. This was due to a lack of online archival materials, as well as the inability to visit any archives. Regrettably, the only sources that could be found were secondary sources, and even then, these could only be found to discuss the Lithuanian case. However, despite these substantial limitations, it would suggest that it is entirely necessary to at least attempt to show the role of duty and peer pressure as motivations for the pogroms. The justification for this would be that in other studies addressing what motivated natives to kill, for example Browning’s German Killers, these feelings were seen as influential factors.[71]

Of the 205 Lithuanian pogroms surveyed for this study, six provide specific information that potentially show the influence of these two motivations. At the pogrom in Seda, the perpetrators drew lots to determine who would carry out the executions.[72]At Tryškiai, six volunteers expressed their willingness to kill the Jews, meaning others did not have to participate.[73] During the pogroms at Babtai and Vandžiogala, all of the volunteers took turns in undertaking the executions.[74] At Pertrašiūnai, the men who were to carry out the execution were selected by their superior officer Zigmas Arlauskas.[75] Similarly, at the pogrom that occurred in Tūbinės Forest, the head of the Šilalė police station, Bronius Mintautas, decided who would shoot and who would guard.[76]

What can be seen from these cases is a range of ways in which these men ended up participating in the shootings. At Tryškiai, there was outright volunteering; at Babtai and Vandžiogala, there was a sharing of responsibility; at Pertrašiūnai and Tūbinės Forest, men were specifically chosen; and at Seda, those who would shoot was left to chance. Each suggest differing things when assessing the influence of peer pressure and duty as motivations in these pogroms.

Before explaining what can potentially be observed from these pogroms, it is important to discuss the group dynamics of the perpetrators. When making observations on these pogroms, we cannot be sure who in the group is motivated by which motivations. For example, in assessing the pogrom involving the six men at Tryškiai, the outright volunteering suggests a range of motivations, such as that of a feeling of duty. However, more importantly it would also perhaps suggest that peer pressure was less influential during this pogrom. While this could be the case, it is also possible that only one or two of these perpetrators were ideologically driven, and that the others were pressured by their peer or peers into committing the crime. Therefore, it is important to remember that there are a number of different possibilities for each group of pogroms, but the ones which are shown are those which I believe the evidence suggests are most plausible.

The sharing of responsibility at Babtai and Vandžiogala, would suggest that participating in the pogroms was part of one’s duty when serving in one of the organisations. Peer pressure could also have perhaps played a role here, as those who did not wish to participate may have been seen to be acting in a selfish manner. The mentality of ‘someone must do it, orders are orders’, which is shown in the case study investigated by Browning, may have been present, and would have encouraged members of the organisations to willingly undertake the task for the collective benefit of the team.[77] In the cases where the men were specifically chosen by a superior officer, a feeling of duty would have most likely been prevalent, yet peer pressure may have been avoided.

Finally, the drawing of lots is probably the most interesting, as it shows an obvious lack of enthusiasm in these men participate in the executions. The fact that they let chance decide who would shoot would indicate that these men were not strongly motivated by something like revenge, but instead accepted that if the drew the short lot, it was there duty to undertake the killings.

In assessing the importance of duty as a motivator, Historian Šarūnas Liekis concludes that the majority of the participants in the pogroms were not strongly motivated by other motivations, and that bidding the will of their superiors was their primary motivator.[78] However, I would not grant it the same level of importance as the Liekis. Although I agree that the feelings of duty and peer pressure were important motivators for some perpetrators, especially those less ideologically driven, I would still argue that there is simply not enough evidence to supplement Liekis’ case. There is certainly more evidence that suggests that the other motivations were more influential.


In order to analyse the importance of greed in motivating the perpetrators of the pogroms, it is best to address its influence in two periods. The first is the period leading up to June 1941, where one factor has been identified which potentially posits the argument that greed was an important motivator. This factor is the jealousy that was felt by some groups of native Lithuanians and Latvians regarding the economic wealth of many local Jewish families.

According to the surveyed testimonies, this jealousy stemmed from personal encounters with wealthy Jewish citizens, as well as through propaganda which highlighted Jewish wealth. In terms of jealousy associated with personal encounters, Blanche Lubecki Juris, a Lithuanian native from Eišiškes, explained in 1992 that she worked for a Jewish dress maker in her hometown. While she explained that her boss was very nice to the staff, she added that because her boss had two luxurious houses, and that her fellow colleagues would make anti-Semitic comments.[79] Somewhat similarly, in 1999, Jewish Lithuanian Sol Lurie explained that the janitor of his family home held strong anti-Semitic feelings due to their wealth. When further asked why native Lithuanians eventually turned against their neighbours, the witness answered, ‘maybe it could have been jealousy because the Jewish people in Lithuania were pretty well off’.[80] This perhaps makes sense, as Jewish Lithuanian Abraham Resnick highlighted in 1994, the primary mixing of Jews and Lithuanians came in professional fashions. He states that Jews worked in high paid jobs such as in banking, as attorneys, as dentists, and as doctors.[81] Hence, given this evidence, it is perhaps understandable why some natives associated Jews with wealth, as it is likely that many of the Jews that they interacted with were employed in high-paying jobs. George Schwab’s family, Jewish Latvians from Liepaja, are one of many examples shown in the testimonies. His father was a doctor, while his extended family worked in commerce.[82]

Native frustrations with the relative wealth of Jews also made its way into political propaganda, with some groups propagating their stance on the matter in their literature. The one example that could be found in the surveyed testimonies was from ex-LAF member Aleksandras Bendinskas. In 2004, he explained that he read LAF literature that stated that the Jews were in control of ‘70-80%’ of the Lithuanian commerce. He adds that ‘they had to be pushed out’, as they believed that the proportion of the country’s wealth held by Jewish families was unfairly high.[83]

Now, of course, these examples do not represent all Jewish families as a substantial proportion of Jews came from a working-class background. These examples also do not show that many Lithuanians and Latvians had good relationships with Jews prior to both the Soviet and German occupations. However, it can be seen that at least some groups of natives were jealous of certain Jewish families due to either personal encounters or by being exposed to the literature of some political parties. In terms of specific groups, those most likely to have harboured this jealousy would be those natives from poorer backgrounds, for example, those who were unemployed or those who worked lower paid jobs. This is even more likely if they worked these jobs under the command of Jewish people. Whether this jealousy genuinely encouraged these people to participate in pogroms is still debatable as the evidence that has been found is somewhat inconclusive.

The second period is that in which the pogroms took place. Now this period itself can be split into two overlapping periods; the initial more disorganised pogroms in June and July, and the more organised mass execution pogroms from August onwards. If we first look at the initial pogroms, there is evidence to suggest that the jealousy of Jewish wealth felt by natives manifested into lootings and ultimately killings. In Washington DC, 1990, Jewish Latvian Steven Springfield gave testimony which explained that the native Latvians, ‘used to sweep through the houses, used to drag people out, used to murder, plunder’.[84] Similarly, Aharon Pick’s diary from his time spent in Šiauliai Ghetto shows the same situation in Lithuania:

‘The Lithuanian Partisans became stormy and rowdy, and grabbed the properties and the hard work of the Jews. They wondered around the streets of the town… entered the homes of the Jews and behaved as if they were owners’.[85]

This looting is further highlighted in specific cases, for example, the case of Jewish Lithuanian Shemshihu Spivak, who in 1995 explained his experiences of the lootings. He explains that he came home one day to find all of his possessions taken. The culprits of the crime were his co-worker Jurgis and his friends, with whom he used to let borrow his jackets and shoes when they went dancing together.[86] Although this testimony shows no evidence of killings, this betrayal shows that some natives were willing to persecute Jews for their own economic gain. Had Spivack attempted to defend his property, it is probable that he would have been subjected to a violent attack or faced execution. This is based on the fact that many native partisans carried both melee and ranged weapons during these lootings.[87]

Another example is from Jewish Latvian Sasha Semenoff, who in 2015 explained that his father and all his family’s belongings were taken during the lootings. When discussing the perpetrators of these crimes, his statement provides some insight into their motivations:

‘There are always people, you can in every nation find such collaborators who are easy for money, got a lot of drunks… goods which they could take and buy gold and diamonds… They came the same morning to my home, took the gold, the watch, some money or something. Took the radios, the bicycles, everything’.[88]

This statement would suggest that greed was a prime motivator for perpetrators who had little in terms of wealth. It shows that these perpetrators did not care about the welfare of the Jews if it meant that they could steal objects of economic value. The fact that his father was taken away and killed suggests that killing was an integral part of these lootings, or at the very least, was a consequence of this greed.

Overall, all of these testimonies explain similar situations; that the lootings that occurred were wide spread and regularly had fatal consequences. This evidence would suggest that the natives were unafraid and willing to take violent action against the Jews in order to obtain what they wanted. Again, this greed will probably have been harboured by those of a poorer background, and the younger men and students who were identified as the main perpetrators in numerous sources.[89]

Although a few of the earlier pogroms were similarly systematic, during the latter months of 1941, the vast majority were more carried out in this manner.[90] With this change in nature also came a slight change in the economic incentives that perhaps partially motivated them. In addition to stealing Jewish property, explicit rewards for participating in pogroms were now sometimes offered. In terms of property, the main items that were taken during these pogroms were the clothing and handheld personal items of the Jews that were to be executed. While only twenty-six of the surveyed pogroms explicitly state that Jews had their clothing confiscated, it is likely that this occurred at a far greater number of pogroms.[91] Similarly, only twelve pogroms show that valuables such as gold, including watches and teeth, other jewellery, and money were confiscated from Jews before they were executed.[92] The real number of pogroms in which this occurred is likely to be considerably higher due to there being ample testimony that would suggest this. For example, in 2010, native Lithuanian bystander Aleksandras Icikavičius explained what he experienced at the pogrom in Skuodas. He states that, ‘they took away my watch, and they took away the rubles that I had there. In short, they took away everything’.[93] Luckily for the witness he was soon identified by a German officer as a local and did not face execution.

A similar situation is described by another bystander, Algimantas Gureckas, who also stated in 2010 that the natives at the pogrom in Panevėžys rummaged through the clothes of the disrobed Jews, in which they found and stole valuables including gold. He adds that he even heard one of the executioners explaining that they were not to do this, and that these valuables were meant to be given to the Germans. In their response to the executioner’s explanation, the natives supposedly shot this man and buried him alongside the Jews who had been executed.[94] The witness backs up his statement by explaining that a year after the pogroms, the mother of the murdered executioner sent a letter to the local German authorities, of which the witness states he saw, that asked them if she would be allowed to dig up her son and rebury him in a proper cemetery. If these statements are true, then this example is both interesting, as well as helpful in showing the importance of greed in this pogrom. Firstly, it again shows that some natives were willing to kill in order to benefit economically. Secondly, it suggests that the feeling of fidelity towards their fellow countryman was far less important than the feeling of greed. However, yet again it important to stress that this example is simply representative of one pogrom, as no other records were found which show this willingness to kill a fellow native for economic gain. Given the extreme nature of this pogrom, it is highly unlikely that this occurred at many others. Nevertheless, this case is exemplary in showing the destructive power of men when motivated by greed.

The other incentive present during the pogroms was the opportunity of receiving rewards for directly executing Jews. Upon surveying the pogroms, five explicitly show that perpetrators were rewarded with either alcohol or money.[95] For example, at the pogroms at Velniaduobė Forest near Rokiškis and in Pakruojis, those who participated in the shooting received 150 and 100 rubles respectively.[96] According to the same source, during the executions at Lygumai, Mažeikiai and Zarasai, alcohol including beer or vodka was rewarded to those who executed Jews during these pogroms. In his testimony from 2008, Viktoras Ašmenkas, a Lithuanian bystander to the pogrom in Eisiskes, stated that all of the items confiscated from the Jews before the shooting, ‘were distributed to those who shot’.[97] An example from Latvia is shown by Bernhard Press, who explains that there were presents and honours for participating in the pogroms.[98] He references a Latvian Catholic emigrant newspaper, Dzimtenes Balss (Voice of the Homeland), as the source of his explanation.

During these pogroms, it would appear the rewards offered to those who volunteered to shoot were an important incentive for some perpetrators. There are two groups of people which have been identified who likely found the rewards of wealth and honours most appealing. Firstly, those men who are from a poorer background, who probably wanted to achieve greater wealth and saw shooting as a way of achieving this. Secondly, it is likely that careerists saw volunteering to shoot as an opportunity to achieve their goal of earning promotion, which would increase both their salary and their level of power.


With regards to this study, the feeling of power can be defined as a want of control over a singular person or group of people. As mentioned, the motivation of careerism stems from both this feeling as well as from a feeling of greed. Similar to the motivations of duty and peer pressure, it was difficult to find testimonies that show the importance of careerism in motivating perpetrators. This was due in part to a distinct lack of perpetrators testimonies. That being said, one was found that potentially shows some insight on the importance of this motivation. It comes from Lithuanian native Dangoule Gabis, who in 2015 explained that her father became the ‘Policijos viršininkas (chief of police)’ in the town in which they lived, Švenčionys.[99] When talking about him she states:

‘I know that he was a vain man. I don’t think he was a mean man, or a cruel man… I think he could have easily fallen into a place where he will do things to promote himself. Now, how far he will go with that… he went pretty far. Just about as far as you can go… his job did involve sending out orders to round up Jews. It did involve making sure they were brought to certain places’.[100]

This quote shows that although Gabis’ father did not personally execute Jews; he was content in being directly involved in the mass execution of Jews. It states that this contentment was felt due to the fact that he could be promoted as a result of participating in these pogroms. When the witness states that she did not believe that it was out of cruelty that her father participated, she suggests that revenge, sadism and similar other factors were not influential in motivating his participation.

Coming to a conclusion with the use of just one piece of evidence is likely to be both inaccurate and generalised. However, from the information shown, I would argue that there are a couple of points that can be made. These relate to who this motivation may have affected, with the first being that it was only those who were employed in the police battalions that were affected by this motivation. Secondly, of those in the battalions, those who had genuine careers in the organisations were more likely to be motivated by careerism than those who had recently volunteered. Overall, given that this would have been a considerably smaller number of policemen, I would be inclined to conclude that careerism was unimportant for the vast majority of native perpetrators.


Unlike careerism, there is an abundance of testimony that describes the sadistic acts that were inflicted on Jews by the native Lithuanian and Latvian perpetrators of the pogroms. Due to their brutality, a substantial number of Jews ultimately died as a consequence of the injuries that they sustained from these acts. Unlike the majority of the executions that typically involved a firing squad, these killings were far more personal, and suggest that inciting pain for pleasure was an important motivator.

In 2005, Jewish Latvian George Schwab gave testimony that explained the torture that his father experienced when he was arrested in Liepaja ten days after the German invasion.[101] He explains that his father’s death was sadistic anti-Semitism, that those who had arrested him had ‘knocked out’ his eye before deciding to shoot him in the head.[102] Similarly, the previously referenced account of Jewish Latvian Julius Drabkin described some of the medieval style torture that a Rabbi from Tukums experienced. He explained that after this Rabbi escaped Tukums, he was recognised by the authorities in Riga, ‘and they brought him… and they, how you say, in four parts they make him’.[103]

The aforementioned Jewish Lithuanian Samuel Sherron explains some of the torture that occurred in Skuodas in June 1941. Together with SS men, the Lithuanians cut the beards of rabbis, torched the hair of Jews, beat and whipped them, trampled on sacred books, and tortured those who attempted to pick up the money that was thrown at the Jews to torment them. After explaining these crimes, the witness asks the interviewer whether she can ‘imagine their sadistic minds?’.[104]

The evidence shown in these three testimonies would suggest that sadism was a powerful motivator during the pogroms. The barbaric physical torture as well as the psychological torture that a number of perpetrators forced Jewish men, women and children to endure, would suggest one main motivator. It can be assumed that these sickening acts could only be carried out by virulent anti-Semites who took pleasure in perpetrating this violence. However, like all evidence is the accuracy of these sources should be taken into account when coming to such a conclusion. Given the nature of Samuel Sherron’s statement which describes an event that he personally witnessed, I would argue that there is no real reason to assume it is not credible. With regards to Julius Drabkin’s account, I would suggest that there is possibility that it could be slightly exaggerated, especially when considering that the witness did not actually witness the event, but only heard about it through word of mouth. While George Schwab also heard about the fate of his father from another person, the closeness of himself to the victim, and that it came from a close source to the witness, there would again appear to be no reason to heavily question its authenticity.

A final account which shows is from Lithuanian native Pranas Jurkus. In 2012, described similar torture that he witnessed in his home town of Kretinge. The witness explains that he saw sixteen Jews being publicly humiliated and tortured after local residents were invited to watch them. These Jews were beaten with sticks for half an hour until they became unconscious. Those Jews who were conscious were ordered to revive those who were not. If they could not be revived they died, if they could be revived, they were beaten further until they died. He finishes by explaining that one Jew, who was half beaten to death, was thrown into a well, dying from the fall.[105] Interestingly, the witness insists that no native Lithuanians were involved in these killings, only German SS men. If this was the case, then this example could not be used as evidence in understanding the motivations of natives.

However, I would suggest there are a few points that should be considered before wholeheartedly agreeing with the witness’ statement.  The first is that it should be pointed out that a ‘hundred people’ accepted the invite of the Germans to witness this torturing.[106] While a majority of these spectators could have been passive in these crimes, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that no local tried to participate in these killings. Secondly, it is unlikely that if any locals did participate that the witness would wish divulge this information as it could be seen as a betrayal to those potential perpetrators and even his country. Finally, given that torture like this occurred in other areas of the country, for example in Jurbarkas where natives smashed the heads of children against trees to save ammunition, it would not be entirely surprising if some natives from this area acted in a similar manner. [107]

Fear of Reprisals

Fear is the fifth and final emotion that potentially influenced some natives to participate in the pogroms. As already stated, there are two motivations that stemmed from this emotion; a fear of reprisals and a fear of the different. In terms of a fear of reprisals, the intent of this study was to find testimony that showed evidence of native perpetrators either being punished for refusing to kill, or showed signs that they were fearful of potential reprisals.

As has been the case in other studies on this topic, no evidence could be found that explicitly showed participants being physically punished for refusing to execute Jews during the pogroms. It would appear that Bernhard Press was right when stating that while some natives received rewards for executing Jews, there are no recorded cases in which they were punished for refusing to do so.[108] In terms of testimonial evidence, one account was found which agrees with this statement. In 2013, Lithuanian native Cesare Ugianskis explained that his father, who was a commander of a prison in Vilnius in the summer of 1941, went unpunished for refusing to participate in the execution of Jews.[109]

However, although there is a lack of evidence which shows explicit punishments, this does not necessarily negate the potential influence that fear or reprisals had on some perpetrators of the pogroms. I would argue that there are two reasons that can justify this statement. The first is the argument that just because no punishment was enacted does not necessarily mean that there was not a fear of punishment. For example, if a fear of reprisals was instilled in a group that was strong enough to prevent anyone in said group from refusing to kill, then no punishment would ever be required to be enacted. Given that there were few instances in which native volunteers who refused to kill, this explanation could certainly be a possibility for a large number of groups of perpetrators.

The second reason, which is also helpful in justifying the first, is that there is evidence which can potentially explain why some native perpetrators of the pogroms would have held a fear of reprisals. One reprisal that they may have feared is the stigma and persecution that they may have received by showing sympathy for the Jews. After all, in July 1941 alone, the Latvian right-wing newspaper Tevija printed four articles heavily criticising anyone who held such sympathies.[110] They branded these people as ‘Jew lovers’ and ‘traitors’. In a similar fashion, Latvian radio stations called out those ‘merciful Latvians’ for helping Jews evade execution. Unfortunately for the brave few who did help the Jews, and for any of those who at least wanted to, it was not safe to be labelled as a Jewish sympathiser. In this war time situation, the importance of an individual’s public image increased as the consequences for opposing the majority could be fatal. While hiding a Jewish person in your home is obviously different to refusing to kill a Jewish person, I would still argue that some natives would not have wanted to refuse this order as they would have feared being stigmatised as a Jewish sympathiser by their comrades.

Two testimonies have also been found that potentially supplement this line of argument. The first was taken from Jewish Lithuanian emigrant Ralph Codikow in 1990. In this account, the witness describes that during the Soviet occupation, his father had helped the wife and family of a high ranking Lithuanian army official after he had been deported in June 1940. Months later, after the initial pogroms in which his father was arrested, the witness states that he and his mother saw the same women with her husband, and that they quickly came out of a house they were visiting to speak to them about having the witness’s father released. He states that they ‘acted like they did not even know us’, that his mother begged them to see if they’ll do something about releasing his father, and that ‘needless to say, nothing happened’. [111]

Two observations can be made about this statement. Firstly, the fact that the couple initially pretended to not to know the witness and his mother would suggest that the couple did not want to be seen or associated with Jews. Secondly, when they asked for help, the couple refused to provide any, despite the fact that the witness’ family had provided help only a few months before. Of course, it could be argued that they chose not to provide help because they simply did not want to help the family. However, I would suggest that it is more likely that they did wish to help the witness’ family as they had helped them, but did not do so out of fear. Perhaps selfishly, it would appear they put their own wellbeing ahead of the witness’ family’s, as they feared the reprisals that would have resulted from helping them.

The second testimony shows a similar example of disassociation, except this case involved a Latvian native. In 2005, Jewish Latvian George Schwab explained the fate that befell his cousin in the summer of 1941. He stated that prior to the pogroms his cousin had recently married a native Latvian woman, and that this woman was pregnant with their child. He added further that he soon learnt that she had another lover, and that soon after the Germans invaded in June 1941, she reported her husband to the Germans which ultimately resulted in him being shot shortly after.[112] Again, what can be seen from this example is that this woman did not want to be associated to her husband, so much so that she reported him before anyone else had the opportunity to. While this could have been for a number of reasons, I would argue that the brutal and hurried nature of this betrayal would suggest that she acted out of fear. Similar to the last example, the woman would appear to have made a choice between her own and her child’s wellbeing, or her husband’s. After all, the repercussions for being part of a Jewish family probably would have been fatal.

Overall, while all of these situations are different to the ones faced by the native perpetrators of the pogroms, I would argue that there is sufficient reason to compare them. Given the stigma that was placed on those who had sympathy for the Jewish population, and the potential punishment that faced those who either were associated to or helped Jewish people, it is possible that potential executioners in the pogroms would not have expected to be treated differently. Although it would appear that this fear did not motivate the majority of executioners, i.e. those who had witnessed no reprisals for those who refused to shoot and those who simply wanted to execute Jews for other reasons, it is entirely plausible that for some executioners the thought of pulling the trigger on their Jewish neighbours was less frightening than the thought of affecting their own wellbeing in this terrifying environment. After all, as stated in the account from Algimantas Gureckas, ‘people are most dangerous, and most cruel when they are very afraid…. terrified people are dangerous people, because they are irrational’.[113]

Fear of the Different

When referring to a fear of the different, this study is looking at the prejudice harboured by natives Lithuanians and Latvians against Jews that potentially made them fearful of their Jewish neighbours. It is important to remember that this study is not using this fear as a justification for the actions of native Lithuanian and Latvian perpetrators, which were of course both inexcusable and unjustifiable, but rather to see if it can offer some explanation as to why these men acted in the manner that they did. It is also important to stress that highlighting certain cultural differences is by no means an appropriation of blame for what happened.

There are five testimonies which potentially offer some information that could supplement an argument that a fear of Jewish culture affected some perpetrators’ actions. The first is from Jewish Lithuanian Enrique Don, who was asked in 1994 whether the Jewish people of Lithuania mixed with the native Lithuanians or whether they had their own community. His response was that they had their own community, which was completely Hebrew and Yiddish.[114] As explained earlier by Abraham Resnick, Jews and natives would tended to only mix in professional settings.[115] Jewish Latvian Fanny Lebovits from Liepaja explained in 1992 that when growing up, Jewish children typically only interacted within these communities. She explains that she went to a Jewish school, and that the first time she interacted with a non-Jewish person was when she attended university.[116] Jewish Latvian Fred Wildauer described a similar situation while growing up in Riga, explaining that he went to a German school, not a Latvian one. He adds further that it was typical for Jewish children to attend either a German or Russian school.[117] In 2010, native Lithuanian Aleksandras Icikavičius gave his opinion explaining that Jewish people looked different in their appearance, for example their clothing, when compared to native Lithuanians.[118] In terms of secondary literature, Dov Levin’s work highlights an interesting point. He explains that in the pre-war Baltic states, there were some eruptions of outrage among students and the urban populations against the peculiar behaviours of their Jewish colleagues.[119]

From this information, it would appear that native Lithuanian and Latvian culture was significantly different to Jewish culture, and that perhaps it is possible that these differences created some fear among both sides. However, it is only really the last example from Dov Levin that gives any sort of indication that this fear affected relations between the sides. While the rest may show that fear could have stemmed from these distinct differences, there appears to be an obvious lack of evidence that allows a genuine link to be established. Therefore, it would have to be concluded that this fear of the different was not an overwhelming factor for the vast majority of perpetrators in the pogroms.


While not a motivation in itself, the effect of alcoholic inebriation in the pogroms is one that appears somewhat overlooked in the secondary literature discussing them. While some historians mention this consumption, for example Konrad Kwiet, Richard Plavnieks and Yitzak Arad, none appear to properly analyse its potential effect on the outcomes of the pogroms.[120] In total, twelve examples were found which offer information that potentially show the effect of inebriation in during the pogroms; five of these come from witness testimony and five from the information collected from the surveyed pogroms. While there were a number more which mentioned alcohol, these are only accounts which show alcoholic consumption before or during the pogroms, not those which show that alcohol was consumed after the pogroms or that which show it was received as an award for participating in them.

Perhaps interestingly, all five of the examples from the surveyed pogroms come from Lithuania. In fact, only one out of the five testimonies speak about the Latvian case. However, given the general lack of evidence on the Latvian pogroms as a whole, it would be inaccurate to immediately conclude that inebriation was less influential on the basis that there is less evidence. As shall be seen in the one Latvian testimony, it is entirely plausible that similar acts occurred elsewhere in Latvia.

Moving back to the surveyed pogroms, there are five examples which offer some interesting points for analysing the Lithuanian case. Before the killings started at Kaunas’ Forth Fort, commander Zigmas Arlauskas gave perpetrators vodka.[121] Similarly, before being driven off to instigate the pogroms at Jonava, commanders gave the policemen vodka to drink.[122] Before the shootings at Pajuostė Forest near Panevėžs, each killer was apparently given two hundred millilitres of vodka.[123] Prior to the shootings at Tūbinės Forest, executioners were also given vodka.[124] Finally, at one of the pogroms in Tauragė, the German commanders handed out vodka to the Lithuanian auxiliary policemen prior to the executions.[125]

From the information shown in these five examples, two observations can be made. The first is that it would appear that it was not phenomenal for alcohol to be present and consumed at killing sites. The second is that it would appear that this alcohol was primarily given to the shooters by their commanders. Before making any conclusive statements are made, it is perhaps more fitting to see what observations can be made about the witness testimonies.

The first account which mentions inebriation is from Jewish Lithuanian William Good. In 1997, he described his experience of one of the pogroms that occurred at Ponary Forest near Vilnius. His statement describes a typical execution, where Jews were driven to a well-guarded killing site and then ordered off the truck is small numbers. They were then ordered in these groups to slowly walk towards the edge of a mass grave before a firing squad opened fire on them. In this instance, he explains that the ratio was one shooter to one victim, and that the shooters were all inebriated during this pogrom.[126] He explains that as he got close to the edge of the grave he fell at the same time as his shooter shot, meaning that he lay in the grave untouched by the bullet. He adds that the shooter was so drunk that he did not question whether or not he missed the witness, which led to the witness lying in the pit until the shootings were over and the guards were gone before escaping the site. This example is unique as it is the only one in which inebriation appears to have hindered the killing capacity of perpetrators.

The second account is from Jewish Lithuanian Piotr Sawlewicz. In 1998, the witness described the pogrom he witnessed in Wilanow, Poland on the 23rd of September 1941. While this pogrom did not take place in Lithuania, he states that it was Lithuanians who acted as perpetrators. Considering that this study is looking at Lithuanian perpetrators of pogroms, and that this pogroms is within the same time frame of this study, I believe it is perfectly reasonable to analyse this account. The witness explains that these Lithuanians killed 707 Jews were during this pogrom, and comments that ‘they were all drunk’ while it was occurring.[127]

Jewish Lithuanian Samuel Sherron’s account is the third which identifies the drunken behaviour of perpetrators. He describes a similar situation to William Good, that on the 18th September, Jews were loaded on to trucks and driven six kilometres out of the town of Skuodas to nearby local forest. He explains that the Germans and Lithuanians ‘were drunk, they were already drunk’ before they machine gunned every Jewish women and child, before burying them in a mass grave.[128]

Distinct to this example when compared to the others is the fact that this pogrom involved the killing of women and children. What is particularly interesting about this account is that by the time these women and children arrived at the killing site, the witness claims that the perpetrators were already drunk. Considering the effects that alcohol has when consumed, for example reducing inhibition, I would suggest that the perpetrators consumed this alcohol prior to shooting unarmed women and children so that they were more able to go through with the killings. In the aftermath of the pogroms, this consumption alcohol would also potentially allow them to justify their own actions, and partially alleviate any guilt that they may have felt.

This suggestion is perhaps supplemented by the fourth witness account taken from Lithuanian native Aleksandras Icikavičius. In 2010, when asked if those who committed the pogrom against the Jewish men in Skuodas in late July or early August were drunk, the witness replied, ‘No! it was the morning; they were not drunk’.[129] Now, while it is unknown whether the executioners in this pogrom were the same as those who participated in the pogrom in September, it is still interesting that during the execution of the men no alcohol was consumed, but during the execution of the women and children it was consumed.

If the suggestion that these men consumed alcohol to alleviate guilt is plausible, then this would suggest that in terms of motivations, the motivations of sadism, revenge and greed were likely to have been less influential. In terms of justifying why sadism was unlikely to have been an influential motivator, we would expect that when inflicting pain for pleasure, a perpetrator would want to increase inhibition rather than reduce it. Similarly, we would expect that when taking revenge, a perpetrator would not feel the need to reduce their inhibition or alleviate guilt. The fact that this pogrom took place in mid-September, nearly three months after the first pogroms, and after tens of thousands of Jews had been killed, perhaps makes it more unlikely that revenge was still being harboured by perpetrators. In terms of greed, it is difficult to understand what a perpetrator would have to gain from killing women and children, except for perhaps the personals items of which they may have been hiding. However, despite these considerations, I would argue that this example would suggest that motivations such as duty, nationalism and careerism were more influential. It would appear that there was no zealous lust to kill these women and children, and that these perpetrators were participating out of a feeling of fidelity to either their fellow perpetrators, countrymen or country.

The fifth witness testimony was taken in 1990 from Jewish Latvian Steven Springfield. Unlike the previous example, the witness describes drunk native Latvians perpetrating sadistic acts. He explains that soon after the German invasion, they began killing and beating Jews in the most brutal and barbaric ways. He explains one situation where a Latvian policeman grabbed a baby from a Jewish woman, ‘held it by the legs and put a bullet through the head, and when the mother started pleading with him and crying, her shot the mother on the spot’.[130] Perhaps contradictory to the line of argument suggested for the previous testimony, this horrifying example shows this drunk policeman perpetrating a sadistic crime. However, it is interesting that example again involves a woman and child, which posits the question of whether this policeman would have been so brutal had he not been inebriated. What is also interesting is the fact that this crime, and the others touched up, took place in the first few weeks of the invasion where feelings of anger and revenge were most likely heightened. Therefore, this example would perhaps suggest almost the opposite to the example prior, in that it appears that revenge and sadism motivated this crime. Yet it would perhaps also show again that the perpetrator being inebriated was a necessary prerequisite for these feelings to be acted upon.




As has been shown throughout this study, establishing accurate conclusions on the importance of specific motivations is extremely difficult. Factors such as source availability and source reliability are just two of many that make this task particularly complicated. It is of no surprise then that the task of attempting to draw accurate conclusions on this study as a whole is similarly complex. However, despite these numerous complexities, I believe that there are both accurate conclusions that can be made on certain aspects of this study, as well as suggestive conclusions which I believe are both probable and plausible.

In terms of outright conclusions, one which should be drawn is with regards to the use of eyewitness testimony as historical sources. Throughout this study, these accounts have been the main sources of information, with numerous being employed for almost every motivation discussed. Overall, I would have to conclude that their inclusion has been overwhelmingly positive, and this is for three main reasons. The first is that these accounts have provided new information which shows the importance of certain motivators. For example, these testimonies have provided new evidence showing the horrifying sadism harboured by some perpetrators. These testimonies agree with the argument posited by Alfredas Rukšenas which argues the importance of sadism for the Kaunas police battalions. However, they also show that this sadism was present in a number of other areas of Lithuania and Latvia, and this have allowed us to refine our current understanding of its importance in motivating some perpetrators of the pogroms. Another example is the testimony that shows the willingness of some to kill their own countrymen for wealth. As far as I am aware, no other work has yet to show a similar type of situation, and so this original evidence is extremely interesting. It certainly encourages us to agree with Rūta Vanagaitė’s argument that emphasises the importance of economic incentives in motivating perpetrators of the pogroms.

The second reason is that these accounts have offered a new perspective that would not have been achievable through official indirect witness accounts. These witnesses are some of the few surviving people to have either directly interacted with perpetrators of the pogroms or witnessed the acts they have committed. The unique perspective that they offer has proved quite valuable in terms of providing historical evidence. For example, this is shown for the testimonies which discuss inebriation. Official sources tended not to record the consumption of alcohol by perpetrators, and when also you also consider that almost no perpetrator testimony exists that discusses this consumption, these testimonies are shown to be some of the only primary sources which can help explain its influence in the pogroms.

From their original insight comes the final reason, which is that these testimonies have forced myself, and historians after reading them, to ask important new questions. Questions such as those which ask the possibility and probability of the situations that they describe. For example, if a testimony shows that the perpetrators at pogrom A were primarily driven by the explicit rewards offered to them for shooting, then this testimony makes us as the question of whether this was possible or probable at pogroms B, C and D. While these questions provide no evidence for certain arguments, they at least stimulate more research to be undertaken, as well as discussion to be held.

Of course, for all there are these positives, there are still limitations which have become apparent when using these sources. While I have utilised sources which I believe are predominantly reliable, this belief being based on the fact that they passed the tests which suggest they are reliable, and so it is easy to understand why some are still cautious to use them as historical sources. During this study, there was not a substantial amount of material to cross analyse these testimonies with, which means our understanding of some situations is based entirely on these individual accounts. Considering that these accounts are often taken over half a century after the pogroms, we can expect parts of them to be misremembered, and so with limited materials to cross check them with, it is difficult to be certain that everything they explain is historically accurate.

While it is obvious that no perpetrators were the same, this does not make it impossible to draw accurate conclusions on what predominantly drove certain types of perpetrators. The similarities found for each of the aforementioned four groups have allowed for probable and plausible conclusions to be made on what motivations most likely drove each of these four groups of perpetrators. This has been achieved by utilising the evidence that has been employed throughout this study. It should be stated that all of the motivations and inebriation would have likely affected at least some members of each group, but those that shall be subsequently suggested for each group are simply those which the evidence of this study would suggest were the most influential.

Firstly, when assessing the importance of certain motivations for young perpetrators and students, there appear to be a few which are more influential than others. According to the evidence found, the revenge and anger associated with anti-Semitic propaganda was likely to be one of the dominant motivators. Those in their late teens and early twenties would to have been exposed to anti-Semitic propaganda from a young age, and will have grown up under the somewhat anti-Semitic governments of Ulmanis in Latvia and Smetona in Lithuania. Given the fragility of young minds, there is a case for an argument that these young boys were more susceptible to becoming indoctrinated by this propaganda that had been spreading across Europe during the 1930s. Seeing their respective countries crumble under Soviet rule, and seeing Jews as an appropriate target to vent their anger, it is plausible to assume it was this anger was a major factor for many young men.

Similarly, these young men will have spent their whole lives in either of these proudly independent nations. Seeing their home country lose its independence, and the subsequently seeing the potential opportunity to restore it, it is possible that nationalistic sentiment was just as powerful a motivator as the aforementioned anger. While likely less powerful than revenge and nationalism, I would suggest that young men were the most likely to be influenced by fear of both the different and of reprisals. This is due to the facts that they were less likely to have grown up alongside their Jewish neighbours, and were more likely to have feared punishment from their superiors. However, even though they were most likely to be affected by this fear, I would still insist that based on the evidence of this study, these fears were not strong motivations for the vast majority of young men.

The influence of some of these young men being inebriated should not be underestimated either. In fact, I believe that the evidence would suggest that this should be the case for every group. While groups of young men can commit terrible crimes when sober, it is made all the easier when intoxicated by alcohol. The reduction of their inhibitions, the increase in aggression, and the alleviation of guilt that all came as consequences of this consumption, allowed members from each group of perpetrators to unhesitatingly kill Jewish men, women and children.[131] Although inebriation has previously been asserted as an influential factor by some historians, for example Kwiet and Arad, this study has proven its importance as a catalyst during the Lithuanian and Latvian pogroms.

The second group are the career policemen. As may have been expected, this study only found evidence to support the argument that these men were highly driven by careerism. While only one testimony could be found that discusses this motivation, this account is an excellent example of the willingness of some perpetrators to sacrifice Jewish lives in an attempt to earn promotion. I do not believe there is any evidence to suggest why this could not be the case for other higher ranking natives who wished to rise the ranks of the police battalions. The evidence would also suggest that with this lust for power also came a feeling of greed. If these men were willing to kill for promotion, which in itself meant a higher wage, it also would not be unreasonable to assume that they may have also likely been driven by economic incentives. Rewards of money and property, but especially the potential honours that were bestowed on those who shot would have probably incentivised these men to volunteer to kill.

For the unemployed, there are two factors which appear most influential. Similar to the young men, the first is the anger that was harboured during the Soviet occupation and the subsequent lust for revenge that stemmed from this anger. As already mentioned, during the occupation, these men will have likely either been made unemployed by the occupying power, or will have been unable to find work under its regime. When the opportunity arose for them to vent their anger, they took said opportunity, but instead of attacking their genuine oppressor, they unjustly turned on their Jewish neighbours. This was, in my opinion, due in large part to the Judeo-Bolshevik propaganda that was widely spread during this period. The second primary motivation was likely to have been greed. The unemployed were the poorest group of perpetrators having either lost their income or never having one. When the opportunity arose to either pillage Jewish homes for financial gain, or join a battalion and earn a wage, these unemployed men, whether they believed it was justified or not, took these opportunities. For those unemployed men who were ex-military, nationalism was also likely to have been a particularly powerful motivation. The testimonies utilised throughout the section on nationalism show the belief that some of this group harboured: that supporting the Germans and participating in the pogroms was the Lithuanian and Latvian natives best chance of achieving some sort of restoration of national autonomy. As has been shown, the Nazi authorities made a substantial effort to convince natives Lithuanians and Latvians that they should be seen as their liberators and as the defenders of Europeans civilisation.

For the final group, the rural populations, we can again see a mixture of the same prominent motivations. There is an evident anger towards the Jews who they believed had helped the Soviets collectivise their Lithuanian and Latvian farms during the 1940-41 occupation. Nationalistic sentiments will have likely been tied into this, as these populations will have wished to restore the system that they had fought for in the early 1920s. Finally, having seen their enterprise taken away, it is likely that they also saw the pogroms as a way to gain economically, by taking back their land as well as stealing the land of their soon to be deceased Jewish neighbours.

As highlighted in the introduction, Matthew Kott praised the work of Katrin Reichelt for her brilliant explanations of how the Holocaust occurred. However, he also criticised her for her lack of analysis of certain motivating factors when attempting to answer why the pogroms occurred in the manners that they did. Perhaps this study’s greatest strength as that it has successfully provided revised and refined answers for these questions. It has done so by identifying all of the main motivations, grouping perpetrators effectively, and by utilising original witness testimony. To give a fair example of this success, the research and analysis undertaken for this study have helped to revise our understanding of why so many Lithuanians and Latvians believed that the Jews were to blame for Soviet crimes.[132]




[1] Directive No. 21 Operation Barbarossa (18 December 1940).

[2] A. Plakans, Experiencing Totalitarianism: The Invasion and Occupation of Latvia by the USSR and Nazi Germany 1939-1991 (Bloomington, IN, 2007), 88.

[3] J. Rubenstein & I. Altman (eds), The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories (Bloomington, IN, 2010), 277.

[4] C. Dieckmann & S. Sužiedėlis (eds), The Persecution and Mass Murder of Lithuanian Jews during Summer and Fall of 1941 (Vilnius, 2006), 177.

[5] Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. ‘pogrom’, (accessed, 23 April 2020).

[6] S. Stasiulis, ‘The Holocaust in Lithuania: The Key Characteristics of Its History, and the Key Issues in Historiography and Cultural Memory’, East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, 34, 1 (2020), 261–279.

[7] C. R. Browning, Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killer (Cambridge, 2000), 143.

[8] S. Stasiulis, ‘The Holocaust in Lithuania’, 270.

[9] Ibid, 273.

[10] R. Vanagaitė, Mūsiškiai (Vilnius, 2016), 66.

[11] Ibid, 34.

[12] J. Hiden, ‘Deutsche Besatzungspolitik in Litauen, 1941-1944, by Christoph Dieckmann’, The English Historical Review, 128, 533 (2013), 1017-1019, at 1019.

[13] D. Bērzinš, ‘Holocaust Historiography in Latvia: The Road Toward Research Infrastructure’, Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust, 31, 3 (2017), 276-284.

[14] D. Levin, ‘On the Relations Between the Baltic Peoples and Their Jewish Neighbours Before, During and After World War II’, Holocaust Genocide Studies, 5, 1 (1990), 53-66.

[15] K. Reichelt, Lettland unter deutscher Besatzung 1941–1944. Der lettische Anteil am Holocaust (Berlin, 2011).

[16] Bērzinš, ‘Holocaust Historiography in Latvia’, 282.

[17] M. Kott, ‘Lettland unter deutscher Besatzung 1941–1944: Der lettische Anteil am Holocaust, Katrin Reichelt (Berlin: Metropol, 2011), 428 pp., paperback, €24.00’, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 27, 1 (2013), 142-145.

[18] Bērzinš, ‘Holocaust Historiography in Latvia’, 283.

[19] Z. Waxman, ‘Transcending History? Methodological Problems in Holocaust Testimony’ in D. Stone (ed.) The Holocaust and Holocaust Methodology (New York, 2012), 143-157.

[20] C. R. Browning, Collected Memories, Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony (Wisconsin, 2003).

[21] L. S. Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians (Cambridge, 1981), 177.

[22] For example, P. Morrall, ‘Murder and Society: Why Commit Murder?’, Criminal Justice Matters, 66, 1 (2006), 36-37.

[23] Browning, German Killers, 14.

[24] Waxman, ‘Transcending History’, 145.

[25] Browning, Collected Memories, 11-12.

[26] Ibid, 39.

[27] K. Kwiet, ‘Rehearsing for Murder: The Beginning of the Final Solution in Lithuania in June 1941’, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 12, l (1998), 3-26, at 3.

[28] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1999.A.0122.27, RG Number: RG-50.477.0027, Oral history interview with Julius Drabkin, 9 April 1992,, at min 50 (accessed on 17 May 2020).

[29] Plakans, Experiencing Totalitarianism, 58.

[30] P. Buttar, Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II (Oxford, 2013), 39.

[31] Ibid, 47.

[32] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2012.49.1, RG Number: RG-50.030.0657, Oral history interview with Pranas Jurkus, 30 April 2012, Transcript,, at 104-106 (accessed 27 May 2020).

[33]  United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2015.477.1, RG Number: RG-50.030.0856, Oral history interview with Danguole Gabis, 10 December 2015, Transcript,, at 65-69 (accessed 31 May 2020).

[34] Ibid, 75.

[35] Buttar, Between Giants, 47.

[36] R. Misiunas & R. Taagepera (eds) The Baltic States, Years of Dependence 1940-1991 (London, 1993), 42.

[37] P. Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe, Kindle Edition (London, 2018), 2415/6788.

[38] Ibid, 93/6788.

[39] A. Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia 1941-1944: The Missing Center (Riga, 1996), 210.

[40] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2008.276, RG Number: RG-50.030.0527, Oral history interview with Ada Ustjanauskas, 17 November 2008,, at min 17 (accessed 25 May 2020).

[41] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2010.351, RG Number: RG-50.030.0608, Oral history interview with Algimantas Gureckas, 14 October 2010, Transcript,, at 98 (accessed 21 May 2020).

[42] Buttar, Between Giants, 39.

[43] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1999.A.0122.417, RG Number: RG-50.477.0417, Oral history interview with Leya Koltun, 22 August 2001,, at min 17 (accessed 23 May 2020).

[44] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, RG Number: RG-50.030.0451, Oral history interview with Edward Anders, 28 February 1997,, at min 20 (accessed 23 May 2020).

[45] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1992.A.0126.57, RG Number: RG-50.156.0057, Oral history interview with Fred Wildauer, 10 November 1982, Transcript,, at 10 (accessed 14 May 2020).

[46] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2013.53.1, RG Number: RG-50.030.0686, Oral history interview with Cesare Ugianskis, 18 February 2013, Transcript,, at 35 (accessed 29 May 2020)

[47] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Ada Ustjaunaskas, at min 24 (accessed 25 May 2020).

[48] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 22 April 2020).

[49] R. Ferber & K. Barkane, Holocaust Memorial Places in Latvia, (accessed 20 April 2020).

[50] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Algimantas Gureckas, at 149 (accessed 21 May 2020).

[51] A. Angrick & P. Klein (eds), The “Final Solution” in Riga: Exploitation and Annihilation, 1941-1944 (Oxford, 2012), 75.

[52] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Pranas Jurkus, at 106 (accessed 27 May 2020).

[53] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2018.303.1, RG Number: RG-50.030.0977, Oral history interview with Jonas Mekas, 29 June 2018, Transcript,, at 96 (accessed 28 May 2020).

[54] Buttar, Between Giants, 16.

[55] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Jonas Mekas, at 54 (accessed 28 May 2020).

[56] Plakans, Experiencing Totalitarianism, 89.

[57] D. Levin, ‘On the Relations Between the Baltic Peoples and Their Jewish Neighbours Before, During and After World War II’, Holocaust Genocide Studies, 5, 1 (1990), 53-66, at 59.

[58] Plakans, Experiencing Totalitarianism, 89.

[59] ‘From the minutes of a conference at the German State Chancellery, led by Adolf Hitler and dealing with plans for the occupied Eastern provinces (16 July 1941)’, Plakans, Experiencing Totalitarianism, 94.

[60] ‘Directive of the Riga Commandant, Colonel Petersen, concerning the banning of uniforms of Latvia’s Army and Home Guards (11 July 1941)’, ibid, 96.

[61] ‘From the instruction of the Riga Commandant about surrendering weapons, ammunition, and other war materiel, and the banning of wearing armbands with Latvian national colours’, ibid, 96.

[62] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Algimantas Gureckas, at 157 (accessed 21 May 2020).

[63] D. J. Smith, ‘Baltic Eugenics: Bio-Politics, Race and Nation in

Interwar Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 1918 –1940’, Journal of Baltic Studies, 45, 3 (2014), 428-430, at 429.

[64] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1998.A.0221.95, RG Number: RG-50.473.0095, Oral history interview with Aleksandras Bendinskas 7 September 2004, Transcript,, at 17 (accessed 20 May 2020).

[65] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1998.A.0221.240, RG Number: RG-50.473.0240, Oral history interview with Aleksandras Icikavičius, 28 March 2010, Transcript,, at 6 (accessed 3 June 2020).

[66] Ibid, 7.

[67] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1990.416.1, RG Number: RG-50.030.0055, Oral history interview with Ralph Codikow, 29 June 1990, Transcript,, at 3 (accessed 15 May 2020).

[68] Ibid, 4.

[69] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1997.A.0441.68, RG Number: RG-50.462.0068, Oral history interview with Samuel Sherron, 11 December 1983, Transcript,, at 9 (accessed 10 June 2020).

[70] Ibid, 9.

[71] Browning, German Killers, 150-157.

[72] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of Jews at Seda, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 10 May 2020).

[73] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of Jewish Men from Tryskiai, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 10 May 2020).

[74] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of the Jews from Babtai and Vandžiogala, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 14 May 2020).

[75] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of the Jews from Petrašiūnai, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 15 May 2020).

[76] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of the Jews at Tūbinės Forest, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 23 May 2020).

[77] Browning, German Killers, 157.

[78] Š. Liekis, ‘The Holocaust in the Soviet Union’, Journal of Baltic Studies, 41, 4 (2010), 560-562, at 562.

[79] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1992.A.0129.3, RG Number: RG-50.029.0003, Oral history interview with Blanche Lubecki Juris, 21 February 1994, Transcript,, at 2 (accessed 11 June 2020).

[80] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1999.A.0039, RG Number: RG-50.549.02.0031, Oral History interview with Sol Lurie, 30 November 1998,, at min 10 (accessed 20 June 2020).

[81] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, RG Number: RG-50.030.0292, Oral history interview with Abraham Resnick, 22 September 1994,, at min 7 (accessed 4 July 2020).

[82] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2005.86, RG Number: RG-50.030.0493, Oral history interview with George Schwab, 18 March 2005, Transcript,, at 47 (accessed 15 June 2020).

[83] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Aleksandras Bendinskas, at 8 (accessed 20 May 2020)

[84] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1990.370., RG Number: RG-50.030.0220, Oral history interview with Steven Springfield, 30 March 1990, Transcript,, at 3 (accessed 30 June 2020).

[85] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2000.132, Notes from the Valley of Death” Memories written in the Shavli Ghetto (Lithuania) In the years 1942, 1943, 1944, 1 September 2019, Transcript,, at 42 (accessed 26 July 2020).

[86] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1995.A.1272.152, RG Number: RG-50.120.0152, Oral History interview with Shemshihu Spivack, February 1995,, at min 14 (accessed 26 May 2020).

[87] For example, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2003.456.29, RG Number: RG-50.568.0029, Oral history interview with Vladimir Izvestnyi, 1 March 2004, Transcript,, at 1 (accessed 6 July 2020).

[88] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2015.250.15, RG Number: RG-50.882.0015, Oral history interview with Sasha Semenoff, 2015,, at min 68 (accessed 24 June 2020).

[89] Angrick & Klein, “Final Solution”, 67. M. Kaufmann, Churbn Lettland, The Destruction of the Jews in Latvia (Konstanz, 2010), 39. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1998.A.0221.44, RG Number: RG-50.473.0044, Oral history interview with Juozas Abramavičius, 24 September 1998, Transcript,, at 27 (accessed 7 June 2020).

[90] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1998.A.0221.104, RG Number: RG-50.473.0104, Oral history with Vytautas Petkevičius, 11 September 2004, Transcript,, at 4 (accessed 9 July 2020).

[91] See Figure 1.

[92] See Figure 2.

[93] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Aleksandras Icikavičius, at 8 (accessed 3 June 2020).

[94] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Algimantas Gureckas, at 182 (accessed 21 May 2020).

[95] See Figure 3.

[96] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, The Mass Murder of the Jews of Rokiškis and Surrounding Areas at Velniaduobė Forest, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 21 May 2020). N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of the Jews at Pakruojis, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 21 May 2020).

[97] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1998.A.0221.214, RG Number: RG-50.473.0214, Oral history interview with Viktoras Ašmenskas, 7 May 2008, Transcript,, at 6 (accessed 8 July 2020).

[98] Press, B., The Murder of Jews in Latvia 1941-1945 (Evanston, IL, 2000), 57.


[99] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Dangoule Gabis, at 81 (accessed 31 May 2020).

[100] Ibid, 105.

[101] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with George Schwab, at 35 (accessed 15 June 2020).

[102] Ibid, 37.

[103] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Julius Drabkin, at min 74 (accessed 17 May 2020).

[104] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Samuel Sherron, at 8 (accessed 10 June 2020).

[105] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Pranas Jurkus, at 112-114 (accessed 27 May 2020).

[106] Ibid, 113.

[107] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of the Jews at Jurbarkas, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 18 May 2020).

[108] Press, Murder of Jews, 57.

[109] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Cesare Ugianskis, at 28 (accessed 29 May 2020).

[110] Angrick & Klein, “Final Solution”, 77.

[111] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Ralph Codikow, at 5 (accessed 15 May 2020).

[112] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with George Schwab, at 35 (accessed 15 June 2020).

[113] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Algimantas Gureckas, at 145 (accessed 21 May 2020).

[114] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, RG Number: RG-50.030.0291, Oral history interview with Enrique Don, 26 September 1994, Transcript,, at 3 (accessed 20 June 2020).

[115] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Abraham Resnick, at min 7 (accessed 4 July 2020).

[116] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, RG Number: RG-50.233.0068, Oral history interview with Fanny Lebovits, 1992, Transcript,, at 6 (accessed 29 June 2020).

[117] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Fred Wildauer, at 3 (accessed 14 May 2020).

[118] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Aleksandras Icikavičius, at 9 (accessed 3 June 2020).

[119] Levin, ‘Relations Between the Baltic Peoples’, 59.

[120] R. Plavnieks, Nazi Collaborators on Trial during the Cold War: Viktors Arājs and the Latvian Auxiliary Security Police (Cham, 2018), 39. Y. Arad, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Lincoln, NE, 2009), 135-136. Kwiet, ‘Rehearsing for Murder’, 20.

[121] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Kaunas IV Fort, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 14 May 2020).

[122] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of Jews at Jonava, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 17 May 2020).

[123] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of the Jews from Panevėžys and Surrounding Areas at Pajuostė Forest, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 17 May 2020).

[124] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, Mass Murder of the Jews at Tūbinės Forest, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 23 May 2020).

[125] N. Latvyte-Gustaitiene, The Third Mass Execution of the Jews at Tauragė, The Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania, (accessed 20 May 2020).

[126] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 2005.604.5, RG Number: RG-50.641.0016, Oral history interview with William Good, 1997,, at min 4 (accessed 16 June 2020).

[127] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Accession Number: 1998.A.0221.52, RG Number: RG-50.473.0052, Oral history interview with Piotr Sawlewicz, 15 August 2000, Transcript,, at 3 (accessed 11 June 2020).

[128] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Samuel Sherron, at 11 (accessed 10 June 2020).

[129] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Aleksandras Icikavičius, at 13 (accessed 3 June 2020).

[130] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Steven Springfield, at 5 (accessed 30 June 2020).

[131] R. N. Parker & K. J. McCaffree (eds) Alcohol and Violence: The Nature of the Relationship and the Promise of Prevention (Plymouth, 2013), 85-99.

[132] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral History interview with Ada Ustjanauskas, at min 17 (accessed 25 May 2020). United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Oral history interview with Algimantas Gureckas, at 98 (accessed 21 May 2020).

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