The Situation of Lithuanian Jews during the First Soviet Occupation in 1940–1941 Cover Image

Žydai Lietuvoje pirmosios sovietinės okupacijos metais (1940–1941 m.)
The Situation of Lithuanian Jews during the First Soviet Occupation in 1940–1941

Author(s): Linas Tatarūnas
Subject(s): History
Published by: Lietuvos edukologijos universitetas
Keywords: Jews; Zionism; occupation; the Soviet Union; soviet.

Summary/Abstract: On the eve of the Second World War and the first Soviet occupation, the Soviet-Communist ideology, supported by the official Soviet propaganda, the underground Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP) and the articles in the Jewish press supporting the Soviet system, influenced the Jews of Vilnius region and of Lithuania. Therefore, when the Soviet Army occupied Vilnius in the second half of September in 1939, many Jewish periodicals of Vilnius district sang praises of the Soviet Union. On the whole, socialist and international ideas became popular among the Jewish youth and intelligentsia in 1939-1940 due to a relatively high status of the Communists and the underground activities of the LCP. The Soviet Union ultimatum of June 14, 1940 as well as the following military seizure of power did not evoke notable dissatisfaction from Lithuanian Jews on the account of the increasing threat from Germany where attacks against Jews became a constant phenomenon; similar attitudes were shared by the German national-socialistic organizations in Klaipėda region. Consequently, some part of Lithuania’s Jews believed that the Soviet occupation was a more positive outcome than Vermacht’s. In addition, it should be mentioned that only few public figures, who belonged to certain Zionistic or religious layers, displayed loyalty to the occupied Lithuania. The majority of Lithuania’s Jews did not consider the loss of Lithuania’s sovereignty as a fatal historical event and did not painfully regret it, in contrast to Lithuanians. When the first Soviet occupation began, the Jews, who symphasized with the ideas of socialist international and who were imprisoned for their illegal underground activities during the interwar period, received some recognition from the ruling authorities. They were incorporated into the newly established by the Soviet state administrative and other organizations and became important personalities. Therefore, part of the Jewish youth as well as those previously active in the Communist underground did not miss a possibility to participate in the reorganization of Lithuania’s state system. However, soon the reforms adopted by the Soviets in 1940–1941 (for some of the actions against the Jewish community were responsible pro-Soviet Jewish activists) diminished the enthusiasm of the Jewish community to support the Soviet regime. During the first years of the Soviet occupation some expectations of the Lithuanian Jews were realized; some of them, for example, got more possibilities to participate in the country’s social or cultural life, became involved in some administrative activities etc. On the other hand, they, as the other citizens of the country, experienced some compulsory measures, and this evoked bitter disappointment over the Soviet system and reality. ..

  • Issue Year: 73/2009
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 37-50
  • Page Count: 14
  • Language: Lithuanian