Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) recently declassified documents relating to the murder of “tens of thousands of Jews in the Baltic States” during the Holocaust, according to an article in the RIA Novosti government newspaper.
The archival documents, declassified and released as part of the project “No Statute of Limitations,” shows the participation of Baltic nationals in pogroms and the killing of Jews prior to and during the arrival of the Nazis to the Baltic states in 1941.
“With the entry of German troops into the territory of Lithuania, the hatred of Lithuanians for the Jews led to effective pogroms,” the FSB report read.
The report details the work of special teams created by Lithuanians for the purpose of “cleansing Jews of both sexes” from the entire territory of Lithuania “systematically, county by county.”
"As a result of many individual operations, a total of 136,421 people were liquidated," the document says.
The report claims that the Nazis recruited Baltic nationalists to do the “dirty work," and claimed that hatred of Jews in Lithuania “reached such a scale that even the Nazis were amazed at the cruelty of their local accomplices.”
The report noted that by the end of November 1941, Estonian “Self Defense” units had killed 2,000 Jews, even before the official establishment of Nazi SS military units, made up of Estonians.
According to the FSB report, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian SS groups also participated in actions against Jews, including an October 1942 massacre of Jews in Minsk and an anti-partisan operation on the border of Latvia and Belarus in February and March of 1943.
However, the report allegedly conflicts with other historical sources, especially regarding the number of Estonian Jews.
The World Jewish Congress estimates that roughly 1,000 Estonian Jews were killed by Estonian forces who were working with the Nazis. In addition, they claim that some 3,000 Jews were able to escape Estonia before the Nazis finally took over the country.
On the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Memorial website, “The Murder of the Jews of the Baltic States,” the number of Jews who were killed in Estonia is not specified but notes that approximately 4,550 Jews lived there before the Nazi invasion.
Lithuania has recently improved ties with Israel. However, like Poland, Lithuania appears to be avoiding the past rather than confronting it.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė recently visited Tel Aviv, where she praised Israel’s defense industry, calling it “the best antidote against Iranian weapons.”
While she acknowledged that the Holocaust reached her country, Šimonytė denied Lithuanian participation in its activities and, instead, attempted to describe the Holocaust as something that brought suffering to all Lithuanians.
She referred to the Holocaust merely as “an indescribable trauma upon Lithuania, leaving lasting scars that persist even to this day.”
Using the broadest definition of a Jew, no Baltic nation has recovered its Jewish population to the same level as it was prior to the Holocaust.
However, the rise of nationalism in the Baltic states in response to the Russian threat has also brought with it an increase in anti-Semitism. The release of these declassified documents by the FSB demonstrates the importance of preserving the history of the Holocaust and stands as a warning regarding the often fragile status of the Jews in times of conflict.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.