Įvadas - Istorijos tikslas
Ar Jonas Noreika atsakė už žydų išžudymą Telšių apskrityje, 1941 m., kaip vyriausias jų rengėjas? Ar jisai tiesiog pritarė visų žydų išžudymui ir žudynes palaikė siekdamas valdžios?
Our primary focus is on Noreika's role in the district of Telšiai and the city of Plunge. The hard evidence is:
There is also some evidence that could become hard.
So the existing evidence is enough to affirm indisputably that Noreika encouraged crimes against humanity, that he championed the Holocaust.
Many questions for the Genocide Center relate on how to make sense of the circumstances and interpret him accordingly.
Speaking with Evaldas, and having gone through thousands of pages of documents and interrogations, what is striking is his lack of visibility. We can put the question to the Center as follows: A) Was Noreika a master mind who wanted the Holocaust to happen and got the blessing of the SD to be the local king who inspired it? B) Was Noreika a careerist who fancied himself a President of Lithuania and made all kinds of connections with Kaunas and Prussia but actually was a lightweight who was never was truly relevant locally? In support of this view is that his conspiratorial activity in 1946 seems, I think, pointless and childish.
What's very notable and almost strange is that we find so little evidence of Noreika's activity. One problem is that the Plunge archives seem to be completely missing. Whereas the Telsiai district chief and Telsiai mayor archives have hundreds of documents that tell hundreds of down to earth stories.
Another notable and strange fact is that Telšiai and Plungė have practically no German presence of note. In a sense, Lithuanians were free to do what they wanted. And they did the Holocaust. Jager of the SS does not take credit for these killings. And they seem out of range of the killings that the SD and the Tilžė gestapo led along the border with Prussia.
By coincidence, Lithuania's only true Nazi, Pranas Germantas-Meškauskas, was from Plungė. And he was the only one with permission from the Germans to organize a Lithuanian National Socialist Party. So by that logic the permit to bear arms can be attributed to him. And furthermore we have Olsvang's letter where he states that he knew Meškauskas from high school and that Meškauskas wanted to murder all of Lithuania's Jews. And Meškauskas was a protege of the SD which was active here. So we can suppose that Meškauskas got authority to be responsible for the Holocaust in Telšiai and Plungė. And Noreika then would be the person who performed that role. That seems quite possible but we don't have the evidence, for example, that Noreika and Germantas-Meškauskas knew each other. It's one of many things that the Genocide Center should be looking for in German archives.
I am personally convinced that Noreika wrote the lead editorial for that issue 5 of Žemaičių žemė which explains his thinking - that the number one problem from the start was the Jewish role in Lithuania's economy - a theme that he expounded in his anti-semitic book that he wrote some eight years earlier. Regardless, it's fair to say that we have hard evidence that he WANTED the Holocaust to happen, just based on that newspaper and his relations with the organizers.
What we have abundant evidence for is that the entire Lithuanian leadership in Plungė and Telšiai was united and variously supportive of the Holocaust, each in their own way. Among them we can include Pakalniškis himself. Germantas became the Councillor of Education for Lithuania, and he had Pakalniškis develop Plungė, for example, by starting a trade and industry school. Well, Pakalniškis hired Alimas to be the physical education teacher. And Pakalniškis would play cards - Preferans - with the local prelate Pukys (of mixed reputation), the engineer Pabedinskas, and the doctor Ivinskis (brother of the famous historian Zenonas Ivinskis). Well, doctor Vladas Ivinskis was a friend of the torturer Pabrėža and they both ended up in Australia and it seems that Ivinskis was also part of the murdering or at least closely related. Olsvang and Zenonas Ivinskis were friends and I have their correspondence. Olsvang asked Zenonas's help to figure out how law enforcement could get Pabreza in Australia, and Zenonas was very supportive that Lithuanians condemn the villains and disassociate themselves. But ultimately Zenonas explained that it was all so mixed up and he saw there was no way to do that. So this is one confirmation of the great unity among the Lithuanians.
But another point is that Pakalniškis knew Alimas and Vladas Ivinskis and wrote about them but never mentioned their crimes. He mentions the crimes of Noreika (an outsider) and Pabrėža (who everybody conceded as a monster). Also, Pakalniškis writes at least four accounts. When he came to Plunge, the Jews were already in the synagogue. So why did he join the military command? When the shooting started, he quit. He also helped save a Communist. But Evaldas has uncovered an interrogation from which it becomes clear that the narrative which Pakalniškis gives of the two Jewish boys starting a fire - what became the pretext for the killings - was actually not true, the fire was not their fault, but they were killed for it. And Evaldas also points out that there is no physical way that 1,800 Jews could be killed AND buried in twelve hours. Logically, the pits must have been dug ahead of time. So that part of Pakalniškis's story doesn't hang together. Also, Pakalniškis himself writes about how he had, during the Soviet occupation, come to conclude that it would be best to rid Lithuania of Jews. So part of the query will include Pakalniškis himself as part of this united Lithuanian atrocity. Also, then it makes sense why he focuses on the outsider Noreika. Understandably, Pakalniškis is offended that Noreika is idolized by the priest Yla, who was with him in Stuthoff.
As I wrote, lacking more evidence, we end up seeing two narratives for Noreika A) as the key person, trusted by the SD, who organized the Telšiai Holocaust B) as a person with great political ambitions for himself who could talk a good talk but who actually was a lightweight and never truly relevant, especially with all of the positions being filled, and him being an outsider.
Not knowing more, it seems to be both. But my idea is to formulate the questions so that they can explain if it is A or B or if they can suggest C...
A) We know for certain that Noreika was leader of LAF for all of Telsiai district, that he was thus responsible for the LAF Telsiai newspaper Zemaiciu Zeme, with circulation in the thousands, and that he was so at a time when the newspaper was vigorously urging ethnic cleansing. Furthermore, this happened AFTER the genocide had already taken place in Plunge. And he lived in Plunge at the time. And he knew the chief perpetrator Alimas in preparing for the rebellion, and after the mass murder included him in a delegation publicly sanctioned in Telšiai, and went with him to Kaunas. A huge amount of details, especially his contacts with Germans before the war, makes a very strong case that he 1) personally wanted the genocide of Jews, 2) was the person sanctioned by the Nazis to accomplish that, 3) united the entire local Lithuanian community in the process, and 4) inspired the most nefarious LIthuanian leaders in Kaunas (the LNP) that such genocide was indeed possible throughout Lithuania. He thus was one of a few rare Lithuanians (Pyragius, Reivytis, Schweizer) who personally sought the mass murder of ALL Lithuania's Jews, including children and the elderly.
B) Noreika's tenure as chief of Siauliai district meant that he had an active role in war crimes against Soviet prisoners-of-war. Many of these prisoners were exterminated and others were used as slaves on farms throughout the region. So this is a very hands-on war crime for which there are many hundreds of pages of evidence, involves a huge number of Lithuanian farmers, and a quick look shows that his role was quite relevant. We also have an editorial on the front page of the LNP Šiauliai newspaper specifically chastising Lithuanians for giving bread or sympathy to these war prisoners, and I have to double check, but Noreika may be held responsible for that newspaper. Also, Noreika was an officer and a lawyer and so knew very well how prisoners of war should be treated. Furthermore, he chose to take on this job knowing full well the Nazi's intentions of genocide and also he knew from the start of the war from the Germans in Klaipeda that they wouldn't grant Lithuania independence. So logically why didn't he organized partizans in the forest to fight the Nazis as the Jewish partisans did? So this is the angle from which I would unfold his misdeeds in Siauliai, including also the ghetto in Zagare, etc. He was thus an active, knowing and willing participant of the Nazi war crime apparatus.
C) Noreika totally betrayed the people of Telsiai, LAF (which he represented), the Provisional Government and the state of Lithuania, when having received the greetings and moral support he was supposed to deliver in Kaunas, went instead to the headquarters of the LNP to offer his services to fold LAF into LNP. This was right after the LNP had organized a coup against the Provisional Government and had replaced Bobelis. He insisted on being included as one of three people to select the new staff. And the next day, when this all fell through, he immediately took up an appointment by Interior Minister Šlepetys (who the LNP had seized) which was made for the purpose of getting Noreika out of Kaunas, as Blynas himself notes. Rereading that part, I see that the "Kabinetas" which decided to place him there was actually the LNP leadership, and that Šlepetys signed after agreeing to work with the LNP rather than against it. Noreika was thus a charismatic opportunist who betrayed his own people.
D) Šiauliuose, kodėl nedelsė geto kūrimo Žagarėse? Kodėl nemini Noreikos?
E) Netikimas būti pogrindžio veiklos vadu - savęs pervertinimas ir kitų žmonių pastatymas į pavojų.
F) His personal character as manifested by accounts that he took over a wealth Jewish family's home in Plunge and then trucked the furniture to Siauliai. The evidence is building that the accounts are plausible and quite possibly true. Noreika had his share of personal greed.
G) A final point is to note that quite a few of the Stuthof hostages had committed crimes against humanity, including Germantas, Puodžius, Bauba, Mackonis. And to clarify why specifically the Germans had held him and others hostage. Noreika was not a hero.
H) Genocido centro tyrimo ydingumas
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Chief Curator of the Polin Museum in Warsaw posted the following comment on her Facebook page. I think this language is interesting and could be incorporated into our letter in some way:
Read and weep over what is becoming of Poland, then take solace in the role of POLIN Museum and its principled director, Dariusz Stola, who models what reasoned and reasonable debate should be – respectful, critical, open, informed, and free of political pressure. History is an honorable profession or should be, especially in such troubled times, if it is not instrumentalized and weaponized in the service of historical policy. Bottom line: what is the better way to defend the good name of Poland? Revisionist history, propaganda, a public relations campaign, a catastrophic experiment in image management? Or, the maturity to face not only the best but also the worst of the country's past – and to earn the trust of its citizens and the world?