Jews and Communism in Lithuania (1918 to June 1941)

Karl Radl
Semitic Controversies
August 20, 2013


Back in June I had a query from a lady of Lithuanian descent who was finding it difficult to get information about the relationship between the jews and the (tragic) history of her country of origin. This article on the relationship between jews and Communism in Lithuania is part of my belated response to her inquiry.

It is well-known that jews were significantly over represented among the leaders and activists of the Russian Social Democratic Party that went on to split into two elements whose names are better known: Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks; under their part-jewish leader Lenin, were; as I am sure most of my readers know, victorious in the power struggle that derived from the February Revolution of 1917 and ended with the more famous October Revolution that same year.

What is less well-known is that jews were also significantly over-represented in parties set up in an attempt to imitate the Bolshevik success; or official Communist Parties as they came to be referred to, across both Europe and North America. Notable examples of heavily jewish communist parties; well out of proportion to the size of the local jewish population, were the CPUSA (USA and Canada [for a time]), CPP (Poland), PCF (France), CPN (Netherlands), CPB (Belgium), CPM (Hungary), CPR (Romania) etc.

What is usually ignored when we look at this over-representation are the smaller countries that bordered the; then emergent, Soviet Union and how deeply jews were involved in communism in those countries. One such smaller state bordering the emergent Soviet Union was Lithuania and in many respects it affords a textbook example of the scale of jewish involvement in Communism as well as its governance and terror apparatuses.

It is well then to point out that Lithuania only declared independence (under German sponsorship) from the Russian Empire in 1918 and as such was in a fragile condition throughout its early years. For our purposes however it is enough to realise that this was a chaotic period of transition as well as a time of great hope and aspiration for the people of Lithuania. That hope was to be dashed in mid-1940 by Joseph Stalin when he had the Red Army invade and annex Lithuania without prior provocation or even much real reason.

Going back to late 1918 then: the Soviet Union had become semi-established under Lenin and the heavily jewish Bolshevik party. As part of what was believed to be the long awaited proletarian revolution: two of Lenin’s principal officials; Adolph Joffe and Dmitry Manuilsky, sought to destroy the nascent Lithuanian state by organizing a Soviet takeover. This they sought to achieve by masterminding the creation of a new Lithuanian government (the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) in mid-December and the orchestrating the resulting Soviet invasion in late December 1918.

Had it not been for bravery and steadfast fanaticism of Lithuanian and German anti-Communist volunteer army units then the advance of the Red Army might not have been successfully checked, but checked it was and eventually the Soviet Union was driven back with its tail between its legs.

Now of those two agents one; Joffe, was a jew, which is interesting in and of itself but when we look at the ‘government’ he formed it gets even more interesting. Out of the 8 members of the provisional revolutionary government 2 were jews. These were Semyon Dimanstein and Yitzhak Weinstein of the remaining political players one was a Pole (Kazimierz Cichowski) and another was long-time associate of jewish Bund activists (Zigmas Aleksa-Angarietis). The latter was also a fairly important Marxist thinker in his own right.

This means that jews played a key role in attempting to snuff out out an emergent independent Lithuania as 1 of the 2 principle architects of the policy was jewish and 2 of the 8 members of the Politburo of Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic were jewish. If we discount the key background players; Joffe and Manuilsky, then that leaves us with a quarter of the Politburo being jewish, which in turn is clearly in massive disproportion to the minority jewish population in Lithuania at the time (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania between them only had 265,000 jews by 1940 for example). (1)

This jewish-lead (it is worth remembering that Lenin had approved the invasion and that Trotsky was the Commissar for War supervising the invasion at the time) attempt to take over Lithuania did not however decrease jewish power inside the communist party of Lithuania. By the end of 1939 there were 1,120 members of the Lithuanian Communist Party (LCP) who were not in prison: some 60 percent of these were Lithuanians (670 individuals), while 31 percent of them were jews (346 individuals). The remaining 9 percent were a motley collection of German, Polish and Russian communists. (2)

This is clearly a huge number with approximately a third of all non-imprisoned members of Lithuanian Communist Party in 1939 being jews. When we turn to the imprisoned members of the party then the figure becomes even more alarming with 287 individuals imprisoned of which 145 were jewish. (3) This translates into the alarming statistic that 51 percent of imprisoned members of the Lithuanian Communist Party were jewish.

When we add these figures up it we come to the figure of the Lithuanian Communist Party having 1407 members in 1939 and of these members 491 of them were jews. This translates to 35 percent of the members of the Lithuanian Communist Party members being jewish in 1939.

What Truska does not mention however is that a further 516 communist jews emigrated from Lithuania to the jewish autonomous region in Birobidzhan between 1931 and 1936. (4)

If we factor in these 516 jews who left Lithuania for Birobidzhan at the behest of Stalin’s emissaries then we get 1923 de facto members of the Lithuanian Communist Party and of them some 1007 were jews. That translates to some 52 percent of the de facto members of the Lithuanian Communist Party being jewish.

Things get even worse in terms of over-representation when we turn to the amount of jews in the the young wing of the Lithuanian Communist Party at this same point in time: out of some 263 active members only 81 were Lithuanians and 165 were jews. (5) This effectively inverts the ratio of Lithuanians to jews found in the main party with only 31 percent of the members of the Lithuanian Lenin’s Communist Youth Union actually being Lithuanian and 63 percent of them being jews.

This means that there were double the number of jews than there were Lithuanians in the Lithuanian Communist Party’s young wing!

Further among the MOPR (International Red Aid [i.e. a communist version of the Red Cross that supported imprisoned communist activists as well as their families]) activists in Lithuania in 1939 (MOPR had begun to be wound up in late 1938 due its considerable open involvement in the Spanish Civil War and Stalin’s foreign policy considerations) out of a total to 234: only 90 were Lithuanians, while 141 were jews. (6)

This translated into a percentage means that of the MOPR activists in Lithuania: only 38 percent with actually Lithuanians, while 60 percent were jews.

When we consider this we can see that the Lithuanian Communist Party was more or less completely dominated by jews well out of proportion to their representation in the Lithuanian population. This is all the more surprising when we consider that the majority of jews were small business owners in Lithuania when a statistical survey was undertaken in 1937. (7) This was even later confirmed during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania from mid-1940 to mid-1941when the Soviet government started progressively cleansing the Lithuanian Communist Party of many of its jewish members because they had been capitalists for most of their waking life (while just being communists at night and in their leisure time) before the invasion! (8)

It is worth noting however that a large number of those that Truska labels as ‘Russian civil servants’ were actually themselves jewish: not jews from Lithuania, but rather from the Soviet Union proper. (9)

Predictably the jews of Lithuania viewed the Soviet invasion and occupation of Lithuania in the summer of 1940 positively although there were naturally some dissenters particularly among the official; as well as the religious, jewish organizations. (10) Interestingly jews were not heavily involved in the ‘People’s Committee’ that declared Lithuania a Soviet Republic on July 21st 1941 with only 4 of its 78 members being jews. (11) Of the delegation that left to bring Stalin the official news of his latest conquest only a single jew was included in the 20 members of said delegation. (12)

That said in that summer of 1940 in the powerful Politburo of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party out of 13 members some 4 were jews. (13) This translated into a percentage is some 31 percent of the highest governing institution in Soviet-occupied Lithuania and is a close parallel of the jewish domination of the Lithuanian Communist Party at the end of 1939. By February 1941 however the Stalinist purges of former jewish capitalists and those suspected of ideological deviations had removed a significant element of the jewish members of the Politburo of the Lithuanian Communist Party with only a single jew out of 11 members in total. (14)

It should remembered that Stalin was at this time very conscious of the sheer number of jews in leadership positions of the official Communist parties as well as the Soviet government (15) and part of Stalin’s broader policy of minimization (as well as positive discrimination against non-local or non-Russian Communists) in relation to the over-representation of non-Russian nationalities in the Soviet government. (16) This was in order to prevent the antagonism of subject populations such as the Lithuanians (the Ukrainians are another similar example) as even with the Soviet terror apparatus beginning its bloody harvest: the Lithuanian Communist Party put as a few jewish communists into the public view as possible because of violent popular anti-jewish feeling. (17)

As part of this policy the intake of a large number of Lithuanian Communist party representatives and members helped to dilute the figures sufficiently for there to be only 593 jewish full and provisional members of the Lithuanian Communist Party organization out of a total of 4,703 individuals (of which only 2,184 or 46.4 percent were Lithuanian) in June 1941. (18) This is expressed as a percentage is 12.6 percent of the Lithuanian Communist Party, which is still a significant and hugely disproportionate over-representation of jews in the party, but it is significantly lower than it had been in the year before the Soviet occupation.

In the Lithuania’s second city; Kaunas, however the proportion of the jews was much higher with some 25.9 of all members of the Lithuanian Communist Party members being jewish in comparison to 21.7 percent being Lithuanian. (19) This is indicative that while the jews had now become a much smaller demographic component of the Lithuanian Communist Party: they still wielded a level of influence that was close to that which they had enjoyed before the Soviet occupation.

This can be shown by pointing out that of the 25 directors and deputy directors of departments within Soviet-occupied Lithuania: 7 were jews (5 from Lithuania and 2 from Russia). (20) Thus the amount of leading jewish figures in the bureaucracy; who after all were more powerful in many respects than members of the Lithuanian Communist Party’s Politburo, stands at 28 percent, which is once again roughly equal the amount of considerable over-representation of jews in the Lithuanian Communist Party at the end of 1939.

This compares unfavourably to the extraordinary lack of representation of jews among the official Lithuanian Communist Party bosses, (21) but this; contrary to Truska’s interpretation, does not mean that the jews were not powerful in the Lithuanian Communist Party, but rather that Stalin was enforcing his policy of making Communism seem less overtly jewish so as to not antagonize subject populations such as the Lithuanians.

The point is very simple: the official wheels of power in Lithuania were decidedly Lithuanian. This area of government received few of the thousands of Soviet apparatchiks that were exported to man the new bureaucracy, but it is incorrect to believe; as Truska tries to imply, that power rested with these Lithuanian puppets, but rather with the high-ranking Soviet (or otherwise) bureaucrats and officials behind the scenes who carried out the reign of terror that Stalin was about to inflict on Lithuania. (22) This also concords with what we know about Stalin’s distrust of the personnel of other Communist Parties who were prone to not be in full accord with him ideologically and thus worthy; in Stalin’s eyes, of mistrust bordering on paranoia. (23)

This jewish operational control is shown by the fact that jews dominated Soviet-occupied Lithuania’s media with Leiba Sausas being deputy director of the Telegram Agency (ELTA), Emanuelis Ciranskis being deputy chairman of the Radio Committee, Genrikas Zimanas being deputy editor of the Lithuanian Communist Party’s Central Committee’s official organ (‘Tiesa’) and Eugenijus Vicas being the deputy editor of the new communist Russian language daily newspaper ‘Truzenik’. (24)

Further the Soviet censorship bureau in Lithuania; Glavlite, was run by three jews: Bencionas Borisas Gurvicius, Abelis Sinjoras and Libe Korbaite, while out of its 32 employees charged with political censorship of the media: some 9 were jewish. (25) This is a representation of jews among the official political censors of Lithuania of some 28 percent, which again directly parallels the level of jewish over-representation and domination of the Lithuanian Communist Party at the end of 1939.

When we move onto those who directly involved in the Soviet terror apparatus in Lithuania; which was responsible for some 20,000 deportations and many more deaths, it gets even more frightening as the new director of the State Security Department; Antanas Snieckus (later Communist dictator of Lithuania for nearly three decades and who incidentally was himself possibly jewish and certainly associated closely with jews in Lithuania), (26) established a 12 man headquarters for the wave of Soviet terror that was about to sweep Lithuania.

Of those 12 individuals some 6 of them were jewish, (27) which is; of course, fifty percent and in massive disproportion to the size of the jewish population in Lithuania although it is in keeping with Soviet terror mechanisms. (28)

In relation to the staff that this headquarters employed it is perhaps not a surprise to learn that out of 254 members of the Snieckus’ State Security Department some 44 were (Lithuanian) jews, (29) which is nearly 20 percent of the total number of staff. This is once again well out of proportion to the size of Lithuania’s jewish population and while the proportion of Lithuania jews in the terror apparatus dwindled to some 10 percent of the total from August 1940 to June 1941; which Truska makes much of, (30) this is once again largely because Stalin had begun importing large numbers of his own officers: many of whom we have good reason for suspecting were jewish such as those described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in ‘Gulag Archipelago’ (31) and reasonably represented by rising jewish NKVD/NKGB/SMERSH star Solomon Milshtein who was extremely active nearby in 1940 (being responsible for among other things the infamous Katyn Massacre). (32)

This then means that all that Truska has demonstrated is that Lithuanian jews were not as over-represented in the Soviet terror apparatus as time went on, but what he has not proven; or even considered, is that a large part of the incoming Soviet terror apparatus was jewish and that when you combine the Lithuanian and Soviet jewish contribution to the wave of deportations and killings that Soviet occupation brought to Lithuania: it makes the jews stand out as an oddity in relation to the sheer scale of their involvement and also their status as a minority population both within Lithuania and the Soviet Union proper.

Further it is clear; when take the above into consideration, that the real government; i.e. its bureaucracy, of Lithuania during the Soviet occupation of mid-1940 to mid-1941 was significantly and disproportionately jewish. As well as that the Lithuanian Communist Party before the invasion was similarly governed; and also in this case staffed, by a large and very significantly disproportate number of jews.

Thus we can see that jews bear a great deal of historical responsibility for the crimes of the Soviet Union against the Lithuanian people from mid-1940 to 1941.

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