An einsatzgruppen commander reports on action in Lithuania (1941)

In October 1941 Dr Franz Stahlecker, an Einsatzgruppen commander assigned to the Baltic region, reported on methods taken against the Jewish population in Lithuania:

“In order to fulfil the tasks of the security police, it was necessary for us to enter the large cities together with the attacking forces… A small forward group at whose head I stood myself, entered Kovno on June 25th 1941.

The first action was to capture communist activists and communist material… In the first hours after the entry of the forces we also persuaded, not without considerable difficulties, local anti-Semitic elements to start pogroms against Jews.

In accordance with orders, the security police was determined to solve the Jewish question by every means and with determination. But it was preferable that in the first instance at least, the security police should not openly appear in this action, because the methods employed were extraordinarily harsh, and might have caused reactions even in German circles. It was desirable, outwardly, to show that the first steps were made by the local population on its own initiative, as a natural reaction to their subjugation at the hands of the Jews for decades…

The commander of the partisans, Klimatas, who was specially recruited for this action, succeeded in organizing a pogrom in accordance with instructions he was given by our forward detachment which was activated in Kovno, without it appearing outwardly that instruction or encouragement had been given by the Germans.

In the course of the first night of the pogrom, between June 25 and 26, the Lithuanian partisans liquidated 1,500 Jews, many synagogues were burned or were destroyed and a Jewish quarter with about 60 houses was burned. During the following night, 2,300 Jews were killed in a similar way.”