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June Uprising in Lithuania

Lithuanian activists in Kaunas on June 25, 1941

The June Uprising (Lithuanian: birželio sukilimas) was a brief period in the history of Lithuania between the first Soviet and National Socialist occupations in June 1941. Approximately one year earlier, on June 15, 1940, the Red Army invaded Lithuania and the unpopular[1] Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic was soon established. Political repression and terror were used to silence its critics and suppress any resistance. When Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, a diverse segment of the Lithuanian population rose up against the Soviet regime, declared renewed independence, and formed the short-lived Provisional Government. Two of the major Lithuanian cities, Kaunas and Vilnius, fell into the hands of the rebels before the arrival of the Wehrmacht. Within a week, the German Army took control of the whole of Lithuania. The Lithuanians greeted the Germans as liberators from the repressive Soviet rule and hoped that the Germans would re-establish their independence or at least allow some degree of autonomy (similar to the Slovak Republic). No such support came from the Nazis, who steadily replaced Lithuanian institutions with their own administration. The Reichskommissariat Ostland was established at the end of July 1941. Deprived of any real power, the Provisional Government self-disbanded on August 5.


  • Background and preparations 1
  • June Revolt 2
    • German advances and Soviet retreat 2.1
    • Lithuanian revolt 2.2
      • In Kaunas 2.2.1
      • In Vilnius 2.2.2
      • Elsewhere and summary 2.2.3
  • Independence and Provisional Government 3
  • Aftermath and controversies 4
  • References 5

Background and preparations

In 1918, in the aftermath of the [41] Prapuolenis announced the members of the Provisional Government and also asked the people to guard public and private property, the workers to organize protection of factories, public institutions, and other important objects, and policemen to patrol their territories preserving the general public order. The message was repeated several times in Lithuanian, German, and French.

The first meeting of the Provisional Government took place on June 24. LAF activist Juozas Ambrazevičius replaced Kazys Škirpa, who was under house arrest in Berlin, as the Prime Minister. The new government attempted to take full control of the country, establish the proclaimed independence, and start a de-sovietization campaign. During its six-week existence over 100 laws, some prepared in advance, were issued, dealing with de-nationalization of land, enterprises, and real estate, restoration of local administrative units, formation of police, and other issues. The government did not have power in the Vilnius Region, under control of a different army group.[42] Hoping to survive the government cooperated fully with the Nazi authorities.[31]

The Germans did not recognize the new government, but also did not take any actions to dissolve it by force (unlike the government of Stepan Bandera in Ukraine). At first German military administration tolerated activities of the government as it did not attempt to take control of civilian institutions.[40] The Reichskommissariat Ostland, German Civil Administration (Zivilverwaltung) was established on July 17.[43] Instead of using brute force, the Civil Administration slowly removed the government's powers (for example, did not allow to print its decrees in newspapers or broadcast radio announcements) and supplanted its institutions, forcing the Provisional Government to either self-disband or to become a puppet institution.[31] Willing to cooperate if that meant recognition and some semblance to autonomy, the government did not agree to become an instrument of German occupation.[31] The government self-disbanded on August 5.

Aftermath and controversies

Usurpation of the public life continued after the demise of the Provisional Government. The Lithuanian Activist Front was banned in September 1941 and some of its leaders transported to concentration camps. In December the last legal party of Lithuania, pro-Nazi Lithuanian Nationalist Party, was also banned.[43] Most of the laws adopted by the Provisional Government remained paper declarations. However a couple laws that concerned items of no immediate interest of the Germans, including local administration and education, had somewhat lasting effect.[44] The government left developed local administration, staffed with Lithuanians. That allowed some passive resistance when German orders from top could be blocked by the bottom. For example, Lithuanians resisted recruitment to a Waffen-SS division, quotas for forced labor in Germany, or Germanization of Lithuanian schools.[45]

Despite the failure to establish independence and meager long-term results, the uprising was an important event. As Kazys Škirpa summarized in his memoirs, the uprising demonstrated the determination of the Lithuanian people to have their own independent state and dispelled the myth that Lithuania joined the Soviet Union voluntarily in June 1940.[46] The uprising also contributed to unusually rapid German advances against Russia: Pskov was reached in 17 days.[10] The events of June 1941 also caused some controversies. At the time, Lithuanian diplomats abroad, including former president Antanas Smetona and Stasys Lozoraitis, described the uprising as "Nazi-inspired".[46] These statements might have been in an attempt to persuade United States, Great Britain, and other western powers that Lithuania was not an ally of the Nazis.[47] The Provisional Government is criticized for its antisemitic slogans and decrees. More importantly, it did not protest and did not attempt to stop the Holocaust in Lithuania:[40] its military unit, the Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas, was soon employed by the Einsatzkommando and Rollkommando Hamann in the mass executions of Lithuanian Jews in the Seventh fort of the Kaunas Fortress and in the provinces.[48] Jewish survivors and authors accuse members of the LAF, especially in Kaunas but also in other towns, of indiscriminate and gruesome excesses against Jewish residents, often before the Nazis arrived to take control, most notably characterized by the Kaunas pogrom.[49]


  1. ^ Литва в период германской оккупации 1941 – 1944 г. (in Русский). Retrieved 2012-07-18. 
  2. ^ Anušauskas (2005), pp. 157–158
  3. ^ a b Anušauskas (2005), p. 157
  4. ^ Bubnys (1998), p. 26
  5. ^ Bubnys (1998), p. 27
  6. ^ Bubnys (1998), p. 32
  7. ^ a b Anušauskas (2005), p. 167
  8. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 168
  9. ^ Bubnys (1998), p. 29
  10. ^ a b Misiunas (1993), p. 46
  11. ^ a b Jegelevičius, Sigitas (2004-06-11). "1941 m. Lietuvos laikinosios vyriausybės atsiradimo aplinkybės". Voruta (in Lietuvių) 11 (557).  
  12. ^ a b Anušauskas (2005), p. 161
  13. ^ a b c Anušauskas (2005), p. 162
  14. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 163
  15. ^ a b c Anušauskas (2005), p. 164
  16. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 165
  17. ^ a b c d Anušauskas (2005), p. 166
  18. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 166–167
  19. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 141
  20. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 142
  21. ^ Bubnys (1998), pp. 45–46
  22. ^ a b Bubnys (1998), p. 34
  23. ^ a b Narutis, Pilypas (June 1971). "1941 birželio sukilimas Kaune".  
  24. ^ a b Bubnys (1998), p. 35
  25. ^ a b Bubnys (1998), p. 36
  26. ^ Gerutis (1984), p. 324
  27. ^ a b Dobkevičius, Kazimieras (2006-11-22). "Dzūkija ir dzūkai Lietuvos istorijos verpetuose". XXI amžius (in Lietuvių) 87 (1487). 
  28. ^ a b Gerutis (1984), p. 325
  29. ^ Gerutis (1984), pp. 325–326
  30. ^ a b c Bubnys (1998), p. 40
  31. ^ a b c d Misiunas (1993), p. 47
  32. ^ Bubnys (1998), p. 38
  33. ^ a b Bubnys (1998), p. 39
  34. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 169
  35. ^ a b c Brandišauskas, Valentinas (2002). "1941 m. sukilimas ir nepriklausomybės viltys". Gimtoji istorija. Nuo 7 iki 12 klasės (in Lietuvių). Vilnius: Elektroninės leidybos namai.  
  36. ^ a b Bubnys (1998), p. 43
  37. ^ a b Gerutis (1984), p. 326
  38. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 170
  39. ^ a b c d Anušauskas (2005), p. 171
  40. ^ a b c Anušauskas (2005), p. 176
  41. ^ "Seimo Kronika", 23(162) pp.5–7.
  42. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 175
  43. ^ a b Anušauskas (2005), p. 177
  44. ^ Misiunas (1993), p. 48
  45. ^ Anušauskas (2005), p. 192
  46. ^ a b J. G. (June 1975). "1941 m. sukilimo istorija".  
  47. ^ Zemlickas, Gediminas (2000-03-09). "Apie Birželio sukilimą ir Lietuvos laikinąją vyriausybę". Mokslo Lietuva (in Lietuvių) 5 (207).  
  48. ^ Knezys, Stasys (2000). "Kauno karo komendantūros Tautinio darbo batalionas 1941 m.". Genocidas ir rezistencija (in Lietuvių) 7 (1).  
  49. ^ Greenbaum, Masha (1995). The Jews of Lithuania: A History of a Remarkable Community 1316–1945 (9th ed.). Israel: Gefen Books. p. 307.  
  • Anušauskas, Arvydas; et al., eds. (2005). Lietuva, 1940–1990 (in Lietuvių). Vilnius:  
  • Gerutis, Albertas, ed. (1984). Lithuania: 700 Years. translated by Algirdas Budreckis (6th ed.). New York: Manyland Books.  
  • Misiunas, Romuald J.; Rein Taagepera (1993). The Baltic States: Years of Dependence 1940–1990 (expanded ed.). University of California Press.  
On June 23, 1941 at 9:28 am

Independence and Provisional Government

During the Soviet era, the rebels were persecuted and the uprising was censored out of the history books. Memoirs and studies published mainly by Lithuanian-Americans inflated the total number of the Lithuanians activists to 90,000 or 113,000 and casualties to 2,000 or 6,000.[39] After Lithuania regained independence in 1990 and new documents became available, historians have revised the estimates to 16,000–20,000 active participants and 600 casualties.[39] Most of the rebels were young men, between 18 and 25 years old.[30] Soviet losses are estimated at 5,000 men.[35]

The uprising spread to other cities, towns, and villages. Level of the rebel activities varied greatly across Lithuania and the uprising was less organized, more spontaneous and chaotic.[35] Men joined the uprising even though they never heard of the LAF or organized resistance in Kaunas. In most areas the rebels followed the pattern set in Kaunas and Vilnius: take control of local institutions (most importantly, the police) and secure other strategic objects. The rebels also arrested Soviet activists, freed political prisoners, and hoisted the Lithuanian flags.[36] Lack of guns and ammunition was felt almost everywhere; the main way to obtain guns was to disarm surrendered Soviet troops.[38] Most active rebels were in the districts of Švenčionys, Mažeikiai, Panevėžys, and Utena.[39] In some areas, like Šiauliai, there were no noticeable rebel activities.[39] Once Germans entered a settlement they would disarm the rebels. However, some local institutions (police, various committees) de facto established by the rebels were later legalized de jure.[40]

Elsewhere and summary

There were about 7,000–8,000 of ethnic Lithuanians in the the Holocaust.[17]

In Vilnius, LAF had been dismantled by Soviet arrests just before the war and Lithuanians formed only a small minority of the city's population.[35] Therefore, the uprising was smaller in scale and started on June 23. The rebels took over the post office, radio station, and other institutions, and hoisted the Lithuanian flag over the Gediminas' Tower. It was relatively easy to take control of Vilnius as most units of the Red Army were located outside the city and retreated rather quickly.[30] The first German units entered the city on June 24. The 7th Panzer Division, commanded by Hans Freiherr von Funck, expected that the Red Army would resist in Vilnius and made plans to bombard the city.[15]

In Vilnius

According to self-registration in July, there were about 6,000 rebels,[33] spontaneously organized into 26 groups in Kaunas.[34] The largest groups numbered 200–250 men. Total Lithuanian casualties in Kaunas are estimated at 200 dead and 150 wounded.[33]

On June 24, 1941, tank units of the Red Army in Jonava were ordered to retake Kaunas. The rebels radioed the Germans for assistance. The units were bombed by Luftwaffe and did not reach the city. It was the first coordinated Lithuanian–German action.[29] The first German scouts, lieutenant Flohret and four privates, entered Kaunas on June 24 and found it in friendly hands.[30] A day later the main forces marched into the city without obstruction and almost in a parade fashion.[31] On June 26, German military command ordered to disband and disarm the rebel groups.[32] Two days later Lithuanian guards and patrols were also relieved of their duties.

(Towards Freedom). Į laisvę They also organized publication of daily [28] The bridges across the

In the morning of June 23, 1941, the rebels raided a Soviet armory in Šančiai,[25] Panemunė, and Vilijampolė.[26] Now armed, Lithuanians spread throughout the city. The Vilijampolė Bridge across the Neris River received special attention from the rebels as they expected the Germans to enter the city using this bridge.[23] When the Lithuanians got to the bridge, it was already wired with explosives. 40 Soviet troops and three armored vehicles protected the bridge and waited for the right moment to detonate.[27] When the Soviets retreated a bit after facing Lithuanian fire, Juozas Savulionis ran to the middle of the bridge, cut the wires, and thus saved it from destruction. On his way back Savulionis was shot and killed by Soviet fire, becoming one of the first victims of the uprising.[27]

[24] Despite fears of inadequate Lithuanian forces guarding the radio, in the morning of June 23, Leonas Prapuolenis read the declaration of Lithuanian independence and the list of members of the Provisional Government. The broadcast was repeated several times in Lithuanian, German, and French.[24] The radio station was sabotaged by the Russians, therefore repair works were carried out during the night from June 22 to 23. Spare parts were delivered by medical students, driving an ambulance.[23] Control of the telephone allowed Lithuanians to disconnect all known communist numbers and talk to each other without passwords or codes.[22], post office, telephone and telegraph, radio station and radiophone.Presidential Palace By the evening of June 22, the Lithuanians controlled the [22] The uprising began in early morning of June 22, 1941, the first day of the war. The main forces of the LAF were concentrated in

In Kaunas

Lithuanian revolt

Despite generally friendly Lithuanian attitude, Germans carried out several punitive executions. For example, 42 civilians from Rainiai, Pravieniškės, Panevėžys. A total of 40 locations of mass killings have been identified in Lithuania.[20] Many others were killed en route to Soviet prisons. The largest such massacre took place near Chervyen in present-day Belarus. A list of NKVD victims in Lithuania, compiled during the Nazi occupation, includes 769 people that did not participate in the uprising.[21]

The first attacks were carried out by Luftwaffe against airports, airfields, and Lithuanian cities (Kėdainiai, Raseiniai, Karmėlava, Panevėžys, Jurbarkas, Ukmergė, Šiauliai, and others). These attacks claimed lives of some 4,000 civilians.[13] Most of the Soviet aircraft were destroyed on the ground (322 airplanes were lost in air versus 1,489 destroyed on ground).[13] Germans rapidly advanced forward encountering only sporadic resistance from the Soviets near Kaltinėnai, Raseiniai, Šiauliai and assistance from the Lithuanians. In the Battle of Raseiniai Soviets attempted to mount a counterattack, reinforced by tanks, but suffered heavy losses.[14] Within a week Germans sustained 3,362 losses, but controlled entire Lithuania.[15] Soviet losses were heavy and not known precisely; the estimates put them at 12–15 divisions.[15] The Red Army also lost numerous aircraft, tanks, artillery, and other equipment.[16]

At 3:15 am on June 22, the territory of the Lithuanian SSR was invaded by two advancing German army groups: Army Group North, which took over western and northern Lithuania, and Army Group Centre, which took over most of the Vilnius Region. The Germans amassed some 40 divisions, 700,000 troops, 1,500 tanks, and 1,200 airplanes for the attack on the Lithuanian SSR.[12] The Soviets had about 25 divisions, 400,000 troops, 1,500 tanks, and 1,344 airplanes in the Baltic Military District.[13] 7 rifle and 6 motorized divisions from the 8th and 11th Armies were located within the Lithuanian territory.[12]

Soviet POWs escorted by German soldiers in Vilnius, June–July 1941

German advances and Soviet retreat

June Revolt

Škirpa agreed to this, but he had very little control over the activists in Lithuania itself. [11] On June 14, the Nazi authorities in Berlin insisted that Škirpa and his activists not form any government or make any public declarations without their prior approval.[11] It has been suggested that not all of the designated Ministers knew about their proposed appointments in the Provisional Government.[10] The Prime Minister's post was reserved for Škirpa, four ministers were from Vilnius, six from Kaunas, and one from Berlin. The members represented a wide spectrum of pre-war political parties and, as such, claimed to represent a majority of the Lithuanian people.[9], which would declare Lithuanian independence, was compiled.Provisional Government In April, a list of the members of the [8] The rebels were asked to secure strategic objects (prisons, railroad, bridges, communication hubs, factories, etc.), guarding them from potential sabotage by the retreating [7] (Dear Enslaved Brothers), with instructions how to prepare for the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.Brangūs vergaujantieji broliai In March 1941, the LAF in Berlin published a memorandum, titled

The ultimate goal of the Kaunas.[3] The communication and coordination between these centers in Berlin, Kaunas, and Vilnius was rather poor. The headquarters in Vilnius suffered heavily from Soviet arrests, especially in early June 1941, and became largely defunct.[6] Most of those arrested activists were executed in December 1941, in Russia.


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