True Lithuania

Did Lithuania support the Nazi Germany during WW2?

No. Lithuania never did fight World War 2 on the Axis side. Adolf Hitler has offered Lithuania to do that in 1939 and invade Poland together, which Lithuania has refused, despite the deep-rooted Lithuanian-Polish conflict over Vilnius.

Even before that, Nazism was regarded in Lithuania to be a dangerous foreign ideology. While there had been nearly no ethnically Lithuanian Nazis, Nazism was becoming increasingly popular among the Lithuania's German minority in the 1930s, leading to a government crackdown on the Nazi organizations in 1935. This was the first anti-Nazi trial in Europe after Hitler's rise. For that, Lithuania paid a heavy price: in addition to a German economic boycott, Hitler even had Lithuanian sportsmen banned from Berlin Olympics in 1936.

During the World War 2, Lithuania has declared its neutrality. However, this neutrality was not honored by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, who proceeded to partition Central/Eastern Europe according to their own Ribbentrop-Molotov pact (in 1939, Nazi Germany annexed Klaipėda Region; in 1940, Soviet Union annexed the rest of Lithuania).

Nazi Germany has occupied entire Lithuania in 1941. While it sought to enlist Lithuanians to their cause, no prominent Lithuanian figures have ever joined it. Unlike in Latvia and Estonia, Germans were unable to erect a local SS legion in Lithuania due to Lithuanian soldiers fleeing en masse after they have learned the German plans for them. Lithuania also became the 2nd country in the world and 1st in Central/Eastern Europe by the number of righteous-among-nations people per capita (i.e. Yed-Vashem-recognized non-Jews who saved Jews from the Holocaust).

Weapons and symbolics confiscated from a German Nazi cell in Klaipėda after the 1935 Lithuanian crackdown on the local German Nazis

How did the myth that Lithuania supported Nazi Germany came into being?

The major source for this misconception is Soviet propaganda. In order to excuse their domination of the Eastern/Central Europe and the occupation of Lithuania, they sought to portray everyone who fought against them as Nazis ("fascists"), including all the Lithuanian pro-freedom activists. In the Soviet historiography, "fascist" was a catch-all term used for many non-communists, including pre-Soviet Lithuanian leaders, Lithuanian guerillas, Lithuanian emigre. Interestingly, even the entire post-war West Germany was called fascist, and the Berlin wall was officially known as "Anti-fascist wall" in the communist areas.

Furthermore, Soviets sought to present Eastern Front to have been the same as the Western Front where the "rightful side" (Allies) has defeated the "wrongful side" (Axis). The Eastern Front reality was extremely different, however.
*In Western Front, Axis was represented by a genocidal totalitarian regime (Nazi Germany) while the Allies were represented by democratic nations (Britain, France, the Netherlands, etc.) who fought for their own independence.
*In the Eastern Front, on the other hand, both the Axis and the Allies were represented by genocidal totalitarian regimes (Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, respectively), and these regimes both (in full cooperation until 1941) were invading and partitioning the independent countries in-between, among them Lithuania, Poland, Finland, and others. These nations were essentially a third force in the conflict and they tried as best as they could to stand against the overwhelming foreign forces. Obviously, any attempt to fight both powers at one time would have ended in quick defeat, therefore, some of them tried to save their own independence (and thus their own people from genocides) by making various low-scale agreements with one totalitarian regime or the other.

Lithuanians murdered by the Soviets in Rainiai massacre, one of the brutal mass murders in World War 2 Lithuania. Out of the at least 73 bodies, only 27 could be identified due to mutilations. Prior to death, the victims were tortured: their genitals severed and put into their mouths, eyes picked out, bones crushed, skin burned by hot water and acid, they suffered electrocution. The victims were recently arrested by the Soviets for such 'crimes' as participating in the Boy Scout movement or owning a Lithuanian flag.

The claims about "fascist" Lithuanians also often point to the real Lithuanian collaborators with the Nazi German regime and make a logical fallacy claiming that the fact that such collaborators existed somehow implies that Lithuania or the Lithuanian nation supported them. However, all these stories are entirely taken out of context and they invariably fail to mention that:
*In every Nazi-occupied land and, in fact, in every occupied land during any war there were some collaborators with the enemy forces.
*In the same fashion as there were Lithuanians who collaborated with Nazi Germany, there were also Lithuanians who collaborated with the Soviet Union (and that also happened in every Soviet-occupied land).
*Neither collaborators with Nazi Germany nor collaborators with the Soviets had any official or popular support from any Lithuanian institutions or organizations, which were nearly all banned by both occupational regimes.

By the same "logic" that says that "Lithuanians supported Nazi Germany because there were Lithuanian collaborators with Nazi Germany" it would be equally possible to "prove" that any occupied nation has supported any occupying regime (and, in fact, such arguments are indeed regularly used in any pro-occupation propaganda). It would even be equally possible to "prove" that countries like Sweden, USA, Australia, Germany supported the Islamic State - simply because their citizens were fighting for the Islamic State.

By the way, in order to artificially increase the number of Lithuanians who collaborated with the Nazis, the anti-Lithuanian propagandists and those who inadvertently cite them sometimes lump various Lithuanian freedom fighters with Nazi collaborators. One of the most popular targets for such smearing is the 1941 June mutineers. The June mutineers deposed the Soviet Union occupational regime hoping that Nazi Germany would recognize Lithuanian independence or at worst significant autonomy. Their plot failed - Nazi Germany has occupied Lithuania just as the Soviet Union did and many June mutineers ended up in German concentration camps. The only argument in favor of June mutineers being Nazi collaborators is based on the fallacy of undistributed middle: "The June mutineers fought the Soviet Union. The Nazis fought the Soviet Union. This means the June mutineers must have been Nazis". However, here we remind that in the Eastern Front, World War 2 was fought between three sides, not two. June mutineers, just like the Republic of Lithuania before them and Lithuanian guerillas after World War 2, represented that third side (independent Lithuania). Clearly, they had very different goals from the Nazi German goals; in fact, their goals of free Lithuania seemed dangerous enough to Nazi Germany to get them locked up.

A 'righteous-amog-nations' certificate issued by Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem proves that Kazys Grinius, an interwar president of Lithuania, himself participated in saving Lithuania's Jews from the Holocaust. In comparison, no key political figures of interwar Lithuania murdered people in the Holocaust.

Why is the "Lithuania supported Nazi Germany" myth insulting to Lithuanians?

Firstly, these claims are wrong and they show either the claimants' ignorance about the history of Central and Eastern Europe. Secondly, they purport that Lithuanians had no real desire for independence but instead wanted to fight for Nazi Germans who were actually their enemies throughout the period (at best, many Lithuanians may have considered them "2nd enemy after the Soviets", see the "Did the Soviet Union liberate Lithuania" myth). Thirdly and most importantly such claims misattribute the World War 2 crimes in Lithuania on Lithuanians themselves, who (together with the neighboring nations) were actually among the biggest victims of the World War 2 era.

The facts speak for themselves: 32% of the area's ethnic Lithuanians were murdered, expelled or forced to flee (almost a million people). The entire region of Lithuania Minor was ethnically cleansed with some 130 000 Lithuanians killed there alone (and this was just a minority of all the murdered Lithuanians). Most of those who were killed or persecuted supported independent Lithuania, free from the totalitarian invaders; many fought for it actively, many others performed clandestine actions such as disseminating anti-occupational press or hiding Jews from the Holocaust.

Yet there are foreign commentators who forget all this, focusing instead on comparatively few collaborators (who were considered traitors or criminals by most of their peers) and claiming these collaborators somehow represented all Lithuania(ns). To add more hurt, they mix up these collaborators with genuine freedom fighters. Who wouldn't feel insulted?

See also: Are Lithuanians fascists, racists, or Nazis?

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