Mass killings of Soviet activists and Jews in Kupiškis in 1941

Arūnas Bubnys

The paper deals with the mass killing of Soviet activists and Jews in Kupiškis in the summer of 1941. The names and surnames of those who organised the killing are presented. A specificity of the Kupiškis site, compared to other ones in Lithuania, and their common features in the policy of killings performed by the Nazis are described.

The common feature is that the Communists, Soviet activists and Jews had been arrested and shot down on a mass scale in all Lithuania occupied by Nazis. The Lithuanian administration subordinate to Germans, i.e., county and district governments, state police and auxiliary policemen (baltaraiščiai – so-called white armbands), had been involved into this policy of repressions and genocide. During the initial weeks of Nazi occupation, Communists, Komsomol members, officials of Soviet regime and their supporters of various nationalities (Lithuanians, Russians, Jews et al.) were arrested and shot down. In 1941, from end-July to the autumn, mass killing of Jewish people began. These killings were performed because of racist reasons; so, Jews were killed as whole families, without respect to their sex, age or political views. According to the Nazi ideology and the policy of the Third Reich, all Jews had to be exterminated in Germany and all occupied countries. Full extermination of Jews in provincial areas of Lithuania had been reached at the end of 1941, and the most intense killings took place in August and September.

The analysis of tragic events of in Kupiškis reveals also some specific traits typical namely of this region. It should be noted that non-Jewish (Lithuanian and Russian) Communists and Soviet activists were the main victims of the massive killings in Kupiškis. So many Lithuanian Communists and Soviet activists had not been killed in other counties of Lithuania in the summer of 1941. Numbers of such victims could reach here several hundred. However, not only people of Kupiškis town and the district were being executed here. Those arrested in other counties and districts (Viešintai, Šimoniai, Subačius, Skapiškis, and Rokiškis) were brought to Kupiškis for executions. Jews from other towns (Šimoniai, Viešintai) also were killed here. All in all, in the summer of 1941 about 1,500–2,000 people of various nationalities had been killed in Kupiškis in the summer of 1941, but the Jews of Kupiškis town and the district suffered mostly. In fact, the entire local community of Jews was exterminated.

One more specific trait is that mass killings in other Lithuanian towns and townships had been performed by local police and auxiliary policemen. In Kupiškis, the mass executions had been mainly performed by a self-defence detachment formed of the defectors form the Red Army. There is an exceptional case of Kupiškis commander Verneris Liovė (Werner Loewe?). It should be difficult to find another similar case in Lithuania, when local (not Wehrmacht’s) commander was not a local person but a civilian, who came form Germany, and it was he who led the mass killings. The summer of 1941 was a very tragic period in Lithuanian and Kupiškis history.