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Baltic States investigation. [First interim report] (Volume pt. 1) online

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Then came the tragic day of June 17, 1940, when the tanks of the
Red army rolled into Latvian territory and occupied the country.
This happened just at that time, when the relations between Latvia
and Soviet Union had already been definitively settled by various
treaties and conventions, such as : The treaty of peace of August 11,
1920, the treaty of nonaggression of February 2, 1932, and of April
4, 1934.

Immediately after seizure of power, Mr. Andrej Vishinsky, Special
Plenipotentiary from Moscow, and Mr. Dereviansky, the U. S. S. R.
envoy to Latvia, set up without any cooperation with the Latvian
organs a puppet government, which did whatever the Communists
ordered.



252 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

As soon as Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union (August 5,
1940) the puppet government issued laws and decrees, which brought
about the end of the freedom and liberty of Latvia. All property of
the church was nationalized, all Catholic organizations, as well as all
religious orders, were closed and their property confiscated. The
work of the faculty of the Catholic theology was disrupted (August
5, 1940), and premises of it, as well as of the Catholic seminary, were
nationalized. The Catholic schools (at Aglona and Jaunaglona)
were closed. Only state schools were permitted. The teaching of
religion in the schools was prohibited. Antireligious instructions
were made a compulsory subject in all schools.

No Catholic periodicals and books could be published. The con-
secrated cemeteries were liquidated. The Christian symbol, the cross,
was removed everywhere they found it. The church and its bodies
lost status of juristic persons and had no longer the possibility to
defend its interests before the authorities. Sundays and religious
holy days were replaced by workless days. The Catholic places of
worship with all their appurtenances, including even the holy vessels
and vestments, were declared to be the property of the state (March 20,
1941) . The state reserved for itself the right of permitting its further
use by the faithful. The rent which they had to pay for the use of the
churches was 10 times more than that of rents paid for housing space.
The churches and places of worship which were not returned for use to
the parishioners were used for storage (the Capuchin Church at Vi-
laka), as halls for dancing (the church at Ozolmuiza), for archives
(the church at Cesis).

The activity of the church was paralyzed. Divine services, as far
as tolerated, were attended by NKTV'D (political police). The clergy
and the faithful were subjected to constant maltreatment. Com-
munication between the bishops and the priests was restricted; all
connection with the Holy See was suspended. The apostolic nuncio.
Archbishop A. Arata, was expelled (August 1940) ; the Ambassador to
the Holy See, Prof. H. Albat, who at that time was in Riga, was de-
ported to Siberia. According to the news gotten later he was dead.
The priests, as well as the bishops, had to leave their homes. The
work of priests, as well as of church servants, was excluded from the
categories of employees approved by the state and they could not get
bread cards. Forty -nine priests were questioned by the Peoples Com-
missariat of the Interior and they tried to force them to enter into
the Secret Service of Communists. No one did it.

In June 1941, the Communists assassinated six priests (Vladislavs
Litauniks, Stanislavs Kapacis, Sigismunds Tabore, Vitolda Paskevics.
Edwards Bekers, Kazimirs Strods) as well as the sexton of the Shrine
of Kraslava, Antons Vilmanis. The first four priests, before having
been killed, were horribly martyred. Five other priests, as well as
scores of thousands of the faithful, were deported at the same time
to forced labor camps in Siberia. For the deportation were scheduled
many other priests, but because of the outbreak of the Second World
War, it could not be realized at this time.

The first period of Communist occupation, which lasted 1 year
(1940-41) was followed bv Nazi German occupation. The Germans
did not bring liberty. Their occupation powers left in force the
nationalization decrees issued by the Communists. Except some re-
lease in teaching of the religion in the schools, the oppression con-



BALTIC STATES IlSrVESTIGATION 253

tinned. to<^etlier the calamities and horrors of the war. In 1944 three
Latvian bishops (Most Rev. Antons Urbss, Joseph Rancans and Bole-
slavs Sloskans), as well as some other leading priests, under the escort
of the Gestapo, were deported to Germany.

After the end of World War II the Communists occupied Latvia
again, and this occupation is still lasting. This is more horrible than
the first. The Communists now have time to carry out the previous
plans. They changed nothing in their intentions. Not one law or
decree issued during the jfirst occupation has been canceled by them
or changed in order to ease the religious life of the faithful, no matter
of which Christian faith. The church remains subjected to the state
power. The teaching of religion in the schools is forbidden, even
outside the church it is against the law to teach the Holy Gospel to
minors under the age of 18. Churchgoers are watched and followed
by the secret police. The priests, as well as the faithful, are living
in constant fear. The worst thing is with the youths who are growing
up without any religious instruction, except that their pious parents
secretly give this to them. The Communists are doing everything in
order to. demoralize the youths and to make them atheists.

On July 17-18, 1948, the Riga radio broadcast an appeal to the mem-
bers of the Communist Party and the Communist youth to destroy
the last remnants of religious "prejudices" and to fight the preachers
and defenders of religion.

On October 23, 1953, the same radio invited the pioneers at the
schools to fight the erroneous belief about the creation of the world
by God.

It is not possible to get news about the religious life in Latvia
throuo;h the ordinary channels of the church. Generally, the corre-
sponcling is very limited because of the great danger to write and to
receive the letters from abroad. But the Communists themselves help
much in this matter through broadcasting or writing in the papers.
It happens, also, that some of the Latvians escape and bring it per-
sonally.

According to the news brought in such way, there are churches
which are still open, for which the faithful are paying high rent.
There are also priests, but the number of them is very small.

An old mother wrote to her daughter in this country (this was the
first letter gotten from her in the last 8 years) saying, "Last Sunday
we had the mass in our church. Next Sunday the mass will be said
in X Church." But this X Church, as we know, is 26 miles distant.
This means that they see a priest very seldom.

Such is the religious freedom in a country under the domination
of Communists. Not only the Catholics in Latvia are terribly per-
secuted; the same may be said about the Lutherans, also. The
Christian faith there is in great danger of being exterminated, despite
the heroic attitude and inexpressible sacrifices of the clergy, as well
as of the faithful.

According to the news gotten in the way as above, the archbishop
of Riga, Most Rev. Anthony Springovics, 77, is living under the super-
vision of police, in the country, in the province of Latgale.

In the past 8 years many priests have been deported to Siberia.
In the spring of 1945, as we laiow, there were 19 priests taken in 1
week. Meanwhile, many of the priests died, thus the number of
them in the country does not exceed 50.



254 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Mr. McTiGUE. Monsigiior, did you preside over an ecclesiastical
court ?

Monsignor Stukelis. I was counselor.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did that court investigate some of these murders?

Monsignor Stukelis. We didn't ; we had records.

Mr. McTiGUE. You had records ?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Of what happened?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes, after the Communists left the country.

Mr. Kersten. That was after the first occupation ?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. And you verified what happened to some of these
priests to whom you have just referred in your testimony?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes ; that is right.

Mr. McTigue. I show you four photographs. Can you identify
these?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes. Litaunieks Vladislavs. He was a
priest, a young priest.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did you assign him to his parish duties ?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes. I knew him well. He was a very fine
priest.

Mr. MgTigue. Where was this record taken from ?

Monsignor Stuhelis. It is the same place.

Mr, McTiGUE. This is on record in the archbishop's court?

Monsignor Stukelis, Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. It has been verified and documented?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. It reads as follows :

The Martyr Litaunieks Vladislavs victim of Cheka, shortly before his death.
He was a dangerous opponent against Bolshevists. Therefore they arrested him,
inhumanly tortured him, verdicted, and murdered him in the prison of Daugav-
pils, June 21, 1941. He was found with a crown of barbed wire around his
head, and a cross burned on his chest by a burning iron.

Monsignor Stukelis. We have records of that.

Mr. McTiGUE. Any evidence and testimony to support that?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGHE. Mr. Chairman, there are three other photographs in
this same group. I would like to have the photographs identified by
the monsignor and the description made a part of the record, if I may.

Mr. Kersten. So ordered.

(The paper containing four photographs and descriptive material
referred to in part above and was marked Exhibit 11-A. See pp.
650-653.)

Mr. McTiGUE. I hand vou four photographs. Can you identify
them?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Mr. Chairman there are four other photographs.
I would like to have the photographs which have been identified by
the monsignor and the description made a part of the record if I may.

Mr. Kersten. So ordered.

Mr. McTigue. I show you four other photographs. Can you iden-
tify those photographs?

Monsignor Stukelis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. I ask that they be marked and made a part of the
record with the description.



BALTIC STATES IN\'ESTIGATION 255

(Tlie four pliotocraphs referred to and the descriptive material
were marked Exhibit 1 1-B. The priests are listed as Pudans, Jazeps ;
Lopatenoks, Antoiis; Apsenieks, Peteris; and Ziiks, Janis. See pp,
650-653.)

Mr. MoTirxTJE. I show you photographs of various priests and clergy
of the Catholic Church ^in Latvia, and ask you if you can identify
them ?

Moiisignor Stukeias. Yes, I know them. They are the four on
the right hand side of tlie picture.

Mr. McTiGUE. Can you tell me what happened to these Roman
Catholic priests as evidenced by the testimony presented to the Arch-
bishop's Court?

Monsignor Stukelis. They were killed.

Mr. McTiGUE. I ask that these be marked and made a part of the
record.

Mr. Kersten. So ordered.

Mr. McTiGi-TE. That is all.

Mr. Kerstex. Mr. Bentley.

Mr. Bentley. JNIonsigiior, from your testimony and that of the
other gentlemen who have appeared before this committee this morn-
ing it seems pretty evident what the Communists' theory of religion
is and how they treat religion and leaders of religion whenever they
have the power. Would you be able to give us an idea as to why
many people in countries that are supposedly free from commu-
nism are Communist Party members and also members of churches?
I am thinking specifically, for example, of a country like Italy that
is 99 percent plus Catholic and yet has a very large number of Com-
munist Party members. Can you explain the reasons behind the
thinking of those people ?

Monsignor Stukelis. I think it is the poverty of the country.

Mr. Bextley. Do you think poverty breeds Communism ?

Monsignor Stukelis. JNIaybe not the first reason. The first reason
might be the power of the Communists there. They are organized
there.

Mr. Bentley. VChy do you think, then, in certain cases we have
found evidence of actually ministers and religious leaders of one type
or another collaborating with the Communists?

Monsignor Stukelis. I do not follow you.

Mr. Bentley. In view of the known persecution by the Communists
of all forms of religion, how can you explain the fact that in so many
cases we do find religious leaders that seem to be collaborating with the
Communists ?

]Monsignor Stukelis. I think they do not know communism.

]Mr. Bentley. They are ignorant of communism?

Monsignor Stukelis. That is right.

Mr. Ijentley. Don't you feel then that the facts that you and the
other gentlemen who have testified this morning are bringing out con-
cerning the true treatn:ient of religion in these countries wdiere the
Communists have taken hold should be revealing to such gentlemen if
they take the trouble to study the record?

Monsignor Stukelis. That is true.

Mr. Bentley. And to know what the true facts are ?

Monsignor Stukelis. That is correct.



256 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Mr. Bentley. To this extent I think your testimony and that of
the other witnesses has been most illuminating. Thank you. That is
all.

Mr. Kersten. I want to thank you, Monsignor Stukelis, for the very
important contribution you have made to these hearings in showing
the persecution of religion, the clergy, the Catholic clergy, and also
the Lutherans as you have referred to in Latvia.

The description of some of these episodes of torture and martyrdom
of some of these clergymen reminds me of the persecution of the
church in the early days of Christianity. It seems to me that in these
countries the churches are undergoing persecution similar to those
the Christians suffered under such people as Nero in the early days of
Christianity.

It is a necessary thing that we know more clearly about Communist
activity and its destruction of all spiritual life and of religion. Thank
you, Monsignor.

Monsignor Stukelis. I did not see myself personally, but I have
records of these four priests.

Mr. Kersten. I understand. Thank you.

The hearings in New York are now adjourned to convene again in
Detroit, Mich., at 10 o'clock Monday morning, December 7, in the
Federal Building.

(Wliereupon at 2: 15 p. m., the committee adjourned, to reconvene
at 10 a. m., Monday, December 7, 1953, in Detroit, Mich. )



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION



MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1953

House of Representatives,

Baltic Committee,

Detroit^ Mich.
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10 :10 a. m., in the Federal
Building, Detroit, Mich., Hon. Charles J. Kersten (chairman of the
committee) presiding.

Present : Messrs. Kersten, Bentley, Bonin, Madden, and Machrowicz.
Also Present : James J. McTigue, committee counsel.
Mr. Kersten. The hearings will come to order, please.
Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth, so help you God ?

TESTIMONY OF ANTANAS BANIONIS, DETROIT, MICH.

Mr. Banionis. I do.

Mr. McTiGUE. Will you state your name, please ?

Mr. Banionis. Antanas Banionis.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where do you live?

Mr. Banionis. I live at 1475 Junction.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where are you employed?

Mr, Banionis, General Motors Corp., Fleetwood plant.

Mr, McTiGUE. Were you born in Lithuania ?

Mr. Banionis. I was born in Lithuania.

Mr. McTiGUE. Where in Lithuania?

Mr. Banionis. In the vicinity of Kaunas,

Mr, McTiGUE. How long did you live in Lithuania ?

Mr, Banionis, I lived there until 1944.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did you go to school in Kaunas ?

Mr, Banionis. Yes ; the Technical School of Kaunas.

Mr. McTiGUE. How old were you at that time ?

Mr. Banionis, I was 18 years old.

Mr. McTiGTJE, Do you remember Memorial Day in November 1940,
in Kaunas ?

Mr, Banionis. In 1940, 2d of November, I was in the cemetery of
Kaunas. It was Memorial Day, All people were going to the ceme-
tery to put flowers and pray for relatives and friends at the graves.

Mr, McTiGUE, How many people were in the cemetery of Kaunas
placing flowers o;i the graves that day?

Mr, Banionis, Approximately 18,000 people,

Mr. McTiGUE. Were they singing hymns ?

Mr, Banionis. They were singing and praying,

Mr, McTiGUE. Wliat happened on that day ?

257



258 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Mr. Banionis. The Communist police surrounded the cemetery and
started to arrest the people. The people resisted. Then they waited
at the gate. They arrested the people.

Mr, McTiGUE. The Communist soldiers retired to the gates to await
the people as they came out of the cemetery ?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Why did they want to arrest them ?

Mr. Banionis. Because they didn't like this Lithuanian tradition
of singing and praying at the cemetery.

Mr. McTiGUE. When they waited at the gates, did tliey arrest the
people as they came out?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were you among those arrested?

Mr. Banionis. I was arrested in the same way. I came out throrigh
the gate, was stopped by the Communist secret police and taken to a
garage across the street.

Mr. McTiGUE. Were any other people taken there ?

Mr. Banionis. About 50 people were in the same garage with nie.
They were arrested.

Mr. McTiGUE. How many people all told were arrested tliat day?

Mr. Banionis. I think about two or three hundred.

Mr. McTiGUE. When you were taken to the garage, along with 50
others, what happened then ?

Mr. Banionis. We were waiting until the police cars came to pick
us up to take us to the NKVD building.

Mr. McTiGUE. When the NKVD men came, how did they take you
to the NKVD building?

Mr. Banionis. Three prisoners in one car and in the same car were
three Russian soldiers with guns and bayonets.

Mr. MgTigue. Three Russian soldiers were guarding three pris-
oners ?

Mr. Banionis. Yes, sir.

Mr. McTigue. And you were among these prisoners?

Mr. Banionis. Yes, sir.

Mr. McTigue. Were you then taken to the NKVD headquarters?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTigue. What happened there ?

Mr. Banionis. They put again in 1 room about 30 or -10 people,
together, and started questioning them. They took one person at a
time to another room for questioning.

Mr. McTigue. Were you taken into the other room for questioning ?

Mr. Banionis. That is right.

Mr. McTigue. What kind of a room was it?

Mr. Banionis. It was a simple room, like an office room, in the
NKVD building. I was questioned over there, along with one secret
policeman.

Mr. McTigue. What did they question you about ?

Mr. Banionis. They asked me my life story. They started from my
grandfather, grandmother, father, my relatives, everything up to that
day, everything that happened.

Mr. McTigue. llow long did the questioning last on the first day?

Mr. liANioNis. The first day was about 6 hours during the night,
from 12 until 6 a. m.

* Mr. McTigue. Were you taken back to the main cell after this
questioning?



BALTIC STATES ESTVESTIGATION 259

Mr. Banionis. After this questioning, I was taken again to this
same room where I was before.

Mr. McTiGUE. The next day, did the same thing happen?

Mr. Banionis. The next night they took it again. I was supposed
to tell the same story again and again. They asked me many times
to tell the same story.

Mr. McTiGUE. How long did this questioning go on ?

JNlr. Banionis. This questioning did not last the same length of time.
One night it would be o hours, 4 hours, and another might be maybe
2 hours.

They questioned us just at night. They got to a point of question-
ing 20 hours without a break.

Mr. McTiGUE. They questioned you steadily for 2 weeks, at night ^

Mr. Banionis. Yes, that is right.

Mr. McTiGUE. What kind of information were they seeking ?

Mr. Banionis. They were seeking to get information about my
friends, my professors, my parents and everything that I knew about,
and perhaps those people I might know who were resisting the Com-
munists.

Mr. McTiGUE. After this questioning went on for a period of 2
weeks, did there come a time at the end of the 2 weeks, in the last
day or two, where you were questioned steadily for 20 hours?

Mr. Banionis. Yes. I was questioned for 20 hours until the end
of the 2-Aveek period. There then came the longest and hardest ques-
tioning I have experienced in my life. I was sitting in my chair,
my hands by my side, in a position that I couldn't move, even.

Mr. McTiGUE. How many NKVD agents were questioning you at
that time ?

Mr. Banionis. It was changed. There were three agents.

Mr. McTiGUE. They took turns during the 20 hours ?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did you have any food or water ?

Mr. Banionis. No. When questioned, I never got food or drink.

Mr. Kersten. How old were you at that time?

Mr. Banionis. Eighteen.

Mr. Kersten. Go ahead.

Mr. Banionis. They let me smoke a cigarette. In that long time,
sitting on the chair, I couldn't feel anything in my body. It must
have stopped the blood in my body.

Mr. McTigue. You lost all sense of feeling ?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTigue. When they questioned you, did they ask you to sign
a paper or a confession ?

Mr. Banionis. They asked me to sign it at the last questioning,
not in this 20 hours. In this 20 hours, they said I was lying. At
one time I jumped from the chair and said, "I am not lying; I am
telling the truth." They then started to beat me and then ripped
my shirt.

Mr. McTigue. Did they rip your shirt off ?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTigue. Do you have any scars from that ?

Mr. Banionis. I have a scar.

Mr. McTigue. Will you take off your coat, shirt, and undershirt
and let us see the scar ?



260 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Mr. Bentley. Wliat did they beat you here with ?

Mr. Banionis. They beat me here with a gun. They hit me in the
face a couple of times.

Mr. Bentley. When was this ?

Mr. Banionis. In 1940. It was about the 10th of November.

Mr. Bentley. November 10, 1940 ?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. Mr. Banionis, tell us exactly how you got those scars.
How were those wounds on your left shoulder and your right shoulder
inflicted? Tell us exactly how it was done. Was it done with a
knife ; was it done with a club, was it done by hand ?

Mr. Banionis. By hands. By fingers.

Mr. McTiGUE. Do you mean the NKVD agent, in ripping your
shirt off, dug his fingers into your flesh and ripped off the flesh ?

Mr. Banionis. They ripped the fingers in, together with the shirt.

Mr. McTiGUE. He dug his nails into your skin ?

Mr, Banionis. Yes, into my body.

Mr. McTiGUE. He dug his fingernails into your body ?

Mr. Banionis. That is right.

Mr. McTiGUE. Will you describe those scars ? How long are they ?

Mr. Banionis. There was some blood. When I got up the next
morninor



Mr. McTiGUE. Are they 5 or 6 inches long?

Mr. Banionis. They were as long as the scars.

Mr. McTiGUE. About 6 or 7 inches ?

Mr. Banionis. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. And there are how many scars?

Mr. Banionis. They have three on the left side, and one, just a
little one, on the other side.

Mr. McTiGUE. Do you have any marks on your back or other parts
of your body ?

Mr. Banionis. No.

Mr. MgTigue. Did they beat you with clubs ?

Mr. Banionis. No.

Mr. McTigue. Did the wound bleed profusely ?

Mr. Banionis. Just those ones on the left. They bled for about 2
hours, and then stopped.

Mr. McTiGUE. Did they give you any medication ?

Mr. Banionis. Nothing.

Mr. McTiGUE. They sent you no doctor ?

Mr. Banionis. No.

Mr. McTiGTJE. After this happened, and after you were questioned
steadily for a period of 20 hours, were you then returned to your cell?

Mr. JB.VNiONis. I returned to a separate cell, alone.

Mr. McTiGUE. After you returned to the cell, did they take you
back again ?

Mr. Banionis. Then I was a couple of hours in the cell. Then
tliey took me again to the chief of the secret police. The secret police
cliief gave me a paper and asked me to sign it.

Mr. McTiGUE. He thrust a piece of paper before you and said,
"Sign it"?

Mr. Banionis. Yes. He said, "If you sign this paper, you will go
free. If you don't sign it, you Avill be shot down or sent to the prison,
and maybe to Russia."



BALTIC STATES I^WESTIGATION 261

Mr. McTiGUE. Wliat did the paper sa}^ ?

Mr. Banionis. The paper said that I shall spy for the Communist
govei-nment. against my professors, my relatives, my friends, and to
Avatch all people who did not like the Communist regime.

Mr. McTiGUE. I')id you refuse to sign the paper?

Mr. Banionis. At first I refused to sign it. I said, "I can't do this
job because it is a spy job. I am a student. I am working, too. I



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