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

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The press was under strict government control and nothing was published with-
out the sanction of the government. This happened within less than a week
after the appearance of the Russian Army in Kaunas. The same is true of tele-
phones and telegraph communications.

Q. Are you familiar with a paper in Kaunas by the name of Darbo Lietuvo? —
A. I was.

Q. Will you tell us what its standing was with the government after the in-
vasion? — A. It was semioflScial. The people had the appearance of being very
much afraid and were actuated by fear in everything they did while I was in
Lithuania.

Q. Were you in Kaunas at the time of the elections? — A. Yes; I was.

Q. Will you briefly describe how the elections were conducted? — A. A cam-
paign of notice was conducted and in the notices it was said that anyone fail-
ing to vote would be considered an enemy of the people, and on the day of election
many people appeared at the polls but the actual voting of course was ridiculous
because they were given one list to vote for and they were counted as they came
in and whether they voted yes or no really made little difference.

Q. Did you observe personally any places where the voting was being done
on election day? — A. I had one observer stationed at a precinct where he ob-
served some Russian and Lithuanian-communistic sympathizers voting several



576 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

times and when they first counted the ballots the result was 122 percent in this
precinct of Kaunas but they quickly rectified that error.

Q. Was that report made to you by your observer in pursuance of his duty
as a member of the Embassy staff? — A. Yes.

Q. Did you personally observe any of the elections? — A. I drove about the
City of Kaunas and I observed conditions at many of the polling places and I saw
how they were conducted and in the main my observations were corroborated by
the report of the observer, that I have just related.

Q. These civilian organizers that you saw in various branches of the govern-
ment and in the banks — did they have an oflScial title? — A. They are com-
missars, and apparently controlled all matters relating to the business to which
they were assigned. I investigated the situation with respect to the condition
of Lithuanian credits abroad and found that there was danger that the new
government would seize Lithuanian credits, and reported to my government.
The freezing orders of the United States Government followed my report within
a few days.

Q. In your investigation of conditions in Lithuania while you were United
States Minister there, did you learn anything about the Lithuanian Agriculture
Cooperative Association, generally known as LietukisV — A. I did.

Q. Will you describe its organization and functions, briefly? — A. In the be-
ginning it was organized to aid the farmer in buying certain necessary materials
and was headed by these patriotic Lithuanians such as Tubelis, etc. It was
my understanding that it was a semi-government organization until it reached
the position of more or less independence. It purchased such materials as ma-
chinery and fertilizer, gasoline, fuel oil, etc., and sold them directly to the
farmer.

Q. Can you state about how many In-anches there were throughout the coun-
try of this organization? — A. I don't just recall but I would say over one
hundred.

Q. Do you know whether they had employees in the various branches? —
A. Yes ; they maintained certain establishments necessary to the carrying on of
their activities; for instance, when working at the port of Klaipeda (Memel)
they had storage places and warehouses, etc.

Q. Can you state how general the practice was of installing commissars
in business places throughout Lithuania? — A. The practice of establishing com-
missars was very general. They took an interest in any organization that was
making money and appeared affluent, even business so small as to employ only
five or six employees. I recall that they nationalized all businesses employing
five or more persons.

Q. Did this nationalization apply to the Lietukis organization? — A. Yes, it
is my information it did, gained from my investigation of conditions in the
course of my ofiical duties.

( Signed) Owen J. C. Norem.

Sworn to before me this 21st day of May, 1941.

[SBI&.L] (Signed) Francis Galwey,

Notary Public, New York County, Neu-\ York County Clerk's No. 322.

Commission expires March 30, 1942.

In the United States District Court, District of New Jersey

LiETUVos Zemes Ujio Kooperatyvu Sajunga Lietukis (Agricultxjrai. Co-
operative Association of Lithuania Lietukis) , et al., libelants

against

The SS Denny, Heb Tackle, etc., et al., eespondents

State of New York,

County of New York, ss:
I, Frances Galwey, a Notary Public in and for the County of New York, State
of New York, duly appointed and empowered to act in and for the County of New
York, State of New York, and duly authorized under and by virtue of the Acts of
Congress of the United States and of the Revised Statutes, to take depositions
de bene esse in Civil cases pending in the Courts of the United States, do hereby
certify : That the forgoing deposition of Owen C. J. Norem was taken on behalf
of the claimant-respondents before me at the office of P. A, Beck, Esq., 39 Cort-
landt Street, Borough of Manhattan, City of New York, on May 21, 1941, pur-



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 577

suant to notice ; that I was attended upon the taking of said deposition by P. A.
Beck, Esq., of counsel for the claimant-respondents ; that there was no appear-
ance on behalf of the libelants.

That said witness was by me first duly sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth
and nothing but the truth, and that he was thereupgn examined by counsel
present : that I took down the testimony of said witness in shorthand, and caused
the same to be transcribed to typewriting by a person under my personal super-
vision and who is not interested in this cause; and the deposition as above set
forth, was read over and signed by Owen C. J. Norem in my presence.

I further certify that I have retained the said deposition in my possession
for the purpose of delivering the same with my own hand, in a sealed postpaid
wrapper, into the Post Office, addressed to the Clerk of the United States Dis-
trict Court, District of Jersey, Newark, New Jersey, for the Court for which the
same was taken.

I further certify that I have no business employment or office connection with
the parties to the suit, or their attorneys.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and official seal, this 21st day
of May, 1941.

[seal] (Signed) Frances Galwey,

Frances Galwey,



Commission expires March 30, 1942.



Notary Public, New York County,
New York County Clerk's No. 322.



Exhibit 9

[From Autobiographer Herbert Hoover, 1951]

THE OTHER BALTIC STATES

The events in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania merit more discussion than their
combined population of 4,700,000 people might indicate. Here was a heroic
struggle of subjugated races of historical interest. The part we took in their
struggle also has some connotations in later history.

Never has there been an instance of human emancipation occurring under such
appalling difficulties. Here were three non-Slavic tribes, probably somewhat
related to the Finns and Hungarians who had settled this area in some dim past.
They had been subjected over centuries alternately to German, Polish and
Russian oppression. There was an alien class overlordship upon them, from an
aristocracy descended from the original German Baltic Barons — the "Baits" —
with a sprinkling of Russians. In this top layer were the great landowners and
industrialists. The mass of the people had passed through serfdom into a
peasantry and city workers. Their lot was not happy. Up to the great war
they were more sorely exploited than almost any other racial group in Europe.
Yet over hundreds of years these races had shown extraordinary intellectual
resistance to Germanization and Russification. They had maintained their lan-
guages, their racial culture and a determined resolution that freedom would
come some time. There was only one large city, Riga, with such smaller ports
and manufacturing towns as Reval, Libau, and Memel, which had been built up
largely as the commercial outlets from Russia. Otherwise the people were
farmers in rich agricultural lands.

When the political explosion in Europe came with the Armistice the resolution
of these races at once asserted itself. They each broke into democratic revolu-
tions with provisional governments. Their individualism was such that the
three states could not and would not combine into one state although their racial
affinities, their aspirations, their economic problems and their future defense and
independence all pointed to that necessity.

They were confronted with difficulties which to any but intrepid peoples would
have been too much even to contemplate. They were divided in their political
ideas because there had been no opportunity for development of cohesions through
experience. The great majority aspired to parliamentary government and to
free economic systems. However, when their political and social ideas came
to light in parliament, there were from twelve to sixteen different political groups
in each legislature, stretching from Communism to rank class autocracy.

The Communist conflagration in Russia spread plenty of sparks among them —
and fanned these local fires with invading Red Armies. A majority of parties



578 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

agreed on two things : They would be free. They would divide the land holdings
of the great Bait and Russian barons. The people therefore had on one hand
to combine against the Baits who were supported from Germany, and on the
other against the Communists, to say nothing of their domestic differences.

Prior to the Armistice, they had been occupied by the Germans — indeed they
were practically annexed under the Brest-Litovsk Treaty between Russia and
Germany. The Germans had created an army of occupation mostly of Baits and
White Russians under German officers with General von der Goltz in command.

Therefore, with the Soviet spreading Communism by infection and by attack-
ing armies, with the Bait element endeavoring to control the governments, with
an uncontrolled German-commanded army in their midst, and rank starvation
everywhere, these peoples were fighting on four fronts. In this almost impossible
setting, however, the people of each state at once organized provisional republics.

The Allies, fearing general chaos if the German Army withdrew, had stipulated
that General von der Goltz's army should stay there until the Allies settled their
future. This army lived by requisition and every German and Bait common
soldier had been promised a large landed estate. But everything was delayed by
the French, who held that these states must remain i7i statu quo until they could
be returned to Russia some time in the future when the Bolshevist Government
had been abolished.

A few weeks after the Armistice I began to receive prayers imploring for food,
medical supplies, clothing, and raw materials. If the liberal elements could
control the food for starving peoples, they would have a powerful hold on the
situation. But until some sort of order could be established we could do very
little quickly.

In our preliminary organization, I first annexed Estonia to Finland for relief
purposes, placing it under Major Ferry Heath at Helsinki. I annexed Latvia and
Lithuania to Poland under Colonel Grove at Warsaw. But as the situation
became more strenuous I set up a separate mission for the three Baltic states
under Colonel John C. Groome and a staff of thirty-six American officers.

With this sort of background, we can move into their individual and hitherto
unwritten histories — and behind each was the question of food and freedom.



In Estonia, four days after the Armistice a council of various groups erected a
provisional government at Reval. This council had indeed been born at the
time of the Russian Revolution (April, 1917) but had been snuffed out by the
German occupation. In December, 1918 the Russian Red Army invaded them.
With an improvised force of Finnish, Swedish, White Russian, and Latvian volun-
teers, but mainly Estonian peasants, they held the Communists off. Our men
reported that George Washington's army at Valley Forge was better clothed,
better fed and better armed. There can be no doubt of their courage. One
division lost 50 per cent in a single action against the Communists but held its
ground.

The food situation was horrible enough but our staff soon overcame the worst
conditions. In some of the towns the mortality of children had been as high as
35 per cent during the past year. From the Finns we secured in January 1919
an advance of 2,000 tons of flour by undertaking to replace it later on. With
another shipment from Copenhagen and a small transshipment from England, we
managed to keep things going until we could get regular shipments in motion.
In due time we established the free feeding of children from which a lasting
impression of America has remained in the Estonian mind.

The Estonians more formally organized a Constitutional Assembly on April 13th
(1919) and discovered there were twelve different political parties with no one in
majority. Anyway they were united in their determination to be free. Having
beaten the Communists, their volunteer contingents joined in an attempt to
capture I'etrograd, which I relate elsewhere. Otherwise, Estonia offered little
more than the usual routine of fighting famine and disease. Being an agricultural
state, they were finally comfortable after the arrival of the harvest in 1919.

A human note of true Americanism sounds in one of Lieutenant John Thors'
reports. He had charge in Reval and related that upon the arrival of the
S. S. Lake Danccy the captain asked for a baseball field for his crew to deter-
mine whether they or the firemen had the better team. Thors found a field
and decided that he would charge the Estonians admission to this strange per-
formance. He borrowed a band from the town and inserted full publicity into
the press. Our sailors and firemen gave cigarettes to be sold for 1.50 marks



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION



579



a pack — say 25 cents — a reduction of about 80% of the current price. The
brass band, cigarettes and baseball game proved to be a huge success. After
the performance was over, he found that the receipts amounted to 3,200 marks
for the Children's Relief.

Our Estonian statistical record was:

Supplies



Food (tons)



Clothing,
Medical,
Miscellane-
ous (tons)



Total (tons)



From—

United States

United Kingdom.
Denmark



53, 554

8,224

462



4,179
400



57, 733

8,624

462



Total.



62, 240



4,579



66, 819



Financed by —

Cash paid to the United States

Loans from United States

Charity from United States (Child Feeding) -

Loans from United Kingdom

Denmark Exchange Commodities



$414,815

16, 764, 071

1, 460, 796

2, 342, 360

35, 207



Total.



$21,017,249



In looking over the musty statistics one item of charity catches the eye —
"230,000 children's garments, 35,000 needles and 139,000 buttons."



The new Republic of Latvia had a more troubled infancy than Estonia. Five
days after the Armistice, a council of leading Letts, under the leadership of
Karlis Ulmanis, proclaimed a Republic at Riga. Ulmanis was provisional Presi-
dent. He was one of the unique figures to emerge in the war years. He had
been brought to Nebraska by an uncle when ten years old, had been educated
at a mid-West University and had taught economics. Shortly before the war
he had returned to Latvia to minister to his mother and was caught in the
draft of the Russian Army. Probably more than any one other man he was
responsible for the independence movement of these three Baltic races. His
devotion to freedom gave direction to all of them.^

His frail government was at once opposed by the Baits. Due to refusal
of their support he was unable to overcome a Communist rising in Riga early
in January (1919) supported by an invasion of the Russian Bolshevist Army.

We were about to land food supplies when Ulmanis and his government
were forced to retreat underground. Later (on April 2), he pulled his govern-
ment together and established a headquarters for it at Libau. He then renewed
his appeals to me to stop starvation. Through Colonel Grove, I sent Major
Frank Ross and Captain John H. Hollister from our stafC in Warsaw. We
ordered a cargo into Libau which arrived on April 9th in charge of Major
DuBois Brookings and Lieutenant George P. Harrington. In a week they had
kitchens operating and were feeding some 20,000 of the most distressed people.
But at the end of that week a Bait uprising, led by large land owners and sur-
reptitiously supported by von der Goltz's army, seized Libau. Von der Goltz's
action was part of a general conspiracy to establish Bait control of all three
Baltic states under a Baron von Stryck. Ulmanis had to flee again, this time
to Sweden. Our men, therefore, suspended food distribution for a few days
to see what would happen next. On April 20th a squadron of Allied destroyers
appeared and von der Goltz issued a proclamation announcing that he had
nothing to do with the overthrow of the Latvian Government ; whereupon our
men resumed distribution.

Ulmanis again began to organize. Things in Libau rocked along under un-
certain control with von der Goltz's army in and out of the situation. In the
meantime, I received the most terrible reports about the conduct of the Com-



^ Twenty years later, at his invitation, I visited the prosperous Latvian Republic. Still
later, as a captive, he was executed by the Communists at Leningrad.



580 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

munist Government in Riga. On May 7th I sent a memorandum to the "Big
Four" :

The situation at Riga has developed into a most distressing form. From
advices received from different quarters, it appears that the Bolshevik
Government being unable to provide foodstuffs was mobbed by the populace
and had withdrawn its army from the city, which was given over to complete
anarchy of wholesale massacre and murder. It appears that a large number
of women and children of the so-called "bourgeois" were transported to an
island in the bay and have been slowly starving under the guardianship of a
lot of female harpies.

We are endeavoring to arrange for a shipload of food, but the question
arises at once as to any form of guardianship by which the food could be dis-
charged and distributed. It seems almost impossible to contemplate sending
any merchant ship in without naval escort and to secure anything like a
reasonable distribution without some kind of military protection.
My information was incorrect in the detail of the withdrawal of the Russian
Communist army from Riga. They were still on the job and doing their worst.
As notliing happened, from this appeal, I followed on the 9th with a more
urgent letter to Mr. Wilson going into more details, and asking for naval pro-
tection to our ships and the port cities.
Mr. Wilson replied :

Paris, 21 Maij 1919.
My Dear Hoover:

I read with deep interest and concern your letter of the ninth of May about
the situation in the Baltic Provinces, and yesterday had an opportunity to read
It to the other members of the "Council of Four." Mr. Lloyd George suggested
that I request you to have a conference with Admiral Hope, or anyone else who
represents the British Admiralty here, in order to ascertain whether it was
feasible from a naval point of view to carry out the programme you suggest
If the programme were adopted, it would, I suppose, necessarily be the British
Navy that executed it, and we would very much appreciate a memorandum from
you as to the result of your conference with the British Admiralty.
Cordially and sincerely yours,

WooDROw Wilson.

At a session of the Council of Foreign Ministers on May 13th, they appointed
a committee including me, to make a recommendation. We reported promptly,
but the military seemed to think it would require weeks to organize action.

In view of what was going on in Riga, this was slower than I could bear.
In desperation I sent a telegram to General von der Goltz (whose duty under the
Armistice was to preserve order in that region) asking him to occupy Riga. On
receiving his agreement, I instructed our men to prepare food for immediate
delivery to the city. On May 21st, Major Brookings loaded a train of 40 car-
loads at Libau and started it for Riga under Lieutenant Harrington following
von der Goltz's army. The train reached a point ten miles from the city.
Beyond that the tracks were destroyed. Von der Goltz, assisted by the ragged
Latvian Army, made a quick movement and occupied parts of the city on May
22nd. In the meantime, I had ordered one of our cargoes afloat into Riga and
Admiral Benson sent a destroyer to protect it. Lieutenant Harrington, like the
real American he was, set his doughboys to recruiting labor and repairing tracks
while he went ahead into Riga, and by using wagons and hand-carts was able
to get some food into the city on the 24th.

From one of Lieutenant Harrington's sergeants, there came to me a story
of which America should be proud. When Harrington arrived at Riga, fighting
in the suburbs between von der Goltz and the Communists was still going on.
There were many dead from starvation and battle in the streets. Harrington
did not quite know how to get hold of the situation. He inquired if there was
an American Consulate. There was. He sent the sergeant who found a
small American flag nailed to the door and a typewritten notice in Lettish and
vigorous English warning all comers to stay awa.v — signed by the "Acting Consul
of the United States of America." The sergeant had some difficulty in raising
anybody, but finally a girl peeked through a crack and, seeing his uniform, threw
the door wide open — and broke into tears. She was the stenographer, an Ameri-
can of Lettish birth, who had stayed by the ship when the Consul had been



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 581

withdrawn in advance (>f the German occupation a year before. She pulled
herself together (luickly when told that they had a trainload of food on the
edge of the city and wanted to find somelwdy in authority. She knew whom to get
and managed it as if she had been the very nutther of Riga itself. She was very
thin and hungry and the sergeant assumed the duty of caring for her needs.

Three days after Harrington's arrival, our ship Lake Maty arrived amid
rejoicing. By this time, however, Harrington was giving one meal a day from
his meagre supi)lies to 20<>,()00 people.

The history of the Communist doings in Riga from January to May, 1919, had
never been adequately told in English. A Latvian Soviet Republic had been set
up mostly under Lettish and Finnish Communists. The prisons were opened
and the dregs of Riga — once a citj' of a million i)eople — were turned loose on
the people. Together with the Communists, they looted every store, every
house. The people were left without food except at exorbitant prices from the
Communists. The banks and public institutions were plundered. Literally
hundreds of innocent people were daily executed without trials in a sadistic
orgy of blood, of which the world has known few equals. Clergymen, doctors,
teachers, young girls, were taken to prison and mowed down by machine guns.
On many days as many as 1,000 were executed. The deaths from starvation and
other causes were so many that coffins could not be provided and bodies by the
hundreds were dumped into trenches.

But we were soon to experience another kind of trouble. A German colonel,
placed in charge of the city liy von der Goltz, set up a military court made up
mostly of Baits to find and try those guilty of assassination and execution under
the Red regime. There were men on the court wh(jse wives, sons and daughters
were among the executed. At once a Wliite Terror replaced a Red Terror with
its round of executions. Our men not only protested, but asked me to protest.

I had no particular authority in the matter but sent a telegram to Colonel
Groome :

. . . The Germans alone are responsible for this white terror which suc-
ceeded the red terror in this particular instance ... As soon as you get to
Reval see the various military connuanders, communicate to them my views
and secure from them a definite assurance that the Riga incidents will not



Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Select committee oBaltic States investigation. [First interim report] (Volume pt. 1) → online text (page 69 of 75)