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

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mon a priest. Sick persons who wanted to see a priest
had to submit a petition in writing to the head of the
hospital, and the regulations provided that all such
petitions must be handwritten. Very weak persons, or
those already fighting death, could not fulfill these for-
malities. Moreover, the sick who made such hand-writ-
ten applications waited in vain for a priest ; the hospital
administration disposed of them in the waste basket.

Formerly large hospitals had chapels where ser-
vices were held for convalescents. The prisons also had
similar chapels for the prisoners. After the suppression
of religion in the hospitals and prisons, these chapels
were not forgotten either. Alien officials issued compre-
hensive orders for conversion of these chapels **to more
useful needs." The prison chapels were converted into
storerooms or cells, and those in the hospitals into sick

All hospital and prison chapels were formerly equip-
ped with all necessities. These things were unnecessary


after the destruction of the chapels. New directors of
hospitals and prisons inquired of the higher authorities
what should be done with the equipment of the chapels.
The warden of the GPU prison No. 11 (in Telsiai) ad-
dressed the following- inquiry to the Pi'ison Depart-

"The Prison of Telsiai

September 9, 1940

No. 6276

To the Prison Department —

There is a chapel in the prison in which services were
formerly held for the prisoners.

I ask you for instructions as to disposition of movable
property therein.

(Signed) A. Ramanauskas

Warden of the Prison."

There is no information regarding the reply of the
Prison Department .(of GPU) , but it is known what the
warden did; he arranged an auction of the effects of
the chapel to take place on October 4, If^lO, ^'n the
prison office. The following liturgical and religious ob-
jects were sold (extract from the ^.opied announcement
of the auction) :

4 vestments (black, white, green, red)

2 copes

3 albs with copes
1 chalice

1 beaker
1 altar
1 chandelier
1 cross
1 pulpit

11 statues of saints
3 communion cloths
9 purifiers

about 5 or 6 kilograms of blessed candles

The property of many other chapels was sold at
auction. In other places it was thrown out as useless
rubbish. Bolshevik directors of hospitals and prisons
simply appropriated the more valuable liturgic; 1 effects
for themselves.


Liquidation of Religious Organizations

Before the Russian invasion of Lithuania, member-
ship organizations enjoyed a great freedom of action.
Besides poHtical, public, cultural and economic organi-
zations, there were a number of purely religious, re-
ligious-charitable and other religious organizations,
fraternities and sororities of laymen. Some of these
organizations were headed by clergymen. The adminis-
tration of other societies comprising both clerical and
lay membership, was in the hands of laymen.

The purely religious organizations attended only to
the religious needs of their members. The religious-
cultural or religious-fraternal organizations concerned
themselves with educational, charitable and other cul-
tural and public matters. They had established a num-
ber of elementary, secondary and professional schools,
arranged courses in general education, lectures for
their members and for the general public and had main-
tained hospitals, orphanages, asylums, halls, libraries,
theatres, etc. The religious-charitable organizations
concerned themselves with relief of the poor and of the
victims of accidents, they maintained homes and trade
schools for children and the aged.

The purely religious organizations were supported
by voluntary contributions of their members. The
semi-religious organizations with other aims enjoyed
the privilege of publicity drives for contributions
among the general public. Some of them received cer-
tain public appropriations from the government for
educational and charitable purposes.

When the Russian invaders decreed the removal of
religion from public life, they also turned against these
organizations. They regarded them all from the same
point of view. They did not take into consideration that
some of these had been of great service in the field of
public welfare; all of them were declared equally un-
necessary, as existing only "to betray the people." The
NKVD stipulated that all organizations established be-
fore June 20, 1940, jeopardized public security and


orders were issued to terminate their activity and they
were taken over by the Communist Party and the State.

Some members and groups of members attempted
to evade this decree. Petitions were addressed to the
Council of the People's Commissars explaining that
one 01' another organization were of a purely religious
character, and therefore should not be included in the
classification of organizations endangering the public
security of the State.

However, all these efforts failed. The Russian au-
thorities paid no attention to these applications incom-
patible with the interests of the all-powerful Commu-
nist Party.

A special committee was designated by the occupy-
ing authorities for the liquidation of private member-
ship organizations. The committee had to prepare a list
of associations to be liquidated : to decide the order of
precedence in liquidation ; to settle the questions of the
disposal of property, as well as to deal with other mat-
ters connected with the liquidation. The Central Com-
mittee of the Communist Party and the Communist
Youth Organization were officially represented on this
committee. These representatives decided questions
concerning the liquidation, paying no attention to the
other members of the committee, who merely signed
the protocol of liquidation.

The State took over the schools, hospitals and all
real and personal estate of the liquidated religious or-
ganizations. The People's Commissariat for Education
took over the libraries. The Communist Party, the
Communist Youth Organization and the MOPR (an in-
ternational organization with its center in Moscow
which supports various bolshevik-fellow travelers im-
prisoned abroad for their subversive propaganda) were
the beneficiaries of all other sequestered property.

Almost all religious organizations had archives in
which they kept the minutes of activities and member-
ship rosters. The NKVD took over all archives. It used
them as a source of evidence against the leading mem-
bers of the liquidated organizations.

In spite of the official declaration of the Communist

52975 O - 54 - 39


Party guaranteeing the freedom of religious services,
a religious activity was considered to be a crime. On
November 28, 1940, Guzevich, the puppet Commissar of
NKVD, issued a strictly confidential order. No. 1154,
in which he urged the GPU to intensify its work of col-
lecting material against the "counter-rev ,lutionary ele-
ments." It was clearly stated in this decree that the
"liquidation of these elements should be accelerated."
Clergymen of the religious communities and religious
practitioners were specifically listed in these groups
(paragraph 5 of the decree) .

A few purely religious fraternities, small local asso-
ciations which did not base their activity upon regula-
tions but upon traditions, continued to exist despite the
"liquidation." Their activities consisted chiefly of read-
ing prayers, of maintaining a certain religious dis-
cipline and so on.

Religious traditions of fraternities continued to pre-
vail in private life despite the official liquidation.

In the second phase of their anti-religious campaign,
the Russians decided to take direct measures to foment
and to promote individual dissension among the re-
ligionists and to seek Judases among the clergy.

It was decided to collect sufficient material concern-
ing the influence of the various religious organizations
upon the public as well as utilizing these dissensions
among the population for ulterior purposes. On orders
from Moscow, the local branch of the GPU ordered its
county subdivisions to collect such evidence by the fol-
lowing order:

"Strictly Confidential

The State Security Division of the People's Commissariat
of the Interior of the Soviet Union has drawn up a plan of
operations concerning the practicing Christians in the new
Soviet Republics.

Acting thereunder, I order you to take the following
action :

1. Draw up a list of all Roman Catholic, Orthodox and
Protestant sectarian societies and organizations which were
legally or illegally active within your respective county un-
der the old regime.

2. Describe the influence of each of these organizations
upon the masses and on the public-political life (approximate


number of practicing Christians in the organizations and
their public-political position in the country).

3. Prepare a list of all churches and chapels in your

4. Submit a list of all pastors, parish priests and leaders
of sects in your county, indicating the influence of individual
religious authorities upon the masses and the public-political
life of the country.

5. Specify in considerable detail interior dissensions with-
in the religious organizations, why these dissensions have
occurred and between which clergymen strained relations

6. Suggest how these dissensions could be used for re-
cruiting agents and for undermining these organizations
within your county.

7. Send me detailed report on the activities of investigat-
ing agencies formed within your county for Roman-Catholic
and Orthodox clergymen and Protestant sectarians as well
as the plans of further operations.

8. Describe and characterize the agents you may be able
to recruit among the clergymen and the sectarians.

9. Send me an exhaustive report concerning all these
questions by January 30th.

Use the services of clergymen of the network of agent-
informers to obtain this information.
(Signed) Guzejvich

Major of the Soviet Guard
People's Commissar for the Interior
of the Soviet Socialist Republic of
January 21, 1941 Lithuania.

No. 2/92

No definite instruction was contained in the afore-
said order regarding the means to be employed for
eradicating the influence of religious fraternities. It
was intended to reach that goal by calling forth re-
ligious differences and individual antagonism. The
NKVD simply wanted to recruit informers among the
religionists before taking further steps aimed at the
elimination of all religious life.


Religious Press and Literature

The religious press and literature reflected the de-
gree of activities of religious fraternities in indepen-


dent Lithuania. Before the Russian invasion, an aver-
age of 300 to 400 new religious books appeared annu-
ally. Religious fraternities, congregations and special
publishing companies printed periodicals and books.

The Russians immediately suppressed the religious
periodical press. The publication of all religious books
was banned. Ail publishing houses were nationalized
and taken over by the Communist Party. The bol-
sheviks placed their own managers in these houses and
they began using the capital and equipment for pub-
lishing communist propaganda literature.

The invaders realized that a free press was their
greatest enemy. Therefore, they decided not only to
stop the publication of religious literature but also to
destroy all books of this kind which had been pub-
lished before the invasion. They confiscated all stocks
of religious books found in shops and printing offices.

As in the case of organizations, certain individuals
and ecclesiastic authorities tried to save the religious
literature. For instance, in order to save the small
prayer book "Our Father," which had been confiscated
in the printing office, the Archbishop of Kaunas ad-
dressed a letter to the People's Commissariat for the
Interior, stating that it had been published to serve the
purely religious needs of his followers and only to teach
the elementary doctrines of the Catholic Church, and
he asked the Commissar to release the confiscated stock
from the printing office. The Commissar ignored an-
swering the letter.

As the booklet **Our Father" was very important
to Catholics, the Archbishop of Kaunas went still fur-
ther. He appealed to the Council of the People's Com-
missars with the following letter:

"We have just learned that by order of the People's Com-
missariat of Education, the stock of the little prayer book
"Our Father" was confiscated a' uie former printing office
of "Spindulys" because it is a rtli^ious book of instruction.
I hereby respectfully ask the Council of the People's Com-
missars of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Lithuania to con-
sider the following:

1. This booklet explains the fundamental principles of
the Catholic religion and the first sacraments of devotion,
i.e., the confession and communion. The Stalin Constitution


of the Soviet Republic of Lithuania clearly allows the free-
dom of faith and of worship. Therefore these booklets ex-
plaining their faith to believers are absolutely necessary. In-
asmuch as all religious instruction is eliminated from the
school curricula, we ask the People's Commissariat of Educa-
tion not to proscribe these booklets which describe the per-
sonal aspects of religious faith, especially as they do not
contain any anti-Communist propaganda.

2. This booklet was ordered printed some time ago, and
the printing was begun; while the book was in the process of
printing the publishing house became the property of the
State, but no difficulties appeared at first. When the author
of this booklet called upon the director of the Department of
the Press and Associations on September 26, 1940, he was
definitely assured that no difficulties would arise in releasing
this booklet.

3. Considering the importance of this booklet to the faith-
ful and because we did not foresee difficulties, the office of the
Archbishop of Kaunas has already paid all printing bills. I,
therefore, ask you in my own behalf, and in behalf of all
bishops and all tlie faithful in the Soviet Republic of Lithu-
ania, to release the booklet "Our Father" from the printing

Kaunas, October 9, 1940

No. 2241 (Signed) Dr. V. Brizgys

Acting Archbishop of Kaunas"

This letter was handed to the Council of the Peo-
ple's Commissars. In the meantime it was learned that
the GPU had already made arrangements for the de-
struction of the booklet. The following day, the Arch-
bishop of Kaunas addressed a personal letter to the
chairman of the Council of the People's Commissars,
briefly explaining the situation to him and repeating
the request expressed in the first letter. In spite of all
arguments, the chaimian adhered to his negative de-
cision. All correspondence was finally forwarded to the
main office of Supervision of Literature and Publishing,
which supervised all matters concerned with publica-
tions. In accordance with the opinion of the chairman
of the Council of People's Commissars this Board of
Supervision informed Bishop B. Brizgys, that his ap-
plication to distribute the booklet "Our Father" had
been denied and the matter was dropped.

This example shows clearly that the constitutional
guarantee of religious freedom was worthless in so far


as religious literature and religious questions were

The booklet *'Our Father" did not escape destruc-
tion. The entire edition went to the paper mill and was
turned into cardboard there.

All other religious books found by the invaders in
print or in stock at the printing offices met the same
fate: catechisms, hymn books and other books went to
the paper mill. The Russian arsonists destroyed the
books which were found in stock in shops, burning
them in a fine Nazi style.

Having destroyed all religious books found in print-
ing offices, publishing houses and shops, the Russians
turned their attention to the libraries. It was decided
to remove from the libraries all books having religious
contents and on the whole all such books that did not
agree with the Soviet ideology. The Supreme Board of
Supervision of Literature and Publishing was entrusted
with this task. The board carried out this work very
thoroughly. Functionaries were dispatched to various
places in the country to go through school and other
libraries and to pick out the books which contained
anything that displeased the Russians. In places to
which no special functionaries were sent, directors of
libraries were charged with the task of removing from
libraries the books in accordance with a confidential
list of prescribed books sent to them.

All religious books taken from the libraries had to
be destroyed in the same manner as those which were
found in the printing offices. They were sent to the
paper mills. There were difficulties in sending the books
confiscated in the country to paper mills. The Russians
feared that some people might hide these books. Pro-
cenko, a recent arrival from Moscow and director of
the Main Office of Supervision of Literature and Pub-
lishing in a circular letter instructed that all books
taken from the libraries should be cut into pieces or
made unreadable in some other manner.

This entire work of destruction of religious books
was carried out in complete secrecy as all other de-
structive work of the GPU. Not a single proscription


of publication of religious books or orders to destroy
these books ever reached the newspapers. Nor could
the least information concerning the destruction of un-
desired books or similar undertakings of the new re-
gime be found in the press, although in other matters
the Russians usually boasted of their achievements.


Campaign Against Religious Holidays

The Russian invaders at once launched a special
campaign in Lithuania to honor work. Church holidays
were soon abolished as being "absolutely useless and a
complete waste of time." They tried to inculcate a be-
lief that all Church holidays were a reactionary in-
heritance and that no decent worker should observe
these days; they should work for the improvement of
their own welfare and that of the entire country.

The Russians developed an intensive propaganda
against religious festivals in the press and believed this
to be sufficient. But they overestimated their own propa-
ganda. The first religious holidays passed, and the
invaders saw that the Lithuanians were paying no at-
tention to communist preachings. This was an unex-
pected failure for the "liberators." They intensified the
agitation against them and designed more effective
means to combat religion.

The Russians arranged mass meetings to take place
on the eve of Church holidays and compelled workers,
employees, pupils and other groups to attend. At such
meetings an alien communist agitator usually gave a
lecture on the uselessness and wastefulness of Church
holidays. He, or one of his cohorts, read a resolution to
the effect that none of the assembled persons would
celebrate the approaching Church festival and that
they pledged themselves to work with redoubled vigor
and efficiency on that day. The meeting was asked if it
agreed to the resolution. Everyone knew beforehand
what awaited those who voiced opposition. Complete
silence always followed such a question. Thereupon


these resolutions were published in the press as evi-
dence of the fact that neither the workers nor public
servants nor students nor others would celebrate these

But when the holidays arrived, factories, offices,
schools and other places of work remained vacant ; onlj^
a few reported for work.

This, of course, aroused the anger of the invaders.
Besides propaganda, meetings and resolutions, official
governmental decrees were also published to the effect
that this or that religious holiday was a working day
and that all workers had to be at their place of work on
such a day. All those who did not report for work were
threatened with punishment for an intentional non-
observance of State regulations and for sabotage.

The Russians did not expect the faithful to look on
passively without protesting. They believed that the
holidays would afford an especially good opportunity
for expressing one's opinion against the alien invaders
in some way and for furthering anti-Russian opposi-
tion. With the approach of some Church holiday special
precautions were, therefore, taken.

The following instruction by the NKVD to all mem-
bers of the county offices of GPU before the eve of All
Saints' and All Souls' Day shows the occupants fears
in this matter.

"Strictly Confidential

Commissariat of the Interior of

The Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania

October 27, 1940

To the Leaders of the County Branches of the GPU:

On Friday November 1st, all faithful Catholics celebrate
the so-called All Saints' Day and on November 2nd, All
Souls* Day.

Special services will be held during the holidays in all
the churches and processions with candles to the cemeteries
will take place on All Saints' Night.

No doubt the clergy will increase its anti-revolutionary
activity on this occasion and will take advantage of the feast
for its agitation, for the incitement of outrages, for spreading
anti-revolutionary appeals.

The NKVD has moreover learned that the nationalist
pupils have planned to hold anti-Soviet demonstrations in
the cemeteries at the graves of the soldiers on All Souls' Day.


In order to prevent possible anti-revolutionary outrages,
the spreading of anti-Soviet appeals, etc.,


1. To send operative personnel to the assembly places of
the faithful, to the graves, etc., on the holidays. Also to as-
sign plainclothesmen for this duty.

2. To inform the agents to this effect: Order them to
advise immediately the GPU of all anti-Soviet outrages ob-
sei'ved, such as the spreading of anti-revolutionary appeals,
the holding of anti-Soviet speeches, etc.

3. To arrest persons who have distinguished themselves
by anti-Soviet activity avoiding however occasions for arous-
ing people's temper.

(Signed) B. Baranauskas

Acting People* s Commissa/r for the
Interior of the Soviet Socialist Re-
public of Lithuania."

Apart from this letter, the representative of the
chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, a com-
munist operating in Lithuania under the name of
"Brasiskis," the People's Commissar of the Interior
Guzevich, and Chief of the Security Division Gladkov,
(a Russian sent from Moscow) summoned the Acting
Archbishop of Kaunas, Dr. V. Brizgys, on the eve of
All Souls' Day and threatened him with the most severe
reprisals if processions, demonstrations and similar
"outrages" would take place on All Souls' Day.

All Souls' Day came and passed. The faithful said
their prayers at the graves of their dead as they had
done in previous years.

One would believe that this trepidation shown by
the GPU on the eve of All Souls' Day would convince
the invaders that in the future they need resort to no
special preventive measures. By using violence the ex-
pert executioners saw everywhere only the distorted
shadows which they feared. Guided by this fear the
NKVD sent a new letter to its division on the Eve of
the Christmas holiday.

"Strictly Confidential

To the Commander of the Division of the City of Vilnius
The Chief of the GPU for the Soviet Socialist Republic of

To the Leaders of the county branches and the subdivisions
of the GPU of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Lithuania.
On "December 25th and 26th Catholics celebrate so-called


Christmas. On these days (beginning with the eve of Decem-
ber 24th) services will be held in the churches and sermons
will be preached. Both days are considered to be great holi-
days, thus non-working days, by the faithful.

The nationalist anti-revolutionary elements and especially
the clergy will this year endeavor to use Christmas for their
hostile activity — mainly by the following means:

a. Attempts to prevent work in the factories and teach-
ing in the schools.

6. Agitation from the pulpit against participation in the
elections — religious sermons in more or less camouflaged
form, also by exerting influence upon the believers, individu-

Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Select committee oBaltic States investigation. [First interim report] (Volume pt. 1) → online text (page 71 of 75)