The Life and Times of a Man of Two Worlds: Captain Povilas (Paul) Juodvalkis – the Oldest Surviving Member of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Association (Šauliai)[i] at the time of his Interviews in Chicago, 2014
By: Audra V. Adomenas
Founder and President of Lithuanian Archives Project (LAP)[ii]
Note to readers: The end-notes set up space for room of thought. Without space for room of thought, a passive reading of this article, or any article, shuts down critical thinking functions. Thus, the reader is encouraged to read the endnotes and bibliography as an integral part of the subject at hand.
The inspiration from this interview comes as an aftermath of reading a book presented to me in Chicago by a lawyer and banker who traces back to my grandparents’ generation of pre-WWII Lithuania. As a Chicago-born Lithuanian-American who learned the Lithuanian language in the Lithuanian Diaspora[iii] Saturday school system, I try to keep my ancestral language skills honed by reading Lithuanian language books while immersed in American society.[iv] Thus, I was attracted to Lemties Vingiuose by Pranas Jurkus of Lockport, Illinois. Mr. Jurkus was born in 1927 in the city of Kretinga, the winds of fate carried him to the West in the post-WWII era, he arrived in the U.S. from Germany in 1957 and began a successful climb in prime mover American banking circles. “Pranas Jurkus” is not a “household name,” such as Valdas Adamkus or Dick Durbin in Illinois and beyond, yet the life trajectory of Pranas Jurkus—first stirred, then opened my mind to vicariously enter into the life tapestry of a fellow being from another generation and time.
Thus, when Chicagoan Povilas (Paul) Juodvalkis became known to me as the oldest living survivor of another part of the social fabric of pre-WWII Lithuanian society – I turned to the task before the eye of the present reader – the task of entering into the life experiences of one – Povilas Juodvalkis.[v] His life trajectory – I dare to venture to say – is not restricted to any sub-society as one may surmise at first glance – but, rather, it meshes into society-at-large on a number of levels that the reader may ponder. Interviews with him in his Chicago home in the summer of 2014 can be better digested with the idea that the attendant endnotes are not to be treated as endnotes – but rather as an integral part of the subject and subject matter which unfolds as one tapestry under the title “A Man of Two Worlds.”
In early August 2014, this researcher conducted the first of a series of interviews using the Lithuanian language with retired Lithuanian Army Captain Juodvalkis at his home in Chicago. Later, Audra invited Prof. Antanas J. Van Reenan, friend of Mr. Juodvalkis, to join the conversations. The first interview lasted more than four hours, on one of the hottest and most humid days of August, 2014. However, Mr. Juodvalkis was so eager to tell his story, that he did not want to pause for a break, not even for a drink of water. Every Monday during August, the interview sessions in his home in Brighton Park lasted between 4 and 6 hours – non-stop – a feat worthy of note since Mr. Juodvalkis is over 90 years old and has a less-than-efficient window air conditioner in one window in the living room where we sat.
The Early Years – until 1943: In Occupied Lithuania
Povilas Juodvalkis was born on January 6, 1923 in the town of Zarasai, Lithuania. He graduated Zarasai high school, class of 1942. While at Zarasai high school, Povilas Juodvalkis (at 6 feet, 7 inches tall) was a star soccer player in the goalkeeper position on the “Kovas” team – a fact worthy of note as he also played soccer in England and the United States after WWII – also as goalkeeper. After Povilas Juodvalkis graduated high school, he immediately secretly joined the Lithuanian partisans who were operating in his home town of Zarasai. The town of Zarasai is about three kilometers from Belorussia. Two of his uncles and two cousins were already partisans, and they were the ones who talked Povilas into joining them. Povilas’ parents approved. In the Deguciu county, Povilas and his Lithuanian comrades’ primary activities included exchanging food for weapons with wandering Russian soldiers who were left isolated as a result of the Red Army’s hasty retreat from Lithuania in June-July of 1941.[vi] During German-occupied Lithuania, approximately 30 partisans, Povilas among them, concentrated their operations in the Lithuanian-Belorussian border area. Russian soldiers were often tired and hungry, and willingly gave up their weapons in exchange for food and lasiniai (bacon). Often, the Russian soldiers had trekked on foot to Zarasai from as far away as Vilkaviskis, a distance of about 263 km. The Russians were usually in groups of about ten soldiers. Certain partisans in Povilas’ group were known to be more bold, and were the ones who routinely approached the dis-spiritied Russian soldiers and asked for their automatic weapons and whatever little ammunition that they had. Whenever Russian soldiers foraged for food, the local partisans found out from the farmers what kinds and calibers of weapons the Russians had, and what else they will give in exchange for food. Some Russian soldiers told the Lithuanian partisans what lake they had buried their ammunition in. Povilas (known as Paul in Chicago) was able to speak to the Russian soldiers, as he was fluent in Russian, Lithuanian, German and Polish.[vii] In the post-WWII era, he added English while living in Great Britain, Canada and the United States.
Povilas Juodvalkis was drawn into the Zarasai secret guerillas by his cousin, Jonas Juodvalkis (died of lung cancer in 1944) who was the chief of police in Zarasai in the last years of independent Lithuania in the late 1930’s until the Soviet invasion on June 15, 1940. Then, Jonas Juodvalkis was reinstated as police chief of Zarasai one year later in 1941, under German occupation. However, according to Povilas Juodvalkis, his cousin Jonas worked for the Germans only on the surface, as he was the secret leader of the Lithuanian clandestine guerillas in Zarasai. In a totalitarian state, what meets the eye may, in fact, be a dangerous game of subterfuge – in this case, a police chief (compliant with Nazis) doubles as a leader of local guerillas – who, on the surface, cooperated with the German occupation. This information would have been less fathomable to this researcher had I not been prepared for such subterfuge by reading The Clandestine History of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police, in which the chief of the Jewish police in the Kovno (Kaunas) ghetto, Moshe Levin, was, “. . . in the employ of his German masters – but – in fact – was a key member of the Jewish underground in Lithuania.”[viii]
The Russian soldiers lived in dense, near-by forests. Povilas and his secret guerilla comrades in Zarasai did not live in the forest, but lived in their houses in the town of Zarasai. They only assembled secretly at certain times, for certain clandestine purposes. In the Grazucio Forest near Zarasai, there were few secret partisans. However, in Mincios Forest, there were many such partisans. Povilas and his comrades were given a command by their partisan group leader, Vincas Tamasiunas, to fell trees to block the road for retreating Russian soldiers. Partisans and townspeople made home-made explosives from the cast iron hub lining of wheels.[ix] “Jeigu jinai truksta, daug zmoniu zuna.” (If that material explodes, many people die.) As disoriented and dis-spirited Russian soldiers retreated in confusion, Juodvalkis and other Zarasai comrades tied back small trees, and attached home-made explosives to the tree. As the soldiers retreated, the vibrations of their footsteps running set off the bombs. Povilas himself made these bombs. Povilas also noted that in German-occupied Lithuania, Russian soldiers robbed townspeople. The German army knew about the Lithuanian partisans’ actions. Unable to be everywhere, the German army issued white armbands to the Lithuanian partisans, on which were written “Tevynes gynejas” (defender of the homeland) in German.[x] The German army knew that the Lithuanian partisans were taking weapons away from the Russian soldiers and did not get involved as maximum German troops were sorely needed for fighting in the vastness of Russia. Povilas said that some Lithuanian partisans who did not have a family joined the German army willingly. Povilas, witnessing the exodus of the Lithuanian Jews, how they had piled their belongings on horse-drawn carts and were attempting to leave German-occupied Lithuania – fleeing Eastward. Povilas told of how first the Zarasai Jews’ belongings were taken away from them by the German army,[xi] and afterwards they were all shot. “Pirma dar nesupratau kad juokesi is zydu. Visur bega zmones ant kelio, [Vokieciu kareiviai] saude [Zarasu] zydus.”[xii] As a young man of 20, he shared his anguish of such scenes of horror with his family members and close friends. All lived in fear that the German soldiers would turn their guns on them. Juodvalkis stood by and did nothing, according to his own words. He knew that he also would be shot in the head.[xiii]
1944: Removal to Nazi Germany
According to Juodvalkis, when Lithuanian General Povilas Plehavicius was given permission by the German army in 1944 to reassemble the Lithuanian army in Lithuania to fight Russians, all of Povilas’ partisan comrades in Zarasai joined Plehavicius’ ranks.[xiv] “Tikejome kad viskas lengvai bus.” (Translation: We believed that everything would be easier.) However, Povilas, with great emotion, described that when General Plehavicius was given orders by Nazi Germany to march outside of Lithuania, he refused, on the grounds that he and his soldiers only wanted to protect the borders of Lithuania. “Kas nenorejo atiduoti ginklus buvo susaudytas.” (Whomever did not want to give up their weapons was shot on the spot.)
In 1944, upon refusing to fight east of the Lithuanian border, he was rounded up and transported along with other former Plehavicius soldiers, on orders originating with Reich Minister Alfred Rosenberg, from Lithuania to forcefully serve in the German army.[xv] Thus, in 1944, he ended up in a German Army uniform as part of a flak gun crew in Bochum,[xvi] in the heart of Germany’s industrial Ruhr as part of over 20,000 of the disbanded Lithuanians who had refused to fight in lands east of the border of Lithuania.
According to Juodvalkis, some of his comrades that refused to go were shot on the spot. Juodvalkis was assigned to the Fliegerhorst Division whose task was to try to fend off British and American bombers flying bombing missions over the Ruhr. Since he was able to speak German, he was separated to serve on a German flak gun crew in the city of Bochum after receiving training in Neubrandenburg. He mused about this in the interview, saying:
“Tave pasodina ir turi daryti savo darba. Jeigu nesutinti darba atlikti, tuoj ateina ir nusauna, nei vardo, nei pavardes niekas nezinos. Kiti nesutiko, vietoj nusove.” Translation: “They sit you down and you must do your job. If you do not agree to complete your job, they [the Nazi enforcers] quickly come and shoot you, no one will know your first or last name, or when you were killed. Others protested, they were shot on the spot.”
Juodvalkis also recalled that the regular German soldiers also lived in fear of the SS and their powers of life or death over both the civilian population and those in army uniform – regardless of whether or not they were ethnic Germans.
While serving in Bochum in the Fliegerhorst Division, bombers dropped bombs day and night – the American bombers during the day, and the British bombers by night. Despondent, having no news from home in Red Army occupied Lithuania, he served on the flak gun behind the wheel of the gun. German soldiers befriended him – saying – stay as far away from the SS as possible. However, in the final death throes of the Third Reich, as British forces closed in, Juodvalkis again bore witness to the mass-murder of unarmed civilians. In Lithuania, he said, it had been Litvak men, women, and children. This time, in the late Spring of 1945 – Juodvalkis experienced the same scene of horror – except this time it was Norwegian women forced laborers imported into a labor hungry Nazi Germany. Juodvalkis said that the constant, non-stop bombing, the loss of all he held dear back in his homeland made him lose all hope in humanity itself. Thus, Juodvalkis – a hulking 6 feet 7 inches giant of a man[xvii] – found himself as a uniformed guard. There, in Bochum, he bore witness to a scene where German women in SS uniform were executing their helpless prey – Norwegian women. Refusing to remain a passive guard, he screamed and lunged toward the guns of the SS – a woman in SS uniform then aimed and shot Juodvalkis in the stomach. The Lithuanian in German uniform could remember nothing else, except that when he awoke – having lost all sense of time – he saw the face of a German civilian doctor who told him that he had a bullet lodged in his stomach[xviii] who told him that it was best not to try to take the bullet out of his stomach via operation.[xix] At this same time, Juodvalkis learned that two unnamed German soldiers had brought him to the Bochum hospital, saying nothing, and then disappeared into the chaos of the fall of the Ruhr. The other news was that Bochum was now under British Army occupation.
Juodvalkis, once ruled fit to leave the hospital now in British hands, was intensely interrogated by British soldiers. It was decided to let Juodvalkis and other Lithuanians who had worn German uniforms go. The British then put them to work – still wearing German uniforms without insignia – fixing roads in the British occupied zone. Juodvalkis recalled that this lasted for three months after Germany surrendered in May 1945. Juodvalkis remembered with emotion: “Vieni is tu kur perdave [britai] rusams pasikore, kiti pabego.” Translation: “Some of those who were given up [by the British] to Soviet Russia hung themselves, others ran away.”[xx]
After three months’ time, the British drove Povilas and other Lithuanians to a P.O.W. camp, along with others, to various P.O.W. camps. Approximately 2,000 Lithuanian men (former soldiers) were dispersed throughout the British, American and French Occupied Zones. Some of those 2,000 Lithuanian men were given up to the Soviet Union. The process, Juodvalkis recalls, was a random process as to who was given up to the Russians. Some British units gave them up to the Russians, others let them go.[xxi]
In his case, he was let go, and went to the farm of Franz Kriler, a 60-year-old farmer in Westphalia, near the town of Emsdeten. Aging farmer Mr. Kriler was desperate for labor, as he had only himself and one other 40-year old German man that he hired, to farm a 30 hectares farm. Mr. Kriler was happy to have a German-speaking Lithuanian such as Juodvalkis’ help. Here, Juodvalkis worked for two years (1946 – 1948) – then “graziai atsisveikinom.” Translation: “bid each other farewell on a positive note.” After working on a German farm, he signed up for work in the United Kingdom. He traveled to the U.K. via train and ship to an army camp in the Cornwall area.[xxii] Each morning, throughout much of 1948, British army trucks drove workers to various area farms to work. During 1948, Juodvalkis worked on many farms in the Cornwall area – as well as played soccer on an all-British team, except for himself, in the position of goalkeeper. Here, he was immersed among Englishmen who treated him very fairly and allowed him – via the Red Cross – to write to his relatives in the United States.
While working in England, he managed to open correspondence via the mail with his elderly uncle in Leechburg, Pennsylvania. To be closer to his uncle named Pranas Juodvalkis, he signed a two-year work contract at the Embassy of Canada to work in the coal mines located in White Amulet, Quebec, making dynamite. Thus, while in Quebec, he continued to correspond with his relative in Pennsylvaia. Upon completion of his work contract in the Canadian coal mines making dynamite, he had saved money for his envisioned journey to the United States. The proper paperwork for a “support visa” for Povilas was prepared by Rev. Dr. Joseph Prunskis of Chicago, Illinois.[xxiii] Both his elderly uncle (who emigrated to the Pennsylvania steel mills in 1909) and Chicagoan Rev. Prunskis[xxiv] were friends of the Juodvalkis family members on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
From Canada to the United States
His Journey to the United States, via England, then Canada, was first by train to Buffalo, then New York City – and, finally, in 1949, to Leechburg, Pennsylvania. After a short stay of a week at his aged uncle’s home in Pennsylvania, Povilas did not want to be a burden as a jobless relative. Thus, again, via Rev. Dr. Juozas Prunskis, he received an invitation to come and live and work in Chicago.
In the fall of 1949, Povilas arrived by train to Chicago’s Union Station. At Union Station, he was met by Jonas Prunskis, a Chicago engineer who was Rev. Juozas (Joseph) Prunskis’ brother. As by fate, Chicagoan Jonas Prunskis and Povilas Juodvalkis had been friends as children in Zarasai. Thus, Povilas and his childhood friend, Jonas Prunskis, were reunited in Chicago. Jonas Prunskis invited Povilas Juodvalkis to live in his home on the second floor of a two-floor brick building at 30th Street and Emerald in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. By way of a network of Chicago’s Lithuanians, Povilas quickly found a job. In 1949 he began to work at Wanzer and Sons Dairy, formerly at 130 W. Garfield Boulevard in Chicago (the Wanzer and Sons Dairy complex was razed in the 1980’s, and a shopping center was built there, which continues to operate to this day). Povilas worked alongside two or three other Lithuanians at Wanzer and Sons Dairy. His job included bottling milk in glass bottles, and, afterwards pouring a lot of ice over the bottled milk so that it would stay cool overnight before trucks would come in the following morning to drive the milk to the homes of the dairy’s customers. After about a year of working for Wanzer and Sons Dairy, Povilas’ cousin, Edvardas, invited Povilas to come and work with him in Edvardas’ construction business. The first home that Edvardas’ construction company built (along with Povilas) was a home for a Lithuanian doctor, Dr. Simulis, on McCarthy Road in Lemont, IL. This was the start of a long chain of successful construction projects for Edvardas’ company, and, as a result, Povilas never had to seek other employment again. This was, in his words, “pirmas ir paskutinis darbas” (first and last job). Not long after, Povilas purchased a home at 32nd and Union Street, also in the Bridgeport area of Chicago, and he continued to work in construction.
Visits to Soviet-Occupied Lithuania
The first time that Povilas went back to Lithuania for a visit was 1974, this time as a free citizen of the United States. After landing in the Vilnius airport via a plane from Moscow,[xxv] Povilas was questioned heavily. He was required to give a specific address to where he was staying. He gave his sister Petronele’s address in Vilnius. Povilas was driven to Petronele’s house — Kasalowo 30 — near the old theater in Vilnius. His sister allowed him to stay there. Later, Povilas was given permission to stay in the Gintaras Hotel, where he knew there was at least one Soviet spy watching and listening to his every move. Later, he realized that there was not one spy, but three spies. He visited Lithuania as an American citizen. Povilas’ other relatives came to see him. He was not allowed to visit the closed city of Kaunas, Lithuania, but he was given permission to go to the farm country outside of the main cities. When he went back to his home town of Zarasai, he saw that his family home had been razed. The Soviet government allowed Povilas to stay three months in Lithuania. He visited with his parents and four sisters.[xxvi] Two years after his visit to Lithuania, the Soviet government again allowed Povilas a three month visa for a visit. In total, Povilas visited Soviet-occupied Lithuania a total of ten times. Povilas was in Lithuania at the time of the Sajudis movement. Povilas has the Sajudzio zenklas. After Sajudis, he was taken to the atomic generator facility and shown how prisoners were filling it with water. Povilas said that in 1989, few wanted to speak freely with him about rekindling Free Lithuania. However, he was able to forge a connection with former Lithuanian partisans, the Sauliai,[xxvii] by sharing with them stories of his own days as a Lithuanian partisan in Deguciu county, and among several farms near Zarasai.
This interview and subsequent research geared to amplify and tie his experiences with attendant historical sources, do not, in all honesty, lend this researcher to any neat package with a “conclusion.” The word “reflection is more apt. Without the attendant endnotes, there would have been a danger to frame the interview along the lines where it would/could have been a projection of his own psyche. As such, the use of this historical interview narrative would/could have been a use of history as “feel good” therapy. Specifically, another partisan hero story for a closed Lithuanian audience – in which the subject (Juodvalkis) and a Lithuanian readership “think the same,” – no flaws, no mistakes, no candid admissions – this would have translated into a corruption of history. Juodvalkis was brutally honest, he said that he witnessed – up-close – the murder of Lithuanian Jews, this is the first such instance for this researcher. In the end, after the loss of all he held dear – only then – did he run – not from, but toward a fanatical SS – in a vain effort to stop the mass murder of Norwegian forced women civilian laborers. This last act can be seen as an inner revolution of a tormented man, who, for an instant, broke the shackles of a totalitarian (total control) society. Pondering all the preceding, I sat near a bubbling waterfall, watching my two infant sons playing nearby on the grass, in a small Peace Garden on Chicago’s North Side, near the Uptown/Buena Park area. The serene Peace Garden,[xxviii] an oasis in the noisiness and fast pace of the North Side, records the words of Daisaku Ikeda:
We – indeed, all people – are brothers and sisters from the infinite past who share a mission to bring peace and happiness to the world we live in . . . Nothing is more precious than peace. Peace is the most basic starting point for the advancement of humankind Peace is not the absence of war. The surest way to bring peace is by fostering people of character. It lies in sowing and nurturing the seeds of peace – the desire within each individual to respect and embrace other human beings.
Closing reflections for this article formed around the life and times of Povilas Juodvalkis can be drawn from words of another man of his generation who was forcibly transplanted by the winds of war from Europe to America – former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Michael W. Blumenthal, born in 1926 and writing in 2013. In reflecting on the strange twists and turns of life that led him to become a naturalized American, Blumenthal reaches out to other human beings:
It is one of the basic premises . . . that history is made by people and that it is always subject to the vagaries of circumstance and chance, depending on who has their hands on the levers of power at critical turning points, which choices they make and what their relationships are to one another.[xxix]
As the historian Fritz Stern has aptly put it, “in history, nothing is certain until it happens.”[xxx]
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[i] For bilingual information on the Sauliai/Lithuanian Rifleman’s Association, see www.sauliusajunga.lt
[ii] Lithuanian Archives Project (LAP), was founded by this researcher as a project in 2009, and incorporated in 2012 as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization in the state of Illinois. See: http://www.LithuanianArchivesProject.org.
[iii] An entry point to just what a “diaspora” is on the level of theory and practice for both the general reader and specialist is: The Penguin Atlas of Diasporas, by Gerard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Pageau (New York: The Penguin Group, 1985). For a tour de force on the Lithuanian Diaspora, see Lithuanian Diaspora: Konigsberg to Chicago by Antanas J. VanReenan, hereafter cited as VanReenan (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1990) which takes pains to set out to define the Lithuanian “invisible configuration of values,” a concept drawn from p. 62 of Karl W. Deutch in his classic work Nationalism and Social Communication: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Nationality (New York: The Technology Press of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1953). My attendance in Lithuanian Saturday schools, beginning with preschool (Ziburelis Lithuanian Montessori) through Lithuanian Pedagogical Institute of Chicago (Pedagoginis Institutas) (see book: Pedagoginis Lituanistikos Institutas 1958-2008 by Jonas Dautaras, Chicago: Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, 2005) led to an interest in examining just what a “diaspora” is on the theory of level and practice. It may be noted that Van Reenan ideas take strains of thought from the philosophy of Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1982) who championed the concept that a people do not have to give up their heritage and traditions to consider themselves fully American. The subject of this article, Chicagoan Povilas (Paul) Juodvalkis, is a diaspora Lithuanian who has one foot in one culture (American) and one foot in another on the other side of the world – Lithuanian. Thus, the subject, Mr. Juodvalkis, is a first generation Lithuanian diaspora member, while the researcher (myself) is a second generation member. The difference is that in Lithuania, he is accepted as a Lithuanian, while yours truly is seen as an American who happens to be fluent in Lithuanian, albeit with a slight American accent. To Mr. Juodvalkis, in spite of many years in Chicago, Lithuania is seen as his “home” – a dynamic which is endemic for the first generation on American soil. In my case, the LakeView area of Chicago is my home. Since the Povilas Juodvalkis interviews touches upon the fate of “Litvaks,” (Lithuanian Jews) see Masha Greenbaum’s book The Jews of Lithuania: A Remarkable Community: 1316-1945 (Israel: Gefen Publishing House, Ltd., 1995), hereafter cited as Greenbaum.
[iv] For Lithuanian preschool in the United States, see: Amerikos Lietuviu Montessori Draugija 1958-2008 (Palos Hills, Illinois: Richardo Spaustuve Press, 2008), edited by Danute Dirvoniene, et. al. For a continuation of the Saturday School system beyond high school in Chicago, see Pedagoginis Lituanistikos Institutas 1958-2003, edited by Jonas Dautaras (Chicago: Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, 2003). Also see the VanReenan book cited above, p. 177-185 section entitled “The World Lithuanian Community School System in the United States.”
[v] Povilas Juodvalkis graduated from Zarasai high school in Zarasai, Lithuania in 1942 – a year in which Nazi Germany ruled Lithuania. This German yoke (the brown, or Nazi yoke) replaced the red (or soviet yoke) which had occupied Lithuania in 1940. Juodvalkis, like many Lithuanians in his age cohort, openly cooperated with the German occupation – even donning uniforms acceptable to the Nazi masters with Lithuanian insignias on German issue uniforms. However, Juodvalkis, and his Lithuanian comrades were – at the same time – secret (clandestine_ partisans (guerillas) with loyalty to Lithuania as their raison d’etre. Hence, in the text and in the photos, Lithuanian men wore uniforms of German auxiliary troops – but, were secretly members of Lithuanian partisan/guerilla units. It is within this reality that Juodvalkis uses the term “secret partisans”/”secret guerillas” while wearing uniforms and taking orders from their Nazi overlords.
[vi] The U.S.S.R. occupied Lithuania in June, 1940. This “Red” Occupation of the entire country was cut short by the surprise invasion by Nazi Germany in June, 1941. During the one year of Communist rule, the country was de-facto occupied and declared a Soviet Republic. The U.S. did not recognize this incorporation into the U.S.S.R. and continued to recognize Lithuania de-jure during all occupations right up to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1990. See S. Paul Zumbakis (editor) Lithuanian Independence: The Re-Establishment of the Rule of Law (Chicago: Ethnic Community Services, 1990).
[vii] As the Red Army hastily withdrew in June-July 1941 – large numbers of Red Army troops were cut off, isolated and demoralized. Hence– the exchange of food for the surrender of weapons in rural Lithuania. Interestingly, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (a Captain in the Red Army of that era) explains on page 97 of his monumental work The Gulag Archipelago that in the 1941-1942 time period, Russian soldiers left behind and encircled in newly German-occupied lands, were, if they found their way back to Russian lines “. . . disarmed, deprived of all rights, and taken away [by] special branches . . . afterward [were considered] traitors of the Motherland under 58-16.” Thus, facing such a fate, starving Russian soldiers often opted to exchange their weapons for food with Lithuanians. Hence, the Povilas (Paul) Juodvalkis interview information fits into historical context. See The Gulag Archipelago: 1918-1956 translated from the Russian by Thomas P. Whitney, by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1974, page 79. Dis-spirited soldiers with low morale is, it may be noted, not unique to any time period. In the book Lithuanians in Canada, the authors-researchers note that Lithuanian “volunteers” impressed into the British armed forces for service in India, upon disembarkment in Canada in 1813, deserted in droves melting into the populations on the Canadian-American border and the Dakotas. See Lithuanians in Canada. Toronto: Ligats Printing and Publishing, Ltd., by P.Gaida, Skairys, et. al., 1967. See pages 20-24. This phenomenon also operated during the American Revolution as Hessian/German farmer boys from Hesse were sent to fight on foreign soil. It was common practice among the Hessians to hand over weapons and melt into the countryside. Thus, neither time period, geographic location, nor ethnic group, but, rather, conditions, determine such as described by Juodvalkis and Solzhenitsyn. Lithuania is a small country and was, and remains, common for all Lithuanians to be fluent in languages of countries that share borders with a country about the size of the American state of South Carolina. Capt. Povilas Juodvalkis added English in the immediate post-WWII era as he worked at manual labor in the United Kingdom, and, later honed his English language while living and working in Chicago. However, a “level of intimacy” was penetrated by this researcher in conducting the interview in Lithuanian, thus, a closer “we” dynamic was operative on August 18, 2014 in Chicago. On a sub-conscious level, Captain Povilas was/is “more at home” (thus more candid) in the language that he was nurtured in on his Mother’s knee many years ago.
[viii] The Clandestine History of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police by Anonymous Members of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police, translated and edited by Samuel Schackowsky and published in association with the United States Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C. (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2014), p. 372. Also, the notes on p. 372 refer to a book in Hebrew publishd by Yad Vashem in 1962 in Jerusalem (p. 170) which reveals police chief Moshe Levin’s true alliance.
[ix] Ratų būkšva (spyžinis)
[x] This fact, namely, that the German Army issued white armbands – triggered thoughts in this researcher’s mind that this dynamic was “collaboration” with the army of occupation – the German Army – in Lithuania. A flash-back occurred in my mind’s eye having read in Greenbaum’s book, in the notes on p. 374, published in Israel, that “the Lithuanians did not consider all cooperation with the Germans as infamous or treasonable; a minimum cooperation with the Germans was even regarded by the strong nationalistic Lithuanian as useful for the purpose of keeping and supporting the German armies fighting Soviet Russia.” (This is the mind-frame which surfaced in the interviews with Juodvalkis in 2014.) “Thus, neither the insurrectionists of 1941, the local administration officials during the German occupation, nor Lithuanian soldiers in German uniform were regarded as collaborationist.” Greenbaum’s source is Lithuanian historian Vytautas Vardys, in Lituanus, November 24, 1954.
[xi] The onsite witness of the mass shooting of Zarasai’s Jewish-Lithuanian community is corroborated in a secret state document entitled: The Jaegar Report. Einsatzkommando 3. See p. 381-389 in the book by Chicago-area resident William W. Mishell, one of a small group of Jews to survive the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. See book Kaddish for Kovno, by William W. Mishell, published by Chicago Review Press, 1988, hereafter cited as Mishell.
[xii] Povilas Juodvalkis said that he was assigned as a guard wearing his white armband and carrying a rifle. He stood by – petrified with fear – a fear and shame that he revealed – in interview August 18, 2014. According to Juodvalkis, such talk did not go beyond his immediate family. According to statistics listed by Mishell on p. 216, on August 26, 1941 in Zarasai 767 Jewish men, 1,113 Jewish women, 1 Lithuanian communist, 687 Jewish children and 1 Russian communist were executed.
[xiii] Recorded audio interview, August 18, 2014. Povilas Juodvalkis interview. The point at issue here is whether this, in some shape or form, translates into collaboration. Based on many hours of interviews, it is the studied estimation of this researcher that – fear of imminent death by a shot in the head is not tantamount as a form of “collaboration” in the stock usage of the word. Interestingly, Greenbaum minces no words in positing a counter-mind-frame interpretation applied to Lithuanians who did not resist and bent to the will of the Nazis. Greenbaum (on p. 375 notes) that “ . . . Prof. Birziska Mykolas [Mykolas Birziska], Rector of the University of Vilnius . . . claimed that the Germans had threatened to kill all the Lithuanian intelligentsia should they not sign. No documentation in support of this claim has been found.” Greenbaum appears to consider that the factor of fear is beyond the pale. Thus, this “fear of death” spector must be taken into account as a part of motivation for human behavior under the strains of extreme duress. While Juodvalkis and the aforementioned Prof. Birziska walked in different situations of social class – the same “fear of death” is not beyond the pale as an explanation of how and why either one behaved in the face of death “staring them in the face.” Greenbaum, in dealing with the same era, comes down hard on p. 374-375 on the Lithuanians, saying “. . . a proclamation [by Lithuanian leaders on April 5, 1943] was issued, urging the Lithuanian people to support the Germans at their time of need.” Greenbaum continues: “Prof. Birziska Mykolas [Mykolas Birziska] later claimed that the Germans had threatened to kill all the Lithuanian intelligentsia should they not sign.” This is all part and parcel of the historical narrative of this time period – as also recorded by Greenbaum. However, Greenbaum goes on to postulate what may be seen as “poisoning of the mind” by offering up the words “No documentation in support of this claim has been found.” This “stated fact” begs for empirical proof which could only be produced if the Germans had murdered the entire Lithuanian intelligentsia. Fear cannot be seen – it is not empirical (part of the physical world) – fear of the Gestapo, the SS (who in the end shot Juodvalkis in the stomach), fear of the fanatical, methodical, Hitler-driven Nazi organz of the Birziska-Juodvalkis era are hardly to be seen as potential “windbags with weapons,” whose threats may be empty bluffs with no basis in reality. Greenbaum’s book is authoritative and a trusted source in a myriad of ways, but the above noted sentence dismissing the “fear factor” is itself – beyond the pale.
[xiv] Povilas Juodvalkis’ narrative fits in with page 375 notes of Greenbaum’s book, where she quotes T.G. Chase from The Story of Lithuania, p. 317: “. . . General Paul Plejavicius [Povilas Plehavicius] managed to form 13 battalions of 750 men each, and organized 1,800 noncommissioned officers and 1,200 cadets in the miltary school at Marijampole. By early 1944, he had gathered 20,000 volunteers, and “some [others] had to be turned away.” For an in-depth work on Lithuanian General Povilas Plehavicius, see monograph in Lithuanian entitled Generolas Povilas Plehavicius, co-authored by P. Jurgela dn P. Jurkus. Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, were re-conquered by the Red Army in this time period as the German armed forces fought a fighting withdrawal all along the Eastern front.
[xv] Revisit footnote 11 for a flavor of the time period under discussion.
[xvi] Bochum, Germany, is in the heart of Germany’s industrial maze of nearby cities such as Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg and Dusseldorf in what is now Nordrhein-Westfalen (Northrhine – Westphalia) near the Dutch and Belgian frontier In 1945, this area became part of the British Army zone of occupation. While the zone maps of defeated Germany (British-American-French-Soviet) zone are readily available in a myriad of places, the front cover of the Lithuanian Museum Review of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, April-June 2014, reproduces the map of the Allied occupation zones of Germany.
[xvii] Povilas Juodvalkis, in the course of the August – September 2014 interviews, noted that prior to his forced duty station in Germany, he, along with other young men from Lithuania, took an oath to serve Adolf Hitler. Failure to comply would have been instant death by bullet to his head. The oath ceremony whereof Juodvalkis speaks of was administered to all in German uniform, regardless of branch. The oath was controversial in that it was a pledge to one specific leader, rather than to a uniformed branch of service. Fear of the SS ensured compliance.
[xviii] This researcher took photos of Povilas Juodvalkis’ bared stomach with the bullet during the closing of an interview at the end of August, 2014. The photos exist in the Lithuanian Archives Project (LAP) photograph archives, see http://www.LithuanianArchivesProject.org.
[xix] To this day, the bullet remains lodged in Juodvalkis’ stomach. Doctors in the United States in 2014 say that the bullet is slowly disintegrating, releasing a steady stream of copper particles into his bloodstream, but that this is not harmful to him.
[xx] See section entitled “Repatriation Fears,” pages 86-96 in book Lithuanian Diaspora: Konigsberg to Chicago, by Antanas J. VanReenan (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1990), hereafter cited as VanReenan. Also see book by Mark R. Elliott, Pawns of Yalta: Soviet Refugees and America’s Role in Their Repatriation (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1982), R.R. Davison, “I thought Americans Were Good” Wall Street Journal (September 23, 1983), p. 33, and Nicholas Bethell The Last Secret: The Delivery to Stalin of over Two Million Russians by Britain and the United States (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1974), especially p. 174.
[xxi] On page 95 of VanReenan’s book, there is a reference to William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Chief U.S. Army intepreter dealing with forced repatriation. W.S. Coffin went on to serve in the Central Intelligence Agency from 1950 to 1953, then an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church at Phillips Academy (1957-1958), chaplain at Yale University. There, Coffin’s interest in the peace movement arose out of his being an eyewitness to repatriation atrocities of British and American policy of forced repatriation. Thus, this is the backdrop of historical reality which Captain Juodvalkis speaks of in 2014, noting that 2,000 of his Lithuanian compatriots were given up forcefully to the Soviet Union.
[xxii] Mr. Juodvalkis also made references to working on farms near Truro.
[xxiii] While Juodvalkis makes no reference to why he was allowed into the United States in his interview, it should be noted that in 1948 the 80th Congress of the United States passed Public Law 774, Chapter 647, allowing permanent residence in the United States to displaced persons or refugees from countries behind the Iron Curtain. By June, 1948, Congress passed and President Harry S. Truman signed a bill authorizing 200,000 such persons to enter the United States over two years, a second bill, passed two years later, raised the admission total into the U.S. to 400,000.
[xxiv] There is an entry in JAV Lietuviai Vol. II, under Prunskis, Juozas (1907.12.22) Zvilbuciuose, Daugailiu Vls, Utenos Aps. Left Lithuania for Chicago in 1940 as he was ,persecuted by the newly installed government of Soviet Lithuania. In Chicago after 1940, Rev. Prunskis served as a journalist-priest in Chicago’s Lithuanian community, first in the Bridgeport area, then the Marquette Park area for the rest of his life until he died on April 27, 2003.
[xxv] In the 1970’s, direct air travel to Lithuania was barred for visitors from the West. All air traffic was channeled first to Moscow for inspections, and only then to Vilnius.
[xxvi] Two of his sisters had been deported to Siberia for their activity in the clandestine Roman Catholic Church in the Lithuanian S.S.R.
[xxvii] The Sauliai, reformed in 1990 at the time of the rebirth of the Republic of Lithuania, were hungry for knowledge about the pre-Soviet era organization and its role in creating an fostering an independent Lithuania, while the Sauliai and their military and patriotic spirit are held up as role models in Lithuanian history. Dark blemishes on them exist in such works as Solly Ganor’s Light One Candle and William W. Mishell’s Kaddish for Kovno. For the historical record, both Litvak William W Mishell and Lithuanian Povilas Juodvalkis ended up as Chicago residents. Yet, there was no common forum. While an examination along these lines is beyond the confines of this work, it is hoped that – at some future point in time some sort of research conversion dynamic will/could shed more light. A possible start point could be Masha Greenbaum’s The Jews of Lithuania as well as former Lithuanian member of the European Parliament Leonidas Donskis. Within this futurist mindframe, Lithuanian, American, Israeli, Russian and other historians without hidden agendas could elevate and offer up new realities – since reality is what we perceive through our senses. In a word, hope is the greatest gift that mankind possesses.
[xxviii] In the center of the Peace Garden stands a small monument recording the reflections of Daisaku Ikeda, President of the Soka Gakkai (Society for Peace and Justice). The statue itself is of two youths lifting one ball, symbolizing the earth – high over their heads. A common enterprise – a common quest – a common humanity in which all are brothers and sisters from the infinite past. The Soka Gakkai (Society for the Creation of Value) – International – USA is a Buddhist community based on the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. They promote the culture of peace through inner transformation, practicing Buddhism to overcome suffering with the purpose of experiencing genuine happiness and helping others. SGI-USA Buddhists reflect the broad range of diversity of America and actively engage in society on all levels. The SGI-USA has more than 3,000 neighborhood dialogue groups and 100 Buddhist centers around the country where people gather to study Buddhism, to chant, and to support one another. Soka Gakki International (SGI) is a worldwide network of 12 million Buddhists who practice in 192 countries and territories. A SGI-USA Buddhist Center in Chicago is located at 1455 S. Wabash, Chicago, IL, near the corner of Wabash and 14th Street, and whose sign is visible from the Roosevelt El (elevated train) stop.
[xxix] Michael W. Blumenthal, From Exile to Washington: A Memoir of Leadership in the Twentieth Century (New York: The Overlook Press, 2013), p. xi.
[xxx] Blumenthal, p. xi.