Anti-Jewish Riots and Pogroms in Occupied Europe: Warsaw – Paris – The Hague – Amsterdam – Antwerp – Kaunas
Chapter 4 Kaunas/Kovno
From an independent state to a (forcedly established) Soviet republic
The Lithuanian Activist Front in Berlin and the Underground at home
At the onset of the Second World War, Kaunas (referred to by its Jewish population as Kovno) was the capital city of Lithuania. A temporary capital, as it were, for the Lithuanians considered Vilnius – which had been seized by Poland (and was referred to as Wilno in Polish) – to be their traditional and proper capital as noted in their Constitution. The anniversary of seizure of Vilnius by General Lucjan Żeligowski, 9th October 1920, was commemorated by the Lithuanians as a national day of mourning. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were only established in the spring of 1938, following an ultimatum from Poland. Before this occurred, demonstrations under the banner “Vilnius is ours!” were held in Lithuania, whereas crowds exclaimed, “Leader, lead us to Kowno [i.e. Kaunas]!” in Poland. In 1939, Poland and Lithuania clearly endeavoured to come to agreement and reconciliation, but ultimately failed to arrive at a political and military alliance.295
The Third Reich did not observe the emerging Polish-Lithuanian rapprochement passively. Endeavours were taken to incite the Lithuanians to stand up against Poland and regain Vilnius. A few days before the war broke out, Colonel Kazys Škirpa, the Lithuanian envoy to Berlin, arrived in Kaunas and tried to persuade the Lithuanian Government to take steps to this effect. A Germanophile, Škirpa was envoy to Warsaw in 1938 but...
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