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God will be a judge for Lileikis

  • 2000-10-05
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - Aleksandras Lileikis was a wartime chief of the so-called Lithuanian security of the Vilnius district. The Lithuanian Prosecutor General's Office was trying him for handing over 75 Jews to German death squads, when he died Sept. 26 from a heart attack at the age of 93. Emanuelis Zingeris, Lithuania's leading Jewish activist and member of Parliament, said that he feels it is a pity that Lileikis' case will not be finished. He voiced his conviction that the Vilnius court should make all the materials related to Lileikis' process open to be public.

Simonas Alperavicius, chairman of Lithuania's Jewish community, expressed similar disappointment and said: "God will be a judge for Lileikis now." Alperavicius said that the Lithuanian prosecutor general should have pushed the case harder right after Lileikis returned from the United States in 1996. Alperavicius said that in 1996 Lileikis was in better health.

In 1996, U.S. authorities stated that Lileikis was hiding some facts about his life when he immigrated to the United States. But Lileikis stated that he had never hidden his past from the U.S. immigration authorities.

Vilnius court officials said that Lileikis' case would be closed unless relatives would like to continue process and clear Lileikis from all suspicions.

Algirdas Matuiza, the lawyer for Lileikis, accused Lithuanian politicians and "Western propaganda" of putting pressure on the court.

"Western papers were writing funny things, 'Lileikis personally killed hundreds of Jews' and similar things in the same style. It is a pity that medics surrendered to this pressure and it could have influence on Lileikis' death," Matuiza said.

Matuiza said that his client was eager to testify, but health problems were an obstacle. Several expert medical commissions said that Lileikis, who suffered from dozens of ailments connected with aging, could stand trial, but that stress could cause his death.

On Nov. 5, 1998, Lileikis, sitting in a wheelchair, was first brought into the Vilnius court. He said "Our Father" and fainted in the courtroom several minutes after the hearings had begun.

Then the Lithuanian parliament issued a special law to enable the process against him to continue. The law allowed hearings in genocide case trials via video equipment.

This June, Lileikis, lying in the bed at his relatives' house, started answering questions from judges by video conference. Lileikis failed to answer a question about his birth year and fainted just some 20 minutes after the beginning of the hearings.

Lileikis kept saying that he respects the Jewish nation, feels sympathy to Holocaust victims, and was not involved in the killing of Jews during the Nazi occupation.

Arvydas Anusauskas, a leading historian with the Genocide and Resistance Research Center, also testified about Lileikis' past.

Lileikis was chief of the Vilnius district for the Lithuanian security police, which worked under the control of Germans in 1941-1944. In August 1941, the Germans ordered Lithuanian security officers to give all cases related to ethnic Jews to them. A one-page document about such transference of 75 Jews was the lone accusation against Lileikis, stated Anusauskas.

According to Anusauskas, the document about the handing over of 75 Jews to Nazis comes from KGB archives and might be false. The document is not signed. It was found by the KGB with personal papers of Lileikis and shown to American authorities during the Soviet occupation.

According to Anusauskas, the Nazis did not allow Lithuanian security to investigate cases involving ethnic Germans and Jews because of their ideology towards these groups. Lileikis' office only had the right to deal with cases of ethnic Lithuanians, Poles and Russians. The main concern of Lileikis' organization were criminal cases as well as Polish and Soviet partisans active in the Vilnius district.

"I have no evidence of his involvement in the genocide of Jews. I have materials that security workers (under Lileikis) were saving Jews. One of Lileikis' colleagues was hiding four Jews from Germans," said Anusauskas.

He said that Lileikis' office could meet with Jews because one of the duties of the Lithuanian security was to check the documents of suspicious people. That is how Lileikis met Sifra Grodnikaite.

A former officer of the Lithuanian army met Grodnikaite, a young Jewish woman, and told the police that she was Jewish. Grodnikaite was detained for a documents' check in Lileikis' office. Grodnikaite states that Lileikis created a fantastic plan for saving her from the Nazis. Grodnikaite is still alive. She lives in a home for the elderly in the United States. The office of the Lithuanian prosecutor general questioned her. Grodnikaite changed her name to Grace Montes after she immigrated to the United States.

In an interview with the Lietuvos Rytas daily, Montes said about Lileikis: "You don't know that it is an attempt to turn an innocent man into a killer."

Photocopies of the Prosecutor General's Office's questions and Montes' answers are published in Lileikis' autobiography Pazadinto Laiko Pedsakais (Following Traces of Awaken Time), written with the help of journalists from the newspaper Valstieciu Laikrastis. The autobiography was published earlier this year.

Montes states that Lileikis and his colleagues saved her by falsifying her documents so that she appeared to be an ethnic Lithuanian, the illegitimate daughter of a countryside Catholic priest. Lileikis found a Catholic priest who agreed to claim he was her "father."

In 1999 the Lietuvos Rytas daily published an interview with Ceslava Romanovskaja, a Polish-Lithuanian woman who said that Lileikis helped her father save a group of Jews from Nazis in the forests of Vilnius district.

Lileikis stated many times that he joined the Lithuanian security police during the German occupation under order of the Lithuanian pro-independence, anti-Nazi resistance. His autobiographical book is full of photocopies of statements signed by Lithuanian intellectuals stating that Lileikis was cooperating with the anti-Nazi underground. This book also states that Lileikis had secret contacts with pro-Soviet partisans who still held him in respect after the war.

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, criticized Lithuania for failing to finish Lileikis' trial before he died.

"(Lileikis's death) without his trial ever being completed is a classic example of the results of Lithuania's abysmal record in this regard," he said.

Lileikis' name will not disappear after his death. His daughter, U.S. citizen Aldona Lileikyte-Vaitys, established the Aleksandras Lileikis Foundation for support of poor Lithuanian students.