Refugees in Lithuania

Historical Background

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact. Accordingly, when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, the Soviet Union occupied the country’s eastern parts. Lithuania maintained its independence for one more year, but in summer 1940, the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic countries.

Following the Germans attack on Poland and the beginning of the persecution of the Jews there, many fled eastwards. Some 15,000 Jews from Poland arrived in the still independent Lithuania. Caught between the Nazis and the Soviets, they were desperately seeking ways to emigrate. When the Soviets occupied Lithuania, the Jews’ plight intensified. One year later the small window of escape was slammed shut. Lithuania was occupied by Germany, and the majority of the Jews in that country were murdered.