The non-German perpetrators of the Holocaust included not only governments and policemen but also ordinary citizens who volunteered to assist the Nazis. On 29 July 1941, Lithuanian nationalists working for the Germans murdered 125 Jewish men working in a forced labour camp in Kelmė. One of the few survivors from Kelmė, Yakov Zak, described what happened next.
That same night, at about 9 p.m., the eight men were again removed from the camp and forced to carry beer from a nearby warehouse and bring it up to the second floor in the hall of the Lithuanian gymnasium [school], where the killers had organised a ball in honour of the shooting of the Jews.
In the hall, long tables were set decoratively, with the best of everything, in the style of a lavish wedding. At the table the drunken killers sat with their families, dressed in the clothes of those who had been shot to death. The entire Lithuanian intelligentsia of the town arrived at the ball, led by the mayor, Česnys. The stench in the hall was foul and thick with smoke. Everyone sang Lithuanian songs and kept on drinking and gorging. The hall was filled with drunken voices and the playing of the phonograph and radio. The Jews were required to bring beer to the murderers and shooters of those who were near and dear to them. One of the drunken partisans, upon seeing the Jews coming, cried out, “Look there are still Jews!” He grabbed his revolver. His friends calmed him down and forced the local Jews to drink a big glass of beer. Tears poured from the eyes of the eight Jews. At this the drunken crew roared with laughter.
It is possible that a majority of victims of the Holocaust in the Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia were murdered by local people, such as the Lithuanian men escorting Jews to their deaths in the photograph, rather than the Nazis.
Photo: members of a Lithuanian militia unit prepare for a mass shooting action, 1941; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum/Instytut Pamięci Narodowej/Lietuvos Nacionalinis Muziejus, courtesy of Saulius Beržinis/Mrs. Bukowska
Testimony: David Bankier (ed.), Expulsion and Extermination: Holocaust Testimonials from Provincial Lithuania (Yad Vashem, 2011)