Anti-Semitism in Lithuania in the Late 1930s: An Analysis of Verslas, a Weekly Newspaper of Lithuanian Merchants and Industrialists

Hisashi Shigematsu (University of Tokyo)

Western scholars who have researched the Holocaust in Lithuania insist that there was an anti-Semitic atmosphere among Lithuanians even before the beginning of World War II. Their studies, however, have usually not been based on sources in Lithuanian.

Seeking to verify whether there was or was not an anti-Semitic environment in interwar Lithuania and, if there was one, to understand the nature of this prejudice, I have used as a source the weekly business newspaper Verslas (“business” in Lithuanian), published in Kaunas from 1932 to 1940. This periodical was the “weekly of Lithuanian merchants, manufacturers and artisans,” and consisted of articles not only about economic issues but also on politics.

There were some anti-Semitic articles in Verslas, especially at the end of 1938 and the beginning of 1939. Authors writing in Verslas asserted that the Jews were communists (so-called “Judeo-Bolsheviks”) who were destroying Lithuanian statehood; that the Jews were exploiters, extorting money from the Lithuanians; and that the Jews are rapists, who sullied Lithuanian unmarried women.

In addition, Verslas often positively evaluated legislation against the Jews in Germany and other European countries, and advocated that similar laws be introduced in Lithuania too. In an article about German policies against the Jews, one author wrote that the Jews themselves were to blame for the German government’s persecution of them. In short, the writers of Verslas obviously desired to found a “Lithuania of the Lithuanians.”

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