My meeting with Dr. Darius Petkunas was described in my post of September 27, 2013, where I referred to an eight page hand written document from May 1992 which listed the status of each Lutheran church in Lithuania compiled by Darius Petkunas. As part of my preparation for the trip, one evening as I leafed through one of my notebooks, I discovered that the same man my fellow researcher, BE, had recommended I meet was the very same man who had written the list 20 years earlier! Of course, when I met him, I had to show Darius my copy of his work which had been so important to me. He was surprised that I had it and commented that it was not even type-written! I said back to him, “See I have known you for 20 years!”
I could not pass up the opportunity to absorb more of his scholarly work. In recent posts I have written about some of the books I read as preparation for the trip. In my family history research I had not read extensively about East Prussia and Suwalki Province after the Spurgats left in the early 20th century. But faced with a visit to this country over 100 years later, I wanted to refine my knowledge and concentrated on 20th century history of Lithuania.
The Repression of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania during the Stalinist Era focuses on the lives of five Lithuanian Lutheran clergy from 1944 to 1958. Using the detailed records now accessible from the Soviet era, the author has meticulously documented the interrogations surrounding these leaders. The research is masterful, and the book is easily readable. Not all of the stories end happily, of course, but the grace and devotion these men displayed cannot be overlooked. Because they were leaders, the Soviet government used every measure of their law to ascertain that their arrests and deportations were absolutely legal. The average suspected person or family was simply loaded into a boxcar and deported to Siberia, but the Soviet bureaucracy took special care to document the “lawful” arrest of highly visible leaders so as not to incite the general population. There are a few moments when one can actually cheer for the cunning of the Lithuanian Lutheran clergy.
Of interest to the G-GLISP reader is the distinction that Darius Petkunas has made between the “German Lutheran Church” and the “Lithuanian Lutheran Church.” Because Lutheranism was the state church of East Prussia, i. e. Germany, the Soviets worked to eradicate anything remotely German from their grasp.
The Lithuanian Lutheran Church, which was not necessarily tied to the “German Lutheran Church”, came under attack by the Soviets and paid, percentagewise, a heavier price than the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church.
What is the best news of all is that this book is downloadable as a PDF file: The Repression of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lithuania during the Stalinist Era.