Actions against Nazi Collaborators in Kupiskis
Konrad Kalejs, by Tzvi Fleischer, The Review, February, 2000
Gudelis - genocide charges still pending
The only case in
currently facing live charges,
’s Prosecutor General filed Genocide charges against Gudelis in July
of last year and sought Australian assistance in pursuing the case.
Gudelis, who lives in
, is accused of having shot a number of civilians in the town of
when he commanded a pro-Nazi military unit in 1941. While Gudelis was
investigated by the SIU (Special Investigation Unit) in 1989-1991
and given the case number PU 562, the SIU concluded that there was
insufficient evidence to prosecute, saying "Although the SIU held
the view that this allegation had substance, it was unable to gather
enough admissable evidence to refer this case to the DPP."
However, new evidence in
the case was made public by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in 1994 and it
is this evidence which led to the laying of charges in
. This new evidence has never been reviewed by Australian authorities.
The charges against
Gudelis relate to a period when he was allegedly serving as head of a
punitive section in Kupiskis where Soviet trial records claim that as
many as 7,000 people were executed. One witness claimed "from the
beginning of July  every morning and every evening one could hear
the firing of guns at the Jewish Cemetery." Soviet era sources
claim that when the Kupiskis jail became overcrowded, on at least three
occasions, prisoners, largely Jews and ex-communists, were beaten and
tortured and taken to the Jewish cemetery of the town, where pits had
been dug. The Soviet sources, as repeated by the SIU, allege that
Gudelis issued the command to start shooting. A list made by the German
appointed commandant of Kupiskis lists three major group executions in
July and August 1941.
The SIU was able to find
witnesses that affirm that Gudelis was in Kupiskis in July and August of
1941, that he was joined by other ex-Lithuanian soldiers in working for
the Germans, and that some of their duties included working on the
There are also
allegations relating to Gudelis’ actions after August 25, 1941, when
he went to the city of
and was made an officer in the Auxiliary Police Service Battalion, a
pro-Nazi collaborator unit. Documents obtained by the Wiesenthal Centre
show that in early September, Gudelis was sent as an officer in the 3rd
Auxiliary Police Battalion to several provincial towns in
, including probably Leipilingas, Sierijai, and Simna. At the time
Gudelis was supposed to be in the area, the Jewish communities of all
three towns, over 800 people, were shot, acccording to wartime German
documents. Two separate men have testified in two separate overseas
investigations that they served under Gudelis on this mission and that
the unit actively participated in the murder of Jews.
Gudelis admitted to the
SIU that he was at Kupiskis and at
, but not to participation in war crimes. He came to
, in 1949, and became a citizen in 1958.
John Bernes (A/K/A Petras Bernotavicius)
Department of Justice
Seal Department of Justice
For Immediate Release
Monday, January 14, 2002
Department Moves To Revoke U.S. Citizenship Of Former Deputy To Nazi
Official Responsible For Mass Killings
The Department of Justice today initiated proceedings to revoke the
citizenship of a
man based on his participation in the persecution and murder of Jews and
other civilians during the Nazi occupation of
The complaint, filed
today in U.S. District Court in Chicago by the Justice Department's
Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and the U.S. Attorney's Office in
Chicago, alleges that Peter John Bernes (a/k/a Petras Bernotavicius),
79, worked during the summer of 1941 as the deputy to Werner Loew, a
Nazi-appointed mayor and police commander assigned to Kupiskis,
The complaint alleges
that Bernes participated directly in the process of removing condemned
prisoners from jail so they could be taken to nearby killing sites.
During those months, more than 1,000 Jewish men, women, and children
(approximately one-fourth of the town's population) were murdered in
Kupiskis by armed men under Loew's command. More than 300 other local
residents, among them a nine-year-old boy, were arrested and murdered as
political prisoners. Bernes worked in an office near the overcrowded
jail where victims were held without adequate food and beaten before
being shot to death.
Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, said, "The
case against Bernes demonstrates the Justice Department's commitment to
ensure that individuals who participated in genocide and other crimes
against humanity find no refuge in the United States, regardless of when
those atrocities occurred."
OSI Director Eli M.
Rosenbaum added, "Although more than 1,000 Jews were living in
Kupiskis when the Nazis arrived, not a single man, woman or child
survived their murderous spree." During the Nazi occupation of
, some 190,000 Jews, approximately 94% of the Jewish population, were
killed by the Nazis and local collaborators.
Bernes immigrated from
in 1947 and was naturalized as a
in 1954. The complaint states that he was not eligible to immigrate to
the United States under visa regulations that barred the entry of any
person who had "acquiesced in activities or conduct contrary to
civilization and human decency" on behalf of the wartime Axis
The proceedings to
denaturalize Bernes are a result of OSI's ongoing efforts to identify
and take legal action against former participants in Nazi persecution
residing in this country. Since OSI began operations in 1979, 66 Nazi
persecutors have been stripped of
citizenship, and 54 such individuals have been removed from the
Additionally, more than
150 suspected Nazi persecutors have been stopped at
ports of entry and barred from entering the country as a result of OSI's
watchlist border control program. OSI has nearly 200
residents currently under active investigation.
Collaboration in the “Final Solution”: Motivations and Case
Studies (Excerpt) – Michael MacQueen.
An excerpt follows from the presentation entitled Lithuanian
Collaboration in the “Final Solution”: Motivations and Case
Studies, by Michael MacQueen, which was printed by the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum, July, 2005, as part of it’s The
Holocaust Chapter, Symposium Presentations, 2004.
The materials in the presentation covered several case studies and the
one noted below for “The Composite Rural Killer” mentions Petras
Bernotavičius and his motivation for participating in
the killing of the Jewish population of Kupiskis.
Study #4: The Composite Rural Killer
substantial part of the killing occurred in the shtetls outside of the
larger cities, in places such as Darbenai, Kupiškis, Švenčionys,
Joniškis, and others. Who did the killing at these places? It varied.
Kupiškis it was Petras Bernotavičius, a youth who graduated from
high school on June
21, 1941, and a week later became adjutant to the German commandant of
the town, a former teacher at that high school. In this role he helped
coordinate the smooth flow of mass executions -- first of some 400
Lithuanians, alleged Communists, and sympathizers, and then of the
town’s remaining 1,400 Jews. He may have become a participant for
revenge; a number of his schoolmates had participated in an ill-timed
insurrection in nearby Panevežys, before the Germans arrived, and had
lost their lives.
a footnote to the above, McQueen stated that . . . “The local
newspaper, Panevežio Apskričio Balsas (Panevežys district voice),
carried lurid articles on the murders of two surgeons and a nurse at the
Panevežys hospital on June 25, 1941, by Komsomols and NKVD men, and on
the shootings of the doomed rebels at the sugar factory on June 26,