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Povilas Plechavičius
Povilas, date unknown

Povilas Plechavičius (1890–1973) was an Imperial Russian and then Lithuanian military officer and statesman. In the service of Lithuania he rose to the rank of General of the army in the interwar period. He is best known for his actions during the Lithuanian Wars of Independence, for organizing the 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état and for leading a Lithuanian self-defence force during the German occupation of Lithuania.

Youth[edit | edit source]

Povilas Plechavičius was born February 1, 1890, in present day Mažeikiai district municipality to Lithuanian farmer Ignas Plechavičius.[1] His mother was Lithuanian noblewoman Konstancija Bukontaitė.[1] He was educated mostly in Russia. In 1908 he graduated from a gymnasium in Moscow, in 1911 from Institute of Commerce, and in 1914 from Orenburg cavalry war school. During World War I he fought with the Russian army against the German Empire and Austria-Hungary.

Lithuanian Wars of Independence[edit | edit source]

Povilas Plechavičius did return to his homeland in the summer of 1918 and began organizing local militia together with his Brother, Aleksandras. Povilas Plechavičius was assigned military commander of Skuodas and its surroundings by the Lithuanian Council. On November 13, 1918 Plechavičius enlisted as a volunteer to the Lithuanian army. Being skilled at military organization, and together with his brother, and with the support of the local population they succeeded in creating volunteer partisan units to fight against the Bolshevik invasion of North-West Lithuania, and later helped to drive out the Bermontians.

As an officer in the Lithuanian Army he participated in fighting against the invading Bolshevik forces and also in the Polish-Lithuanian war. For his accomplishments in the Lithuanian Wars of Independence by defending Lithuania from invaders, Plechavičius was awarded the highest military Order of Lithuania Order of Vytis Cross. Later he was the main officer behind the military coup of 1926, that removed the democratically elected government, assumed power and then handed it to Antanas Smetona.

Local Lithuanian Detachment[edit | edit source]

During the first Soviet occupation Plechavičius retreated to Nazi Germany,[citation needed] and returned to Lithuania with the Nazis during Operation Barbarossa. In Lithuania, Plechavičius did not allow[citation needed] Nazi officers to gather a Lithuanian SS division but he formed a local group called Local Lithuanian Detachment (Lietuvos vietinė rinktinė), on February 13, 1944. It was supposed to be a voluntary organisation led only by Lithuanian officers and stay with the borders of Lithuania defending the country against the Red Army. Three days later, on Lithuanian Independence Day (February 16, 1944) Plechavičius, the commander of the Lithuanian detachment, made a radio appeal to the nation for volunteers. All Lithuanian political underground organizations supported Plechavičius[citation needed]. This was achieved through constant communication between Lithuanian commanders and resistance leaders. This was enormously successful: More volunteers came forward than was expected. The Germans were very surprised and deeply shocked by the number of volunteers since their own appeals went unheeded. The Germans, worried by the success of the detachment, started to interfere, breaking the signed agreement.[citation needed]

March 22, 1944, SS Obergruppenführer and police general Friedrich Jackeln called for 70-80 thousand men for the German army as subsidiary assistants. Chief-of-Staff of the Northern Front Field Marshal Walther Model demanded 15 battalions of men to protect the German military airports. Plechavičius rejected the demand April 5, 1944. General Commissioner of Lithuania Adrian von Renteln demanded workers for Germany proper. Other German officials also voiced their demands. Finally, on April 6, 1944, the Germans ordered Plechavičius to mobilize the country. Plechavičius responded that the mobilization could not take place until the formation of the detachment was complete.

After the failed offensive against Polish Armia Krajowa due to the pre--emptive Polish surprise attack, Jackeln demanded the detachment troops to take an oath to Hitler, the text of which was provided.[citation needed] After Plechavičius rejected the demand (May 9, 1944),[citation needed] Jackeln ordered the detachment units in Vilnius to revert to his direct authority. All other units of the detachment were to come under the command of the regional German commissars. Furthermore, the detachment was to wear SS uniforms[citation needed] and use the "Heil Hitler" greeting. As circumstances changed, the Local Detachment moved from cooperation to resistance.[citation needed] Plechavičius issued a declaration for his men to disband and disappear into the forests with their weapons and uniforms.[2][3][4] The Lithuanian headquarters directed the detachment units in the field to obey only the orders of the Lithuanian detachment. It also ordered the Detachment Officer School in the city of Marijampolė to send the cadets home. The men from the detachment would form the core of the armed anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania for the next eight years.[4] On May 15, Plechavičius, the commander of the detachment, was arrested together with the other staff members. He was deported to the Salaspils labour camp in Latvia.[citation needed]

After the Second World War[edit | edit source]

In 1949[citation needed] Plechavičius moved to the United States where his sister and mother lived. He died December 19, 1973, in Chicago, Illinois.

In 2004 Plechavičius was posthumously awarded a medal from Lithuanian president Rolandas Paksas for his services to Lithuania, which caused some controversy and displeasure in Poland, where he is seen as a Nazi collaborator whose units were primarily concerned with fighting against the Poles.[5]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 (Lithuanian) Kazys Blaževičius (2004-01-21). "Žemaitijos valdovas". http://www.xxiamzius.lt/archyvas/xxiamzius/20040121/atmi_03.html. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  2. Audėnas, Juozas (ed.). Twenty Years’ Struggle for the Freedom of Lithuania. New York: VLIK, 1963
  3. Ivinskis, Zenonas "Lithuania During the War: Resistance Against the Soviet and the Nazi Occupants," in V. Stanley Vardys (ed.), Lithuania under the Soviets: Portrait of a Nation (New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1965), p. 84.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Lane, Tomas. Lithuania: Stepping Westward. p. 57, Routledge (UK), August 23, 2002. ISBN 0-415-26731-5
  5. (Polish) Przewodnik Katolicki (10/2004) by Grzegorz Górny. Awantura o generała (Quarrel about a general). Last accessed on 7 June 2006.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

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