Date of Award

Spring 5-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


War and Society

First Advisor

Jeffrey Koerber, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Shira Klein

Third Advisor

Holli Levitsky


This thesis examines a roughly two-week period, between June 22 and July 6, 1941, during which Jews in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, became the primary targets of attacks by local Lithuanians in the midst of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. An analysis of eyewitness accounts reveals that, in comparison to life before June 22, the Kovno pogroms constituted “an entirely new and utterly horrifying reality” for Kovno Jews. While Jews knew some Lithuanians to be antisemitic, there was no previous history of widespread antisemitic violence in the city and positive interethnic relationship were common. Therefore, in the days following the onset of the German invasion, Jews were shocked to learn that it was local Lithuanians who posed the most immediate threat and not the Germans. In the chaotic environment of the pogroms, Jews exercised agency by developing survival strategies based on their perceptions of perpetrators’ motivations and their limited knowledge of events. Compounding their sense of terror, Jews felt forsaken, as most of their former neighbors and friends remained passive during the violence and a few were even active participants. Studying this unprecedented episode of violence highlights the hidden dangers of latent prejudices in society. The use of eyewitness accounts further humanizes the terrible consequences of hate and the memory of its victims.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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