|Born||March 3, 1918|
New Britain, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||November 29, 1957 (aged 39)|
Vilnius, Lithuanian SSR, Soviet Union
|Years of service||1945–1956|
|Commands held||Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters|
|Awards||Order of the Cross of Vytis|
Birutė Mažeikaitė (m. 1945)
|Other work||Teacher, journalist|
Adolfas Ramanauskas (March 6, 1918 – November 29, 1957), code name Vanagas, was a prominent Lithuanian partisan and one of the leaders of the Lithuanian resistance. Ramanauskas was working as a teacher when Lithuania was re-conquered by the Soviet Union from Nazi Germany in 1944–45. He joined the anti-Soviet resistance, advancing from a platoon commander to the chairman of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters. From 1952 he lived in hiding with fake papers. Betrayed, he was arrested, tortured, and eventually executed by the KGB, the last partisan commander to be captured.
Ramanauskas was born to a Lithuanian immigrant family in New Britain, Connecticut, United States. In 1921, his family returned to Lithuania, bought 6 hectares (15 acres) of land in Bielėnai near Rudamina, and took up farming. Ramanauskas graduated from Galiniai primary school in 1930, and from Lazdijai secondary school in 1937. He continued his studies at the Klaipėda Pedagogical Institute (now Vilnius Pedagogical University). Just before graduation the Klaipėda Region (Memel Territory) was ceded to Nazi Germany, and the institute was consequently evacuated to Panevėžys. The same year, Ramanauskas enrolled into the Kaunas War School. He graduated with the rank of second lieutenant in the reserve forces. His class of 1940 was the last graduating class before the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in June 1940.
After graduation Ramanauskas moved to Krivonys near Druskininkai where he became a teacher. He participated in the anti-Soviet June Uprising at the start of the 1941 German invasion of Russia. During the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, Ramanauskas lived in Alytus and taught mathematics, Lithuanian language, and physical education at the Alytus Teachers' Seminary.
The Red Army's eventual victory over the Wehrmacht led to the re-occupation of Lithuania. In early 1945, Ramanauskas joined the Lithuanian partisans who waged a guerrilla warfare against the Soviet occupants. He adopted the nom-de-guerre Vanagas ("Hawk") and joined partisan formations in southern Lithuania (Suvalkija and Dzūkija), which were most active among Lithuanian partisans.
Ramanauskas joined a partisan platoon operating in the environs of Nemunaitis and Alovė and was immediately elected its commander. He organized disorganized resistance members into a 140-men Merkinė company (later reorganized into a battalion). The early stages of resistance saw open battles with the NKVD and destruction battalion forces. Two of such encounters was in the Varčios Forest between Alovė and Daugai on June 14 and 23, 1945. During the shootout, 30–47 partisans were killed and 6–14 taken prisoners. On July 1, 1945, Ramanauskas was promoted to commander of Merkys Brigade (composed of three battalions – Merkinė, Marcinkonys and Druskininkai). In October 1945, in Nedzingė he married Birutė Mažeikaitė, a former student at the Alytus Teachers' Seminary and fellow partisan fighter (codename Vanda). On December 15, 1945, he led a daring but unsuccessful attack on Merkinė. The partisans destroyed Soviet records, but they could not free prisoners or overpower the Soviet troops in the local church. Ramanauskas strove to improve organization and centralized command of the partisans. He became commander of the Dainava Command (Lithuanian: Dainavos apygarda) after the death of Dominykas Jėčys-Ąžuolis in September 1947 and of the South Lithuania Region (Lithuanian: Pietų Lietuvos sritis) in 1948. He also wrote, edited, and published numerous partisan newspapers, including Mylėk Tėvynę (1946–47), Laisvės varpas (1947–49), Свободное слово (Russian-language newspaper for Soviet soldiers; 1947–49), Miško brolis (1951–52).
In February 1949, he participated in a meeting of all partisan commanders in the village of Minaičiai. The Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters, chief command of the partisans, was established during the meeting. Ramanauskas was elected to the presidium of the Union and as first deputy of its chairman Jonas Žemaitis. He was also promoted to the rank of Major. Ramanauskas was one of the signatories of the Lithuanian Partisans Declaration of February 16, 1949, which proclaimed Lithuania as a democratic republic and the Lithuanian nation as sovereign power.
In fall 1949, Ramanauskas was further promoted to Colonel and chief commander of the defensive forces of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters. When Žemaitis resigned due to poor health in 1952, Ramanauskas became the leader of the Union. However, by that time the armed resistance had diminished. Due to heavy losses organized structures broke down and partisans continued their struggles individually. Ramanauskas officially ordered cessation of armed struggle in favour of passive resistance.
He obtained fake documents and lived in hiding. While in hiding he wrote three-part memoirs, which were hidden by trusted people and uncovered only in 1988–89 during the era of glasnost and first published as Daugel krito sūnų… (Many Sons Have Fallen…) in 1991. KGB operatives, led by Petras Raslanas and Nachman Dushanski, continued to search for Ramanauskas. He was betrayed by Antanas Urbonas, a former classmate at Kaunas, and arrested on October 11, 1956. He was taken to the KGB prison in Vilnius (now the Museum of Genocide Victims) and tortured. On October 12, barely alive, he was transferred to a hospital, where doctors noted his many wounds – punctured eye, missing testicles, bruised stomach, etc. Sentenced to death on September 25, 1957, Ramanauskas was executed on November 29, 1957. His wife Birutė Mažeikaitė was sentenced to 8 years in the Gulag system.
Ramanauskas has been accused of supporting the Lithuanian Activist Front and commanding a paramilitary group that persecuted the Jewish community of Druskininkai in 1941. In response to these charges (along with similar allegations against Povilas Plechavičius, Kazys Škirpa, Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejys, and Jonas Noreika), members of the Union of Nationalist Youth of Lithuania marched in Kaunas in February and March 2016 under the banners "We Know Our Nation's Heroes" and "Lithuania for Lithuanians". The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and state-funded Genocide and Resistance Research Centre maintain that the allegations are "lies [...] spread first by the Soviet-era KGB secret police to discredit him."
On May 4, 2019, a monument to Adolfas Ramanauskas was unveiled in Chicago, a decision which was criticised by some organisations, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the World Jewish Congress, and the Jewish Agency." The Lithuanian Jewish Community, however, issued a statement that "at the present time [they have] no reliable information implicating Lithuanian partisan leader Adolfas Ramanauskas in Holocaust crimes."
Grave and legacy
A book of memoirs by Ramanaukas, written between 1952 and 1956 and assembled by his daughter Auksutė, was published in 1991 under the title Daugel krito sūnų ("Many sons fell"). In 2018, the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre published an English translation of the work, entitled Many Sons Have Fallen in the Partisan Ranks.
Ramanauskas's daughter, Auksutė Ramanauskaitė-Skokauskienė, was elected to the Seimas in 2008.
The following year, his grave was found at the Našlaičiai Cemetery in Antakalnis, Vilnius. The identity was confirmed by anthropological analysis of the skull, DNA investigation, and photographic matching. His death was the result of a gunshot in the vertex of his head, and he was found to have been buried wearing the belt he wore at his execution, which depicted oak leaves and Iron Wolf with the Columns of Gediminas. His remains were discovered and reburied in a state funeral at the Antakalnis Cemetery, at which Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė spoke. The Seimas designated 2018 the year of Ramanauskas-Vanagas.
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