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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 24, 2002
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October 24, 2002   
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Polish and Lithuanian historians are working together to erase the "blank spots" in the history of relations between the two countries during the 20th century.

An agreement between the Polish National Remembrance Institute (IPN) and the Center of Investigation into Extermination and Resistance Movements of the Residents of Lithuania provides for the joint investigation of "important questions concerning the recent history of both nations," establishing the content of archives, meetings of historians and the publication of various documents. Plans include a series of academic conferences on Polish/Lithuanian relations in 1939-89, to be organized alternately in Warsaw and Vilnius.

After several centuries of common history, the paths of Poland and Lithuania split in 1918, when both countries, in the wake of having regained independence, were set at variance by disputes over the Vilnius region's national status.

The first historical conference in September this year devoted to the Polish/Lithuanian relations during World War II showed the full complexity of the problem. Lithuania, like Poland, fell victim to Soviet and German aggression. Although Poles and Lithuanians had common enemies, they were not allies. Lithuanians considered the Soviet Union to be their primary enemy. Because of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, Lithuania then became a Soviet republic. Lithuanians were also apprehensive of Poles and looked to the Third Reich for support. In 1941-44, the Lithuanian police collaborated with the Gestapo and perpetrated the murder of many Poles, which brought about Polish retaliation.

The situation changed in 1944, when the Soviet army re-entered the area of Lithuania and eastern Poland. The Polish and Lithuanian anti-Soviet guerrillas began to cooperate. The last Polish detachment in that territory was defeated in 1950.

The Lithuanian guerrillas, the "woodland brothers," continued to struggle through 1955.
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