Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas, a Lithuanian priest, was one of many victims of the Death March. This is his story:
Every hour not intended
for the glory of God is wasted.
Thus you should work, work, work.
While beginning your work ask:
Quid hoc te faciat ad aeternitatem?
Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas
He was born on March 13, 1905r. in Pumpenai, in the numerous family of Dionizos and Konstancja Lipniunas. He was raised in a Christian and patriotic way. Despite the financial problems, thanks to his abilities extraordinary diligence, he achieved to graduate from the Seminary in Pumpenai. He took his holy orders on July 6, 1930 and he celebrated his first mass in his hometown, Talkonys. Rev. Lipniunas begun his pastoral work in the cathedral of Christ the King in Panevėžys, where as a vicar he became an excellent tutor and a friend of the Lithuanian youth participating in catholic organizations. He also wrote papers, translated and travelled all over the world. Thanks to his achievements he was given the post of director for Lithuanian youth of the whole country. Lipniunas wrote numerous articles which were published in the press and in national magazines. In 1933, in the age of 28 he published his first book “In the capitals of five countries”. Between 1935 and 1937 he studied social and political sciences at the University of Lille and theology in the Catholic Institute in Paris. He knew foreign languages and possessed artistic skills. In 1939, he was named lector in the Pedagogic Institute in Panevėžys. In the same year he was permanently transferred to Vilnius. Between 1939 and 1943 each day he celebrated masses in the Gate of Dawn and gave sermons in Saint John’s university church.
During the German occupation Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas became a famous preacher. He gave inspiring sermons to crowds of people. At this time, he established the Lithuanian Foundation which helped the starving citizens regardless their nationality. Help was given to Lithuanians, Poles and Jews.
On August 8, 1942 Lipniunas was named professor of the Seminar of the Vilnius Archdiocese.
In 1943, because of his pastoral and patriotic activity, Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas has been listed on a German list of 46 extraordinary representatives of the Lithuanian nation. This group consisted of members of the Lithuanian Government, intellectuals, writers (among others Balys Sruoga, the author of “Forest of Gods”), doctors, economists, who were accused of inciting young people to revolt against the conscription to SS. For this crime they were sentenced to death. The sentence was not executed in Lithuania but the convicts were sent to KL Stutthof. They reached the camp in two groups, on March 25 and 26, 1943. Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas was among them. He was given number 21332 and a red triangle, meaning he was a politic prisoner.
At first the Lithuanians were treated as all the other prisoners in the camp. They went through the brutal procedure of entering the camp and during the quarantine in block no. 2 of the Old Camp they were forced to do disciplinary exercises. All “offences” were punished with beating or additional insults. The person “responsible” for the Lithuanians was Wacław Kozłowski, known for this cruelty, who beat Rev. Lipniunas and destroyed his glasses without which the priest could barely move around the camp. A group of Poles helped Lipniunas, they came up with some glue and fixed his glasses.
After the quarantine, the Lithuanian prisoners moved to block 8b and then to block 11 in the New Camp. At this time, H. Himmler changed their death sentences to a life sentence in the concentration camp. From then on, the 46 prisoners were treated as the so-called honorary prisoners (Ehrenhäftlinge). Their situation became better (they were not obliged to work) but still, as all the other prisoners, they were subject to the indirect extermination due to the conditions created by the Germans in the camp. Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas did not cease to preach in the camp. In spite the fact that he could be punished severely (and even sentenced to death), every day he celebrated a mass and gave spiritual support to the prisoners. Due to his cooperation with Polish priests, masses were celebrated also in block 9 of the New Camp and in the attic of one of the prisoners’ workplaces. On January 25, 1945 the chief of KL Stutthof ordered the evacuation of the camp. On this day, Rev. Lipniunas left the camp in a 850 person column. He was exhausted, he weighed about 40 kg. During the march, the SS men were merciless towards the prisoners, they beat and pushed them. On February 4, 1945 the column with the Lithuanians reached the town of Gęś, situated between Lębork and Łeba. There they were placed in the huts of a former German Labor Camp, where they stayed till the first days of March. During their stay in Gęś many prisoners died of typhus. Those who survived continued the march in the direction of Puck, from where they were supposed to be transported to Germany by ships. Only one column reached the city. In the nigh t from March 11th to March 12th the prisoners were locked in a mill by the Bay of Puck and in the morning on March 12th the Soviet Army liberated them. After the liberation Rev. Lipniunas actively participated in the help given to the prisoners who survived. Probably by then he was already suffering from typhus. Despite his poor health, he organized help for the prisoners, collection of food and clothes; he also celebrated masses especially for the wounded patients of the hospital in Puck. One day he got very cold in the church and fell ill. He didn’t allow anybody to call a doctor because he believed that the fever will go down on its own. After three days a doctor said that he was ill of typhus.
Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas died on March 28, 1945. At this time the deceased were buried in common graves but thanks to the efforts of one of the Lithuanian prisoners the Russians made an exception and allowed to bury Rev. Lipniunas in a separate grave in accordance with Christian traditions. The priest was buried in the cemetery in Puck.
When the war ended, the family of Rev. Lipniunas and the Lithuanian church authorities tried to move his ashes to Lithuania. They succeeded only in 1989. The priest’s ashes are resting in the cathedral in Panevėžys. The beatification process of Rev. Alfonsas Lipniunas began on March 28, 2006. A mass concelebrated by bishop Jonas Kauneckas in the cathedral of Chist the King in Panevėžys inaugurated the process. A church commission assembled after the mass and in the presence of the parishioners it signed documents which started the beatification process. Because Rev. Lipniunas died in Puck during the Death March, archbishop of Gdańsk, Tadeusz Gocłowski, had to give his consent in order to transfer the process to Panevėžys (the place of birth and burial of Rev. Lipniunas). Mrs. Elżbieta Grot represented the Stutthof Museum during the celebrations.
Tłumaczenie: Katarzyna Flis 2013
|The portrait of Rev. A. Lipniunas by Julia Salkauskiene.|
|The mass which inaugurated the beatification process of Rev. A. Lipniunas.|
|Elizabeth Grot from the Stutthof Museum, surrounded by Lithuanian priests after the start of the beatification process rev. Lipniunas.|