by David Stern
PABRADE, Lithuania — When German forces arrived in Lithuania during World War II as part of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, many locals greeted them with flowers, hailing what they believed were their liberators from Moscow’s brutal occupation.
Almost eight decades later, the Germans are back — and Lithuanians are again welcoming them with enthusiasm.
This time, some 650 Bundeswehr soldiers are heading up a multinational NATO infantry battalion of around 1,400 troops — part of the alliance’s “enhanced Forward Presence” program.
“They applauded us as we went through one town — that’s never happened to me before,” said Michael, a lance corporal who for security reasons could not provide his last name.
Others say they’ve been told “thank you” and “we’re very glad you’re here.” A recent poll had Germans as Lithuanians’ second favorite nationality — after Latvians.