By Michael Kretzmer
My film J’Accuse! includes several lists. There’s the 80-name list of the Lithuanian murderers of my family in Birzai (50 were neighbors); there’s the epic, disputed and mysteriously buried Melamad List of the 21,000+ Lithuanian murderers who mercilessly destroyed the great Jewish civilization of Yiddish Lithuania; there’s the list of the glorious 918 Lithuanian Rescuers, people of unimaginable moral courage who will forever be honored in Jewish memory; and finally there’s the list of Litvak Jews who almost pleased their mothers and changed the world.
You know, there were so many world famous Litvak writers, doctors, scientists, intellectuals, humorists, Nobel winners, activists, artists and Torah geniuses that it takes about three minutes to roll the names in the film, and then at some speed. And these were only what Wiki yielded – just last week I learned that the late great Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the man who changed my own life, was Litvak through his mother.
Any other People or nation on earth would boast about this until the cows came home. But not us, not the Jews. We kvel (bursting with pride) furtively, privately, fearfully. I know my ‘List of Brilliant Litvaks’ induces a significant wave of ethnic buttock clenching:
Okay, already! Very nice but do you have to be so… public?! So boastful! Especially these days! (Here’s the glorious Jackie Mason on the subject)
I had no choice. My film J’Accuse! is perhaps above all a demand for Jewish Honour. So the list is in, and proudly so. And from what I gather, the Yidden are loving it. Good. We should be proud and stand tall, especially when confronted by deliberate insult.
The Noreika insult beggars belief. Let me summarise: the Lithuanian government, via its Orwellian Genocide Centre, has manufactured a crude mythology based on lies in order to hero worship a notorious mass murderer, thief and polemical antisemite. Jonas Noreika murdered as many as 14,500 Jews in conditions of unimaginable cruelty and his guilt has been known for decades. Most recently Noreika’s own extraordinary granddaughter, Silvia Foti, has axiomatically blown apart the pathetic denialists in Vilnius. Her book, Storm in the Land of Rain and her devastating testimony in the film J’Accuse! has left them looking naked, nasty and ridiculous.
That’s their problem. I am more concerned by the Jewish response to this demand for Honour. Why does Honour matter so much? It matters, primarily, because Torah matters. It matters because Jewish ethics and concepts of justice matter. It matters because Jewish Lithuania – that phenomenal, extraordinary civilization – matters. It matters because every human life matters. It matters because Jews, and Jewish civilization, and Jewish survival matter.
And it matters because of the deranged cruelty with which we were annihilated. These are among the Jews Jonas Noreika dehumanised, imprisoned and murdered.
The rabbis and old men tied to horses by their beards and dragged to death for public entertainment.
The young girls of Plunge dragged from their homes and raped to death in drunken parties in the woods, then dismembered.
The 74 high school girls from Plunge tricked into a Christian conversion then mockingly executed along with everyone else and thrown into a pit
The old, frail men burned or beaten to death in the Demon Dance drinking game
The men, women and children of Plunge starved for three weeks in their own synagogue amid the stench of rotting bodies and human waste, then massacred.
Please imagine if these victims were Black. Or Irish. Or American. Or Muslim. Or anyone who has pride in their identity. No other nation on earth would accept such an insult.
But we Jews accept this Lithuanian insult with barely a murmur of protest. Worse still, important players in our community gobble up their trinkets, gongs, favours and God knows what even as they carry on brazenly holocaust-lying to our faces. Do these important Jews bring up the subject of Noreika and Silvia Foti at all? Do they feel it is unimportant? And precisely on whose behalf do they talk? Anything to say, AJC?
Honestly, many of us simply cannot understand it. Perhaps someone with close ties to Lithuania can explain and of course we will listen respectfully. But patrician silence is no longer an option: the devastating testimony of Silvia Foti in her forensic book Storm in the Land of Rain and in the film J’Accuse! make this an urgent discussion.
It comes to this: do the Jewish People support the holocaust truth-teller or the Holocaust liar?
In my view there really is no choice. If we do not honour ourselves, no one will. And who could possibly blame them?
About the writer:
Bulawayo born, Michael Kretzmer, a former travel writer for the Sunday Times and director/producer for the BBC and other once important media organisations, a keeper of chickens and grower of fruit and veg, a student of Torah, a Husband, Dad and “Grandad of the greatest kid that was ever born”…and a man determined to fight for justice in Lithuania.
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