A number of acclaimed films have shone a spotlight on the Holocaust in the Baltics. But Latvia and Lithuania have responded with Holocaust distortion

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(*First appeared in The Jerusalem Post)

During the past half year, three new documentary films devoted to the Holocaust in the Baltics, and especially in Lithuania, have been screened in numerous venues all over the world, except in Lithuania and Latvia, which are the subjects of these films.

One, titled How the Holocaust Began, was produced by the BBC and focuses on the use of new forensic archeological technology to discover unknown mass graves of Holocaust victims in western Lithuania, where indeed the systematic mass murder of European Jewry began following the Nazi invasion of Lithuania, on June 22, 1941.

Truth behind ‘Ordinary People’. A chilling reminder that the Nazis did not act alone is James Bulgin’s BBC 2 documentary ‘How the Holocaust Began’ containing horrifying footage, showing how ordinary people – the civilian population – facilitated the Nazis in murdering Jews sometimes carrying out themselves, the mass killings of men, women and children. 

A second film, J’Accuse, focuses on the mass murder of the Jews of northwest Lithuania and the highly-significant role played by Lithuanian Nazi collaborators, and especially national hero Jonas Noreika, who, during the Holocaust, was the liaison between the Nazis and the Lithuanians, and was responsible for the annihilation of many thousands of Jews. After World War II, he was a leader of the local opposition to the Soviets.

The heroes of this movie, created independently by former BBC journalist Michael Kretzmer, are Noreika’s granddaughter, Silvia Foti, and American Litvak Grant Gochin, dozens of whose relatives were murdered in that part of Lithuania and who has unsuccessfully tried to sue the Lithuanian government numerous times to cancel the honors awarded to Noreika.

Silvia Foti’s biography of her grandfather, which began as an attempt to glorify him, ultimately exposed his role in Holocaust crimes, shocking Lithuanian society.

The third film, which is called Baltic Truths, deals with the Holocaust in Latvia and Lithuania, and emphasizes the failure of both Baltic republics to admit the highly-significant role played by local Nazi collaborators in the mass murder of their Jewish communities.

Digs up the Dirt on Latvia. Eugene Levin’s ‘Baltic Truth’ reveals how national memorials to murderers lie only feet away from the graves of their victims. “The glorification of so-called war ‘heroes’ with Jewish blood on their hands is in full swing across the Baltic States.”

Produced by Eugene Levin, a Soviet-Jewish emigrant from Latvia living in Boston, whose grandfather was the sole survivor of the Latvian shtetl of Akniste, it tells a similar story about his country of birth, as well as about Lithuania.

So far, these films, especially J’Accuse, have won many awards at film festivals all over the world, but have not been widely shown in the countries to whom the messages of the films are directed. Nor has there been any official government response to the harsh accusations. Instead, these countries have launched charm offensives, which are directed at potential Israeli tourists.


Thus two weeks ago, a lengthy article was published in the Dyokan weekend magazine of the staunchly-right wing Israeli weekly Makor Rishon by senior correspondent Ariel Shnebel, about his visit to Lithuania and Latvia at the expense of the Lithuanian and Latvian governments.

He was invited to promote the two countries as wonderful destinations for Orthodox tourists (who are the overwhelming majority of the readers of Makor Rishon), due to the numerous sites connected to the lives of leading renowned Orthodox rabbis, such as the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzenski and Rav Kook, as well as sites of famous yeshivas, such as Slobodka, Panevitch and Telz.

But what about the elephant in the room? Shnebel mentioned to his host, Vilna Deputy Mayor Tomas Gablinas, that Israelis think that the Lithuanians occasionally collaborated too closely with the Nazis, as if this was just an opinion of some and not an established fact.

Gablinas totally ignored it and proceeded, according to Shnebel, to tell his guest about the contemporary efforts of the government to combat antisemitism and their success in changing the name of a street previously named for a Lithuanian political leader who supported Hitler. Ever the polite guest, Shnebel dropped the subject and missed an opportunity to deliver an important message.

More recently, this past Friday, The Jerusalem Post devoted two pages of its Magazine to an interview with Latvian deputy chairman of the Riga City Council, Linda Ozola, who had come to Israel to attend the 17th International Conference on Innovation Crisis Management hosted by the Tel Aviv Municipality.

From the interview, we learned important facts about Latvia, all of which were patently false. First of all, the number of Latvian Jews murdered in the Holocaust was not 25,000, but 67,000, out of the 70,000 who lived in Latvia under the Nazis occupation, among the highest percentages of victims.

And that does not include the more than 30,000 Jews deported to Riga from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia, only 4% of whom survived, and the thousands of Jews murdered in Minsk by the notorious Latvian Arajs Kommando murder squad.

Murder on the Beach. Members of the Latvian SD Police assemble a group of Jewish women for execution on a beach near Liepāja in December 15, 1941.

According to the article, Latvia did not fight during World War II, a mistake that Ozola claimed would not be repeated in the future. That was not the reality, however, as there were two divisions of Latvian Waffen-SS created in 1943, which fought alongside the Nazis for a victory of the Third Reich, among whose men were former Latvian police who had actively participated in the mass murders of Latvian Jews.

A few months ago, in fact, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks claimed that those Latvians “are the pride of the Latvian people and the state,” and books praising the Legionnaires are on sale in Riga International Airport. Unfortunately, Ozola was not challenged on any of these facts, or on her assertion that there is no antisemitism in Latvia, or about the rampant Holocaust distortion in Latvia.

Defense Minister Defends Indefensible.   At a military cemetery, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks referred to his countrymen that had served in the Latvian Waffen-SS fighting alongside the Nazis  – some of whom had actively participated in the mass murders of Latvian Jews – as “the pride of the Latvian people and the state.”

Hopefully, the film J’Accuse, which was screened in Israel this past Holocaust Remembrance Day, as well as the other two films, will be shown here again and given wide publicity, to help educate the Israeli public, regarding the truth about what happened in the Holocaust in Lithuania and Latvia.

About the writer:

The writer, Dr. Efraim Zuroff a Holocaust historian, is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of its Israel office. His most recent book (with Rūta  Vanagaite) is Our People: Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust, published by Rowman & Littlefield.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Reflections from Israel amidst another round of hostilities

By Jonathan Feldstein

I have started and stopped writing this multiple times. From last Wednesday until the ceasefire Sunday night, Palestinian Arab terrorists in Gaza supported by the Islamist regime in Iran, have fired 1469 rockets at Israeli communities.  There have been massive barrages of 100 or more at a time, multiple times.  Throughout this operation, Israel had targeted and taken out both leaders of the Islamic Jihad terror organization, and much (but not enough) of their infrastructure.  For the most part Israel’s Iron Dome has successfully intercepted most of these, specifically ones directed at densely populated areas.  There have been injuries, significant damage, and as of last night one woman and a Palestinian worker from Gaza killed and 10 injured when their building took a direct hit. 

Rock’ets around the Clock.  Continuous firing of rockets from Gaza toward Israel. (Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

I stopped and re-started writing this article multiple times because of repeated talk of a cease fire. But each time one thinks the rockets might stop, the terrorists let off another barrage.  Living in Israel, you develop an instinct as to whether there will be a cease fire or not, protracted rockets and Israeli response of taking out terrorists, or the risk of escalation and a ground operation.  Of course, had 10 people been killed and not “just” injured yesterday, the calculations would be revisited, and all bets would be off.   

But not one person should be killed, and the firing of one rocket at a civilian population is criminal, much less hundreds.  If they can’t be stopped yet, they should face the consequences.  Palestinian Arabs in Gaza should be sending thank you notes to Israel, not firing rockets.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a senior Israeli security officer about the situation in Gaza.  “We know what kind of humus they are dipping their pita into,” he assured me confidently.  It was funny, albeit seeming a bit arrogant.  But how accurate both figuratively and literally.

Killing Killers. Gazan terrorist leaders who gave the orders to kill Israelis were the focus of Israel in its recent ‘Operation Shield and Arrow’.

What we have seen in the past days, as well as in other recent anti-terrorist operations in Gaza, is that he wasn’t just being funny.  This week we have seen IDF operations that have been strategic, tactical and surgical. When you look at the pictures of the buildings in which Palestinian Arab terror leaders have been targeted and taken out, it looks as if someone came with a big industrial scalpel, cut open a careful hole in the side of a building, and carefully extracted the tumors, leaving the rest of the building and its residents shaken, but intact.  The precision is remarkable.

Sadly, some of the terror leaders have chosen to sleep at home with their wives and children which means that some of their wives and children have also been killed.  Sadly, the wives and children didn’t leave their terrorist husbands/fathers to protect themselves.

All this week’s IDF operations have indicated that Israel has incredible intelligence on top of the surgical precision.  If I were an Arab terror leader, I’d be looking for another profession, unless I really believed the misogynist rhetoric about 72 virgins waiting in heaven.  Certainly, Israel has developed a world-class intelligence network that’s the envy of many, as it helps to save lives not just in Israel but around the world. 

Surgical Strike. Leaving this building in the Gaza Strip intact, only the apartment of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorist leader is destroyed in a precision attack by Israel. (Associated Press, Fatima Shbai)

A case and point is that Israel successfully killed one particular terrorist leader in a ‘safe’ house demonstrating that the terrorist leaders are not safe anywhere.  Fortunately, he saved his wife and children, though they are known to hide behind women and children which is immoral, and a war crime. In one case this week, a terror leader who had been tracked for two days had his life saved when the pilot commanding the operation noticed two children.  In this case, the word “abort” saved two children’s lives.

Terrorists know that Israel will avoid firing at them and their infrastructure around civilians. So, they hide themselves, their weapons, their infrastructure in, under, and around residential areas, schools, mosques, hospitals, and UN facilities. But Israel’s level of precision has increased and the phrase “you can run but you cannot hide” is a warning that every terrorist in Gaza should heed.

Palestinian Arabs should be thanking Israel because its Iron Dome saves Palestinian Arabs. Had Israel not had the need, ingenuity, and priority to create something never before imagined to track and intercept short and medium range rockets, the terrorists’ rockets would surely wreak much more havoc.  Were there to be more Israeli casualties, Israel would be forced to respond more forcefully.  That would mean more Palestinian Arab casualties.  But the Iron Dome that was invented and built and is deployed to save Israeli lives, also saves Arab lives, while allowing terrorists to inflict damage with relative impunity.

Meeting in Mid-air. Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ anti-missile system (right) fires interception missiles as rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip (left) to Israel, as seen from Sderot on May 10, 2023. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

But Israel should never have to do this to begin with.  The theory that goes that the rockets will stop only when the cost to the terrorists (and the population they have hijacked) suffer more than they are prepared.  That means devastation.  Yet it’s probably true.  Eventually in a day, or week or a month, there will be a cease fire.  Until the next round. 

Speaking of cost, the expense Israel incurs to keep Israelis (and Palestinian Arabs) safe is some $50,000 per Iron Dome interception.  If only half of the 1000+ fired this week required being intercepted, that’s $20 million.  Astounding.

As I was finishing writing this, our family was startled by the piercing noise of an air raid siren in our community south of Jerusalem.  We are dozens of miles from Gaza.  The terrorists are upping the ante and widening the range to draw Israel into the conflict deeper. It’s personal and horrific.

Devastation and Death. An 80-year-old resident was killed when her apartment on May 12, 2023 in Rehovot took a direct hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Gazans should be rising up to take back their society from the terrorists who hijacked their lives.  They can choose to suffer just by the consequences of being around, behind and under the stranglehold of the terrorists, or they can fight back. When Israel withdrew all its communities, military, businesses, and even graves from Gaza in 2005, they had an opportunity to build something. All they have achieved are  four “D’s – death, danger, destruction and destitution.

They should be thanking Israel and seek to live in a society that can be good neighbors rather than mortal enemies.  

If only!

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall,, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Follow Social Media Rhetoric

By Aviva Klompas and Rachel Fish

(*Article appears in Newsweek)

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” The true origin of this timeless aphorism — often attributed to Mark Twain — is disputed, the simple lesson it teaches is unquestionable. And in an era of social media algorithms and worldwide connectivity through the internet, it is just as applicable to hatred as it is dishonesty, and the results can be violent and dangerous.

Case in point: While the Israeli Defense Forces responded to over 1,000 rocket attacks launched by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza in May of 2021, antisemitism also reached an all-time high in the United States. In major cities, like New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, cries of “free Palestine” and “death to Jews” accompanied assaults on the streets, in restaurants, and outside synagogues.

The prevailing presumption was that anger and frustration over events some 6,000 miles away was entirely to blame for unleashing this tsunami of hatred on American Jewish communities. In fact, new research from Boundless, which combats Jew-hatred, and the Network Contagion Research Institute, which identifies and forecasts social cyber threats, found that particular rhetoric propelled by social media outrage algorithms carried the signal for where and when real-world violence would take place. During this digital frenzy, terms typically used to discuss human rights surged on social media in the exact U.S. locations where violence against Jews occurred. Words such as “Apartheid”, “ethnic cleanings”, and “genocide” that used to have moral weight and legal meaning—were hijacked to delegitimize Israel and vilify Jews.

Off the Wall. Harvard students engage in lies and incitement against Jews in their mock “apartheid wall” erected on campus during Israeli Apartheid Week 2022. (Photo Credit: Harvard PSC)

These findings offer important new clues as to where and how harm targeting Jewish communities originates. Our research makes clear that greater attention must be paid to groups that march in American cities chanting “globalize the intifada” or “find where these Zionist fools live.”

Enemies of Israel’s existence hide behind the guise of progressive values to cherry pick terms from the human rights lexicon and distort their meaning to paint Israel and Jews as evil oppressors. These toxic accusations, in turn, act as a Trojan horse to infiltrate the mainstream discourse with abhorrent tropes about Jews.

There is nothing new under the sun, and this tactic is no exception to that truth. Its origins can be traced to Russia, where an ugly history of animosity toward Jews gave birth to the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. During the Cold War, an explicit campaign sought to exacerbate tensions between East and West, placing Jews as the central scapegoats. The message of these campaigns infiltrated progressive circles, most obviously in institutions of higher education, and have received new life on social media.

Targeting the Talmud. Horrendous antisemitic fliers seen in Georgia, USA in February, 2023. (Esther Panitch/Twitter)

Social media ecosystems have long been known to accelerate the growth and spread of antisemitic activity, and it is well known that there is a linkage between online hate forums and real-world attacks. That said, when it comes to Jew-hatred, law enforcement has focused on neo-Nazis, Islamists, and other radical groups notorious for their toxic ideology.

But to effectively protect Jews – by far the largest target of religious hate crimes in the United States – those who make the laws as well as those who enforce them and monitor threats should heed this data and expand their activities to encompass threats emanating from groups using the façade of progressive human rights to demonize Jews and Zionists.

Terrorizing Jews. Ugly anti-Zionist rhetoric turns into a threat to Jews in this protest by pro-Palestinian activists in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

American Jews live in the crosshairs of an array of bad actors. The threats span political ideologies. Yet ideological blind spots are hindering efforts to keep them safe, and the consequences are devastating. Jewish communities are increasingly under attack and the fear of violence, hostility, and intimidation has led growing numbers of young Jews to hide their identity.

America’s promise to her people is not only that she will affirm their rights and human dignity, but that they will be protected by the rule of law. Social media signals can offer us critical insights into where and when attacks against Jewish communities take place. And where violence can be reasonably predicted, the warning should be heeded and the danger thwarted. Failing to do so means failing to fulfill that critical promise.

About the writers:

Aviva Klompas is CEO and co-founder of Boundless and can be found on Twitter @AvivaKlompas.

Dr. Rachel Fish is the President and co-founder of Boundless.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Recollections and reflections of a South African immigrant under fire

By Joel Klotnick

The recent hostilities, which Israel named “Operation Shield and Arrow” brought back memories of the last ‘fireworks’ when we in Ra’anana – a city some 20 kilometers north of Tel Aviv –  found ourselves in range.

At the time I penned a piece (hereunder) that I sent to friends and family around the world. I believe it  no less relevant today – sadly so!

Crowd Flees Tel Aviv Beach After Siren Sounds

Ra’anana in Range

“It’s bizarre and surreal! I always wanted to meet a siren, i.e. one, who according to a definition in my trusty Oxford Dictionary is “a woman who is considered to be alluring but also dangerous in some way”.

Instead, I get to meet  – or rather hear – an ear-splitting, caterwauling, prolonged sound telling me that it’s dangerous in some way!

On Friday, one minute we’re sitting and having coffee with friends at a popular local café in central Ra’anana, the next you hear a siren in the distance and although you think it is too far away to be of concern to us, a number of patrons of the coffee shop think otherwise and decide that it’s time to make a dash for the shelters. I felt less energised and decided to do more than dash.

From Gaza with Hate. What has changed in Israel today than from when this mother ducked with her kids in Tel Aviv in 2012 following a siren warning of incoming rockets from Gaza? (Photo Oren Ziv AFP/Getty Images)

As I was getting up  – somewhat lethargically – to join them, I looked up to see a rocket plume far away and high in the sky and then another plume – from another direction – intersect the first one – and then a puff of smoke, followed 20 to 25 secs later by a “BOOM”, thus confirming that it was quite far away. So, after consulting our smart phones we confirm that the sirens were in Herzliya, the city adjacent to Ra’anana. But what about our friends, who are having coffee with us and whose kids are on the beach at Herzliya. A quick call to them to see that all’s OKAY and back to coffee and chatting. Our thoughts are also with friends, family, and just ordinary Israelis (including non-Jewish Israelis) who have to spend days and nights anticipating a CODE RED alert, giving them seconds to dash for shelter?

Dash for Cover. With only seconds to find cover, children in 2023 at a playground in Tel Aviv run as fast as they can to the underground bomb shelter. (Kobi Wolf for The Washington Post)

Why are there these guys in Gaza trying to  frighten us! They are not going to weaken my resolve, nor, as far as I can judge, the resolve of all Israelis. There is a broad consensus that “we” have to go in and clean out the place once and for all. However, if you think about it a little more logically, “going in” means that our soldiers are likely to suffer injuries and worse. And can they really eliminate all terror cells and rocket launchers?

Rocket strikes ‘Home’. An 80-year-old Israeli is killed as Gaza rocket makes direct hit on her apartment in Rehovot.

So, what’s the answer? It’s obvious – it is PEACE – but you’ve got to have leaders in Gaza who are prepared to LEAD! I’m not known as a pessimist, but, unfortunately, I do not believe that this elusive PEACE will be reached in my lifetime.

Israelis, those who were born here and others “who’ve seen it all before”, regularly ask “So, are you still happy that you made Aliyah?” My unequivocal answer is a resounding YES, I would not like to be anywhere else.”


As I reflect about this 5-day  “round” of hostilities that included a total of 1,469 rockets fired from Gaza toward Israel with 1,139 rockets crossing into Israeli territory, have my thoughts changed in any meaningful way since the previous engagements? Sadly not and am no less resolute to proudly call Israel my home and still hope against all the odds for that most elusive prize –  PEACE.

About the Writer:

Joel Klotnick, retired in South Africa after many years in practice as a Chartered Accountant (CA) in commerce and as a volunteer in community affairs. Now volunteering in community affairs in Israel. Very proud and happy that all three children and their families (including nine grandchildren), live in Israel.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


In Israel this week for Israel’s 75th anniversary of Independence are  descendants of Nazi killers participating in Jerusalem’s ‘March of Life’

By David E. Kaplan

My father was in the SS” can be a hard fact for a child to first hear and then to accept but that was what Hartmut Janssen had to come to terms with and ultimately brave eneough to pass on to his daughters. He did so in 2014 when he he bought them tickets to see ‘Labyrinth of Lies’, a film about the Auschwitz trials that took place in Frankfurt in the 1960s. This provided the opportunity he had been waiting for. He was nervous because he was also dreading what their reaction would be. And so, during the  discussion of the movie they had just watched, he revealed the hard truth:

My father was in the SS.”

He had been terrified his daughters would reject him but instead, they hugged and reassured him that he was not responsible for the sins of his father.

The Nazi past of relatives can understandably be a taboo subject in some German families. But a number of descendants of Nazi criminals are not happy about suppressing the past; they want to explore that intimate dark tunnel wherever it takes them. It is a fateful and a very brave exploration of self, particularly so when they choose to reveal publicly their findings. This they do by participating in the ‘March for Life’.

They need to be commended.

This week, several thousand participants will march in Jerusalem from Sacher Park to Safra Square in front of the City Hall on May 16 at 5 p.m. under the banner:

 “Mi Shoah le Tkuma from the Holocaust to New Life

They will be participating in the March of the Nations that unites people from all over the world and Israelis from across the country to celebrate Israel’s birthday on the streets of Jerusalem. The occasion this 2023, marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel and is officially welcomed by Israel’s State President, President Isaac Herzog.

(See President’s letter of endocement.)

March on Track. Welcoming a delegation from March of Life from Germany and Israel at his residence in Jerusalem,  Israeli President Isaac Herzog expressed his appreciation and support to Jobst & Charlotte Bittner, founder and president of the international March of Life movement. The large “March of the Nations” is to be held in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities on May 14-17.

Many of the international participants from Germany and more than 25 other nations are Christians. They have “worked through the Nazi past of their families, the antisemitic theology of their churches, and the history of Jew-hatred in their cities and communities.”

An example is a young German, Luisa, who reveals:

A few years ago, I discovered that a great-grandfather of mine served in the Luftwaffe while another great-grandfather served in the SS, being stationed in Poland in 1939. There his unit expelled thousands of Jews from their homes and was involved in the shooting of many of them. Later, he supervised a concentration camp near Belgrade.”

Participants are part of the worldwide March of Life movement, which each year around Yom HaShoah calls people to the streets to raise their voices for remembrance, for reconciliation, for Israel, and against antisemitism.

Speakers at the closing event at 6:30 p.m. in Safra Square will include Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan Nahoum, Jewish Agency President Doron Almog, founder of the first Shoah Museum in Dubai, Ahmed Al Mansoori (UAE), and ‘March of Life’ founder, Jobst Bittner. The march is led by Odessa-born Holocaust survivor Arie Itamar, who arrived in Israel in 1947 on the Exodus as a seven-year-old.

Snapshot of History. Holocaust survivor Arie Itamar in a 1947 photo taken for a fabricated passport before boarding the Exodus to Palestine will be one of the speakers in Jerusalem.

On May 17, more marches will take place in various cities across Israel. Participants will travel by bus to Metula, Tiberias, Zichron Yaakov, Netanya, Ashkelon, Beer Sheva and Merhavim, where they will have encounter events with Holocaust survivors, students and soldiers. In the afternoon, they will march together through their respective cities.

The organizer is the international March of Life movement, an initiative of Jobst and Charlotte Bittner from Tübingen in Southern Germany  that began with a memorial march from the Swabian Alb to Dachau in 2007.

 Man with a Mission. Pastor Jobst Bittner, founder of TOS Church and March of Life. (Courtesy)

Together with descendants of German Wehrmacht soldiers and members of the SS and police force, they have organized memorial and reconciliation marches at sites of the Holocaust all over Europe. Since this movement began, marches have been held in 20 nations and in more than 400 cities in cooperation with Christians from different churches and denominations, as well as from many Jewish communities.

Although the March of Life in each country has its own name, such as – “March of Remembrance” in the U.S., “Marcha de La Vida” in Latin America, and “Marsz Życia” in Poland – the message remains the same:

  • REMEMBERING, working through the past, giving survivors of the Holocaust a voice
  • RECONCILIATION, healing and restoration between descendants of the victims and perpetrators and
  • TAKING A STAND for Israel and against modern antisemitism

The movement recognises that it was indifference and the silence of the majority that made the Holocaust possible, an indifference that even today, paves the way for antisemitism. They feel the need to act against this indifference and:

 “We will not again be silent! ”

Never Again. Descendants of Nazis join fellow Christians and Jews marching in solidarity to acknowledge the past and strive so that it is never repeated.

Press Event: Members of the press will have the opportunity to speak with leaders of the March of Life movement and meet interviewees on May 16, at 3:30 pm, prior to the March’s kickoff event in Sacher Park.

For further information go to:

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


People behind exposing the hard truth of Lithuania in the Holocaust

By Grant Gochin

After a decades long campaign for basic truth about the Lithuanian Holocaust, the Lithuanian Government has finally told one truth. Ambassador Dainius Junevičius, the Lithuanian Ambassador to South Africa, admits that Jonas Noreika was a Holocaust perpetrator, not the rescuer of Jews they have previously asserted.

This admission follows a very strongly worded statement by the Governments of America and Germany, where these Governments declared that Holocaust revisionism can promote impunity for war criminals, normalize antisemitism, racism, discrimination, and exclusion, increase tensions between countries, and undermine public support for democratic institutions and values-based international structures.

Truth be Told. Lithuanian Ambassador Dainius Junevičius who has come clean about his country’s past by admitting that revered war hero Jonas Noreika was in fact a Holocaust perpetrator, presents his letters of credence to the President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa.

NATO and the European Union cannot demand truth from Russia when one of their own members is so deeply engaged in Holocaust fraud. Lithuania had no choice but to tell one truth.

In the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam (Healing the world) my first response to this was peace and genuine friendship. Friendship can only be based on truth.

It is indeed a tragedy that Lithuania still has open threats of criminal and constitutional charges against me for having exposed their long history of Holocaust distortion and revision. I hope these threats will soon be publicly retracted, along with Lithuania’s formal apology.

It has taken pressure from NATO and the government of the United States to bring Lithuania to the truth. Multiple legal actions failed. A massive worldwide media campaign failed. At long last, American pressure opened the door.

Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Director of Israel’s Simon Wiesenthal Center has led a decades long effort to raise and press these issues. His arduous and tenacious work has demonstrated that truth can be revealed, even when dealing with the most persistent of liars. Dr. Zuroff is my hero.

Fighting Falsehoods. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff who reveals the uniquely extensive role played by Lithuanians in the mass murder of Jews is seen here saying Kaddish, a mourning prayer, for Holocaust victims near Kaunas, Lithuania. (Photo Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

Silvia Foti’s book: Storm in the Land of Rain: A Mother’s Dying Wish Becomes Her Daughter’s Nightmare broke open the door of Holocaust denial in Lithuania. Silvia Foti is my hero.

From Hero to Nazi. Raised on reverent stories about her hero grandfather, a martyr for Lithuanian independence and an unblemished patriot, Silvia Foti would later discover after a 20-year wrenching quest for the truth that Jonas Noreika had been a Jew-killer.  

Ruta Vanagaite and Dr. Zuroff together wrote Our People: Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust. Ruta paid an enormous personal, emotional and financial price for telling the truth. Her books were removed from Lithuanian bookshelves and she had to flee Lithuania for her personal safety. Ruta is my hero.

Home Truths. Rūta Vanagaitė was a best-selling author in Lithuania until she contradicted the story her country tells about itself. Following her book about her country’s involvement in the Nazi killing machine, she went from the “toast of Vilnius” to never leaving her own home without pepper spray.

Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas and Evaldas Balciunas researched the Noreika case. They were vilified by the Lithuanian Government for revealing the facts. They are my heroes.

Rokas Rudzinskas is my lawyer in Lithuania. This is a man of bravery, dignity and compassion. He is a Lithuanian patriot who takes on the cause of truth and justice in order to improve Lithuania and restore Lithuania’s integrity. Rokas is my hero.

Dr. Marylin Kingston is the brain behind many of my articles and strategies. She is my hero.

Dr. Melody Ziff is my Litvak backbone when I am (often) ready to fall. She is my hero.

Michael Kretzmer made a documentary J’Accuse! to tell the story of Noreika. His work is nothing short of remarkable. Hundreds of thousands of people have already seen and been educated by J’Accuse! Michael’s glaring light on Holocaust fraud will forever change society’s response to genocide. Michael is my hero.

Eugene Levin made a documentary “Baltic Truth” exposing multiple Holocaust frauds by Lithuania. It was shown on Israeli national television and ended the ability of Lithuanian diplomats to lie to Jews. Eugene is my hero.

Dr. Carol Hoffman has been my rock and support all the years I have been fighting for truth. Carol has taught me what Litvak integrity means. Her friendship goes beyond being merely close friends, rather, she is my dearest family.

Vladas Krivickas, an ethnic Lithuanian from Seduva, is my beloved, reliable and long term friend. Without his support we could not have reached our digital penetration. He has worked diligently to preserve and document Jewish history. To me, Vladas stands as an example of a righteous Lithuanian, to show what Jews and Lithuanians can achieve when we join together in goodwill.

Mark Blumberg stood up to Lithuania’s enablers. He has paid dearly for his passion.

Dillon Hosier of the Israeli American Civic Action Network has been a leading political advisor and activist. His intellect and strategic thinking has been invaluable.

My religious moral guides who have lent me so much support during these many years, include Cantor Daniel Singer and Rabbi Zev Meyer Friedman.

There have been countless Lithuanians who have assisted me over the years. I do not name them for fear of retribution or retaliation from their own government. These individuals are shining examples of genuine patriotism.

Beth Krom, Dina Gold, Dr. Lara Gochin, Dr. Jan Grabowski, and so many others have brought moral guidance and leadership skills of how to introduce truth to Lithuania.

How is it possible to be surrounded by so many amazing people? To top it off, my husband of over three decades, Russell Lyon, has managed unwavering support during times of crisis and darkness. He shares in even the smallest of victories and is unrelenting in his steadfast belief that this work will save lives and prevent future atrocities. I have not made it easy for him, yet his love continues to support and guide me. To say Russell is my greatest hero, is nothing short of a grand understatement.

After decades of lies, Lithuania has finally spoken one truth. We must show them a path where truth can bring reconciliation and authentic friendship. My suggestion is:

The government of Lithuania needs to follow through, revoke national honors for Noreika and remove all remaining monuments for him. Otherwise, theirs are just empty promises. There are a multitude of Holocaust perpetrators honored as Lithuanian national heroes. All of these national honors must be revoked.

The President of Lithuania should go on national television and admit the truth, and the national cover up. Half measures are unacceptable.

Lithuania needs to create a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to tell the whole truth of who committed the murders, and how the Genocide Center, Government and Courts continues to cover up their crimes.

 Judges who ruled on instruction rather than fact, need to be exposed for their judicial misconduct and removed from their positions. Government workers who committed these frauds should be fired and their state pensions revoked.

As an act of contrition, sincere apology and redemption, Lithuania should welcome every Jew of Lithuanian heritage with a grant of Lithuanian citizenship.

There is no possibility of forgiveness as only the murdered can forgive. Lithuania has taken a miniscule initial step towards reconciliation. We are merely observers in the unraveling of their decades of Holocaust deceptions. Our hope remains, this time, it will be real.

Lithuanian Killers. Photographs like these expose a reality that Lithuanians today find difficult to digest. Seen here is the aftermath of the Kovno (or Kaunas) ‘garage’ massacre in June 1941, perpetrated by Nazi-supporting Lithuanians. (public domain)

About the writer:

Grant Arthur Gochin currently serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Togo. He is the Emeritus Special Envoy for Diaspora Affairs for the African Union, which represents the fifty-five African nations, and Emeritus Vice Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps, the second largest Consular Corps in the world. Gochin is actively involved in Jewish affairs, focusing on historical justice. He has spent the past twenty five years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania. He has served as the Chair of the Maceva Project in Lithuania, which mapped / inventoried / documented / restored over fifty abandoned and neglected Jewish cemeteries. Gochin is the author of “Malice, Murder and Manipulation”, published in 2013. His book documents his family history of oppression in Lithuania. He is presently working on a project to expose the current Holocaust revisionism within the Lithuanian government. Professionally, Gochin is a Certified Financial Planner and practices as a Wealth Advisor in California, where he lives with his family. Personal site:

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


By his grotesque caricatures of Jews, UK cartoonist signs off as an antisemite

By Adam Levick

A cartoon by The Guardian’s Martin Rowson depicting Richard Sharp, who announced his resignation as BBC chair earlier in the week, was removed by editors on Saturday following widespread complaints of antisemitism. In a statement, The Guardian said of the cartoon depicting Sharp, who is Jewish:

We understand the concerns that have been raised. This cartoon does not meet our editorial standards, and we have decided to remove it from our website. The Guardian apologises to Mr. Sharp, to the Jewish community and to anyone offended.”

Rowson, a Jeremy Corbyn supporter who has been a cartoonist at The Guardian for decades, also apologised, saying the illustration was a result of “carelessness and thoughtlessness”, and adding:

Many people are understandably very upset. I genuinely apologise, unconditionally.”

See the cartoon, and a great analysis of it – which managed to include several antisemitic themes, including depicting Sharp with grotesque stereotypical features, themes of money, power, an octopus and a puppeteer – in the tweet thread below by the CST’s Dave Rich, whose recent book on antisemitism we reviewed.

Though you can find all our posts about Rowson’s problematic work relating to Israel and Jews here, we’ll provide a few examples, from the pages of The Guardian and elsewhere, to provide context on the current row.

In a 2008 report released by the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, the US State Department denounced as antisemitic a cartoon by Rowson two years earlier depicting Stars of David being used as a knuckle duster on a bloody fist to both punch a young boy and crush U.S. President George Bush.

In 2011, Rowson demonstrated that his views about Jews and antisemitism are similar to that of the disgraced former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was found guilty of antisemitic harassment of Jewish people in the EHRC report on antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In an interview at a socialist publication, Rowson wrote that an “outraged sense of victimhood can be a powerful weapon to silence debate” and that “The Israel lobby is particularly masterful in using this to silence criticism of their brutally oppressive colonialism.” He added that the charge of antisemitism is “the ultimate trump card”, that “no matter how many innocent people the Israeli state kills, any criticism is automatically proof of antisemitism” before adding that “no wonder idiots like Ahmadinejad want to deny the holocaust. They are jealous. They’d love to silence their critics like that.”

In 2013, Rowson accused CAMERA UK (then ‘CiF Watch’) of “browbeating him” into avoiding Israel in his cartoons.

Followers of our site might also recall that this isn’t the first time Rowson depicted a well-known Jew with grotesque, stereotypical features, as you can see in this post in 2017 on his illustration of Henry Kissinger. In our post, we included a side-by-side comparison between Rowson’s depiction of Kissinger with the infamous Nazi antisemitic caricature published by Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer, titled ‘The Poisonous Mushroom’:

We should be clear that Steve Bell, Rowson’s colleague at The Guardian, is far more problematic, particularly in his use of antisemitism in his cartoons, and his clear contempt for the Jewish community.  However, while it would be tempting to impute to Rowson ignorance about the myths, libels and caricatures about Jews that have been normalised in the West over centuries, an article he wrote in 2019 criticised The NY Times for publishing a cartoon (later removed) that included what he called “common antisemitic tropes of the type notoriously published in cartoon form in the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer.”

So, it would seem that The Guardian cartoonist has some familiarity with the visual language of antisemitic stereotypes.

Indeed, in his apology for the cartoon about Sharp (the full text of which you can find here), Rowson admits that the cartoon went “horribly wrong”.  He attributed this in part to “the mad rush to cram as much in as possible in the 5 or so hours available to me to produce the artwork by deadline” and that he realises that some of the imagery could be seen as representing “antisemitic blood libels that have recurred poisonously for millennia.”

Guardian caught off Guard. The Guardian deletes and apologises for a Martin Rowson cartoon of BBC Chairman Richard Sharp (above) after being accused of “Shocking” antisemitism

So, how to interpret Rowson’s ‘error’? 

Well, there was something Rich mentioned in his tweet thread that may help explain it.  He wrote, in contextualising antisemitism with other forms of racism, that “you might draw Boris Johnson as a gorilla and nobody would mind…But if you drew a black politician that way, it would be racist.”  The same principle should apply, he added, to depictions of Jews.

It should. But it doesn’t.

Whereas you’d be hard pressed to find a cartoonist working for a mainstream media outlet – or his or her editor – who wouldn’t immediately recognise that kind of depiction of a black politician as racist, the same is in fact not true when it comes to antisemitic imagery.

Nefarious Nib. Award-winning cartoonist Martin Rowson (above) had a recent cartoon in The Guardian removed with apologies for antisemitism.

In other words, the same instinct which motivated Diane Abbott, in her letter in the Observer, to outrageously diminish the significance of antisemitism by likening it to the prejudice faced by “redheads” helps explain why those on the hard left, such as Rowson, fail to see racism against Jews even when it’s staring them in the face – even if, at least on an intellectual level, they understand the history of antisemitic tropes.

This represents an extremely dangerous ideological blind spot which both Rich and David Baddiel have explored at length.

Shades of 1930’s Germany. Note the antisemitic stereotypes in Martin Rowson’s offensive cartoon of a grinning Sharp identified as Jewish by an enlarged nose and carrying a Goldman Sachs office box, stuffed with gold and an octopus, a common antisemitic image found in anti-Jewish images and cartoons, representing the antisemitic canard of Jewish control.

The Guardian‘s decision to remove the cartoon was clearly motivated – in my view –  by the widespread backlash it engendered rather than any outrage over antisemitic imagery.  This explains why, to this day, a recent article legitimising a medieval blood libel by Mohammed elKurd still has not been amended to clarify that the outlet rejects his antisemitic libel.

The Guardian, as we’ve demonstrated repeatedly over the years, only worries about “averting accusations of antisemitism”, not antisemitism itself.

About the writer:

Adam Levick lives in Israel and is co-editor of CAMERA UK. He previously worked as a researcher at NGO Monitor and, prior to that, at the Civil Rights Division of the Anti-Defamation League. Adam has published reports on progressive antisemitism for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His op-eds have appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Irish Examiner, Philadelphia Inquirer, The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish Quarterly, The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, JNS, The Algemeiner, South African Jewish Affairs and Perspectives (the print magazine of Aish HaTorah UK).

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


With first foreign correspondent since Cold War to be detained for alleged spying being a Jew, is it coincidence or out the Russian playbook?

By Jonathan Feldstein

When I read about the arrest of American Jewish Wall Street Journal Reporter, Evan Gershkovich, in Russia on March 29, my mind went back to the 1980s.

Jewish Journalist Detained. The Biden administration has formally determined that Jewish Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich who was arrested in Russia on espionage charges, has been ‘wrongfully detained.’ (The Wall Street Journal via AP)

In July 1985, I went to visit Abe Stolar.  Abe was well into his 70s. We bonded immediately, two American Jews, me listening to his stories intently, in his native Chicago accent.  The strange thing is that I was not visiting Abe and his wife, Gita, in Chicago, the place of his birth, or in New Jersey, the place of my birth.  I was visiting Abe in Moscow, the Soviet Union.

Stepping into the Clutches of Stalin. American Abe Stolar in Chicago prior to his departure in 1931 for the USSR.

Like many Russian Jews, Abe’s parents fled Czarist Russia. The arrives in Chicago, a year before Abe was born. Then in 1931, with the US still suffering from the Depression, Abe’s parents, imbued with a degree of communist revolutionary fervor, decided to return to the USSR. Within five years, Abe’s father was taken from their home by Stalin’s police (NKVD) during the infamous purges in which many Jews became victims. Abe’s father was never seen again. Despite being an American citizen, Abe saw no way back to Chicago.  So much for the Beatles’ 1968 sympathetic portrayal of the USSR in their song  “BACK IN THE USSR”.

The True ‘Cover Story’. While the Beatles 1968 album cover with title ‘Back in the USSR’ ‘ presented a sympathetic portrayal of the USSR, Abe’s family experience of back in the USSR’ was very different. Within five years, Abe’s father was taken from their home by Stalin’s police during the infamous purges and was never seen again.

In 1975, Abe, Gita and their son applied for exit visas. They received permission to leave, selling all their belongings.  On July 19, the permission was revoked. The Stolars were detained just before boarding the plane, forced to return to their empty Moscow apartment, hopeless.

I met Abe a decade later, almost to the day.  He was clearly frustrated and desperate to leave, but he was jovial, friendly, and welcoming. Two years later, I went back to Moscow and visited Abe again. He was more hopeful as he saw signs that things in the USSR were changing, but he was still an American citizen forcefully detained in Moscow.

As soon as I heard of Evan Gershkovich’s arrest, I thought of Abe. Evan was arrested on charges of espionage by Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB), the successor to the KGB, and Stalin’s NKVD. It’s the first time Russia has accused a foreign journalist of espionage since the Cold War.

Singing to Sara. 75-year-old Abe Stolar singing “If I had a Talking Picture of You” from the 1929 Fox film “Sunny Side Up” to his granddaughter Sara in their Moscow apartment in September, 1986.

There are many parallels between Abe Stolar and Evan Gershkovich. Both are American Jews, both detained in Russia, both children of Russian-born Jews who emigrated to the US, and both went back to Russia as young men, albeit Evan went of his own accord in a professional capacity. He probably didn’t know about Abe Stolar, and that there was a precedent for Russia detaining American-born Jews. 

Shortly after Evan’s arrest, Jews around the world were asked to set an extra seat for him symbolically at their Passover Seder table. It’s interesting that leaving seats empty at the Seder table was something done in the height of the movement to free Jews of the Soviet Union, the time when Abe Stolar first tried to leave and, when Gershkovich’s parents actually left the USSR.

Setting empty seats at a Seder table is meaningful because Passover is the holiday during which we celebrate our freedom. Jews being detained, arrested, imprisoned as Jews (on trumped up charges) is evocative of the enslavement of Jews in Egypt. This creates awareness, and is meaningful especially when the person for whom that seat is set is a Jew being forcefully detained.  It builds solidarity, but is unlikely to do anything on its own to effect a change in Russian policies, or free someone who has been arrested.  

It’s clear that Russia is using Evan to retaliate or as leverage against the U.S, or both. Evan’s arrest will intimidate other western journalists still reporting in Russia, making a black hole of already limited information coming out of Russia even deeper and darker.  Perhaps Evan was not targeted as a Jew, but it’s now no longer unusual for Jews in Russia to be in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

Back in the USA. Abe Stolar singing the National Anthem at Wrigley Field prior to a Cubs game is flanked by wife Gita and Senator Paul Simon who had been Abe’s principal advocate on Capitol Hill.

Abe Stolar’s case became very personal to me.  Especially after my adopted Soviet Jewish family was permitted to leave in 1987, I stepped up my activism on his behalf, one of many doing so.  When I read about Evan Gershkovich, something additional and personal struck and engaged me. Although some years after I graduated, Evan also graduated from Princeton High School, in the suburban New Jersey community in which I grew up and where my Soviet Jewry activities began.

Not that I am a journalist as Evan is, but in my advocacy to free Jews from Russia, I began writing articles as one of my forms of advocacy, including in the Princeton High School student newspaper. People commented on my being a Jewish student at a particularly WASPy school, in a particularly wealthy community, writing about the imperative of freeing Jews from Russia. For most, it was the first exposure any of my fellow students knew about the antisemitic treachery of Soviet policies.

Long Journey Home. On the left, Abe Stolar in his Moscow apartment in September of 1986. On the right, Abe Stolar at a hotel in Los Angeles in the summer of 1989.

Today, the imperative to do so has come full circle. Espionage was one of the trumped-up charges the Soviets would use against Jews in the past.  It seems that it’s a play in Russia’s playbook as well under Putin, a former KGB agent.

As much as things have changed in the past decades, it’s astounding to see how much things have stayed the same.  The pin and bumper sticker I still have from my Soviet Jewry activism days, “Russia is Not Healthy for Jews and Other Living Things”, are more than just nostalgic collectors’ items, but still a sad truth.

Raising Awareness. Pin sticker in support of Abe Stolar, an American Jew detained in the USSR for 58 years.


The Soviets then, and Russia today, need motivation to change. Optics matter. In the 1980s, I initiated protests at the Russian Embassy in Washington, participated in other massive protests, and called Soviet embassies all over the world to make my protest heard in their offices, to frustrate and embarrass them, and make it no longer worthwhile to use Jews or others as pawns.   The Russian Embassy can be reached at (202) 298-5700. Give them a call.

See America First: the Abe Stolar Story

About the writer:

Jonathan Feldstein ­­­­- President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall,, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


The ruthlessness of the Holocaust and the dignity of Jewish resistance

By  Alex Ryvchin, ABC

(First featured in the ABC online)

The historian and resistance fighter in the Vilna Ghetto, Meir Dworzecki, demanded that when we examine the question of resistance during the Holocaust we do so only by seeking truth. “Do not depict the Jews of the ghettos and the camps as better than they were”, he said. “Do not engage in apologetics. But do not portray them as lesser than they were.” So let us consider this question of resistance in this spirit.

In his book, The Destruction of the European Jews, Raul Hilberg gives what is perhaps the most sobering, confronting assessment of how the Jews reacted to their immaculately choreographed extermination. He explains that the 2,000 years of Jewish exile and dispersal, and the experience of living in almost constant danger, had given rise to a precise, formulaic and deeply internalised reaction to danger.

Benefiting from Bloodshed. Seen here are Lithuanian civilians, auctioning property once owned by Jewish neighbours murdered in mass shootings nearby. Some locals had helped in the round-up and killing, while others looted the furniture, clothing, and other possessions.

The Jews had come to believe that in order to survive they had to refrain from resistance. When faced with a persecutor, they would try to appease or placate them. They could try to ransom themselves, make appeals to people in high places or to public opinion  –  failing that, they accepted their fate. As the deluge would set in, they waited for it to pass over them and then subside. They could not reason with the Crusaders or the Cossack horsemen, but they could outlast them; they collectively outlived them all. The Jews had come to believe that, because of the nature of God or man, they could not be annihilated. This too shall pass. Am Yisrael Chai.

They did not comprehend that Nazism was unique. Whereas Rome or Spain or Tsarist Russia were satisfied to exploit and brutalise or expel the Jews in their midst, Nazism would not rest until it hunted and destroyed every single living Jew. As Hilberg concludes, the Jews could not make the switch. A 2,000-year lesson could not be unlearned. And so, they were helpless.


The Germans, for their part, exhibited a chilling genius in their understanding of human nature, of how people can be broken so absolutely as to comply in their own destruction. In the ghettos, the Germans appointed former Jewish communal leaders to form Jewish Councils with which they would liaise. This appealed to vanity and created the illusion that these Councils had some agency, some ability to influence what was unfolding.

They undoubtedly believed they were acting in the best interests of their people, doing all they could to obtain information, negotiate concessions, additional medical supplies or hygienic products, maintain some semblance of routine for the condemned Jews by overseeing education, cultural performances and support services. We now know they should have been consumed with escape or rebellion and nothing else. Instead, they busied themselves educating children who would never become adults.

Armed resistance was strictly discouraged. It would only aggravate the Germans more and lead to even greater suffering. It seemed things could always get worse. Instead, these Council leaders believed their powerful intellects could tame the beasts. They appealed to the Germans, wrote letters to them, each word carefully weighed by men of esteem, believing their fine rhetoric, wit and logic must surely have some effect. In reality, they were helping to maintain order and achieve the pacification of the enslaved people that made their extermination considerably easier.

The Nazis also extinguished the capacity for resistance among those they enslaved by employing every psychological device used by the captor and the torturer. They engaged in deception, assuring the Jews that deportation to death camps meant resettlement, gas chambers meant showers, and forced marches to pre-dug graves meant reporting for work assignments. Jewish leaders were forever trying to find out from the Nazis what was going to happen next. The answers were always vague, dismissive or dishonest. The truth that their annihilation was imminent was always kept from them.

The Nazis used the element of surprise, conducting pre-dawn raids of ghettos using baying dogs and live fire to shock the ghetto population into submission. They degraded the Jews so completely as to crush any individualistic spirit. They used startling, unspeakable brutality to both shock and desensitise the Jews to suffering, and they could insert the occasional moment of respite, even a word of reassurance, to nurture docile compliance.

All of which is to say they kept the Jews off balance at all times. Nothing stayed the same for very long. There were constant transports, new labour assignments to factories, movements from ghetto to camp, camp to camp.

Alexander Pechersky, a captured Jewish soldier of the Red Army, spoke of this process as like the circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. You constantly wondered what was next and when it would all end. In this uncertainty, doing nothing seemed a better option than stepping out of line and facing the sadism of the guards and the certainty of an immediate and violent death. By the time death became an inescapable fact, it was much too late and the Jews usually fell into a paralysis and drifted to their graves.

In addition to the nature and magnitude of the cruelty, the speed and efficiency of the Nazis meant that the Jews had no time, no space, no means, and no physical capacity to resist in any meaningful or organised way. We commonly speak of the gradual process of destruction, beginning with the rise of Nazism and the Nuremberg laws and ending in the camps a decade later. But the actual process of mass-killing, still a quantum leap from the intense persecution that preceded it, occurred not gradually but as a blitzkrieg.

In March 1942, almost 80% of the eventual victims of the Holocaust were still alive. By February 1943, just 11 months later, that number was reversed. 80% of the 6 million were already dead. When the Final Solution became policy, murder became industrialised — and not a moment or a life was spared.


There were Jews who did manage to escape; who somehow slipped away when being led to the killing-field or made their getaway when being marched from their slave labour back to the camp. There was almost never a happy ending to their stories.

In the Lublin area of Poland, police battalions were given the task of combing the forests to find any last hiding Jews. The battalions called this the “Jew hunt”. Squads of three or four would ride out eagerly each morning to discover the underground bunkers in which starving, petrified individuals or sometimes whole families hid, finishing them off with hand grenades or pistols, often subjecting them to torture first. The only real choice the Jews had was to comply with an anonymous death among the hundreds and thousands or hiding in the soil of a forest waiting for death to find them.

But acts of resistance great and small, organised and individual, can be found in every aspect and in every phase of the Holocaust. Jews being deported to the camps, travelling in cattle cars for days with no food or water, would rip planks off the carriages with their bare hands, jumping from moving trains in the hope of making their escape.

In the Polish ghettos, clandestine publications were created and smuggled out beyond the ghetto walls to alert the outside world to the fate of the deported Jews. Tens of thousands of Jews were saved by Jewish resistance organisations which obtained false identity papers, established smuggling routes and sheltered hiding Jews.

In Poland and the former Soviet republics, tens of thousands of Jews who managed to evade identification and capture, participated in armed resistance. As many as 25,000 Jews fled the ghettos of western and central Poland to join partisan groups. Some 10,000 Jewish men and women from Lithuania did likewise. A Jewish commando succeeded in blowing up a convoy bound for Auschwitz, allowing 231 Jews to flee.

The most incredible instances of organised resistance occurred at the Sobibor death camp and in the Warsaw Ghetto. Sobibor was a purpose-built extermination camp. Whereas at Auschwitz, prisoners and new arrivals were selected for the gas chambers if they could not be worked to death, at Sobibor this process was reversed. Everyone was immediately gassed unless they were of the tiny minority selected for some form of work detail. As a result, almost no one survived Sobibor.

Neighbors Watch and Profit as Jews Deported. In plain sight, onlookers watch from a balcony above while children peek from behind the line as Nazis round up Jews in October 1940 in the small German town of Lörrach. Most of the 65 Jewish people deported from Lörrach that day were later transported to Auschwitz. Few survived.

By October 1943, transports to the camp were becoming less frequent because there were so few Jews left to kill, and rumours began to circulate that the camp would soon be dismantled. When the nearby Belzec death camp was dismantled, the last remaining prisoners were assured that, after they completed the work of exhuming and burning bodies and concealing the evidence of genocide, they would be transferred to a camp in Germany. Instead, they were sent to Sobibor to die.

One of the men from Belzec managed to sew a note into his clothing to the last inmates of Sobibor, which was discovered by a prisoner assigned to sort the clothing of Jews killed in the gas chambers. The note said: 

Be aware that you will be killed also! Avenge us!

The uprising was instigated by a Polish Jew, Leon Feldhendler. He knew most of the long-suffering prisoners in the camp were too broken to resist. But the arrival of Jewish Red Army prisoners of war gave Feldhendler hope. Among the new arrivals selected for work, he noticed a man named Alexander Pechersky.

Inspiring Resistance. The son of a rabbi, Leon Feldhendler, co-organizer of the Sobibor revolt, pictured in 1933.

When Pechersky saw a senior SS officer mercilessly beating a Jew who had collapsed while chopping wood, Pechersky leaned on his axe and stopped working himself. Intrigued by this defiance, the SS man proposed a challenge for his own sadistic pleasure. If Pechersky could split a tree stump in under five minutes, he would give him a pack of cigarettes. If he failed, he would be lashed twenty-five times. Pechersky completed the task in four-and-a-half minutes. To demonstrate he was a man of his word, the SS man offered up the cigarettes. Pechersky declined, saying that he didn’t smoke. The SS man suggested some additional rations instead. The starving Pechersky replied that he found the standard camp provisions to be adequate.

The Great Escape. Alexander Pechersky, the principal organizer of the Sobibor revolt on 14 October 1943, the most successful uprising and mass-escape of Jews from a Nazi extermination camp during World War II

Feldhendler recognised in Pechersky, a rare coolness and steel, and knew he was the only man who could lead the uprising. Together, these men coordinated the simultaneous killings of several of the camp guards. They killed the acting commandant of the camp with an axe while the camp tailor was fitting him for a jacket that had belonged to a murdered Jew. The resistors then killed ten more SS guards before rushing the perimeter fence.

Only 58 Jews of the 300,000 who were sent to Sobibor survived. The majority of those who participated in the uprising were either shot, blown up by land mines surrounding the camp, or mopped up by German patrols or Polish nationalists in the forests. Feldhendler himself survived, only to be murdered by Polish antisemites in his apartment in Lublin in 1945. Pechersky, the magnetic leader of the uprising survived in the forest, joined the partisans, returned to Soviet territory, survived Stalinism and died in old age in the Soviet Union.


The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – whose eightieth anniversary we marked on 19 April 2023 – is one of the most significant events in Jewish history.

In November 1940, the Germans established the Warsaw Ghetto, the largest ghetto in Europe. Around 450,000 Jews had been taken from Warsaw and its environs and crammed into an area of just over a square mile. By April 1942, 75% of those Jews were dead. Most had been deported to Treblinka and gassed, others were shot in the ghetto, or succumbed to disease and starvation.

Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. These two women, soon to be executed, were members of the Jewish resistance. Dispatches by SS and Police General J. Stroop reported that “……The Jewesses carried loaded pistols in their clothing with the safety catches off… At the last moment, they would pull hand grenades out…and throw them at the soldiers….”
(Photo credit: Meczenstwo Walka, Zaglada Zydów Polsce 1939-1945.)

A force of 700 Jews led by Zionist and Communist groups led the uprising. It unified Jewish nationalists and internationalists, hitherto bitter political foes. They created a network of dugouts linked to the sewage system. They smuggled in small arms, fashioned molotov cocktails, and took down collaborators, informers, and policemen inside the ghetto before engaging in combat with the SS.

They held the factories for as long as they could — jumping from collapsing buildings or escaping through the sewers when the SS battalions began the systematic destruction of the ghetto, scorching or toppling buildings and all inside them, to end the uprising. For all their valour and determination, the Jewish fighters killed no more than 16 of their tormentors. The uprising was crushed. The remaining Jews of the ghetto were either shot on site or deported to the death camps.

But the 2,000 year pattern of helplessness in the face of torment that Raul Hilberg had observed had been forever broken. Emanuel Ringelblum, who managed to escape the ghetto before being betrayed in hiding and executed along with the Polish family that hid him, wrote in lamentation:

Why didn’t we resist when they began to resettle 300,000 Jews from Warsaw to the camps? Why did we allow ourselves to be led like sheep to the slaughter? Why did everything come so easy to the enemy? Why didn’t the hangmen suffer a single casualty? Why could 50 SS men and 200 Ukrainian guards carry out the operation so smoothly?”

No one among us can judge the actions of those placed in that purest rendering of hell that was the Holocaust. No one can say how they would have conducted themselves if faced with their circumstances.


Perhaps the greatest difference between those who could resist and those who could not was their conception of hope. The resistors did not engage in self-delusion or false hope. They did not kid themselves that the killing process would just exhaust itself. Or that anyone was coming to liberate them. They knew they would die. Their hope was that by rebelling they could briefly create a new reality — a dawn they knew they would never see.

They resisted to restore their dignity and that of their people, to assert their honour, to restore some individualism, wrest back some scrap of freedom after everything good in this world had been burned and choked off. This, to me, is the height of bravery and nobility.

They also sought to inspire others, and in this they succeeded. As Yehuda Bauer notes:

 “armed groups resisted the Nazis in 110 ghettos and camps. There were 63 armed underground groups.”

Trio from Treblinka. Three participants in the Treblinka uprising who escaped and survived the war. Photograph taken in Warsaw, Poland, 1945. (l-r) Abraham Kolski, Lachman and Brenner. After participating in the Treblinka uprising, they escaped from the camp and found temporary refuge in the nearby forest. Afterwards they hid with a Christian family until liberation.

In addition to the uprising at Sobibor, Jews rose up in Treblinka and Birkenau. The Jewish resistance in Warsaw sparked major ghetto uprisings in Minsk and Bialystok.

In the dying words of the resistors, we see another common theme. Amid it all was a crushing loneliness, a sense that they existed and were being erased as if on an island, unseen, unknown, cut off from all the world that was indifferent and oblivious to their tortured fate. That no one would know they ever lived and died.

But the resistors speak to us now. They tell us that they lived, did not succumb, they did not go quietly, they did not give up. They teach us what it means to have courage, to be strong even when faced with an unstoppable force. To see a world and a destiny beyond our own lives. And we, even here, so far in space and time from the scenes of the crimes, honour them, remember them — we speak their names and we marvel at their greatness.


About the writer:

Alex Ryvchin is the Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. His new book on antisemitism, The Seven Deadly Myths, will be published next month. This piece is based on speeches delivered at Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast on Sunday, 16 April 2023.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).


Rockets and terror attacks rain sorrow on Israelis

By Rolene Marks

The image is seared in my mind. A radiant, vivacious mother poses proudly with her two beautiful daughters. There is no mistaking the family resemblance and you can feel the love and pride radiating out of their smiles. Lucy Dee, and her two daughters, Maia (20) and Rina (15) were traveling to the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) when Palestinian terrorists caused their car to swerve and crash – some say they were rammed, others their car was shot at. The terrorists then shot them at close range, killing Maia and Rina and critically injuring Lucy. She died several days later in hospital. Over twenty shell casings were found at the site. Their crime?

They were Jewish and Israeli.

Senseless Slaying. Lucy and her daughters Maia (20) and Rina (15) shot in their vehicle traveling to Tiberias.

The murders broke the hearts of Israelis, already reeling from a wave of terror that had already claimed 15 lives. Maia and Lucy were the third set of siblings murdered by terrorists this year.

I do not think many of us will forget the shattering images as thousands gathered in Kfar Etzion cemetery, thousands more watched the coverage as Maia, and Rina were laid to rest. Their siblings clung to the covered bodies of their sisters. The grief was palpable throughout the country.

Millions around the world continued to pray for Lucy, their mother who was in a coma fighting for her life. We prayed that the family would be spared further grief. Lucy Dee passed away the next morning.

As news of Lucy Dee’s passing broke, the heavens rumbled and the rain started to fall over Israel. G-d was crying along with all of us. The tears, like the rain, have not stopped.

It has been said that The Almighty counts the tears of women. In the last few days, He has lost count. Lucy’s final selfless act was the donation of her organs to five people whose lives have now been saved.

Israel is a country where every loss is felt very personally. We are a country that may have many divisions and squabbles but when we grieve, it is together, regardless of political leanings, whether one is religious or secular or whatever divides us.

Summoning what I can only describe as superhuman strength, Rabbi Leo Dee, the grief-stricken father and husband addressed the global media and in his speech, appealed that “If you feel that it was wrong to shoot dead at close range 3 beautiful innocent young ladies in the prime of their lives please post a picture of you with an Israeli flag or just post a picture of an Israeli flag & share on social media.” April the 10th was designated #DeesDay, and Israeli flags proudly lit up social media platforms all around the world.

Terror strikes indiscriminately and following the brutal murders of Lucy, Maia and Rina, an Italian citizen was killed and several injured when a terrorist rammed his car into them the following Saturday night. Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome was killed. Once again, Israelis united to mourn his death – and stand in solidarity with Italy. The victims of these senseless murders were honoured at protests that night and Israelis laid flowers and lit candles at a makeshift memorial for Parini at the site of his murder. His coffin, draped in an Italian flag was sent back to Italy days later with a solemn ceremony of honour.

Tourists Targeted. Italian tourist Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome was killed when a terrorist rammed the car he had stollen into tourists on Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade.

If murdering our citizens with guns and cars was not enough, Iranian-sponsored proxies rained rockets down on Israel over the Passover weekend. Terror groups in the south of Lebanon fired 34 rockets into Israel, the highest escalation since the Second Lebanon war in 2006. The iron Dome intercepted the majority but a few managed to strike a chicken coup, land near a children’s playground and wounded several when shrapnel fell on cars. Iranian terror groups in Gaza fired 44 at Israel’s southern citizens, hitting a house and 6 rockets were fired from Syria. The IDF struck in all three areas in response.

These terror groups fired rockets towards Israeli civilians using the excuse that “the Al Aqsa is under threat”. In a carefully coordinated campaign, terror organisations cited “resistance against the Israeli attack on Al Aqsa”.

What happened inside the Mosque? Groups of masked Palestinian hooligans entered the holy site, armed with fireworks and rocks which they threw at police, disrupted peaceful prayer and desecrated the sanctity of the site. Police were forced to enter and quell them. This is the same tactic used in recent years to draw attention back to the Palestinian “cause” as the world turns further away from them. Incite, clash and attack. Rinse and repeat.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers had prayed at the Al Aqsa peacefully for three weeks during Ramadan but was it a coincidence these disruptions occurred during the start of Passover and Easter? I think not. If anyone cannot see that the clashes on Al Aqsa, designed for maximum media impact (it worked) along with terror attacks and rockets wasn’t carefully coordinated by Iran, then they really are naïve. This had Iran’s grubby fingerprints all over it.

The response from the international community and mainstream media was outrage at the audacity of Israel to dare safeguard the safety of worshipers at Al Aqsa. Glaringly missing was the condemnation of brutal terror attacks of Jews and Christians the same weekend. British Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, admonished after his initial letter of condemnation, rewrote it to condemn the heinous acts.

Condemning Palestinian Terrorism. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s letter to British national Rabbi Leo Dee condemning terrorism faced by Israel and expressing condolences over the “brutal” murder of his wife and daughters. (Getty Images)

Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian territories, no stranger to appalling antisemitic invective, tweeted this:

This has resulted in a renewed call for the UN Secretary General, to fire her.

Next week Israel will mark Yom Hazikaron, Memorial Day. Every Israeli is acutely aware of the price paid by so many, both in the armed forces and victims of terror, for our freedom to live in our ancient and historical homeland. There is not a single family that has not been touched in some way by the icy grip of loss.

Next week Israelis will join to mourn. We will grieve for those we have lost and brutal theft of futures that were rich with promise. We cry endless tears as the sirens will wail and we will remain locked in our private thoughts and unique memories. We will stand silent and resolute.

And just like that, at 20h00 on Tuesday evening, as we ring in Independence Day, the mood of the country will change to that of celebration. This year Israel celebrates 75 years of modern independence in our ancient homeland. As many Israelis contemplate the Israel that we hope to have, we will have Lucy, Maia, Rina, Alessandro and all the victims of terror and brave soldiers who fell in our hearts. We live, not just for us but for them as well. May the memories of all we have lost be eternally bless

In full: Exclusive interview with father and husband of British-Israelis killed in West Bank, Rabbi Leo Dee.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).