IHRA’s SUCCESS AND DIFFICULT DILEMMA

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(First appeared in The Times of Israel)

This week we observe International Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27, the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp as mandated by the United Nations in 2005. If there was initial skepticism regarding this initiative, especially in countries which already had designated their own memorial days linked to the dates of important local events in the history of the Shoah, like Israel for example, I think that by now there is general approval for the need for an international memorial day observed all over the world on the same date. Thus one day can be devoted primarily to mourning, while the other day can be reserved for dealing the very important political issues which relate to the causes which led to the Shoah, and particularly anti-Semitism.

Tackling Antisemitism. An international leader today in Holocaust education, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) was established in May 1998 in Stockholm by then Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson.

One organization which has accurately recognized the connection between the Shoah and its anti-Semitic roots, and is trying to uproot the latter, is the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which has become one of the most important groups promoting Holocaust education throughout Europe, North and South America, and Israel. IHRA was founded in May 1998 by Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, who was shocked by a survey which showed that many Swedish schoolchildren lacked knowledge of the Holocaust, as well as his visit to the site of the Neuengamme concentration camp in Germany. Originally named the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, Germany and Israel joined the initiative the same year as its first members.

Today, 35 countries are full members of IHRA, and 10 additional countries have Observer status. IHRA is playing a major role in a variety of areas connected to Holocaust commemoration, Research and education, as well as in combatting anti-Semitism. And in fact, its most outstanding contribution has most probably been its adoption in 2016 of its Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, which according to the Combat antisemitism Movement has been endorsed/adopted until the end of 2022, by a total of 1,116 entities, among them:

– 39 countries

– 464 non-federal government entities

– 339 educational institutions, and

– 274 NGO’s and organizations.

The definition, unlike various other descriptions of anti-Semitism, covers all the existing variations from right and left, including those focused on Zionism, and which unfairly single out Israel for criticism, which are often overlooked or ignored.

Truth be Seen. While Croatia’s parliament in 2018, passed legislation barring public access to archive materials on individuals aged 100 and over, in effect serving to silence research into Croatia’s wartime government’s collaboration with the Nazis, the photos speak for themselves. Seen here are Ustasa (Croatian fascist) soldiers about to kill a Jew with a dagger and bayonet in Yugoslavia between 1941 and 1944.
 

There are, however, various problems which plague IHRA’s activities. The first and foremost is that resolutions must be approved unanimously by all the member countries, but there are no consequences for those countries which do not implement them. The most disturbing example has to do with the issue of Holocaust distortion, which is rampantly prevalent in the post-Communist “new democracies” in Eastern Europe. In those countries, they do not deny the Holocaust, but they hide or minimize the highly significant role played by their nationals in the mass murder of the Jews, and promote the canard of equivalency between Communist and Nazi crimes thereby deflecting attention from their crimes and focusing attention on their suffering.

Thus in 2020, IHRA issued a Ministerial Declaration which addressed the issue in unequivocal terms as follows:

“We accept our responsibility as governments to continue working together to counter Holocaust denial and distortion…We will continue to work closely with experts, civil society and our international partners to further these goals.”

Croatian Cruelty. The bodies of Jasenovac prisoners floating in the Sava River between August 1941 and April 1945 – the Victims of Ustasa (Croatian fascist).

Another declaration under the heading of: “Leading global efforts to counter Holocaust and distortion,” specifically mentions:

 “a shocking increase in efforts to minimize the impact of the Holocaust and downplay the crimes of the Nazi regime and its collaborators. This trend, in which Holocaust distortion inches toward the mainstream, erodes our understanding of the historical truth of the Holocaust and fuels antisemitism.”

IHRA has even created a tool kit against distortion, and the German Presidency launched a global task force against Holocaust distortion which was given an extra-budgetary contribution. In addition, a global campaign to raise awareness about Holocaust distortion was launched, using slogans such as:

#Protect the Facts”  and  “#Say No To Distortion

Past preferred to Bury. Ustasa (Croatian fascist) camp guards at Yugoslavia’s Jasenovac concentration camp, order a Jewish man to remove his ring before being shot.

The problem is, however, that the same countries which are the worst offenders when it comes to distortion, such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania cannot be punished, or expelled from IHRA. They remain members in good standing, and continue to deny the highly-significant role of their local collaborators in the murders. Thus, ironically, Croatia, a country which suffers from a significant proportion of Ustasha (Croatian fascists) supporters will ascend to the Presidency of IHRA, despite serious problems of Holocaust distortion ever since they became independent from Yugoslavia.



About the writer:

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the Center’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs.






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).

A MATTER OF HONOUR

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. 

Lithuania Uncovered. Originally published in hardcover as ‘The Nazi’s granddaughter’, award-winning journalist discovers that her grandfather, the legendary and heroic Lithuanian “General Storm” executed by the Russians was a Jew-killing antisemite.

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. 

Researched Reveal. Silvia Foti promised her dying mother she would write about her grandfather, Lithuania’s celebrated war hero and anti-Soviet partisan, Jonas Noreika. However, her research found something unexpected – that he was a Nazi collaborator responsible for the deaths of at least 8,000 Lithuanian Jews, including family of the writer.

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?

Bridge over Troubled Water. Where once there was a thriving Jewish community in Biržai – including family of the writer – today there is this memorial bridge across water in Astravas grove – the exact site of the death pits in which hundreds of Jewish were buried. Made from sheets of metal that have etched into them 522 names of the known victims, each accompanied by a Star of David – little ones for children and larger ones for adults – the memorial bridge was designed by South African architect Dr Joseph Rabie, whose great grandparents were from Biržai.

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? 


J’Accuse trailer




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.





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).

RUSSIA’S ‘DENAZIFICATION’ LIE AND THE WHITEWASH OF ROMAN SHUKHEVYCH

Journalist charged with spraying ‘Actual Nazi’ on a statue in Canada highlights Ukraine’s distortion of its complicity in Nazi crimes

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff and Prof. Per Anders Rudling

(First published in The Times of Israel)

Police in Edmonton Canada recently brought charges in the vandalization of a monument honoring Roman Shukhevych located near the city’s Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex. In December 2019, someone wrapped the Shukhevych statue in red tape and scrawled “Nazi scum”, on the memorial. Two years later, it was again defaced, with the inscription “Actual Nazi”, while “Nazi Monument 14th Waffen SS” was spraypainted on a memorial to “The Fighters for Ukrainian Freedom” in a local Ukrainian cemetery.

Crime Cover-up in Canada. The monument to Roman Shukhevych, a Nazi henchman who sided with Germany, has stood at the entrance of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in North Edmonton, Alberta, since the 1970s. (Photo courtesy of John-Paul Himka)

According to Edmonton police, the culprit was a local left-wing journalist, Duncan Kinney, who carried out these acts before “breaking” these scoops on his outlet, “The Progress Report”, described on its website as a “platform for reporting and analysis of Alberta’s politics, social movements, and media.” Earlier this month, Kinney appeared in court on a charge of vandalism and may also face an additional count of “mischief to religious property.”

Killer Command. The Nachtigall Battalion (1941) that Roman Shukhevych commanded .

The accused vandal’s identity has drawn a great deal of attention – less so the fact that the monuments do indeed honor mass murderers. At the outset of Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941, Roman Shukhevych commanded the Nachtigall Battalion, a volunteer unit operating under the orders of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), as a subunit commanded by the German Abwehr special operations unit. In other words, he was an actual Nazi collaborator.

His OUN-dominated military formation served in German uniform, and its soldiers participated in the brutal Lviv pogrom. In 1942, Shukhevych commanded the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201, a Ukrainian auxiliary police formation serving under Heinrich Himmler’s Higher SS and Police Leader (Höhere SS- und Polizeiführer, HSSPF) which carried out brutal pacification operations in Belarus. From 1943, after defecting German service, he served as supreme commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which carried out systematic massacres of Polish and Jewish civilians.

Leader of the Pack. Ukrainian Nazi German Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201 with Roman Shukhevych (sitting, second from left), 1942. (PD via Wikimedia)

Following the popular revolutions in 2004-05 and 2013-14 against pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian government invested significant efforts in the rehabilitation and glorification of Roman Shukhevych, together with Stefan Bandera, both leaders of the OUN whose men were actively involved in the mass murder of many thousands of Jews and other innocent civilians, primarily Poles.

This kind of historical distortion came back to haunt Ukraine when Russian President Vladimir Putin spun his web of disinformation to justify waging war. In February, Putin declared that his country was going to invade Ukraine to “denazify” the country. He did not elaborate on what he meant by this accusation, but it was met by almost universal ridicule or at least serious skepticism. Not only is Ukraine a democratic state that has had several democratic power transitions, but in 2019 it elected a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Yet like many other East European post-Communist states, Zelensky’s predecessors pursued memory policies that sometimes clashed with the facts of the Holocaust. In particular, local collaboration in the Holocaust has remained the rawest of nerves in post-Soviet Ukraine. An undigested past, combined with the rehabilitation of historical actors involved in the Holocaust plays into Putin’s hands as he seeks to grossly misrepresent democratic Ukraine as a neo-Nazi state. It is a reminder that the failure to engage candidly with the difficult episodes of the past carries political liabilities.

March of Madness. Ignoring his brutal Nazi past, far right extremists in Ukraine march in honor of Roman Shukhevych in 2017. (Photo: Screenshot)

Countries afflicted with this tendency do not deny that the Holocaust took place, rather, they create a selective version at odds with the historical record. They do this by spinning a false narrative of the events of the Holocaust to downplay or outright erase the highly significant role played by local collaborators in the implementation of the “Final Solution.” While the situation differed across the region, in many parts of Eastern Europe collaboration included participation in systematic mass murder.

There is also an attempt to equate Communist and Nazi crimes, often by “inflation” – not only in the use of the term “genocide”, but also in overstating the victim tally. Moreover, this use of competitive suffering often emphasizes the role played by Jewish Communists as a way to counter inquiries into local participation in carrying out the Holocaust.

These countries glorify the activities of those who fought against the Soviets and turn them into national heroes, even if these individuals actively collaborated with the Nazis in annihilating Jews during the Holocaust.

Eventually, there is pressure for a memorial day for all the victims of totalitarian regimes (Nazi and Communist), which blurs these distinctions and render International Holocaust Memorial Day redundant.

Depending on its history during the Shoah (Holocaust), each post-Communist Eastern European country has its own unique version of Holocaust distortion that determines which aspects they emphasize and cultivate.

In some cases, the narrative adopted by a country has been developed during the Cold War by activists in their respective diasporas. These expat communities are strongly influenced by radical nationalists, many with a history of collaboration during World War II, who fled to escape prosecution by the Communists. Thus the Ukrainian community in Canada has had a significant influence on the Holocaust narrative adopted in Kyiv, and actively fought against the efforts of the Canadian government to prosecute Shoah perpetrators who emigrated to Canada. Ukrainians constituted one of the most numerous and politically organized ethnic communities in Canada; their vociferous opposition to denaturalization and deportation is a key factor in the abysmal failure of the Canadian government to successfully deport alleged Nazi criminals.

Irate Israeli. In January 2021, Israeli envoy in Kiev, Joel Lion, lambasted the city council of Ternopil for naming a rebuilt soccer stadium “after the infamous Hauptman of the SS Schutzmannschaft 201 Roman Shukhevych” and demanded “the immediate cancellation of this decision.”

In Canada, however, the glorification of Shukhevych had begun long before the demise of the Soviet Union. The Edmonton monument lately in the headlines was erected in 1973 by the League for the Liberation of Ukraine, a front organization of the Bandera wing of the OUN, partially funded by Canadian taxpayers as part of the Canadian policies of multiculturalism, introduced by Liberal PM Pierre Trudeau in 1971. That defaced monument to “The Fighters for Ukrainian Freedom” was erected by the “Brotherhood of the Former Combatants of the First Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army” (the name the 14th Grenadier-Division der Waffen-SS adopted in the final days of World War II before surrendering to the British), in 1976.

From Killer to Heroe! Stepan Bandera, revered as a hero in Ukraine for leading the country’s independence movement, called in the 1940s to ‘destroy’ Jews. (Wikimedia)

In light of Shukhevych’s biography, these monuments are deeply troubling.

The outcome of the vandalism case remains to be seen. Many in the Ukrainian Canadian community treat Shukhevych as a hero, and themselves as victims of hate crimes, lamenting that their community has endured Nazi labels and insisting this was part of the disinformation campaign by the Russians. Shukhevych’s biography and the role of the OUN and UPA during the Holocaust show that such claims are spurious.

Needless to say, the distortions do not justify Russia’s current criminal war of aggression against Ukraine, but they are a reminder of how manipulations of the historical record carry political liabilities.

Russia’s current war crimes call out for an open, candid, and honest engagement with war crimes, to prevent their distortion.



About the writers:

Dr. Zuroff is the chief Nazi hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the director of the Center’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs.

Prof. Rudling is Associate Professor of History in Lund University (Sweden), as well as a Wallenberg Academy Fellow (2019-2024)





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).

NATO 2023 IN LITHUANIA: RIFE WITH POLITICAL PITFALLS 

With the shadow of the Shoah, NATO heading for an unseemly summit

By Grant Gochin

(First published in “The times of Israel)

One of the greatest public relations catastrophes of President Reagan’s tenure was his May 1985 visit to a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, that contained numerous members of the Waffen SS. Today, nearly four decades later, the visit is still remembered with anger, confoundment, and mostly for American embarrassment.

NATO has announced that the next meeting of its member heads of state and government will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11-12, 2023. There are, unfortunately, obvious parallels to Reagan’s “goodwill” visit to Bitburg.

Capital Crimes. The next meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government will take place in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on 11-12 July 2023. Seen here are the NATO and Lithuanian flags (Photo / E. Genys/LRT)

In World War II, and primarily in the second half of 1941, about 200,000 Lithuanian Jews – about 96% — were systematically expelled from their homes, robbed, starved, tortured, and brutally murdered primarily by ethnic Lithuanian death squads euphemistically referred to auxiliary “police” units. Lithuania does not acknowledge the fact that most of the mass murderers were ethnic Lithuanians. To the contrary, Lithuania in many cases has elevated the stature of many of those who led the Lithuanian Holocaust, arguing that they were anti-Soviet. This itself is an echo of the Nazis canard conflating Jews with communism.

During this NATO summit, the government of Lithuania will likely take the heads of state and delegations to four locations often displayed to visiting dignitaries:

– The “Genocide Museum”, a unique institution in the world that is premised on the contention that ethnic Lithuanians -rather than Jews – were the primary victims of genocide in the 20th Century

 – The Antakalnis Cemetery, their National Cemetery

  – The Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences

– The Tuskulėnai Manor 

Sparks Storm. A group of demonstrators stand outside the U.S. Embassy on May 5 1985 in Tel Aviv to protest US President Reagan‘s visit to the Bitburg military cemetery where some 50 SS soldiers are buried. (AP Photo/Max Nash)

Lithuania will characterize these locations as mere sites of national historical importance, hoping to deceive naïve foreign leaders. Yet, by giving the honor of their presence to any of these four sites, the foreign leaders are exposing themselves to scandal, embarrassment, and a public relations disaster akin to President Reagan’s Bitburg calamity of 1985. The problem is easily avoided by NATO dignitaries sidestepping these sites:

1.THE GENOCIDE MUSEUM   

Part of the former KGB building in Vilnius now houses “The Museum of Occupations and Battles for Freedom” formally (and informally) known as Lithuania’s Genocide Museum. This is a primary nationalistic tourist attraction. The exterior walls of the museum are inscribed with the names of people sentenced to death by the Soviet regime and executed at the Tuskulėnai Manor house in Vilnius.

Honouring Murderers. Many of the names engraved into the exterior wall of the Genocide Museum in Vilnius dedicated to members of the Lithuanian resistance who were murdered, imprisoned or deported by the Soviet Union from WWII until the 1960s include those of Holocaust perpetrators.

The organization in charge of the museum and for national commemorative policy, the Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania (Genocide Center), is best described as Lithuania’s center for Holocaust fraud and fictional history. Indeed, the center’s Lithuanian name translates into English as something quite different – the Center for the Study of the Genocide of Lithuanian Residents and Resistance. This Lithuanian title suggests that ethnic Lithuanians were the victims of genocide – even though there was no systematic mass-murder of ethnic Lithuanians in the 20th Century – and that Lithuanians “resisted” some authority. Did the Lithuanians resist the Nazis? No, they collaborated with the Nazis to a greater extent than any other people in Europe. And after Lithuania regained its independence, it threatened to prosecute Jews who fought against the Nazis.

The Lithuanian government has repeatedly been exposed as promoting Holocaust revisionism. Indeed, for this specific reason, some international academic institutions have terminated their interactions with Lithuanian state-sponsored historical-revision institutions. Lithuania pretends that it is objectively seeking the truth. The record shows quite the opposite. They have gone to great lengths to devise artifices suggesting that Holocaust perpetrators were not involved in the Holocaust. This effort would no doubt win the praise of Goebbels in the Nazi era and is comparable to today’s Kremlin disinformation factories.

Many of the names engraved into the exterior wall of the museum are those of Holocaust perpetrators. This makes the museum a shrine for honoring murderers of Lithuanian Jews as well as those who played no role in the Holocaust. Under growing international pressure, the Genocide Center now vaguely concedes that there are “problems” with some of the names engraved into the museum wall.

In October 2019, the then-director of the Center, Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė said three of the names were complicit in Holocaust crimes. These three were:

  • Antanas Gerdvilis [1]
  • Bronius Jakunskas [2]
  • Petras Jurkus [3]

Burauskaitė omitted others, most notably Jonas Noreika, the murderer of up to 14,500 of Lithuania’s Jewish citizens. The Lithuanian government has now rewritten his history to portray him as a rescuer of Jews. Also omitted is the name of a notorious Holocaust perpetrator whose grandson, Darius Semaška, was Lithuania’s prior ambassador to Germany.

Wall of Shame. The memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika-Vėtra – “a mass murderer of the Jews of northwestern Lithuania” – at the WROBLEWSKI LIBRARY OF THE LITHUANIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES in Vilnius. / BNS

Joseph A. Melamed, a Holocaust survivor from Kovna (Kaunas), Lithuania, who became a Tel Aviv attorney, devoted many years to identifying the Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators. In a 1999 publication he identified 5,000, but added that the number of Lithuanians “directly involved in acts of genocide” is estimated to total 23,000.[4]

For decades, the Lithuanian government has promised to research and publicize the names of the perpetrators and, more generally, remedy the situation. But this remains unlikely. In 2012, the museum gave to the government a list containing the names of 2,055 supposed perpetrators, but the list was never made public by the museum or the government. A government deputy minister later denied having received the list.

And then-museum-director Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė herself subsequently said that after studying the list for three years, her organization eliminated approximately 1,000 suspects.

The list of perpetrators has now shrunk to a mere 200. The research on this group was due to be completed by the end of 2020. It was not.

In April 2021, Genocide Center historian Rytas Narvydas tried to justify the delay by saying that work had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Narvydas stated that “103 biographies out of almost 200 have been studied.” At the same time, he conceded that the pace of the study was clearly insufficient. He explained that the problem was that only one person was assigned to perform the research, and that that person could only research between 10 and 12 biographies per year. At this rate, the Genocide Center will need another decade or more to complete their ”study” of just 200 individuals. They have over 100 employees, so the rhetorical question to be asked is why has only one person been assigned to this task?

Arvydas Anušauskas, who is now Lithuania’s Minister of National Defense, was the previous head of the Genocide Center. While there, he oversaw rampant Holocaust revisionism. Among other things, he claimed there had been “exhaustive” research into names engraved  on the exterior wall of the Genocide Museum, and declared that none were Holocaust perpetrators. Anušauskas is a nationalist ideologue who has little to no use for “uncomfortable” facts. His self-described “exhaustive” research apparently was unable to take notice of the Holocaust crimes of Jonas Noreika. This is consistent with Lithuania’s track record of ignoring what Lithuanian perpetrators did during World War II.

When NATO foreign leaders visit the Genocide Museum or the Genocide Center, they will be visiting a shrine of perpetrator veneration. To honor such a shrine would display a profound disrespect to Holocaust victims and give credence to Lithuania’s studied inversion of facts.

Sharing space on the wall are the names of also Nefiodovas[5], Gylys[6], Andriuškevičius, Griška, and Paškevičius.

Foreign leaders should not “pay their respects” to the museum that honoring perpetrators. This is worse than Reagan’s benighted visit to Bitburg.

2. ANTAKALNIS CEMETERY

Antakalnis Cemetery is Lithuania’s national cemetery. The Lithuanian government takes visiting dignitaries to view the graves of its national heroes. Most recently, they took the Queen of Belgium to the cemetery.

The Lithuanian Government will almost certainly fail to inform visiting dignitaries that the cemetery likely contains Holocaust perpetrators whom Lithuania deems to be national heroes.

NATO protects Lithuania from her Russian enemies on the premise that Lithuania adheres to the same values as Western democracies. Yet, clearly, Lithuania does not hold the same values. The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and other allies would never honor those who committed the mass murder of innocent civilians. NATO dignitaries must be mindful of this and try to avoid embarrassing themselves and the nations they represent.

Grave Injustice. While the Lithuanian government takes visiting dignitaries to view the graves of its national heroes and will likely take next year’s NATO delegation, what is unlikely is that they will inform of the Holocaust perpetrators amongst its “national heroes”.

3. WROBLEWSKI LIBRRARY OF THE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF LITHUANIA 

The exterior of this building displays a plaque honoring the genocidal mass murderer of the Jews of northwestern Lithuania – Jonas Noreika. Noreika‘s crimes are well known and have been exposed by his own granddaughter in her non-fiction work, The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal (2021).

Many governments, organizations, and individuals have voiced their staunch disapproval of Lithuania’s disingenuous efforts to deny the culpability of Jonas Noreika. Among those are the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the U.S. Congress and State Department, Lithuania’s own Presidential Commission, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Congress, the World Jewish Congress, and others. Given the volume of condemnations by major institutions, as well as the American, German, and Israeli governments, it is patently obvious that Lithuania’s government is deeply involved in Holocaust denial.

NATO delegations should avoid this location so that it is clear that they do not endorse the honoring of a known Holocaust perpetrator.

4. THE TUSKULėNAI MANOR

On the grounds of the Tuskulėnai Manor is the burial place of approximately 767 Lithuanians who were executed by the Soviets. Among those were many Nazi criminals who were members of the “Ypatingasis būrys” (“Special Squad”), a Lithuanian death squad that operated in the Vilnius Region. Also buried here are members of Rollkommando Hamann, a small mobile killing unit composed of 8 -10 Germans and several dozen local Lithuanian collaborators who traveled throughout the Lithuanian countryside in the second half of 1941.

Menacing Manor. While the grounds of Tuskulėnai Manor is the burial place of approximately 767 Lithuanians executed by the Soviets, less revealed to visitors is that among these were members of a Lithuanian Nazi death squad that operated in the Vilnius Region.

Lithuania deems all who were executed by the Soviets to be  “victims” and does not distinguish war criminals of the worst kind from those who were bona-fide heroes. By conflating them, Lithuania honors perpetrators. NATO should not.

NATO officials and state visitors will have no ability to avoid monuments and honors for Holocaust perpetrators in Lithuania. These monuments are everywhere.

Lithuania should not dupe NATO representatives into unconsciously paying respect to Holocaust perpetrators. If they will not be honest about their history, it is nonetheless incumbent upon the NATO delegations to understand Lithuanian duplicity.

For NATO members to pay respect at monuments for Holocaust perpetrators is to taint the mission of NATO, and question the naïveté of the countries they represent. After all, there will be much press in Vilnius during the summit and the world will see where the delegations pay respects.

Lithuania has made its fraudulent Holocaust positions clear many times, over many years, and in many forums. Even if Lithuania now tells the truth, it has been such a long term effort to bring them to truth, it would be impossible to now consider Lithuania telling truth as voluntary or sincere. They fought it too hard and for too long.

Lithuania themselves hold the key to the problem they have created for NATO. If Lithuania sincerely, honestly, and comprehensively state the details of who, what, when, where, why, and how, the country can move forward over time.

NATO is too critical for our own protection. They should not have been dragged into this Holocaust denial morass.



With gratitude to Evaldas Balciunas:

[1] A member of the June 1941 pro-Nazi “uprising,” a police officer from Alanta, Lithuania, who administered stolen Jewish property and was a Holocaust perpetrator.

[2] An alderman of Kalvarija, Lithuania, who arrested Jews, compiled lists of Jewish families, and seized their property.

[3] He took part in executing so-called Soviet activists in the town of Švėkšna, where the majority of the population was Jewish, and later administered property stolen from the Jews.

[4] Lithuania Crime & Punishment, January 1999 Edition, p. 5.

[5] In April 1941 – two months before the Nazi invasion of Lithuania – Vladimaras Nefiodovas was the commander of the underground pro-Nazi unit in the Kaunas suburb of Petrašiūnai. He was tried by the Soviets for criminal activity and convicted in 1945. At his trial he testified that his unit arrested 50 “loads” of Jews. Presumably, these Jews were among the 125 Jews of Petrašiūnai who were murdered in Petrašiūnai on August 30, 1941.

[6] Pranas Gylys was tried and convicted by a Soviet court for Holocaust crimes. He was sentenced to death and executed in 1946.




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: https://www.grantgochin.com/





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).

HATED TODAY IN LITHUANIA

For simply standing and fighting for the truth

Back on “home soil”,Grant Gochin, who has spent the past 25 years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania, addressed the Jewish community of Cape Town, South Africa on October 27, 2022. A shocking indictment, discover below the complicity of Lithuania in the Shoah and its attempts thereafter to bury that past.


Chaverim, friends, I am honored and delighted to be on my home soil, speaking to my own people. My mishpocha. Thank you for coming. My sincere thanks to the organizers and attendees, and those who have kept me going in this cause.

Every Jewish person in this room has ancestry from Lithuania. Most of us here now, are alive because our families got out before Lithuanians were able to murder us. We are all who are left, to remember and speak the truth. Our families’ voices cannot be stilled through apathy or forgetfulness. Our families’ voices must be heard.

I became eager to find out about the “Old Country” from the stories and lessons of my paternal grandfather. More and more, I knew I had to walk those streets and see those forests.

I was the very first Jew to apply to Lithuania for citizenship. Three times, they rejected me for reasons even the Lithuanian Supreme Court ruled to be absurd.

I discovered there were two sets of rules, one for real “ethnic” Lithuanians, and a separate queue for Litvaks. This simplified their process – automatic denial for Jews.

I fought back.

Who is doing What! Not Germans but Lithuanian militiamen round up Jewish women. Kovno, Lithuania, June-July 1941.

I sued the Lithuanian government five times to expose and dismantle their “No Jew Citizenship Policy”. I started with the arduous task of bringing the injustices into the light. I badgered, pestered, begged, spoke and wrote to anyone having anything to do with Lithuanian Jewish policy. Sadly, the only chink apparent in the Lithuanian armor of distortion is their fear of public humiliation. They do not care about facts, morals, rights, truth or Jews. Eventually, Lithuania was shamed into having no option other than to change some of their Jewish laws.

Even now, I take personal pride and joy in every Lithuanian citizenship acquired by a South African. I urge every single one of you to apply.

Lithuanian citizenship IS our birthright. It IS our history. It IS our entitlement. Lithuania should have been where our families could have lived in peace and safety, grown, and been buried with dignity. We are owed.

Your Grandparents’ documents from Lithuania all prominently say “Zydu or Zydas”. “Jew or Jewess”. Just like Apartheid South Africa, we Jews could never be listed simply as Lithuanian, our racial classification was “Jew”.

As was “explained” to me by a Lithuanian diplomat in about 1990; a Jew could never be a “Lithuanian”, and a “Lithuanian” could never be a Jew. On our citizenship applications, they used to require our religious identity as a racial and national identification. Apartheid.

Today, Lithuania wants us to identify as Lithuanian because it sounds less apartheid, less racist. While they have removed our racial classification from their application forms, our names and our documents still show exactly who we are – JEWS!

We remain Litvak Jews. They didn’t murder 96.4% of Jews because they were Lithuanians, they murdered our families because we ARE Jews. They, on the other hand, remain Lithuanians.

This is the reason why so many of our family members fought against Apartheid so staunchly. Jews were the victims of Apartheid in Lithuania and are all too familiar with its recognizable hideous hatred. Whereas our families had no advocates and no safe harbor and were unable to defend themselves in Lithuania, they could stand up for black South Africans. And, in huge numbers, they did.

I identified the murderer of my own family in the Lithuanian Holocaust. To my amazement and disgust, I discovered that he is celebrated as a beloved and admired national hero in Lithuania. His name was Jonas Noreika.

Jonas Noreika. Angelic in appearance here, this beloved and admired national hero in Lithuania was a Nazi collaborator and mass murderer.

It is fact that Noreika personally was responsible for the savage and senseless slaughter of up to 14,500 of our family members.

Currently however, Noreika has been re-written in Lithuanian history as a heroic rescuer of Jews. The government of Lithuania enforces and applauds these falsifications. A result is that I have pending criminal charges against me – for “slandering” their heroes.

A few years ago, Noreika’s granddaughter, Silvia Foti, stepped forward to admit her grandfather’s crimes. She and I have now combined efforts. We have both written exposes of how the government of Lithuania fraudulently rewrote her grandfather into a national hero.

Lithuania has blocked every single path to actual truths inside Lithuania. The sole path left is judgement by the Court of public opinion. THAT my friends, is the main reason we are here today.

For the past few weeks, I have been publishing Lithuanian Holocaust testimonies in the Times of Israel. They are harrowing to read. A normal human mind cannot contemplate the horrors that were inflicted upon our families. I guarantee, you will be shocked by what you read. Remember the facts.

There are approximately 200 people in this room. Look around you my friends. Had we been in Lithuania, only seven of us would have survived to write one of those testimonies. Who among us would have been the survivor?

Lithuanians certainly were not and are not truthful about their crimes. They either mewl about having been victims and claim they heard nothing, saw nothing, and knew nothing, instead, they claim they were just too busy rescuing Jews to notice what was happening. Now, I ask you – do you believe that?

Michael Kretzmer, an English-Litvak documentarian, made a harrowing film called “J’Accuse! Lithuania”, which will receive its World Première at the Jewish International Film Festival in Australia next month.

The movie centers on Noreika and his activities during the Holocaust, as he systematically murdered the Jews of Northern Lithuania. Many of our South African Jewish families came from Northern Lithuania. This movie is as personal for you, as it is for me, as it should be for all of humanity. The movie is quite simply –  devastating.

My Oupa [grandfather] spent his life in South Africa searching for information about our murdered relatives. And then, in April 1984, the discovery:

In April 1984, the German magazine, Der Spiegel exposed Noreika as the primary murderer of the Jewish population in my Oupa’s region. 1984! Let us remember, that was before the advent of the internet and worldwide knowledge. The boat carrying magazines from Europe took about a month to arrive in Port Elizabeth – with hard copies. Oupa read Der Spiegel every month. At the end of May 1984, he finally read the April edition.

Noreika’s murders, inhumanity, and the gleeful cruelty and barbarity of the Lithuanians were all clearly revealed on the pages.

After reading and rereading the article, Oupa lost all hope of ever finding any familial Survivors. He was depleted and without further purpose.

A mere few days later, he dropped dead of a stress induced heart attack. I believe these Lithuanian monsters effectively killed my Oupa too. For me – Lithuanian Holocaust fraud is deeply personal.

Thirteen years after Jonas Noreika was exposed as a prime Holocaust preparator and the genocidal murderer of my own family, Lithuania declared him a national hero.

Sign of the Times! For fighting against the Soviets, his killing of Jews in the Holocaust is forgotten or forgiven. Here is a restored memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika in Vilnius.

Since Jew killing was by then a worldwide sport, Lithuanians were not satisfied murdering just their own Jewish citizens, so, they travelled all over Europe, volunteering to work in the Concentration Camps so they could also murder Jews in other countries.

Lithuanian army contingents travelled to neighboring countries to gleefully slaughter as many Jews in Europe as they could. Even some Nazis were horrified at the brutality and sheer bestial activity of Lithuanians.

Lithuanian murderers were supremely effective. Noreika was a minor murderer in comparison to other Lithuanians, he only murdered about 14,500 of us. 14,500. That is more than all the Jews in Cape Town.

Another in their disgusting pantheon of Jew murdering heroes, Antanas Baltušis, served as the leader of the guards at the Majdanek Concentration Camp.

The Lithuanian Government claims he only served on the outside of the camp, and therefore was unaware of what was happening inside. Preposterous! Do they really expect ANYONE to believe that?

Have you ever heard of a guard serving on the inside of a gas chamber? Oblivious to the screams, stench, smoke and blood of those actively being murdered two meters from him? By his own subordinates!

Damnation Road. Is walking down a street in Kaunus (Kovno) named after a murderer – Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas (1915–1948)  – now considered in Lithuania ‘Holocaust Remembrance’?

The distortion, revision and lies carefully constructed by the Lithuanian Government are so blatantly crude, that one wonders, whom do they think will actually believe it? We are not that naïve. Even so, Baltusis remains their national hero.

Yet another of their heroes, Kazys Škirpa, early on called for the elimination of Jews from Lithuania.

In 1939 there were approximately 250,000 Jews. Today approximately 2,500. It does not take a mathematical genius to recognize that 99% of Lithuanian Jews have been eliminated. Skirpa’s plan is the most successful program Lithuania has ever had in its entire history.

80% of Jews were eliminated prior to the Final Solution being established. The government of Lithuania says Skirpa’s call to “eliminate” Jews was just a mere “incident of antisemitism”. – “A mere incident”?

The Lithuanian government line is that these Jews are “lost”. Let me help Lithuania. Our families are not “lost”. We all know exactly where they are. They lie twisted in death pits strewn throughout Lithuania.

President Isaac Herzog and incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are both Litvaks with origins in Seduva. The murderer of their Lithuanian families in Seduva was Izidorius Pucevicius, also declared a hero of Lithuania, also rewritten as a rescuer of Jews.

Also rebranded “national hero” is Jonas Semaska, another Holocaust perpetrator. There are many others whose names and deeds we will never know.

I have provided the Lithuanian Government with more than a dozen names of their heroes who were Holocaust perpetrators. They. Do. Not. Care.

The Lithuanian lies that perpetuate today, are responsible for murdering our families yet a second time.

According to the post Holocaust legal Nuremberg definition, every single member of Lithuania’s wartime Provisional Government falls into the category of a Holocaust perpetrator.

The Lithuanian government tells us that the only ones to blame for the Holocaust were the “Nazis and their collaborators”. This stance has been created to focus only on Nazis and to distract away from Lithuanians.

They ignore the fact that Lithuanians began murdering Jews even before the Nazis arrived in Lithuania. What they refuse to acknowledge is simply that there were so very few Nazis in Lithuania. That Nazis gave Lithuanians weapons and Lithuanians joyously, willingly and enthusiastically murdered Jews.

Today, when you hear the Lithuanian Ambassador use the phrase “Nazis and their collaborators”, understand that this is a specific and deliberate form of Holocaust revisionism, distortion and distraction. The Ambassadors’ words are perfectly, excruciatingly and exactly crafted to minimize, eradicate and shift blame.

From Burying Jews to Burying the truth of their Murder.  Lithuanian collaborators guard Jews before their execution. Ponary, Lithuania, June–July, 1941.

Yad Vashem declared 0.04% of Lithuanians were Righteous Gentiles. 0.04%. That leaves 99.96% of Lithuanians who were either perpetrators, bystanders, or cannot prove that they were rescuers. Those who cannot prove that they were rescuers include Noreika, Pucevicius, Semaska and so many more.

Lithuania did not punish a single Holocaust perpetrator.

There is not a single piece of evidence that Nazis punished any Lithuanians for refusing to murder a Jew. The infinitesimally small number of Lithuanian rescuers were rescuing the Jews NOT from Nazis, but from – FELLOW LITHUANIANS!

Yad Vashem states plainly and clearly their definition for Righteous Gentiles; however, the Lithuanian government has created and defined their own standard for identifying “Righteous Gentiles”. THIS is a false system.

Privately, some members of the government admit the truth. But they insist that “education requires time”. How much time do they need? After 80 years – time is up.

Facts are simply facts. They do not change with age.

Through my legal actions, I have been able to expose the Lithuanian President, Prime Minister, Parliament, Public Prosecutor, Heritage Department, Mayor of Vilnius, every single one of their Courts including both of their Supreme Courts, as participants in the national program of Holocaust deception. Thus, I am persona non grata in Lithuania.

Efraim Zuroff of the Israeli Simon Wiesenthal Center and I share the honor of being two of the most hated people in Lithuania. Regardless of the blatant, absurd accusations they hurl at any of us in the small cadre fighting for truth, we stand steadfast.

Lithuanian officials come to South Africa to meet with Jewish leaders and implore them to promote tourism and investment in Lithuania, all the while as they continue to lie about the past.

Lithuania’s strategy is to delay and obstruct. They hope people like me will get so tired, we will give up. I will not. Lithuania has never told the truth about the Holocaust. I am not going anywhere and there are others to take up the reins.

I have brought close to 30 legal actions against the government of Lithuania. All of them were simply demanding the truth. Every case has been dismissed on legal technicalities, without ever examining any facts. So much for an independent judiciary. Their legal responses prove that when representatives of the Lithuanian government tell us they “want to know the truth”, and that they “oppose Holocaust distortion”, they are lying.

My cases stand as permanent proof that 78 years after the end of the Shoah, Lithuania is a country that elevates Holocaust fraud.

Lithuania comprehensively and deliberately lying about the greatest crime in the history of the world, begs the question:

 Is there anything they will not lie about?

The current Lithuanian Ambassador to South Africa, Dainius Junevicius, with full knowledge of Lithuania’s Holocaust frauds, signed a pledge in front of thirty four government representatives that Lithuania would not honor Holocaust perpetrators as their national heroes. Shameless.

They lie as easily as they breathe and as frequently. Nothing, absolutely nothing they say can be accepted as truth. When the government of Lithuania and their representatives communicate on Jewish issues, understand they are likely being deceptive.

Thankfully my friends, I am not alone in this fight. Many governments, organizations and individuals have voiced their staunch disapproval of Lithuania’s Holocaust deceptions, including – the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the US State Department, the US Congress, Lithuania’s own Presidential Commission, Simon Wiesenthal Center, American Jewish Congress, the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the European Jewish Community, the World Jewish Congress and many more. Lithuania stands exposed in front of the world as Holocaust revisionists.

Lithuania claims that they want to talk to “anyone open and ready to discuss painful issues of the past, on a respectful and constructive basis BUT, only with those who share the effort to find the truth and reconciliation”. Their definition of those “sharing the effort to find the truth” refers to only those who will tolerate their Holocaust frauds. I am not one, and neither should you be. It obviously isn’t the US Government either, who have repeatedly and fruitlessly appealed to Lithuania to tell the truth. Lithuania’s truth is lies.

My case is currently in front of the United Nations. My case could take decades to be resolved. Indeed, I may not even be alive to hear the verdict. Our best immediate recourse is the Court of public opinion. And that is those of us in this room.

When they look us in the eye and misrepresent, they are insulting us and treating us with contempt. More importantly, when Lithuania covers up the crime of genocide and avoids culpability, it shows current and future mass murderers that they too can get away with murder. It has worked for Lithuania, and it will work for others. This places our future generations at risk. We are not just addressing this for our ancestors, we are doing this to protect our children.

US President John F. Kennedy stated the situation exactly. He said., “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” For Lithuania, their heroes are a statement of their national values.

We Jews worldwide, including in South Africa, attend Lithuanian events and hear warm words. Only an analysis of these words shows the exact same terms being used in the UK, US, SA & Israel. Their words are a dictated script written in Vilnius, crafted very carefully to distract from truth and soften their crimes. Do they really think we cannot figure it out? Their diplomatic staff are trained salespeople, skilled in how to convey their distorted messages.

They tell us that they are serious about remembering. Yet, my cases and the continual lies prove otherwise. Their standard procedure remains Holocaust revisionism.

Holocaust revisionism IS antisemitism. Defining the murderers of Jews as national heroes IS insulting the victims and insulting to every one of us. Rewriting history to declare the murderers as innocent or heroic is dehumanizing to EVERY Jew.

Germany’s official stance is to accept responsibility for the Shoah. There is now strong friendship between Jews and Germany and Israel and Germany. Lithuania has only lied, twisted and committed fraud. There is no honest basis for a relationship between Jews and Lithuania.

To attempt to correct this abhorrent situation, Lithuania urgently needs to show us they are sincere in outing the truth. Only firm and immediate action is acceptable. I propose the following :

Close down their bogus Genocide Center and revoke all findings

Create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission of non-Lithuanian, credentialed historians to establish the actual truth – just like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission South Africa had.

Just stop distorting and lying.

If Lithuania genuinely wants to apologize for their behaviors, frauds and murders, I have a suggestion. Follow the example of Spain and Portugal and issue a mass blanket grant of full Lithuanian citizenship to all Litvaks. Worldwide. Laws can definitely be changed. They can definitely make this happen. Each of YOU deserves an immediate and unilateral grant of Lithuanian citizenship for what they did to our families, and for their rampant and consistent Holocaust fraud. We are entitled to it, and we should demand it.

I do not anticipate success in Lithuania. They have no intention of ever telling the truth. They manipulate us because they know South African Jews want their European passport. They can manipulate us because they have that power over us. Looking us straight in the eye while lying, while simultaneously hero worshiping the murderers is Holocaust Triumphalism.

It is easier for Lithuania to pretend our cause does not exist. We know the truth. We remember. And we must teach our future generations well. We are the protectors and guardians of Holocaust history. We need your voice. Please follow us on social media and in the Times of Israel. We need people to know what we are doing and how we are doing it. For the memory of our families and for the dignity of ourselves.

Lithuania CANNOT win. Lithuania WILL not win.

I thank you all.

“AM YISRAEL CHAI.”



About the speaker:

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: https://www.grantgochin.com/





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).

LITHUANIANS STILL DENY PARTICIPATION IN THE HOLOCAUST

We should not allow the Baltic country to whitewash and distort their complicity in the murder of over 95% of its Jews.

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(*First published in JNS)

The large majority of readers of the Oct. 2 and Oct. 6 JNS articles on the events marking Lithuanian Holocaust Memorial Day were likely convinced that the Baltic country is doing an excellent job of commemorating the destruction of its Jewish community.

Familiar Faces. Lithuanian militiamen not German Nazis, round up Jewish women in Kovno, Lithuania, June -July 1941.

That is a consoling thought, but nothing could be further from the truth. It downplays the very significant role played by local collaborators in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jews; the more than 5,000 German, Austrian and French Jews deported to Lithuania to be murdered by Lithuanians; and the approximate 20,000 Belarussian Jews shot near their homes by the men of the 12th Lithuanian Auxiliary Police Battalion.

Deadly Neighbors. Lithuanian collaborators, possibly friends, colleagues or neighbors, guard Jews before their execution in Ponary, outside Vilna in Lithuania in June – July 1941.

Moreover, since it regained its independence in 1990, Lithuania has played a major role in promoting the dangerous phenomenon called “Holocaust distortion”, which is currently rampant throughout post-communist Eastern Europe. For those unacquainted with the term, it refers to the rewriting of the narrative of the Holocaust to achieve four goals:

  • Hide completely or seriously minimize the role played in the Holocaust by local collaborators. On this issue, it is extremely important to note that only in Eastern Europe did collaboration with Nazi Germany include participation in the systematic mass murder of Jews.
  • Promote the canard that communist and Nazi crimes are equivalent and officially categorize the former as genocide. This has serious repercussions because, if it is accepted, antisemites can portray “Jewish communists” as perpetrators of genocide against the peoples of Eastern Europe. And if everyone is equally guilty, no one can be accused.
  • Allow the glorification of individuals who fought the Soviets after World War II as national heroes, even if they collaborated with the Nazis and participated in the Holocaust.
  • Establish an International Memorial Day for All Victims of Totalitarian Crimes on Aug. 23, the day of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, which would certainly make International Holocaust Memorial Day (Jan. 27) redundant.

Member of the Lithuanian parliament Emanuel Zingeris, for example, who was interviewed at length in the Oct. 6 article and expressed great concern for Holocaust education, was among the architects – and the only Jew to sign – the infamous Prague Declaration of June 3, 2008, which is the manifesto of Holocaust distortion.

Equating Crimes of Nazism with those of Communism. Lithuanian politician Emanuelis Zingeris is the only Jew to have signed the Prague Declaration of June 3, 2008, which the writer asserts is “a manifesto of Holocaust distortion.”

Zingeris, I am sorry to say, always has two positions on Jewish issues: One for his Lithuanian colleagues and another for ignorant foreign Jews. In his interview with JNS (Jewish News Syndicate), he praised truthteller Silvia Foti, who discovered that her grandfather, Lithuanian national hero Jonas Noreika, was a Holocaust perpetrator. But where was Zingeris in 2016, when popular Lithuanian author Ruta Vanagaite, who also discovered that her family members were participants in Holocaust crimes, was viciously attacked for revealing the truth about Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust.

Denounced for Revealing the Truth. Ruta Vanagaite was denounced in her native Lithuania for challenging the conventional wisdom of her country’s role in the Holocaust.
 

In order to understand why the Lithuanians have changed their narrative of the Holocaust, it is important to remember that 96.4% of the Jews who lived under the Nazi occupation in Lithuania (212,000 of 220,000) were murdered. Some 90% were shot near their homes, in many cases by Lithuanian neighbors without any Germans present. In fact, there were less than 1,000 Germans in Lithuania during the Holocaust, a shocking statistic that no Lithuanian will ever mention.

Thus, on day one of Lithuanian independence, the fake narrative of the Holocaust was born:

The Nazis murdered our Jews, what a tragedy.”

If pressed on the issue of local collaborators, the official response will be:

Those few Lithuanians who participated were from the dregs of society, outcasts, not normative Lithuanians, who would never do such things.”

A perfect example of this cover-up was provided several months ago by Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, who was quoted waxing poetic about the importance of memory and Holocaust education. But when the monuments at the Ponar mass murder site outside Vilna were vandalized, she referred to the 70,000 Jews murdered there as having been killed by “Nazis and others.” She could not utter the truth, nor could any other Lithuanian politician or official.

I am afraid that the JNS reports on Lithuanian Holocaust commemoration and education, which hide the sad truth about what is really happening in the Baltic republic, are likely influenced by the March of the Living, which wants to maintain good relations with the Lithuanian government. They got exactly what they wanted, regardless of truth and the dignity of the martyrs.


The murder of Lithuanian Jewry



About the wtiter:

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is a historian of the Holocaust, the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Director of the Center’s Israel Office and Eastern European Affairs. His most recent book, written with Ruta Vanagaite, is Our People: Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust published by Roman & 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).

GOOSE STEPS TO GOOSE BUMPS IN POLAND

A visit to Oscar Schindler’s Enamel Factory inKraków

By Motti Verses

When Queen Elizabeth’s death was announced, we were in Kraków, Poland standing in the ticket queue at the Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory – today a branch of the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków. Standing in front of us were a group of English ladies  – a clear giveaway from their accent.

Former office block of Schindler’s enamel factory, now a branch of the Historical Museum of Krakow.

Where are you from?” I asked politely.

From Northern Ireland,” they eagerly replied.

But your Queen has  just passed away. Why are you here?” I asked.

Their collective reply was poignant and prescient:  

Nothing will stop us from visiting this place. Nothing.”

End of the Road. Dark Ghetto streets with arched design walls, similar to bible scrolls. (photo: Motti Verses) 

Observing the masses of visitors inside speaking in countless languages, I understood how powerful the Oskar Schindler name is. Although this October Oskar Schindler  passed away 48 years ago, his legacy keeps growing in popularity contributing enormously to educating about the Holocaust. Thanks to Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Oscar award winning “Schindler’s List”, Oskar Schindler was transformed from relative obscurity into a global hero, while the movie careers of Liam Neeson (as Schindler) and Ralph Fiennes (as Amon Goeth, the SS commandant of the notorious Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp) skyrocketed.

Roads of Remembrance. A ride in a tram car of the 1940s observing black and white movies, seen from the windows, reflecting ghetto street scenes.  (Photo: Motti Verses)

A permanent exhibit entitled “Krakow under Nazi Occupation 1939-1945”, was riveting as it was equally horrifying. Comprising 45 exhibition rooms, every minute was literally hair-raising  – little wonder I and others walked around with goose bumps! Numerous black and white documentaries of Jewish life in the ghetto take you back to a dark time, reinforced by the dark ambiance.

Gateway to Hell. The main gate of Płaszów Nazi concentration camp the southern suburb of Kraków, shown in the museum as an exhibit (photo: Motti Verses)

This experience includes a ride in a historical tram of the period, holding a leather strip attached to its ceiling rail. The black and white movies seen from the windows, reflect ghetto street scenery. The visitor experiences going back in time -a dreadful excursion into a dark past.

Hold on for dear Life.  Authentic interior of the tram car from where you observe life in the ghetto.

Unlike Jewish Holocaust memorials I have visited in the past, this exhibition is different as it presents Poland as the core focus, emphasising that both Polish Christians and Jews as one collective were victims of Nazi atrocities. There is a major focus on the part played by the Polish military trying to resist the German Nazi invasion which although resulted in total failure, the Polish soldiers are presented – throughout the exhibition – as war heroes. Clearly, what is in play here is to revise the history of Poland’s role in WWII so as to crush any suggestions or intimations of Polish collusion. The official announcement of the exhibition states the following:

The exhibition is primarily a story about Kraków and its inhabitants, both Polish Christians and Jews, during World War II. It is also a story about Nazi Germans – the occupiers, who arrived here on 6 September 1939, brutally disrupting Kraków’s centuries long history of Polish-Jewish relations”.

Dark Ages. Personal stations with documentaries of Jewish life in the ghetto takes the viewer back to a dark age.  (Photo: Motti Verses)

As part of the exhibition, the visitor walks along the Ghetto’s dark streets, on cobblestones with darkened light, resembling the winter weather. The walls have arched designs, similar to bible scrolls. This was the architecture set by the Nazis to identify the ‘people’ locked within – isolated from the rest of Polish society. Some visitors interpreted the design of the walls as resembling tombstones in a Jewish cemetery, implying there was little to no chance that any of the residents would ever leave alive.

Oskar Schindler’s heroism is naturally a significant part of the experience. A walk inside his former office is intensely emotional as this historic room located in the factory’s administrative building has been preserved intact. The most impressive exhibit in the office is the symbolic “Survivors’ Ark”. It is made of thousands of enameled pots, similar to those manufactured by Schindler’s employees during the war. An extraordinary work.

Feeling the Heat. The exhibit “Survivors’ Ark” made of thousands of pots similar to those manufactured by Schindler’s employees during the war. (Photo: Motti Verses)

History marks the following facts. After the German troops entered Kraków, Schindler moved to the Polish city and took over the former enamel factory “Rekord”, converting it into the Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik. The factory also provided for the German munitions industry, which guaranteed its owner special privileges. Schindler employed more and more Jews by the year, saving them from death in concentration camps.

Schindler the Savior. Celebrating of four years of operation, Oskar Schindler (centre) and his administrative staff in 1944.

In 1944, Schindler evacuated his employees to Moravia, where the factory functioned until the Red Army entered on May 8th, 1945. Schindler, who saved over one thousand Jews, was awarded with the title of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1963. The Righteous Among the Nations are non-Jewish individuals who have been honored by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, for risking their lives to aid Jews during the Holocaust.

As an Israeli – visiting Kraków’s Jewish district known as Kazimierz, just outside the old city walls – was an experience that was both illuminating and shocking. Exploring it with a golf cart and guide is highly recommended. “Kazimierz is Kraków’s China Town,” said our guide Walter – a middle-aged Professor that worked at the University as a Mathematician – driving a yellow golf cart. At first I thought the description offensive, however on reflection, thinking about it objectively, he was right. No human story can beat what the Jewish community contributes to tourism flowing to this impressive and most recognisable Polish urban brand in the world. Nothing remained from the old Jewish Ghetto. Sixty-five iron chairs are all set permanently in its former square. Symbolically marking 65,000 Jewish lives that were sent to death camps. Families and little children play there, using the sculptures as a playground.  In this way, they inter’play’ with the past, hopefully having a positive impact on the future.

Oscar’s Office. Schindler’s desk with his family photos, desk lamp, a folder, and a telephone from the 1940s.

A visit to Kraków must be on everybody’s bucket list, including – 70 Kilometres to the west – Auschwitz concentration camp. If you make the trip there or not, the experience of the Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory on 4 Lipowa Street is highly recommended. The sound and sight of goose steps has past but its legacy leaves lingering goose bumps as I leave.

The visit will stay with me forever.


* Feature picture – The writer standing in front of the entrance to Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory with photographs of the Jewish workers he saved  (photo: Motti Verses).



About the writer:

Motti Verses is a Communications Executive, Video Presenter, Writer, Marketing and PR Expert. He was Head of Public Relations for Hilton Hotels Israel for more than 30 years. Now he is the publisher of Travel Flash Tips.

http://linkedin.com/in/motti-verses-a7369913






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).

A ROTTEN PAINT JOB  

Poland and Lithuania covering up the complicit cracks of the past

By Stephen Schulman

Seventy seven years have passed since the defeat of Nazi Germany. Memories fade, survivors have passed away together with many of the criminals who remained unexposed and unpunished. Poland and Lithuania today, are in the throes of official movements to renovate and refurbish a new national image and recreate the national narrative. As with any refurbishing, there is much discarding, covering up of the old and adopting of the new and this move ties neatly in with a decidedly revisionist history that has been legislated, seeks to create myths, recraft  a sanitized past and muzzle any historical research that may reveal unpleasant truths.

Determined Duo. Historian Jan Grabowski (left) and sociologist Barbara Engelking who wrote a book about the Holocaust in Poland were taken to court for defamation.

In 2018, Poland’s Senate passed a bill that outlaws blaming the country for any crimes committed during the Holocaust. The bill was proposed by the country’s ruling Law and Justice Party and calls for up to three years in prison or a fine for accusing the Polish state or people of involvement in or responsibility for the Nazi occupation during World War II. Tragically, this blatant attempt to whitewash the past rings hollow in the light of historical facts. Nevertheless, the prevailing winds of nationalism are blowing strong and many Polish historians are loath to tack against the gale lest they find themselves on the shoals of criminal prosecution. Consequently, they now take care to modify their researches. There is a powerful movement to discredit and besmirch Jan Gross and last year, in a decision widely condemned by American and European academics, a Polish court found Jan Grabowski and fellow researcher Barbara Engelking guilty of defaming a small town mayor in their book on the Holocaust.

Poles Apart. While Jews from Poland and abroad gather in 2016 for commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of a massacre of Jews in Jedwabne, Poland, on 10 July 1941, Polish lawmakers in 2018 passed a bill outlawing the blaming of Poles for crimes of the Holocaust committed in Poland. The Jedwabne pogrom was a massacre of Polish Jews by ethnic Poles  in the town of Jedwabne of at least 340 men, women and children, some 300 of whom were locked in a barn and burned alive. The Polish ringleaders decided on it beforehand with Germany’s Gestapo, SS security police or SS intelligence and cooperated with German military police. (AP Photo/Michal Kosc)

The Poles were victims of Russian and German invasion and oppression and paid a heavy price. Nevertheless, there are well documented histories of Poles not only collaborating with the Nazis but also taking their own initiative in the murder of Jews. The pogrom at Jedwabne in 1941 was far from being an isolated incident as a recently published book by Mirosław Tryczyk shockingly sheds light on fifteen other locations. Anna Bikont, a courageous journalist, in revisiting that town sixty years after the slaughter, noted the denial, the amnesia, the obfuscation, the intimidation, the fear of witnesses to speak out and the open threats made to those who wished to acknowledge the town’s guilt.

The annual March of the Living when many groups of all ages from Israel and abroad visit the death camps has been compromised due to the Polish government’s demand that now each one be accompanied by an official guide to provide a governmentally approved narrative. It appears that what comes from the mouths of the regular guides paints an unpleasantly discomforting picture.

Staying on Track. Despite, the controversy surrounding Poland’s 2018 Holocaust bill penalizing mentioning involvement in and by the Polish people/nation/state in Nazi crimes followed with calls from Knesset members to stop the trips by young Israelis to Poland, participants attended the annual “March of the Living” in 2019. ( REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo/File Photo)

The attempts made throughout the years by Holocaust survivors and their descendants for restitution of family property have been fruitless, long obstructed by prevarication in the passing of a bill compensating for property seized by the Nazis and the subsequent Communist regime. In September 2021, however, the government stirred itself enough to pass a law which prevents claimants from challenging administrative decisions older than 30 years, including those issued without legal basis or issued in gross violation of the law. In practice, it will become virtually impossible for all former Polish property owners – including Holocaust survivors and their descendants, many of whom have had claims pending for years to seek redress.

How ironic that the Polish government whilst squelching private compensation claims is now demanding 1.23 trillion Euro in compensation from Germany for the damages caused to the country during the Nazi invasion and occupation. It appears that the 30 year limit for claimants’ restitution does not apply to the government itself. When interests dictate, there is seemingly no time limit!

Moreover, in an act of unprecedented callous cynicism, the government has sought to include in its claims for damages, the towns where pogroms of the Jews were carried out by the local inhabitants. They will no doubt also seek restitution for the barn in Jedwabne where the good townspeople herded in, set on fire and burnt 300 of their Jewish neighbours alive. 

Lithuania, 2022

A nation, said John F. Kennedy in October 1963, just a month before he was assassinated, “reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

Lithuania today refuses to come to grips with its wartime past and honours people who have a dark past of collaboration and murder. The national establishment is determined to repackage the country’s wartime history of the Nazi occupation as one of victimization, non-collaboration with and complete noninvolvement in the murder of its Jews. Those who have tried to dismantle this edifice of distortion, obfuscation and denial have not only come up against a blank wall but have paid a price.

Grant Cochin, a former South African of Lithuanian descent now living in the USA, in researching his family’s past discovered a great number of relatives who perished in the Holocaust and the names of Lithuanians complicit in their murder who have been elevated to the status of national icons. He has recorded that in the decades seeking redress and uncovering the truth, he has filed between 20 and 30 lawsuits against the Lithuanian government, encountering obstruction, denial, delay and threats of criminal charges. Moreover, he asserts that he has “exposed” virtually every corner of the government, courts, Parliament, public prosecutors, the president and prime minister, all of them involved in the cover-up.

In 2021 an exceptional book was published: The Nazi’s Granddaughter. How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal by Sylvia Foti. The book details a painful twenty year journey of intellectual honesty and raw courage of an American citizen with strong Lithuanian roots searching for and revealing the truth about her grandfather Jonas Noreika who has been enshrined as a national hero.

Truth Exposed.While accused Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika (centre) was whitewashed by Lithuania’s Genocide and Resistance Research Center, his granddaughter Silvia Foti (right) says he did his best to help Nazis kill Jews. The relatives of Grant Gochin (left) were among Noreika’s victims.

In June 2018, with supporting evidence from Sylvia Foti, Grant Cochin challenged the Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Center’s denial of Noreika’s war crimes. In spite of the overwhelming evidence, a Vilnius court threw out the case declaring for the government funded Center’s objectivity and veracity plus ordering Cochin to pay all the costs – a decision that he called:

 “The Jew Tax

Those who dare to challenge the official sanitized national narrative have borne the brunt of official opprobrium. Evaldas Balciunas who was the first to disclose Noreika’s past to the English speaking world and Dovid Katz who published his findings have been dismissed from their jobs, harassed by the government, interrogated by the police and declared “enemies of the state“.

Ruta Vanagaita too, has discovered the high cost of intellectual honesty and of voicing her thoughts in public when she questioned the past of a nationally revered hero: anti-Soviet resistance fighter. She not only immediately lost her livelihood when her publisher withdrew all her books from the shops and pulped them but fearing for her safety remained in the shelter of her home, eventually leaving the country for some time. Among the insults showered on her in the street was “pro–Putin Jewish whore” – in Lithuanian eyes, being called Jewish, is an insult in itself! A brave and resolute lady, she has remained undeterred in uncovering the truth about Lithuania’s participation in the Holocaust, leading tours to massacre sites and co-authoring a book with the Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.

Nasty Neighbours. Dr. Efraim Zuroff  (right) coauthored with the granddaughter of perpetrators, Rūta Vanagaitė (left), the book “Our People” that tackles the sensitive issue of the motivation of thousands of ordinary Lithuanians complicit in the murder of Jewish neighbours.

Lest we forget. A friend of mine, formerly from Lithuania, now also living in Israel, told me the following story about his home town.

One of its residents was a Jew who had fought in WW II. He was a loner who kept to himself. On market day he had bought a live goose, put it in a sack, slung it over his shoulder and started walking home. At the same time, there was a woman whose small child had gone astray and was engaged in searching for him/her.  On seeing the man carrying the sack with the goose flapping around in it, she started screaming that the Jew had kidnapped her child. Old prejudices die hard and it did not take much to set the townspeople off on a Jew hunt. Fortunately, until the furor eventually died down, the local police prevented a pogrom by protecting the homes of the few Jewish residents. My friend as a boy remembers sitting at home, the fear they felt, the anti-Semitic insults and threats shouted by passersby and the stones thrown against their closed shutters.

This near-pogrom took place in September 1958!





A PERSONAL FOOTNOTE 

Immersing oneself in the vast literature of the Holocaust is not only a daunting and an interminable task but also a heartbreaking one as you become overwhelmed by the horror and the immense scope of so many human tragedies. In my reading, over the course of time, while trying not to do injustice to so many other excellent and deserving works, I have attempted to focus on, what I consider relevant books. Below – with no pretensions of being comprehensive – is a short list of selected titles.

Anna Bikont: The Crime and the Silence

Miroslaw Tryczyk (Author), Frank Smulowicz (Translator): The Towns of Death: Pogroms against Jews by Their Neighbors

Saul Friedlander: The Years of Extermination

                            Nazi Germany and the Jews

Sylvia Foti: The Nazi’s Granddaughter

Jan Grabowski: Hunt for the Jews

Ruta Vanagaite and Efraim Zuroff: Our People. Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust.

Jeffrey Veidlinger: In the Midst of Civilized Europe

Jan T. Gross: Neighbors

Fear

Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Reiss (Editors): The Good Old Days. The Holocaust as Seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders.

Father Patrick Desbois: In Broad Daylight

David I. Kertzer: The Popes against the Jews

                           The Pope at War




About the writer:

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.




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).

Poland & Lithuania

A sad tale of two countries

By Stephen Schulman

I am extremely fortunate in being able to write these words. In fact, I am extremely fortunate in being here at all and I owe it all to my grandparents on both sides who over a hundred years ago had the foresight, took the initiative and seized the opportunity to leave Eastern Europe and immigrate to the West.

Like many Litvaks (Jews originating from Lithuania) they eventually wended their way to South Africa to seek their fortune in a new land that was free from oppression, persecution and pogroms. Growing up  as a 2nd generation South African, the Holocaust was certainly part of my education and consciousness but it never touched me personally as, to the best of my knowledge, my extended family on both sides had long moved to the West.

Poland

Coming to live in Israel radically changed my perspective of and my closeness to this unprecedented genocide in the history of mankind. Many survivors have made their home here and the Holocaust is seared into the nation’s psyche. Yad VaShem, the National Holocaust Institute located on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, with its extensive archives and comprehensive museum, is a revered institution and the moving state memorial ceremony that takes place there on the eve of the annual Holocaust Day is broadcast nationwide.

Nevertheless, fortunately in not having been affected personally, I felt a certain insulation that in the course of events changed when I met and married Yona. After the war, she had been born in a DP (Displaced Persons) camp situated in Germany where her parents Tsila nee Bastomski and Meir Perey both Holocaust survivors had met and married. In 1949, not long after the birth of the nation, her parents, with her a baby, came to live in Israel where, like many other survivors, permanently scarred but with fortitude and resolution they rebuilt their lives. Many other Holocaust survivors were less fortunate: crippled both physically and/or in spirit, they were incapable of shaking off the traumas of the past.

Post War DP Camp. Jewish displaced persons receive food aid from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) at the Bindermichl displaced persons camp in the US zone. Linz, Austria. It was in such a camp – but in Germany – that the writer’s wife, Yona, was born to parents, Tsila and Meir, both Holocaust survivors who had met, married and immigrated to Israel.

Tsila was forthcoming about her past and her wartime experiences and so fortunately in the course of years before she was crippled by illness, I was able to record all that she recounted to me. Sitting listening to her and Meir‘s story, I was filled with humility and awe at the strength of the human spirit to endure and overcome so much suffering and with the greatest of respect for my parents in law.

Tsila and family had lived in a settlement near Vilna (Vilnius) where, the family by dint of enterprise and hard work had built up a successful business supplying the local countryside. With the invasion by Nazi Germany, expelled from their home and possessions they were herded into the local ghetto. There, her father Israel, with all of them forced to witness, was publicly executed for attempting to sneak out to try to obtain food for his family. Tsila’s eldest brother Joshua, serving in the Polish army was murdered as a Jew. Whilst remaining in the ghetto, an older brother Yitschak managed to procure false documents for the remaining family and one night they made their escape, fleeing to a small village where posing as Christian Poles, Tsila, her mother Bunia, brothers Yitschak and Yehuda and elder sister Gessia lived for the duration of the war. Tsila and Gessia worked as seamstresses, Yitschak was an altar boy and Yehuda would walk at the head of funeral processions carrying a cross. Tsila, as was the custom, not forgetting to cross herself before all the road side shrines along the way, regularly walked to church barefoot carrying her shoes in hand to be put on before entering.

In the village itself, life was far from easy as the family lived in constant terror of their true identity being discovered; all too often they had to concur with the villagers’ antisemitic opinions and hear their glee concerning the fate of the Jews. The only times they felt relatively safe were during stormy nights when nobody ventured from their homes. She clearly remembers that when one night, her mother delirious from a high fever started to babble in Yiddish, the terrified family could not call for a doctor.

Meir was more reticent and rarely spoke about his family. Hailing from Bialystok and conscripted into the Red Army in 1939, he served at the front, narrowly losing a leg in battle and after recovering, working as a medical orderly on army hospital trains. Returning home after the war, he discovered that he was the sole survivor as all his immediate kith and kin: parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces had been murdered in the Holocaust.

What had caused Meir, Tsila and family to flee from the land where their families had lived for generations to a distant country to seek shelter in a displaced persons camp? After all, the war had ended and hostilities had ceased. Why had they not returned to their birthplaces? What influenced their decision – and of so many other Holocaust survivors – to irrevocably leave their homes and all behind?

Saul Friedlander and Jeffrey Veidlinger amongst others have documented the anti-Semitism rife in the Baltic States, Ukraine, Eastern Europe and the Balkans with the Christian churches in many cases either acquiescing or fanning the flames. Indeed, since the beginning of the 20th Century, intermittent pogroms had not only diminished but increased with generations of bystanders and/or perpetrators.

Consequently, Poland of 1945 as before the war was far from being a hospitable home. In the 1930’s formal anti –Semitic legislation had gradually increased and in 1936 there had been widespread pogroms with the murder of hundreds of Jews. In post war 1945, omnipresent ant-Semitism openly erupted making Poland a dangerous place for a Jew to live in. The historian Jan T. Gross ably records the fate of post WW II Jewry where many Holocaust survivors were murdered, the pogrom at Kielce being the most infamous incident.   

Meir, upon returning to Bialystok found his former neighbours, now comfortably ensconced in his family abode, most unpleasantly surprised by his appearance and informed him that if he valued his life, he should permanently put as much distance as possible between himself and his old home. Tsila, her mother and siblings, in the dead of night, packed their meager belongings onto a cart and silently fled the village. They were well aware that if their true identity were now revealed, the odds were that they would not remain alive. For them, Meir and other survivors, the only safe recourse was fleeing to the west.

Next Door Killers. On July 10, 1941, in Nazi-occupied Poland, half of the town of Jedwabne brutally murdered the other half – 1,600 men, women, and children, all but seven of the town’s Jews. In this shocking and compelling classic of Holocaust history, Jan Gross reveals how Jedwabne’s Jews were murdered not by Nazis but by people who knew them well―their non-Jewish Polish neighbors.
 

Lithuania

Family records show that my maternal grandfather Hirsh Wolf Edelson born in Sedova (Shadova), in 1909 had married Chana Etel Chaitovitz hailing from nearby Grinkishok (Grinkiskis) before immigrating to South Africa a few years later. Most fortunately, I also discovered that an industrious and indefatigable relative living in Jerusalem had compiled an extended family tree tracing my grandfather’s roots in his home town back to 1811. With my interest aroused, I delved into the proud history of Lithuanian Jewry and discovered one that is both tragic and horrific: how in 1941, Lithuanians from all walks of life, with few notable exceptions, in widespread cooperation with the German authorities and with their scant urging, ruthlessly and with the utmost zealous barbarity butchered and murdered their Jewish fellow citizens. This was executed with such efficaciousness that within a relatively short period of the Jewish community of 220,000 souls, 95 to 97 percent were no longer alive – one of the highest genocide rates in Europe. Their murderousness was equally matched by their avarice and rapaciousness in plundering the possessions and occupying the homes of former friends and neighbours whom they had known well, often for generations.

Shadow over Shadova. General view of the shetl of Shadova where the writer’s maternal grandfather Hirsh Wolf Edelson was born and in 1909 married Chana Etel Chaitovitz before immigrating to South Africa a few years later. In August 1941, the Jews of Shadova were murdered in a nearby forest.

On the 22nd June 1941, the Nazis occupied Lithuania and three days afterwards Seduva. Less than a month later on the 22nd July, the town’s Jews were incarcerated in a ghetto. On August the 25th, all 665 ghetto occupants were murdered in the Liaudiškiai forest. A few “privileged” Jews who had fought in the War of Independence of 1918 and who optimistically underwent public baptism were not included in the roundup. However, their reprieve was short lived, for a few weeks later they were driven to Panevėžys and shot dead with just one survivor who had been hidden by the priest. There exists a long list of the local shooters all of whom somehow did not recall the names of their victims but remembered in meticulous detail the loot they received for their participation.

Unveiling the Hard Truth. Famous Nazi hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff teamed up with the descendent of Nazi collaborators, Ruta Vanagaite on a journey to uncover Lithuania’s horrifying Holocaust secrets.

In their murderous diligence, no community however small was overlooked: My grandmother’s Grinikishok (Grinkiskis) was not exempt. At the end of August 1941, armed Lithuanians led the entire town Jews  – all 20 families! – to the nearby town Kriukai and there on September 2, 1941, murdered them together with the local Jews. All the other Lithuanian Jewish communities shared the same bitter fate. Dr. Efraim Zuroff and Ruta Vanagaita, in their book recording their painful journey visiting Lithuanian Holocaust massacre sites, noted that while Jedwabne in Poland was infamous for its inhabitants murdering their Jewish neighbours, there were over 220 such towns in Lithuania.

Following the Facts. The co-writers of ‘Our People,’ Ruta Vanagaite (left), who was threatened in Lithuania for exposing the truth of Lithuanian complicity in the Holocaust with Dr. Efraim Zuroff.

The bestiality and barbarism of the Lithuanians shocked even the hardened Nazis, one of whom had witnessed and photographed in Kaunas a townsman proudly standing holding his club with the bloody corpses of 45 Jews behind him. He was surrounded by an enthusiastic and laughing crowd of men, women and children who had cheered and applauded every time he slaughtered a victim. The Nazi bystander recorded that after the “Death Dealer” had finished, he stood on the pile of bodies and to the approbation of the onlookers proudly played the national anthem on his accordion. Lest it be thought that this was an isolated incident, instances of similar atrocities were recorded in many locations. The lists of rape, torture and murder go on and on…….



About the writer:

Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.






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 LAST SHABBAT SUPPER

The day  – 80 years ago this week – my great grandfather ‘died’

By Jonathan Feldstein

The reality is that my great grandparents didn’t just die, they were murdered. They were two of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their willing accomplices throughout Europe. And it wasn’t just the two of them, but their children and grandchildren, and scores of cousins, nieces and nephews, and neighbors. They were lined up and shot in a communal grave on the outskirts of Kańczuga, the Polish town in which they lived and raised their families for generations. Their murder took place 80 years ago this week.

Painfull Portrait. The writer’s great grandparents, Shalom Yaakov and Dreizel Birnbach who 80 years ago this week were – together their children, grandchildren, and rest of their family murdered in Poland during the Holocaust. (Family collection).
 

We know what happened from the testimonies and writings of some who had escaped, or those who were deported earlier and survived. Survivors communicated with their neighbors years later. My great aunt told me she would write to the mayor of Kanczuga after the war, sending along care packages as a bribe for him to provide information, any information, about her parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. Even if what he said was partly fabricated as the historical record seems to demonstrate, it gave her some sense of closure. 

When the war ended, some survivors came back to Kańczuga to look for other survivors, and try to start their lives over in the only place they knew as home.  Several Jews who returned were murdered by their Polish neighbors in a pogrom that took place in April 1945, after the war officially ended. I knew the three young men who buried the victims and extricated the survivors to safety from their Polish neighbors threatening to finish the job. As old men, they shared vivid details with me. Willie Kramberg, with whom I became close, was always “happy” to do so, but prefaced that he won’t sleep for three days as a result of reliving the horrors.

Jewish Life Deleted. The Dzikower Synogogue at the intersection of Sawicki and Wegierska streets in Kańczuga in 1941 (top) and a store in 2019 (bottom). (Courtesy Collection of the Switalski Family)

I have written and spoken about my family’s life, and death, in Kańczuga many times.  I heard stories from my grandmother and great aunt, about their parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. Though I have never been there, Kanczuga is part of my family’s history, but in the distant rear-view mirror. I have a sense of nostalgia for this place which I have never visited, in which my family lived for generations, yet no urgent desire to do so. 

I am grateful that my great grandparents had the sense to begin to get their children out of Poland in the 1930s.  But now, as a grandfather, close in age to that of my great grandparents were when they were murdered, I look back and weep at how painful it must have been not to be able to save everyone much less themselves.  They knew they needed to get their families out of Poland, that time was running out even before the Nazis arrived, but didn’t know when that time would be. Until that last Shabbat, when the Jews of Kańczuga were rounded up and massacred, I suspect they did everything they could to save their family.

Futures Denied. Some six years later, most of these happy faces of Jewish youth taken in Kańczuga in June 25, 1934 would be no more. (Laufer family collection)

Shabbat is a joyous day to celebrate surrounded by family. The sense of helplessness that must have overcome them in those last hours, on their last Shabbat, is incomprehensible as I think about what happened that Saturday 80 years ago. 

The Jewish community had been rounded up and crammed into one of the synagogues.  A hot August day with many times more people packed in than the building was built for. I don’t know if they were told they were being “deported” and given any hope, or not.  I just know how they perished.

While the bullets were German, the jeers from the those lined up to celebrate, or just watch, were Polish. If they were close enough to the Poles, no doubt my relatives saw neighbors they had known all their lives. The Nazis needed wagons and the like to move the Jews from the synagogue in the center of town to the communal grave that the men had been forced to dig outside the town. The Nazis didn’t just bring in their trucks and buses to deport Jews when they invaded. In many places they were forced to walk kilometers to their death, or carted out of town as it might be too “unpleasant” to massacre hundreds or more people too much in public. Where vehicles were needed, they were borrowed or requisitioned from the local Poles, often with the Polish “driver” leading his own horse to carry away his neighbors to their death.

From a Symbol of Life to a Symbol of Death. The ‘Great Synagogue’ – also known as the ‘New Synagogue’ – that was in construction before the outbreak of World War II was a source of great pride to the Jewish community of Kańczuga, until it was transformed into a symbol of Jewish extermination. Around 200 Jews were rounded up in the synagogue before their execution in Siedleczka in August 1942. One wonders what lessons have been learned seeing the antisemitic graffiti on the wall.(Courtesy Laufer Family Collection)
 

I met Benny Schanzer decades ago. He was a teenager when he was being deported 80 years ago.  He shared with me that my great grandmother, Dreizel, saved his life by telling him simply, “You’re too young”.  I don’t know if my great grandmother had any hope for herself or any of her family being saved even at those last horrible moments. She knew the end was near. Benny understood, escaped, and survived to tell me the story decades later.

Before the war and the Holocaust, Kanczuga had about 1000 Jews, representing between a third to half of the population.  There were instances of Jews and the mostly Catholic Poles getting along including attending school, doing business, even serving in civic capacities together.  Antisemitism existed as it did throughout Europe, largely but not exclusively due to Catholic teaching about the Jews.  That sowed the fertile ground in which antisemitism thrived. My grandmother used to me that the ground was soaked in our blood.  She did not mean it metaphorically. Antisemitism didn’t always involve overt persecution, but it was pervasive to the degree that at least my great grandparents had the sense and ability to be able to get four of their children out of Poland. And that when the Jewish community was being deported to their death, local Polish neighbors celebrated, and then took the homes and property of the Jews who once lived next to them.

As a result of four children surviving then, I am here. Including my brothers, our wives, children, and grandchildren we are 22 people. 80 years is not that long ago, but it feels like ancient history.  It’s a significant milestone we cannot let pass without remembering our relatives who were murdered, and honoring the survivors, thanks to whom we are here. 

A Relic of Jewish Life. Following their mass murder, a reminder of a vibrant Jewish life is revealed in these sad remains of a Kańczuga Jewish newspaper.

This year dozens of descendants of the former Kanczuga Jewish community will gather virtually from at least three continents, to remember.  We represent one very small group of descendants of one very small Jewish community, in one very small Polish village.  And my family, a few dozen within that one small town, whose matriarch and patriarch did everything possible to have their children survive. On that level, the incomprehensible number of six million becomes real. 

It’s the sum of hundreds of thousands of entire families, like mine.



You’re invited to join the memorial for the Jewish community of Kanczuga, Monday, September 5 at 9:00pm Israel time, 2:00pm Eastern/11:00am Pacific (US), to remember the victims and honor the survivors who suffered so much but thanks to whom we are here.


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, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.





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