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

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(*First appeared in The Jerusalem Post)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the writer:

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

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


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

By David E. Kaplan

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

My father was in the SS.”

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

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

They need to be commended.

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

 “Mi Shoah le Tkuma from the Holocaust to New Life

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

(See President’s letter of endocement.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 “We will not again be silent! ”

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

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

For further information go to:

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


People behind exposing the hard truth of Lithuania in the Holocaust

By Grant Gochin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the writer:

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

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


The ruthlessness of the Holocaust and the dignity of Jewish resistance

By  Alex Ryvchin, ABC

(First featured in the ABC online)

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the writer:

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

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


Realpolitik-Israel and Poland April 2023

By Stephen Schulman

Realpolitik as defined in the Chambers Dictionary 12th Edition is “practical politics based on the realities and necessities of life, rather than moral or ethical ideas”. This, I fear, in this case is precisely what is happening as a result of our present government’s lame attempts to bolster its deteriorating image and find friends wherever.

The annual “March of the Living” when many groups of all ages from Israel and abroad visit the death camps was suspended last year owing to the demands of the Polish government, to include an official government guide for each group whose task it was to present the officially certified historical narrative. Understandably, in light of the record of that government’s attempts to refurbish and create a squeaky clean past of being sole victims of Nazi war crimes and somehow sweeping under the carpet crimes of its citizens against its Jewry – amongst them making it a criminal offense for blaming the country for any crimes committed during the Holocaust – this demand was rejected and groups ceased to come. Moreover, legislation had also been passed making it virtually impossible to claim property restitution and the resultant condemnation of our previous government only led to a further deterioration in ties.

Poles Apart. It’s important that students visiting the camps in Poland are not side-tracked by Polish propaganda.(Yossi Zeliger/Flash90 Auschwitz-Birkenau)

Nevertheless, our esteemed foreign minister in his desire for mending ties with the Polish government and in his omniscience, seeing no need to consult the appropriate institutions and authorities connected to the Holocaust, has proudly announced a compromise and the drafting of an agreement with it whereby all groups, prior to visiting the death camps, are presented with its officially approved list of 32 sites (museums, memorials etc.) that lay emphasis on the country’s (i.e. ethnic Poles) suffering both under Nazi and Russian occupation. They will then, under the tutelage of a Polish guide, be obligated to visit one of them.

True Horror. Students visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp site in Poland, April 16, 2015. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The list itself contains dubious sites that, amongst others, glorify the heroism of Polish partisan fighters who were anti-Semitic and participated in murdering Jews. Many Polish partisan groups bravely fought the Nazis but many of them were also viciously anti-Semitic and murdered Jews who fled to the forests seeking safety. My late mother-in-law, who with the remainder of her family survived the Holocaust by acquiring forged documents and living in a village, recounted to me that one day, a group of partisans suspecting them of being Jews entered their home.

Hidden Truths. It’s unlikely that these young visitors next to a monument to partisan fighter Józef Kuras are aware of studies that have documented dozens of cases in which Polish partisans under his command murdered Holocaust survivors. (Credit: ARTUR WIDAK / NurPhoto via AF)

By a miracle their lives were saved when the gang was suddenly called away. One of the sites on the list, The Museum of the Cursed Soldiers in the town of Ostrolensk, 120km from Warsaw, commemorates the deeds of the partisan Józef Kuras a vicious anti-Semite known to have murdered amongst others, twelve Jews who in 1946 were trying to flee from Poland.

Whitewashing the Past. One of the listed sites that Poland would like educational trips from abroad to include is ‘The Museum of the Cursed Soldiers’, which commemorates the deeds of the partisan Józef Kuras known to have murdered Jews in 1946 while trying to flee from Poland.

Criticism has not been long in forthcoming. Yad Vashem, Israel’s main Holocaust memorial and museum, in a statement couched in the most diplomatic terms noted that the list contained “problematic sites inappropriate for visiting on educational trips.” It does not take much imagination to read between the lines!

The list has also received bitter criticism from academics.  Professor Havi Dreifuss, a historian at Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem, has said that the list was “outrageous” and that most of the locales on it “are dubious at best and controversial at worst.” Some of the sites “ignore documented aspects of Poles’ involvement in the murder of Jews,” whereas others “glorify Poles who were involved up to their necks in the murder of Jews.”

Up to their Necks. Tel Aviv University historian Dr. Havi Dreifuss who heads the Center for Research on the Holocaust in Poland at Yad Vashem says that some of the sites the Polish government want ‘March of the Living’ tours to visit, glorify Polesinvolved up to their necks in the murder of Jews.”

Jan Grabowski, an influential Polish-Canadian historian, was quoted in the report as saying that the list reads “like a Holocaust denier’s dream.”

Most importantly, in light of the present resurgence of anti-Semitism and of Poland’s abysmal record concerning the treatment of its Jewish citizens both pre and post World War II, it is only fitting and appropriate to create a balanced perspective by adding further sites to the recommended list: There is the southeastern town of Kielce where in July 4, 1946, a violent blood libel massacre took place when 42 Jews were murdered and 50 wounded. And lest we forget, Jedwabne where on the 10th of July 1941, 1600 Jews were slaughtered or burnt alive by their ethnic Polish townsmen and their possessions plundered. Moreover, as recorded in recent book by Mirosław Tryczyk, another 15 locations where pogroms were carried out by the local inhabitants could also be added.

Murdered by Poles. A pre-war photograph of Jews in Jedwabne. On 10 July 1941,at least 40 ethnic Poles in coordination with the Gestapo, carried out the killing of some 1600 Jews including women, children and the elderly, many of whom were locked in a barn and burned alive

Another place for the March of the Living participants to visit and that serves as a reminder of this enduring and lethal obsession would be to the south eastern town of Pruchnik where only last week, as part of their Easter celebrations, residents hung and burned an effigy marked with antisemitic stereotypes. The figure had a kippah (Jewish skullcap) on its head, “Judas 2023” written on its body and was beaten thoroughly before being hung and burned.

A visit to the Warsaw market would also be instructive. There, a vendor is happily peddling little statues of stereotyped ugly Jews fondling gold coins. The authorities see no wrong in this and the locals purchase them to bring good luck.

Unsurprisingly, our foreign minister has rebuffed all criticism and blames the intransigence and obduracy of the previous government for the crisis in relations with Poland that he is now trying so earnestly to restore. As a minister representing the interests of the citizens of Israel, he has a duty to rise above all the mutual recriminations, listen to the voices of the Holocaust survivors and take into account the knowledge of scholars. Only then should he sign off a final draft for approval.

A clip showing Jewish refugees waiting to leave Poland and crossing into Czechoslovakia following a pogrom that took place in Kielce, Poland, in July 1946. Forty-two Jews were massacred and about 50 more were wounded. The event touched off a mass migration of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Poland (Click on the picture).

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).


Time for coming clean – reconciliations cannot be based on fraud

By  Grant Gochin

Who murders children?

It takes a special kind of evil to murder children.

Newborns ripped from the breasts of their just-murdered mothers.




Thousands of children.

Dispatched with utmost cruelty.

Without Compassion.

Without pity.

Lithuanian perpetrators reveled in it.

Lithuanian perpetrators took pride in it.

Warm Welcome. All smiles as Lithuanian women welcome Nazi soldiers with flowers in the summer of 1941.

There was an entire cottage industry incorporating the rape, torture and murder of Jewish children.

Perpetrated by Lithuanian murderers to fulfill sick fantasies and self-aggrandizement.

These atrocities were carried out in front of their siblings, parents and grandparents. And in the sight of G-d.

Done for the sheer perverse joy of watching the Jewish Community’s suffering at the theatrical cruelty of terminating Jewry, and the destruction of Jewish familial bonds.

Done for the self-satiating delight of the murderer.

Done for their own “fun” and sordid cruelty.

Done for their free floating hatred of Jews.

Done for their unholy ideological nationalism, and faith in a mythical Fatherland.

To fulfill the Lithuanian National leadership’s call to create an ethnically pure Lithuanian state.

With the benefit of hindsight, most the world has recognized that murdering children is a deep and grievous wrong. Children too young to even walk or talk considered enemies of the Lithuanian state.

Honouring Brutality. A memorial (right) to Juozas Krikštaponis (left) a platoon commander in a Lithuanian paramilitary auxiliary battalion responsible for the systematic mass slaughter in Lithuania and Belarus.  In under six months, these Lithuanian units killed 26,000 Jews and with such excessive brutality that resulted in a report by their German overseers to SS head Heinrich Himmler.

The slaughter of Jews in Lithuania was almost complete. Only 3.6% of Jews survived within Lithuania. Survival was because Lithuanians simply could not find them, or ran out of time to murder them. In Lithuania, 0.04% of Lithuania’s population were heroic rescuers, while 99.96% were murderers, perpetrators, bystanders or cannot prove they were the rescuers they claim to have been. Of course, there were almost no Jewish survivors to validate Lithuanian exaggerated or fabricated claims of rescue; nobody to contradict them, so every murderer could claim to have been a rescuer. All Lithuanian crimes could be laid at the feet of Nazis; swept under political rugs. The Lithuanian nation perceived no future necessity for the bloody and disgusting truth of what really happened. Their twisted logic of lies became the new Lithuanian historical truth. They became triumphant in their new fictional history.

Killers in Kovno. Lithuanian militiamen in Kovno round up Jewish women, June-July 1941.

There are Lithuanians who fetishize and worship the perpetrators of the extermination of these Jewish children; morality never had a chance.

Lithuania knows some of their national heroes murdered the most innocent – Jewish children. Yet, Lithuania continues to put them on a pedestal, not to be knocked off easily or soon. Hate remains triumphant. This is a statement only about Lithuania’s system of morals and values, and how these fit into the education of Lithuanian children.

Some of Lithuania’s “heroes” are listed here:

The Lithuanian Government has a well-defined and well-exposed comprehensive program of transforming murderers into their national heroes. Murderers of Emanuel and Avram (pictured above) as the Lithuanian Government’s stated ideal of a hero for their population to emulate. Decent people are horrified at the very idea of hurting a child, Lithuania glorifies their murderers.

Killing Kids. Brothers Emanuel and Avram Rosenthal wear yellow stars in the Kovno ghetto shortly before they were rounded up and murdered in March 1944.

Lithuanian national identity is so tied to their žydšaudžiai (Jew shooter) heroes that Lithuania ever becoming truthful is unlikely. For the sake of Lithuanian national pride, they believe they must defend, justify or ignore the horrific crimes their heroes committed. For Jewish national pride, we must demand truth. To help prevent future genocides of other children, we must shine light on the continual honoring of genocidal murderers.

Somehow, with Jewish organizational assistance, Lithuania gained membership of both EU and NATO. These are the most prestigious organizations in the world. If open peddlers of lies and revisionists are allowed membership without conditions, then every regime in the world can commit genocide without fear of accountability.

We have participated in multi decade campaigns to expose Lithuania’s historical frauds. We are saddened and frustrated by our lack of success. The Government of Lithuania has no interest in truth, so they distort the facts. Their actions have been identified in my Times of Israel articles for many years. While Lithuania has been offered dozens of opportunities to tell the truth, to date, they have only opted to increase their deceptions. Reconciliation cannot be based fraud; the government’s lies are a repudiation of reconciliation attempts between Jews and Lithuanians.

Two documentaries have been presented reflecting Lithuania’s Holocaust deceptions, distortions and revisions –J’Accuse! and Baltic Truth.

J’Accuse! has already been selected for, nominated, or won over ninety international film awards. It has been seen worldwide and is now being used as a teaching tool for genocide prevention, and a warning to human rights violators that they will be held to account. Holocaust frauds such as Lithuania’s will never be able to happen again in an educated world. Criminals will be exposed. I pray this will not be too little, too late. Lithuania continues to arm itself with lies.

The only country where J’Accuse! has not yet been addressed, is inside Lithuania (and probably North Korea). The Lithuanian government has worked hard to ignore the children’s cries from their death pits.

Portions of the US Government have taken a stand and demanded that Lithuania begin to tell the truth. The Lithuanian government can no longer lie with impunity in the face of public exposure. They have no choice but to bow to American and NATO pressure and formulate a response to their consistent and repetitive Holocaust fictions. Lithuania will not do so willingly, not from a sense of moral decency or integrity. Their multi-decade Holocaust fraud campaign has shown how devoted they are to honoring and remembering those monsters who “cleansed” their country of Jews. Lithuania will eventually come to the table only because they have been forced to do so, for economic or national security reasons.

There were so few Jewish Holocaust survivors from Lithuania, that their Government was able to subvert facts, which were known only to a few academics. What else could be expected from those who were so angered by the survival of so few, who then murdered survivors to keep odd pieces of furniture and dry goods?

Disingenuous “charm” campaigns by Lithuanian diplomats convinced some unknowing Jews to look away from the truth, and believe their “love” and “rescue” lies. Some were deceived. Few now remain unaware of the discrepancies. Education via J’Accuse! and Baltic Truth is generating outrage. Lithuania for Jews represents only death and deception.

Men who Murder. Lithuanian collaborators (with white armbands) enthusiastically round up Jews in July 1941 to be marched off to their deaths.

Jewish students were taught that the murders and persecution were perpetrated by Nazis, and a few, unnamed, unknown “collaborators”. The realization of the Lithuanian deception has empowered Jews and others to say loudly, clearly, meaningfully, and repeatedly, “NEVER AGAIN”.

NEVER AGAIN also means that we will not allow ourselves to be murdered at the free will of others, and we will not stand by as our murderers are heroized. We will no longer allow ourselves to be scapegoated. And so, in New York, on March 15, 2023, Jewish children stood up for murdered Jewish children in Lithuania, and cried to the heavens: “NEVER AGAIN”. The ghastly, ghostly cries from the children are getting louder.

These American Jewish children begin to restore our self-respect and our human dignity. For us, they represent life. They are our future. These children embody the adage “Never Again”. We cannot let them down by failing to provide educational truth, and we cannot provide a future without the truth of the past.

Lithuanians and Nazis did not extinguish us, the children in the photos below reflect the best of our future. They represent our survival against the Lithuanians and the Nazis.

The world heard these children’s cries for justice. Finally, a legitimate group speaks for Lithuania’s murder victims.


About the writer:

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

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


Now in their 90s and older those who kept the death camps running don’t deserve to pass away in tranquility

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(First appeared in The Times of Israel)

The recent death of an elderly German in the small Bavarian town of Coburg is hardly newsworthy, but the demise of Franz  Perlinger, several days after celebrating his 99th birthday, is actually more significant than most people could imagine. Had Perlinger not died two weeks ago, he was scheduled to be put on trial this coming October for accessory to murder in the cases of thousands of inmates in the women’s and the much smaller men’s camp of the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp in northern Germany, to which the Nazis deported more than 130,000, mostly female Polish and Soviet political prisoners.

Escaping Justice. Women inmates at the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany where Franz Perlinger served and was to stand trial as an accessory to mass murder.

The case against Perlinger would have been the eighth trial conducted in the wake of a dramatic change in German prosecution policy vis-à-vis Holocaust perpetrators, implemented in 2008. Until then, in order to convict a Nazi criminal, the prosecution would have had to prove that the suspect had committed a specific crime against a specific victim, an almost impossible challenge so many years after the crime. But based on the fact that the death camps (those with either gas chambers – Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Majdanek – or gas vans – Chelmno) were in effect “death factories”, government prosecutors were persuaded that anyone who served there could be held responsible for the murders and hence be prosecuted for “accessory to murder,” based on service alone, which could be proven by documents. Thus, the campaign to bring to justice guards in death camps, or camps with very high mortality rates was launched regardless of the age of the suspects, who all were already at least in their nineties.

Chasing the Clock. Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s chief Nazi hunter, in front of a placard reading “Operation last chance – late but not too late”, in Berlin. (Photograph: Gero Breloer/AP)

This dramatic change in German policy, spearheaded by prosecutors Thomas Walther and Kirsten Goetze, gave a new lease on life to the efforts to hold Nazi perpetrators accountable. Germany is currently the only country that has achieved multiple convictions of Holocaust criminals during the past decade-and-a- half. This is a welcome development, but having noted this important achievement, it is important to point out several serious flaws in the handling of these cases, which Perlinger’s “premature” death helps highlight.

So far, all of the defendants whose trials had been completed have been convicted, and only one had to be stopped for health reasons. (The case of Johannes Rehbogen who served as a guard at the Stutthof concentration camp was suspended because his health deteriorated and he was no longer able to follow the trial.) Unpublicized however, is the fact that between five and seven cases had to be stopped for health reasons, after indictments had been submitted against the suspects.

Killers in Court. German prosecutor Thomas Walther (above) together with Kirsten Goetze have given a new lease on life to the efforts to hold Nazi mass murders accountable.

One would imagine that given the advanced age of both the criminals and the survivors, a “fast track” would be created for these trials, but unfortunately that has not been the case. Thus instead of being exposed, prosecuted, and convicted for his role as an SS guard at Ravensbrück, Perlinger passed away in relative tranquility that he did not deserve.

Mis’trial. Crematorium at Stutthof concentration camp where Johannes Rehbogen served as a guard. Leaving it too late to prosecute as the writer warns, Rehboggen’s case was suspended because his health deteriorated, and he was no longer able to stand trial.

The German justice system should have found a way to expedite these cases. In respect of Perlinger for example, the historian in his case took more than three years to complete the important historical report on the crimes committed in the camp. In addition, the opening date of his trial was scheduled more than a year after he was charged, and the result is not at all surprising. We have already been working on the case for about half a year, and there were still eight months to go before the trial even opened!!

Inspection Tour. SS leader Heinrich Himmler (centre) visited Stutthof where more than 65,000 people died before it was liberated by the Soviet Army on 9 May 1945.

Another problem relates to failure of the German justice system to add additional staff to the Zentrale Stelle (the federal agency that vets each case of a Nazi perpetrator to decide whether the cases have validity and should be brought to trial), to enable the handling of far more cases, since the change in prosecution policy made it possible to prosecute many more persons than was the case previously.

Survived to be Sentenced. In December 2022 at a court in Germany, 97-year-old Irmgard Furchner who worked as the secretary to the SS commander of the Stutthof concentration camp received a two-year suspended sentence for aiding and abetting the murder of 10,505 people and the attempted murder of five inmates.(photo Christian Charisius/Pool via Reuters)

A third problem is the choice of prosecutors. After a case is approved for trial by the experts of the Zentrale Stelle, the file is sent to a prosecutor near the residence of the defendant. None of these prosecutors, or even some of the attorneys representing the survivor witnesses and co-plaintiffs have any experience in handling Nazi perpetrator cases. So while this has some logic in dealing with the logistics of the trial, such as the appearances of the defendants, it often results in serious mistakes. One such example was of a witness, who claimed he was born in Stutthof and that his mother had been tattooed there when inmates of Stutthof did not have numbers tattooed on their arms.

Time is obviously running out, and soon it will no longer be possible to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice. We therefore urge the German authorities to take whatever measures possible to expedite these cases promptly, in order to maximize justice.

97-year-old former secretary at a Nazi concentration camp convicted by German court | DW News

About the author:

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).


The big story of a small Nordic Jewish community

By Rony Smolar

Lay of the Land has over the months published many articles on the systematic mass murder of the Jews in Eastern Europe, particularly exposing the wide collaboration of the local populations of many of these countries and the coverup of their governments today. When one learns that the Jewish community of Lithuania was virtually wiped out wile at the most, there were only 1000 German soldiers at any one-time during WWII in this Baltic republic, one then begins to question:

Who helped the Nazis do all the killing?

A surprising twist  in the Scandinavian tale is the experience of the Jews of Finland, a country that participated in WWII initially in a defensive war against the Soviet Union, followed by another battle against the Soviet Union acting in concert with Nazi Germany and then finally fighting alongside the Allies against Germany.

So how the Jews in this Nordic state escaped the fate of their co-religionists elsewhere in all of Europe, Rony Smolar, Chairman of the Helsinki Jewish Congregation and Central Council of the Jewish Communities in Finland provides surprising answers and insights.

David E. Kaplan, Editor – Lay of the Land


What you may be surprised to learn is that during 1941-1944, the comradeship-in-arms between Finland and Germany led to an almost surreal situation, such as when German soldiers solemnly attended prayer services in a Finnish synagogue on the front line, just some miles from the battles. There they sat and listened when the Jewish soldiers of Finland read their prayers and portions of the Bible from the Torah scrolls that were donated by the Helsinki Jewish congregation. The German soldiers that were sent to the eastern front to reinforce the Finnish positions never interfered with the sermons.

Jewish soldiers of the Finnish Army, who were allied with Nazi Germany, outside the makeshift synagogue near the front lines during World War II.

I learned this from my late father, Isaac  – Sholka‖ Smolar, who founded this unique synagogue called  – ‘Sholkas shul’, almost as a challenge to the German soldiers.

My father also told me that the Jewish soldiers in the synagogue were confused, even afraid, when they saw German soldiers sitting shoulder to shoulder with praying Jewish men. The Jewish worshipers noticed that some of the Germans even showed a certain respect for the service.

This surprising experience took place while elsewhere in Europe, Jews were persecuted, as synagogues were burned and desecrated. However, this peculiar paradox  – of Jewish soldiers in the Finnish army fighting alongside German soldiers against a common enemy – the Russians, did not stop here.

Where else in wartime Europe did German soldiers, whose own country had sworn to free Europe from all Jews, would salute Jewish officers or that Jewish medical officers would treat German SS-men whose lives were literally placed in Jewish hands? On one occasion, a Jewish major in the Finnish medical corps – risking his own life and under heavy enemy fire – managed to transfer a whole German field hospital to a safer location!

Major Leo Skurnik, a Jewish medical officer (second row, second from right), was awarded an Iron Cross. In September 1941, in the face of heavy Soviet shelling, Skurnik organised the evacuation of a field hospital on the Finnish-Russian border, saving the lives of more than 600 men, including members of the SS.

Where else did it happen that German army officers awarded Jews the Iron Cross for bravery that they defiantly  declined to accept?

The field synagogue  – Sholka ́s shul‖ – stood out as a beacon literally reflecting the wartime attitude of the Finnish authorities towards its small Jewish population of some 2,000 souls. While priests provided important counseling on the battlefield and were supplied with portable altars and pulpits for prayer services,  Jews, due to their small numbers, had to provide for their own. The military authorities showed understanding toward the religious needs of Jewish soldiers, and whenever possible, they were granted leave on religious holidays and were permitted to set up and pray in their field synagogues.

A field synagogue in Karelia, Eastern Finland, during the Second World War

The synagogue functioned as a meeting place for the Jewish soldiers. They would travel over long distances on skis and on horseback for the Sabbath prayers. Many wanted to meet friends; and so the synagogue became a place where they could share experiences and enjoy traditional food from Jewish delicatessens sent from home.

The attitude of the German army command toward the Jews and the synagogue in Finland was exceptional. They considered the field synagogue to be an internal Finnish affair, something that demanded respect and a matter in which they had no right to interfere. Not even the German diplomatic corps, or military staff in Finland, tried to have the synagogue closed.

The Jewish soldiers in the Finnish army certainly did not feel comfortable fighting alongside the Germans, but some documents show that the Germans also found it extremely difficult to believe that they would be fighting side-by-side with Jewish soldiers in the Finnish war. Many had never met a Jew and were heavily influenced by Nazi propaganda.

The fact that many of the Jewish soldiers spoke Yiddish, a language that resembles German, helped them to communicate, though this caused friction in some situations between the Jewish and non-Jewish Finnish soldiers that could not find a common language with the Germans.

The four Blankett brothers were part of several hundred Jewish soldiers in the Finnish army during World War II.

When the Winter War broke out in November 1939, the small Jewish community was fully prepared to offer their sons in the defense of Finland.

One hundred ten Jewish men participated in the war, fifteen of whom were killed in action. The Winter War was, for Finnish Jews, considered to be a war of independence, where it could be said that Jews had ultimately fought for the  the right to be called Finns. Two hundred sixty-seven men participated in the Continuation War of 1941-1944, in addition to the many Jewish women who served in the Finnish women’s auxiliary defense services, called Lotta Svärd‖, and other civilian works. Eight Jewish men were killed in that war.

From the Jewish perspective, the situation during the Continuation War was unique. The Jewish soldiers of Finland were fighting on the same side as Germany, a country that sought the extermination of Jews in Europe. From the Jewish soldiers’ perspective, it was strange for them to fight their Russian brothers of the same faith who were amongst the enemy forces. Finnish Jews have their roots deep in Russia; in some cases, cousin fought a cousin and uncle fought his nephew.

Jewish soldiers fulfilled their duties concerned and uncertain about their future. Afterall, Jews thought differently from the majority of the Finnish population, who believed that if Germany lost the war, Finland would also lose; but if the Germans were to win, so would Finland. Regardless of whether the Soviet Union or Germany won the war, the Jews saw themselves as always being on the losing side. It is important to stress that the fear of Germany was overshadowed by a passion to preserve Finnish independence and retake the lands taken by Stalin in the Winter War.

However, FEAR dogged the footsteps of Jewish soldiers as they went about their duties. As reports of the horrible fates of Jews in other parts of Europe spread, doubts entered their minds. They wondered would they and their families meet a similar fate? There were incidents of threats aimed at the Jewish soldiers, especially in the far northern sector of the battles in the Finnish Lapland, where an SS northern division operated. The fears were sometimes exaggerated, though not unfounded.

Finnish Jews were also in a difficult position in the eyes of the Jewish refugees, who in the late 1930s had escaped from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. They questioned how it was that Jews could serve defending Finland alongside Germans? Being allied with Germany was a major moral question that every Jewish soldier would face for years to come.

After the war it was uneasy for Finnish Jews when questions were asked from Jews from other parts of the world.

  • How was it possible that Finnish Jews fought side by side with German soldiers?
  • Didn’t Finnish Jews know what was happening in the Third Reich and Nazi occupied areas?
  • Hadn’t anyone told them that the annihilation of the Jews in Europe was in full speed?
  • Why were Jewish soldiers fighting against the Soviet Union knowing that this could lengthen Hitler’s time in power?
  • Were Finland’s Jews traitors?

The reputation of Jewish soldiers as Germany’s allies was questioned years later at the Congress of World Jewish War Veterans in Jerusalem. Veterans from other countries refused to have anything to do with the representatives from Finland.

Needless to say, the full wartime picture needed urgent enlightening. The big question remained:

Could Finland’s Jewish men have refused to participate alongside Germany during the Continuation War?

The answer is definitely no. That would have been a dereliction of duty from a Finnish  perspective and would have risked the lives of all Jews in Finland.

Veteran Jewish soldiers later explained their actions by saying that Finland was fighting its own, separate war against its eastern neighbor, an enemy which it shared with Germany, and that Jewish soldiers defended neither Germany’s interests nor the expansion of Nazi Germany’s rule. Like other Finns, they fought for the independence of Finland.

It was only after the war ended that reports began to circulate about demands by Nazi Germany for the liquidation of the Jewish community in Finland. The fate of the Jews in Finland could have been similar to that of the Jews of Hungary, Norway, or Estonia, since they were also included in the Wannsee Protocol of January 1942, known as Endlösung, the Final Solution, that listed 11 million Jews of Europe that were to be destroyed by the Nazi regime. The document listed the 2,300 Finnish Jews, one of the smallest communities. Did this small number save the Jews of Finland? That connection has not been proven. In other words, Finland’s Jews did not have numbers to warrant German attention.

Germany placed greater weight on maintaining a good working relationship with Finland than on pursuing anti-Jewish initiatives that would have risked disrupting the military collaboration by provoking public and official Finnish opposition. Furthermore, the Nazi propaganda trumpeting allegations of Jewish economic influence would have had little resonance in wartime Finland, where Jews were mostly involved in small businesses having little effect on the Finnish economy.

Also, while Finland was not immune to antisemitism, the sentiment was never widespread or violent.

It is worth mentioning that during World War II, Finnish attitudes toward minorities in general, and Jews in particular, stemmed from the Nazi ideology identifying Jews with Bolshevists. A number of Soviet leaders and well-known Bolsheviks were Jews. This fact easily led people to conclude that when a person is Jew, he must be a Bolshevik – and an enemy of Finland. In the light of Nazi Germany’s race doctrine, Finland and the Scandinavian countries were viewed as members of the superior, northern race. The achievements of Finland’s Winter War were so impressive that the Germans felt inclined to elevate the Finns racially to almost Germanic in comparison.

In certain circles in Finland, this raised questionable interest.

An example of this took place in a classroom in Helsinki when a teacher, during a biology class, called a Jewish student to the front of the class. He measured his skull to demonstrate that the boy belonged to an inferior race. The Jews of Finland were on edge when Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler came to visit just half a year after the crucial Wannsee Conference. Then, Prime Minister of Finland Johan  Rangell revealed after the war that his German guest had asked him about the question of the Jews in Finland, to which he replied

similar to those of King Christian X of Denmark, “Wir haben keine Judenfrage‖”, meaning:

We don’t have any Jewish question.”

Documents show that this topic was dropped and never raised again, even though there is evidence that Himmler was interested in the Jews of Finland. In an unguarded moment during Himmler’s visit, the Finnish Army’s intelligence managed to photograph the documents in the Nazi leader’s briefcase. In addition to containing military plans, as expected, it also included a copy of the Wannsee Conference ́s protocols that listed the number of Finnish Jews with their names and addresses.

In the archives, there is a transcript of the meeting between Himmler and his host, Marshal Mannerheim. It shows that the German guest tried to initiate discussion about the Jews. “Not even one single Jewish soldier will be taken from my army to be turned over to Germany. That cannot happen except over my dead body”, stated Mannerheim. It appears that Mannerheim’s resolute response made an overpowering impression on Himmler. There is evidence that Hitler was reportedly awed by Mannerheim as well. Hitler flew to Finland in June 1942 to congratulate Mannerheim on his seventy-fifth birthday. Whatever the words spoken on that occasion, Mannerheim’s part in shielding Finland’s Jews from Germany is widely acknowledged.

Jews in Helsinki lived in fear, even though they continued to enjoy full civil rights throughout the war. Democracy and rule of law prevailed in the country and anti-Jewish laws were non-existent. Many secretly followed the movements of German troops in the streets of Helsinki with horror. Swastika banners were everywhere. Jews kept their distance from German soldiers and avoided all kinds of contact with them.

The synagogue of Helsinki in 1908. (Photo by IK Inha)

In other parts of Finland as well, Jews avoided German soldiers. In a restaurant in the city of Turku, a few drunken German soldiers demanded that a Jewish man leave the premises or they would rearrange his nose. The manager of the restaurant advised his Jewish customer to leave, and so he did.

There was also an incident where a famous Jewish soprano who in a concert for German troops, turned down a request by the audience to sing the Horst Wessel Song, the song that had become the Nazi Party anthem and Germany’s official co-national anthem from 1933 to 1945. This was an act of bravery.

One of the two synagogues in Finland, Turku Synagogue in the city of Turku – the oldest city in Finland – was completed in 1912.

During the war, there were about 150 Jewish refugees in Finland, mainly from Germany and Austria. Entrance had been rather easy, for Finland had existing agreements with Germany and Austria for traveling without a visa. Due to possible repercussions resulting from joint Finnish-German relations and for fear of incidents, officials (especially the Interior Ministry of Finland and its subordinate, the feared state police, Valpo), took care to keep the Jewish refugees away from Helsinki. The authorities did not want the German soldiers to come face-to-face with any Jewish refugees in the capital, so they were transferred to small villages to fend for themselves.

Language difficulties and lack of funds meant that refugees faced a very difficult situation in their isolation. In cooperation with the authorities, Jewish congregations around Finland came to their aid and they were provided with funds, employment and clothing. For the Jewish holidays; they also received traditional provisions, religious books and so on.

A Finnish Jewish businessman by the name of Abraham Stiller (the brother of the famous film producer from the 1920s and 1930s, Mauritz Stiller, who made the Swede Greta Garbo a prominent movie star in Hollywood) became both a defender and a mouthpiece of his Jewish brethren. His humanitarian efforts were felt by Jewish prisoners of war (POWs) from the Red Army and even Muslim Tatars who were captured by Finland. Stiller visited most POW camps where Red Army Jews were imprisoned.

By the end of the war, Abraham Stiller had saved the lives of 150 Jews who had sought for refuge in Finland. In later years, he would become known as the “Schindler of Finland”.

Mauritz Stiller was a Swedish film director of Finnish Jewish origin, best known for discovering Greta Garbo and bringing her to America. His brother, Abraham Stiller saved the lives of 150 Jews who had sought for refuge in Finland. In later years, he would become known as the “Schindler of Finland”.

A dramatic turn took place in November 1942, when Finnish security personnel, operating in secrecy, handed eight foreign Jews into the hands of Gestapo in occupied Estonia, the southern neighbor of Finland. Press censorship could not stop the news of these deportations from reaching both Finnish Jews and the 150 refugees.

Abraham Stiller was one of the first people to receive a written message about impending deportations. Stiller was furious and made the information public. He contacted his good friend, then Minister Väinö Tanner, who in turn contacted other members of the government. This created a government crisis. In order to solve the crisis, Prime Minister Rangell had to give in to the pro-German Minister of Interiors ́ claims that those to be deported were spies and criminals. Members of the Finnish and Swedish press promoted public awareness of the deportations, and the changed atmosphere in Finland toward the end of 1942 helped to improve the situation for Jewish refugees.

Jews at the time were afraid that this small deportation might be part of a much larger one. Some were even convinced that the German cargo ships that frequently were in the port of Helsinki were ready to transport them out of Finland. In fact, the cargo ships were arriving frequently because the Germans brought in arms, ammunition, equipment, and food.

Fifty-eight years later, at the unveiling ceremony of a monument in the memory of these eight deportees, the Finnish Prime Minister asked for forgiveness from the Jewish community on behalf of Finland and Finnish people. It was “a moment of shame” in the country’s history, he said. The Church of Finland, which during the war had kept quiet about the fate of the Jews in Finland, asked for forgiveness.

Jews have been living in Finland for the past 150 years. Many of them had fled from Czarist Russia, avoiding the sons being conscripted into the Russian Army for up to 25 years. Both my grandfathers came to Finland before the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Jews of those times were observant, spoke only Russian and Yiddish, and were skilled mainly in manual work and in dealing with secondhand clothing.

One of the first tasks was to build prayer rooms close to their residences or workplaces. In 1906, they had collected money to build the main synagogue in Helsinki that still exists and is now a tourist attraction. Our forefathers founded burial societies, various social aid organizations, and the Sport Club Maccabi, the oldest (uninterrupted) existing Jewish sports club in the world. Then came the Yiddish theater groups, literature clubs, the Jewish choir, and many other cultural activities that are a large part of modern Jewish Finnish life.

Helsinki today with a kosher delicatessen. (photo credit: Matt Siegel )

Since Jews were granted full civil rights immediately after the independence of Finland in 1917, they have been an essential part of the Finnish society. Jews are active in politics; in culture; and in various professions, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and accountants. Today, there are only about 1,300 Jews in Finland, but the main congregation in Helsinki is able to provide all the services that the community requires.

In  multicultural Finland today, we see ourselves as Finns of Jewish faith. Outsiders – among them the prime minister of Finland – have described the Finnish Jews as “the soul of Finnish society”. What a striking description about a small community that has managed to survive and provide hope and guidance to newcomers!

Finnish Jews talk about fighting alongside Nazi Germany during WWII

About the Writer:

Born in Helsinki, Rony Smolar is an editor, news correspondent, author, lecturer and historian who has worked as a correspondent covering the Middle East for the Broadcasting Company of Finland as well as for Finnish newspapers. He has authored a number of books on Finland’s Jewish community and is currently working on a folklore history about Finnish Jewry. He also host a weekly radio program “Newsweek in Israel”. He is a past President of the Jewish congregation in Helsinki,  a past President of the Central Council of Jewish Communities in Finland and a past Vice-President of the European Jewish Congress.

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


By 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).


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).