FROM CLOSED BOOK TO OPEN BOOK

An exposé of Polish participation in the mass murder of Jews

THE TOWNS OF DEATH  – Pogroms Against Jews By Their Neighbors by Miroslaw Tryczyk,  Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2021.

Book review by Nazi-hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(First published in The Jerusalem Report)

There are very few books which influence the rewriting of history, but this book should be one of them. It is the history of the fate of the Jewish communities in fifteen towns and villages in eastern Poland in the Bialystok region, in which the Jews were murdered beginning in summer 1941 not by the Nazis, but by their Polish neighbors. The communities which met this fate were :

Radzilow, Wasosz, Jedwabne, Szczuczyn, Bzury, Skaje, Goniadz, Rajgrod, Jasionowka, Kolno, Suchowola, Bransk, Lipnik, Danowo, and Dziegiele.

Paint the Town ‘Red. The mass murder of Jews in their hometowns by their neighbors is authentically revealed by witness reports from survivors, bystanders and the murderers themselves found in court testimonies.

The common denominator among them for more than half a century, was the false narrative that their Jewish residents had been murdered by the Nazis, a “fact”  inscribed on the various monuments to commemorate their memory. In 2001, however, Polish historian Jan Gross, who for many years had been teaching at Princeton, shocked Polish society by publishing Neighbors, a historically accurate narrative of the mass murder of almost all the 1,600 Jews of Jedwabne, many of whom were burned alive by their neighbors in the barn of a Polish resident of the town.

Poles ApartAntonina Wyrzykowska and her husband were beaten by fellow Poles for saving Jews in Jedwabne, and were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations

Neighbors shocked Polish society and sparked intense internal controversy. Needless to say, it was totally rejected by ultranationalists and nationalists, and was considered an unprecedented attack on the accepted historical narrative of Poland during World War II. As the author explains in his concluding chapter, the Communists who ruled Poland in the aftermath of World War II completely denied the participation of Poles in Holocaust crimes. According to their version of the events, the Germans were the exclusive perpetrators of the crimes of the Holocaust and many Poles were Righteous Among the Nations. The facts revealed in Neighbors, however, cast serious doubt on that narrative, and created widespread public interest in the issue. which led to a forensic murder investigation of the events in Jedwabne by the Polish Institute of National Memory, which confirmed that the perpetrators were indeed ethnic Poles. In 2001, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski publicly apologized for the crime, as did President Bronislaw Komorowski in 2011.

Unholy Alliance. The author demonstrates the pivotal role of the Catholic clergy and individual priests, the intellectual classes, and political circles in perpetuating anti-Semitism leading to the mass murder of Polish Jews.

Following the rise to power of the ultranationalist Law and Justice party, however, President Andrzej Duda publicly criticized Komorowski’s apology, leaving the crimes in Jedwabne an open wound in Polish society. This bitter ongoing controversy, is what makes this book incredibly important, because it conclusively proves that the murders of the Jews of Jedwabne was not by any means an isolated incident, but rather a crime which was repeated by ethnic Poles in fourteen other communities in the same geographic area during the same time period. Tryczyk’s research is impeccable and is primarily based on court documents from over 700 cases conducted in Poland under the decree of August 31, 1944 on the punishment of “Fascist-Nazi Criminals Guilty of Murder and Torture of Civilians and Prisoners and of the Traitors of the Polish Nation,” supplemented by additional relevant sources such as Jewish memoirs by survivors, and the documentation of the proceedings of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, and many others.

Gag Order! “Poland is trying to ‘gag’ history,” says Polish-American sociologist and historian and Professor of History, emeritus at Princeton University Jan Gross who has been a catalyst for historical debates about Polish behavior during the Holocaust ( Photo: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Besides presenting much descriptive evidence on the crimes in each of the communities and their incredible cruelty (Jews were burned alive and murdered by iron-clad stakes, knives, axes, saws, pitchforks and hammers, but very rarely by firearms),  Tryczyk attempts quite successfully to explain the reasons for the pogroms, and the four stages of the process which transformed the Jewish residents from neighbors to defenseless sub-humans. The first stage was the intensive prewar antisemitic incitement against the Jews by the National Democrats political party and by many local Catholic priests. The second stage was the power vacuum left by the fall of the Polish state in 1939, and the subsequent flight of the Soviets in spring 1941, which was filled by the creation of a local Polish administration with its own militia, which took drastic measures against people accused of supporting the Soviets. The third stage was characterized by attacks on wealthy Jews, plunder of their property, rape of Jewish women, and beatings and humiliations of Jews. The Nazis arrive in the fourth stage and give their approval for a pogrom. In some cases they leave the murders to the local perpetrators, in others they cooperate with the killers.

Buying its Past to Bullying its Scholars. Before being overturned by an appellate court in Poland, Barbara Engelking (l) and Jan Grabowski (r) had been ordered in 2021 to apologize for their research on Poles who collaborated with Nazis (Yad Vashem via AP / courtesy)

Given the controversial “history policy” of the Law and Justice party and their determination to hide the Holocaust crimes committed by ethnic Poles, as per the notorious law of 2018 which made attributing Holocaust crimes to the Polish state a punishable offence, and the attempt to punish outstanding Holocaust scholars Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking for revealing Polish participation in the Shoah, Tryczyk’s book has become even more important.

It is not an easy book to read, but it is required reading for anyone interested in the Holocaust history of Polish Jewry.



About the writer:

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and 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 THE GRACE OF THE GAME

The Holocaust, a legacy and an unprecedented American dream: Dan Grunfeld

Book reviewed here by Nazi Hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff

(First published in The Jerusalem Report)

By all accounts, Dan Grunfeld is a young man with a very bright future ahead of him. Born in 1984 to a highly successful couple, his father a basketball star who parlayed his athletic success into a job as a top NBA executive, his mother was the daughter of a founding partner of one of the largest law firms in Wisconsin, his future looked quite rosy. Add the facts that Dan is highly intelligent, an extremely talented writer, a hard worker and an individual with empathy and the right sensitivities regarding life and its various challenges, his journey into adulthood should have been a case of very smooth sailing from childhood all the way to the present. A book about his life, however, would most probably have been incredibly boring and not worth the read.

Surviving to Thriving. Says the author: “It’s a happy, hopeful story of basketball, perseverance, inspiration. Yes, I discovered tears, but I discovered a lot of love and laughs.”

Yet Dan’s life and career became much more challenging than he ever could have imagined, because of his family’s Jewish origin, the trials and tribulations and horrific losses of parents and siblings experienced by his Hungarian Holocaust survivor grandparents, and the unique basketball career in America of his father Ernie, who achieved incredible success on and off the court, following his immigration from Communist Romania to the United States at the age of nine. Rather than purposely ignoring or conveniently forgetting  these painful aspects of his family history, Dan embraced them all, and they became highly significant factors, which motivated him to try and emulate his father’s athletic achievements, even though his natural athletic abilities did not measure up to those of his Dad. It also made him determined to share his grandparents’ Holocaust and postwar travails in great detail to highlight their incredible resilience and fortitude. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, this is the first book about American college and pro basketball, whose real heroes are an elderly couple of Holocaust survivors.

Eye on the Ball. Ernie Grunfeld hugs his children, Rebecca, 12, and the author, Danny, 9, at a news conference in Harrison, New York, July 21, 1993. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

The story of the Grunfeld family begins in the village of Micula, in rural Transylvania, then part of Romania, on the border with Hungary. As Dan describes it:

 “there was natural beauty, but no running water, electricity or cars…Toilets were holes in the ground with makeshift wooden seats.”

Anyu, Dan’s grandmother was one of ten children, five boys and five girls. The family was modern Orthodox and relatively well-off, and appeared to be living an almost idyllic, if technologically primitive, life. The problems began in 1940 when Northern Transylvania was transferred from Romania to Hungary, in the framework of the Second Vienna Award. Within a year, the Hungarians began drafting Jewish males of military age to serve in the labor battalions, many of which were sent to accompany the Hungarian soldiers serving on the Eastern front. Their conditions were absolutely terrible, and Anyu’s oldest brother Ernie was purposely poisoned to death by a sadistic antisemitic commander in a labor camp in Ukraine.

Tragedy to Trophies. Ernie Grunfeld with his mother Anyu (Lily) Grunfeld in front of his trophy case. Ernie was named after his mother’s oldest brother who was purposely poisoned to death by a sadistic anti-Semitic commander in a labor camp in Ukraine. (Courtesy)

These problems paled, however, to the horrific situation following the Nazi invasion of Hungary on March 19, 1944. Within two months, the Nazis began rounding up all the Jews living outside Budapest, and deporting them to be murdered in Auschwitz. In Dan’s detailed description of Anyu’s survival in the Hungarian capital, his grandmother showed incredible resourcefulness, not only in saving herself and her sisters, but assisting other Jews by obtaining for them the Schutz-Passe documents issued by Swedish diplomat Raul Wallenberg, which spared their bearers from deportation.

Swedish Savior. When Dan and his grandmother Anyu visit the Holocaust Museum, the first place they go is the corner honoring Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved Anyu’s life twice as she evaded the Nazis in the Budapest ghetto. “My grandmother still talks about him to this day.”

After the Russians liberated Budapest, Anyu headed home with one of her siblings, only to realize that most of her family had been murdered and almost every single one of their possessions had been robbed by their non-Jewish neighbors. She married a fellow survivor and tried to rebuild her life, but they realized that Communist Romania was not an ideal place to raise a Jewish family, and so after about a decade, they were able to emigrate to the United States and start all over again in Forest Hills, Queens. There the same values of hard work and resourcefulness served them well, and even the tragic loss of one of their two sons to leukemia did not break their spirits. It was in New York City, that their son Ernie achieved the American dream, starring in basketball at Forest Hills High, a success he replicated at University of Tennessee, which paved the way for his NBA career on and off the court, and set Dan on his path to try and match his father’s successes.

In a League of his Own. Ernie Grunfeld, star of the New York Knicks in October 22, 1982 is the only son of Holocaust survivors known to play in the National Basketball Association — or any other major American sports league.
(AP Photo/Joe Giza)

As someone who grew up in New York City fantasizing of achieving basketball history as the first Orthodox Jew to play in the NBA, despite totally lacking the skills required, I very much identified with Dan Grunfeld‘s quest to duplicate his father’s basketball career.

Aiming High. Ernie Grunfeld lifting Dan as a young boy who would emerge himself as a  pro basketball player in Israel, Europe and the United States, and the tournament MVP for the gold-medal-winning Team USA in the 2009 Maccabi Games. (Courtesy)

His quest was noble, albeit somewhat obsessive, but he did make it to the pros, at least in Europe. But as Dan himself will admit, and as the readers of his book will learn,  basketball is not the most important thing in life. The fact that he was able to beautifully convey his family history and remain loyal to his Jewish heritage, is the most valuable lesson from his journey.

Triumph Books: Chicago, Illinois, 2021, 2022, $20.00



By the Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, A Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream



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).

HOW QUICKLY ORDINARY PEOPLE CAN TURN FROM LIVING ALONGSIDE TO EXTERMINATING EACH OTHER

Why the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre explores the history of the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda side by side.

By Tali Nates

(Based on an article first published online by DAFKADOTCOM )

In April 1994, while South Africans were jubilantly voting in the country’s first democratic elections, in Rwanda, a mere three and a half hours’ flight away, hundreds of thousands of Tutsi, as well as Hutu who opposed the genocide, were being slaughtered .

1994. Two countries in Africa. Two very different paths!

Not that South Africa’s transition to democracy has been easy. As xenophobic violence has shown, South Africans too have the potential for horrific violence against an “other”. 

In 2006, during one of my visits to Rwanda, a personal experience profoundly impacted my thinking on the creation of a future Centre. At a visit to Ntarama Church Genocide Memorial site where more than 5000 Tutsi were murdered, a young survivor, Cocous, was visibly upset. That morning we had also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the last resting place of over 250 000 Tutsi, including his parents. Sitting with Cocous, who bears a large machete scar on his head, I shared my own family’s history. I told him about the murder of my grandmother Leah Turner and my two aunts, Cela and Helen. My father Moses and his brother Henryk were rescued by Oskar Schindler, but the rest of the family were murdered in the Holocaust. He touched my face in disbelief saying:

“and still after that, genocide happened in my country?”

We spoke about the words ‘Never again’ placed on every memorial to the murdered Tutsi around Rwanda. They sounded hollower than ever.

Never again, yet again?

That encounter persuaded me that any museum in South Africa dedicated to the Holocaust and genocide had to include the story of Rwanda. ​

Personal Horrors. Sylvestre Sendacyeye, survivor from Rwanda, next to the Memorial for the Tutsi who were murdered in the genocide. (Photograph: Catherine Boyd)

This conversation took place while we were reflecting on the importance of memorialising the Holocaust and genocides in the 20th century and how to make such immense human catastrophes feel resonant, relevant and ‘personal’ to South Africans in the twenty-first century. Around the world museums are emerging more and more as institutions dedicated to facilitating human rights awareness and education, dialogue, and debate; we hoped that the Centre would encourage South Africans to grapple with our own history (and how that continues to inform our present), within the context of broader histories.

With or without our intervention, the Holocaust is present in South African public life. In 2007, the Department of Education included the study of ‘Nazi Germany and the Holocaust’ in the South African national social sciences and history curriculum for Grade 9 and 11 (15 and 17 years old). By first learning about the Holocaust and then about Apartheid, they hoped students would have a better understanding of human rights, peace and democracy. All good in theory, but to make this really work requires a huge amount of education before the first lesson is even presented. Much of the essential preparation is provided by three independent Centres, all under a national association, the South African Holocaust & Genocide Foundation. The first Centre was opened in Cape Town (1999) and a second one was established in Durban (2008). The Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre was officially opened in March 2019 but operated from temporary offices since 2008.

Illuminating Darkness. The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre sheds light on the holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.(Photo JHGC, Johannesburg)

In order to offer visitors a deeper understanding of recent genocides, the core exhibition, developed over many years, covers more generally genocides in the 20th century, starting in 1904 with the Herero and Nama genocide in Namibia and the Genocide of Christian Armenians beginning in 1915. It also looks at the development of the word genocide and explores the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and its aftermath. Finally, the exhibition connects to current human rights abuses in South Africa, particularly xenophobia and racism.

The iconic building is replete with symbolism. Its South African architect, Lewis Levin reflected:

How can the language of architecture be recruited to describe and symbolize the terrible events that took place in Kigali and Auschwitz?”

Asking Holocaust and Rwandan survivors what symbols they would like to see represented in the building, Levin recalls:

The first images that emerged from our discussions were those of trains, railway lines and the vast transportation network of Europe that was employed and diverted to haul people to their deaths. Trains and railways, once a symbol of industrial progress, in the eyes of 20th century modernists, were transformed by the Nazis and their collaborators into a vast killing machine. In Africa, the railways that represented the great dream of the colonialists, not only brought along empire, but also oppression and human misery”.

The building’s façade is lined with railway lines embedded in concrete and rock. The railway, a symbol of modernity and progress, as well as oppression and suffering, is a strong reminder of genocide, a man-made catastrophe.

 “The next images that haunted the survivors,” Levin continued, “were the forests and landscapes of death. The Nazis murdered Jews and others within the panoramas of the European landscapes, often in lyrical forest settings. In Rwanda, the genocide took place in a spectacular landscape of lush green vegetation and terraced hills”. Indigenous yellowwood trees wrap the building from all sides. As you enter the foyer, the railway lines disappear into voids, memorialising the loss and scars of genocide.

Story of a Survivor. Doris Lurie, survivor from Vienna, Austria, with her son Peter next to her portrait and story. (Photo: Catherine Boyd)

LOOKING IN AND LOOKING OUT

​The permanent exhibition area has wide, high windows, unlike many other museums that present this history in darkness. The design invites the visitor to remember that genocide does not happen only in the dark but in broad daylight while neighbours are watching. It challenges them to explore their role as bystanders today and encourages them to move to action. The exhibition journey ends in a Garden of Reflection with a soundscape, Remember/Zachor/Ibuka, by renowned South African composer Philip Miller, with music, songs and testimony of survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda.
 
The JHGC’s core exhibition and education programmes feature stories, photographs and artefacts of Johannesburg survivors that would not be found in any other museum in the world and are uniquely South African. The Centre collected many photographs, documents and objects from survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda. Genocide survivor Xavier Ngabo, for example, donated objects found with the remains of his mother Beatrice. In response to hearing his testimony, students sponsored his return to Rwanda to find the remains of his parents and bury them. 

Processing Evil. Most important are South Africa’s students, who will be tomorrow’s leaders, to visit the Holocaust Centre.(Photo Catherine Boyd)

The JHGC recorded hours of testimonies from Holocaust and Rwandan survivors. For many of the Rwandan survivors, when filmed, it was the first time they told their story – 20 years after the genocide. Holocaust and genocide survivors are also among the Centre’s volunteers and share their testimonies with students at schools, colleges and universities.

One recent student is 21-year-old Mikateko Mnene, in her final year at the University of Johannesburg; studying a Bachelors in Education degree, who describes her visit to the JHGC in April 2022 as “eye-opening” in that the experience “made us more aware that stereotypes, even though seemingly insignificant, can turn into mass persecution and murder. This is exactly what happened to the Jews.”

“Never Again”. Studying to be a teacher,  Holocaust Centre visitor Mikateko Mnene believes we need to educate“the world can become a better place.”

Struck firstly by how “such atrocious cruelties could ever happen, but they did and they can again if we do not make a stand and watch each other’s backs,”  Mikateko draws the lesson of her visit to what is happening closer to home when she says:

 “This experience also made us more aware of the current issues we are facing in South Africa and how the xenophobic stereotypes we are seeing now should not be taken lightly.”

She says that as a teacher in training:

I paid great attention to how the Holocaust affected children and teachers, and how the education sector was infiltrated to support and promote antisemitism. I realised the power and influence of teachers and the education sector. Loving children so much, it was so painful to read about the children in the ghettos and camps and how some of them were used for medical experiments through which some died. I am inspired by the few teachers who tried to continue teaching the children. I asked myself as a teacher, what would I have done? I strongly believe that if we could all do our bit to stand for what is right and just in our different career sectors, the world can become a better place.”

Auschwitz survivor and writer, Primo Levi’s words greet visitors as they enter the JHGC:

It happened therefore it can happen again; this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere”.

When visitors leave the Centre these words feel ever more painfully relevant.



About the Writer:

Tali Nates is the founder and director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre. She is a historian who lectures internationally on Holocaust education, genocide prevention, reconciliation and human rights. She has published many articles and contributed chapters to different books, among them God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors (2015) and Remembering The Holocaust in Educational Settings (2018)






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).

LITHUANIAN JEWS ARE STILL AVOIDING THEIR COUNTRY’S HOLOCAUST DISTORTION

What a shame that those who work to bring Lithuania’s large-scale participation in Holocaust crimes to light cannot be honored by the Jewish community there

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

[Courtesy of “The Times of Israel“]

Last week, the Lithuanian Jewish community hosted the “Fifth World Litvak Congress” in Vilnius (Vilna) from Sunday, May 22 until Thursday, May 26. In theory, the event is open to any Jew of Lithuanian origin and anyone who has a meaningful connection to the history, politics, or culture of Lithuanian Jewry. 

The program featured an opening event in the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament), cultural events, as well as visits to Kaunas (Kovno), Panevezys (Ponevitch), Seduva (my grandmother’s birthplace), and other sites of Jewish interest. The congress was also addressed by Lithuanian politicians, such as Seimas Speaker Viktorija Čmilyté-Nielsen, the patron of the congress, foreign experts on combatting antisemitism, such as European Commissioner Katharina Von Schnurbein and former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, as well as scholars who are experts on aspects of Lithuanian Jewish history, such as American Professor David Fishman and Israeli Dr. Ben-Tsiyon Klibansky

The program even included presentations which addressed the ostensibly most controversial subjects regarding Jewish history in Lithuania, those dealing with the role of Lithuanians in the Holocaust. Thus, for example, Faina Kukliansky, the chairperson of the local Jewish community for close to a decade, was allotted all of 15 minutes for the important topic of “Thirty Years of History, Problems and Challenges of the Lithuanian Jewish Community”, and Lithuanian professor Violeta Davoliūte of Vilna University was given a whole quarter of an hour to speak about “Memory of the Shoah.”

Diluting the Truth. Lithuanian professor  Violeta Davoliūtė of Vilna University was allotted only 15 minutes to speak about “Memory of the Shoah” as was Faina Kukliansky, the chairperson of the local Jewish community on her important topic of “Thirty Years of History, Problems and Challenges of the Lithuanian Jewish Community”.

In other words, the congress had no intention of exposing, let alone attempting to deal, with the dangerous problem of Lithuanian Holocaust distortion, which has plagued the country since it regained its independence from the Soviet Union in March 1990. Given the fact that the local Jewish community numbers less than 5,000 members, and suffers from internal dissension, one cannot blame them for staging an event, which is a festival of celebration of a community doomed to extinction, highlighting the renovation of synagogues in communities without a single Jew, which will never again fulfill their original purpose.

Ironically, a different event sponsored by the Igud Yotzei Lita (Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel) was held in Tel Aviv the previous week, attracting a large crowd of Litvaks, anxious to combat the false narrative promoted for the last three decades by the Lithuanian government, which minimizes the extremely significant role of local collaborators, and glorifies Holocaust perpetrators who led the post-World War II fight against the Soviet occupation.

The guests of honor were two descendants of Lithuanian citizens, both currently residing in the United States, who were not invited to attend, let alone present, at the current Litvak World Congress, and not by accident. Both are determined to do whatever they can to persuade the Lithuanian authorities to honestly confront the large-scale participation of Lithuanians in Holocaust crimes, and thereby earned the disdain of Lithuanian officials, which naturally affects the attitude of the local Jewish community. 

The star of the event was Silvia Foti, the granddaughter of one of the biggest Lithuanian national heroes, Jonas Noreika, who was a leader of the post-World War II opposition to the Soviets, but played a key role in Holocaust crimes as the local liaison with the Nazis in northwest Lithuania. Her story is truly amazing. 

Raised in Marquette Park, Chicago, the largest concentration of Lithuanians outside Vilnius, Silvia imbibed the deep adulation of her grandfather by her Lithuanian émigré neighbors, and grew up in an ultra-patriotic Lithuanian family. At the deathbed request of her mother, who had originally undertaken to write her father’s biography, Silvia began to research her grandfather’s life, only to discover his key role, in the mass murder of thousands of Jews. Instead of abandoning the project, Silvia was determined to fully clarify his past, and ultimately realized that her beloved ancestor was indeed a Nazi war criminal. The result was her illuminating book:

The Nazi’s Granddaughter

How I Discovered That My Grandfather Was a War Criminal.

The Troubled Truth. Silvia Foti began to research her revered Lithuanian grandfather’s life, only to discover that her beloved ancestor was indeed a Nazi war criminal participating in the mass murder of Jews. The result was her illuminating book, which Lithuania prefers no-one to read.

The second guest of honor was Grant Gochin, a Litvak born in South Africa, currently residing in Los Angeles, who lost practically his entire family in the area where Noreika collaborated with the Nazis. Ever since he discovered Noreika’s role in the murders, he has waged a legal battle against the Lithuanian government to force them to cancel the numerous honors bestowed upon the man. He has submitted such suits to Lithuanian and international courts, and a current suit is under consideration at the United Nations. When Silvia found the initial evidence regarding her grandfather’s crimes, she reached out to Grant, who has devoted much effort to assisting her with the publication and promotion of her book, which has attracted worldwide attention and been published in several languages, including, quite recently, in Lithuanian.

Message Muted. Why were these well-received US guests-of-honor at an ‘Association of Lithuanian Jews’ event in May 2022 in Tel Aviv, Israel – Grant Gochin (left) and Silvia Foti – NOT invited to attend a week later the ‘Litvak World Congress in Lithuania’? Clearly, there is a reluctance in Lithuania to provide public platforms to these strong advocates  set on exposing the false narrative by the Lithuanian government, which downplays the magnitude of local collaboration during WWII and glorifies Holocaust perpetrators who later emerged as heroes in their subsequent fight against Soviet occupation. (courtesy)

Both Silvia and Grant were given the standing ovation they well deserved by a very appreciative audience of Litvaks, who are sick of the lies and false narrative of the Holocaust promoted by the Lithuanian government. They are part of a group of truth-tellers in Lithuania, determined to fight for the accurate account of the tragedy of Lithuanian Jewry, such as Prof. Dovid Katz, and Prof. Pinchos Fridberg, and ethnic Lithuanians like Ruta Vanagaite (who was the first to deal with this issue after discovering that her family were participants in Holocaust crimes) and researcher Evaldas Balčiūnas. None of them were invited to speak at the Litvak Congress, but their efforts will ultimately count more than any of the speeches delivered in Vilnius last week.

Other Voices Unheard. The writer and Nazi-hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff (right) with Ruta Vanagaite, who was among the first  to expose the whitewashing by successive Lithuanian governments of the huge extent of Lithuanian complicity in Holocaust crimes after discovering that members of her family were participants. She co-authored an exposè of the cover-up with Dr. Zuroff, entitled (in English) Our People; Discovering Lithuania’s Hidden Holocaust (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020), which was a best-seller in Lithuanian. Neither of the authors were invited to address last week’s Litvak World Congress in Vilnius.




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).

Has Israeli TV lost all interest in Nazi-hunting?

The toughest “nut to crack” is Israeli television

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

First appeared in The Jerusalem Post (Courtesy, permission granted)

Practically every person who works in the field of Holocaust commemoration, research, education and activism is well-aware that there are only two weeks a year that the local media are truly interested in stories about various aspects of the Shoah. One is the week of Yom Hashoah, Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed on the 27th day of the month of Nissan in the Jewish calendar, six days after the end of Passover, which was chosen because it was a date during which the Warsaw Ghetto revolt took place. 

The revolt started on April 19, 1943, which was the eve of Passover and lasted until approximately the 5th of Iyar, the day on which Israeli independence was declared five years later.

The second is the week of January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1945, which was established as an international memorial day by the United Nations in 2005.

Tracking Mass Murderers. Pursuing a 90-year-old Dane suspected of being involved in the mass murder of Jews in Belarus during World War II, Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff talks to the media outside a Copenhagen Police Station in Copenhagen on July 21 in 2016. (Anthon Unger, Polfoto via The Associated Press)

HEART-WRENCHING SUBJECT

These two weeks are like a breath of fresh air for the many hundreds of people in numerous different countries all over the world, who have dedicated their lives to various aspects of the Holocaust, and toil many hours a week dealing with a very painful, sensitive, and in many cases heart-wrenching subject. It is only natural therefore for many such individuals to look forward to these dates, and plan in advance, how to maximize the media’s biannual interest in Holocaust-related stories and issues.

I am no exception in this regard. Twice a year, I try to make sure to write at least one or two op-eds on various aspects of our continuing efforts to maximize justice and our fight against Holocaust distortion, which are the two main issues that our office concentrates on. So, for example, I arrange the publication of the findings of our annual report on “Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals” to coincide with the two weeks in which media interest is at its highest level.

Needless to say, as the number of Holocaust perpetrators diminishes due to age, there was less and less interest in the trials, although the dramatic change in German prosecution policy instituted slightly more than a decade ago, whereby death camp guards could be convicted of “accessory to murder” based on service alone, did result in some increased interest.

Eichmann Trial – A Living Record. Adolf Eichmann, the architect of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” for the extermination of the Jewish people being tried in 1961 in Jerusalem. Televised and broadcasted internationally, the trial served to educate a global viewership about the crimes committed against Jews

HOW DID 9 MINUTES TURN 3?

From my personal experience of directing the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for the past 36 years, the toughest “nut to crack”, has always been Israeli television, especially the morning talk shows. Several times over the past years, I had been contacted and asked to appear, only to be told the night before, that horadnu et ha-aytem (we dropped the topic).

Thus, I was very pleasantly surprised when Adi, the producer of Channel 13’s morning show Ha-Olam ha-Boker, called me almost three weeks before Yom Hashoah, in order to ensure my participation in the program slated for that day.

Justice for the Dead. Central to preserving the memory of the Holocaust, the late legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal pursued hundreds of war criminals after World War II and created a repository of concentration-camp testimonials and dossiers on Nazis at his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna.

Also encouraging, was the fact that Shay, the researcher for the show, spent a total of well over an hour on the phone with me the day before to collect as many details and anecdotes as he could on the most interesting and exciting cases of the Nazi criminals whom I had helped to bring to justice.

He also provided the “icing on the cake”, when he assured me that my slot on the program would be nine minutes long, a very respectable length. In other words, it would be well worth my while to get up at 5 a.m. in order to arrive in Tel-Aviv on time.

Unfortunately, that was nowhere near the case. Nine minutes? Not even close. What happened was that I was supposed to follow an interview with former Israeli Supreme Court President, Aharon Barak, who at age eight was smuggled out of the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania in a sack of potatoes.

As far as I could ascertain, the interview was supposed to last about 8-9 minutes, but ultimately was on the air for 15 minutes. This left only three minutes for my segment, which was unceremoniously ended by the 8:00 a.m. news, without my being able to relate almost any information of any value or interest.

Of course what should have happened, was that the interview should have continued after the news for at least 5-6 minutes, during which the audience could have received some valuable information. Judging from the stories of the guests who followed me on the program, which I heard discussed in the studio waiting room, none seemed to be of any unique or special significance.

Needless to say, at first I was personally very upset, but by a few hours later, it was obvious that to me that the problem had nothing to do with me, but rather was a far deeper problem, the lack of interest and concern in Israeli commercial television regarding the efforts to bring Nazis to justice. Or as I have often explained to foreign journalists, who were very surprised by the lack of interest in the subject by their Israeli TV colleagues:

 “In Israel, unless you’ve caught Mengele, you haven’t done anything.”

And in the same vein, I will never forget a comment by one of Israel’s top political TV journalists today, Amit Segal, when he was approached at the Demjanjuk trial in Munich in 2009 by two journalists from the French equivalent of 60 Minutes.

No Let-Up. “The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers,” says Efraim Zuroff, the writer and his Center’s top Nazi-hunter.
 

They had interviewed me in Jerusalem, accompanied me to the trial’s first session in Germany and asked Amit, “Why isn’t Zuroff famous in Israel?” He began to explain to them that the Holocaust is a very difficult subject, and so on, to which I replied:

 “Amit, I would have loved to bring Himmler to justice, but he committed suicide before I was born,” to which he replied quite pithily:

 “Ze lo tayrutz,” (That’s no excuse.)




About the writer:

Dr. Efraim Zuroff is director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center – Israel office and Eastern European Affairs, and coordinator of the center’s Nazi war crimes research worldwide.







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).

Today’s antisemitism is brought to you by the letters ‘Z’ and ‘V’

When vandalism at Lithuania’s Ponar Holocaust memorial copies Russian tanks, it accuses the Jewish community of supporting Putin’s invasion

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

First appeared in The Times of Israel

Two weeks ago, the Holocaust memorial at Ponar (in Lithuanian Paneriai) was desecrated twice. Once on March 31, and a second time three days later on April 3. Ponar, which is located about 12 kilometers (some 7.5 miles) from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius (Vilna in Yiddish and Hebrew) is the Holocaust memorial site for approximately 70,000 Jews, mostly from Vilna and its environs, and as such is the largest site of its kind in Lithuania, which explains its iconic status. The manner in which it was desecrated was particularly insidious: there was no graffiti denying the Holocaust and no antisemitic slogans, such as “Juden Raus” [Jews Out], appeared. Instead, the perpetrators smeared the letters “Z” and “V” on the monuments at the site.

Deface Designed to Deceive. The Holocaust memorial in Ponar (in Lithuanian Paneriai)) outside the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius was defaced twice in April with “Z” and “V” symbols of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Most foreigners would not understand the meaning of these letters, but for local residents and Eastern Europeans, the message is crystal clear. These letters, which are painted on Russian military vehicles, ostensibly indicate support for the Russian military campaign in Ukraine. In Lithuania, a small Baltic country, which borders on Russia, and cannot possibly defend itself against an invasion by its huge neighbor, support for the invasion of Ukraine is tantamount to high treason. Painting the letters on the memorial is tantamount to claiming that the Jewish community, whose memorial it is, favors the Russian invasion.

In other words, it is an extremely dangerous accusation that can only increase the vulnerability of the small, local Jewish community and lead to increased antisemitism and even physical attacks. In fact, one of the strongest motivations of Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators to participate in the annihilation of their Jewish neighbors was the accusation that Lithuanian Jews had sided with the Communists during the first Soviet occupation of the country (June 1940 to June 1941). Indeed, the same accusation had played an important role in the mass deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia the week before the Nazis invaded.

Endangering Jews. Seen here is the Russian “Z” pro-war symbol that defaced the Holocaust memorial in Lithuania to stir trouble for the Lithuanian Jewish community by suggesting their support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, tantamount to treason.

The offensive graffiti was very quickly cleaned up in each case, but, in the meantime, those responsible have not yet been apprehended. This is hardly surprising in a country which has been one of the worst offenders when it comes to Holocaust distortion, and has not punished a single local Nazi perpetrator since it obtained independence. All one has to do is carefully analyze the response of Prime Minister, Ingrida Šimonytė, to understand how deep the problem of Holocaust memory is in Lithuania. Without any ostensible proof, she declared that the crimes were a “clear provocation aimed at antagonizing the public in Lithuania,” thereby absolving Lithuanians of any possible responsibility for the outrageous desecration of Holocaust memory there, though it also quite possibly jeopardized the physical security of Lithuanian Jews. Worse, that was only the beginning.

Vilnius Vague! Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė who left it vague (“other criminals”) who were complicit with the Nazis.

According to Šimonytė, “In one of the most tragic places in Lithuania’s history, where the Nazis and other criminals murdered thousands of innocent people, the provocateurs have splashed yet another symbol of hatred,” she said in a statement issued almost a week after the first desecration took place.

Is that an accurate description of the tragedy of Ponar?

We know who the Nazis were, and we know what role they played in the Final Solution in general, and in Lithuania in particular. But who are these anonymous “other criminals”, who according to Šimonytė were responsible for the annihilation of 70,000 Jews? Has she never heard of the infamous “Ypatinga burys”, (the special ones), the Lithuanian mass murder squad, one of the worst in the history of the Shoah, who carried out the murders at Ponar? There is no doubt about their role, or for that matter the role of more than 20,000 Lithuanian collaborators who participated in the mass murder of approximately 90 percent of their Jewish fellow citizens.

Mass Murder. One of the massacre pits at Ponor, where mostly Jews were mass murdered by German SD and SS  and their Lithuanian collaborators, including Ypatingasis būrys  killing squads.

Šimonytė’s speech is hardly surprising. With the leaders of Russia and Ukraine hurling insults with Holocaust connotations at each other week after week, and marshaling false comparisons to the Shoah to try and enlist sympathy and support, the accuracy of the historical narrative is being steadily eroded. In the meantime, all we can do is speak out and protest, but when this conflict is over, we will have a difficult task when it comes to rebuilding and fortifying the historical truth of the Nazi campaign to annihilate the Jewish people.



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).

Teach Your Children Well

This year, it seems more important than ever to pass the torch of education and remembrance to the next generations

By Rolene Marks

The responsibility to bear witness, remember and educate is so important for the next generations to continue”.

We say this this every year as we approach Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. Unlike the UN-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day which takes place on the 27th of January to coincide with the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp and commemorates all victims of the Holocaust, Yom Hashoah focuses specifically on the Jewish victims and coincides with the Hebrew anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

This year, these words seem to have greater urgency.

Illuminating the Dark. Holocaust survivors light six torches representing the six million victims of the Nazi genocide during the opening ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, as Israel marks the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seen here lighting one of the torches at the ceremony in 2018, is survivor Miriam Lapid.(Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The importance of Holocaust education is not a mere understatement, it is critical. As time marches on, we lose our remaining eyewitnesses and survivors of mankind’s most horrific genocide. As time marches on, so it becomes ever more urgent for us to bear witness to the first-hand accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust.

This year, the commitment has to be on us to ensure that we pass the baton on to the next generations, so that they can bear witness, using the mediums they know best, in the language that is the most appealing to their peers.

A 2020 survey carried out in the United States by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany found that among adults under 40, roughly 1 in 10 respondents did not recall ever having heard the word “Holocaust” before. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed did not know 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Over half of those thought the toll was under 2 million. These are staggering statistics and have exposed a glaring lack of Holocaust education in the USA.

Over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established across Europe during World War II, but nearly half of the respondents could not name a single one.

The most important lesson is that we can’t lose any more time,” said Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. “If we let these trends continue for another generation, the crucial lessons from this terrible part of history could be lost.”

Europe is no different.

A European based survey, shortly before the one in the US, found that antisemitic stereotypes are widespread; with more than a quarter of Europeans saying Jews have “too much influence in business and finance”. According to the CNN/ComRes survey into European attitudes towards Jews, 34 percent of those surveyed said they knew just a little or had never heard of the Holocaust, while 20 percent of French people between the ages of 18 and 34 said they had never heard of the Holocaust. You would think that on the continent that remains a graveyard for once thriving Jewish communities and where there are reminders in every major city, they would be a little more educated and aware; but alas, they are not.

A third of Europeans surveyed said Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their own positions or goals.

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the UK based Holocaust Educational Trust, told CNNthe poll confirmed “a worrying increase in the number of people who believe traditional antisemitic tropes or hold antisemitic views, as well as a disappointing lack of knowledge about the Holocaust.”

These are not the only surveys and studies producing worrying results. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, named after the famed Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter, have raised the alarm over the increase in the amount of Holocaust denial, distortion and revisionism on social media. It is no great secret that social media platforms, especially Twitter, are a cesspit of hate. While Facebook has managed to clamp down on Holocaust denial, Twitter remains a veritable free- for-all. I have lost track of all of the times I have complained to Twitter about vile antisemitic content only to receive the message that the post in question does not violate their ”standards”.

Fading Faces. Images like these Hungarian Jews on the selection ramp at Auschwitz determining  those deemed “fit for work” or sent to the gas chambers are amongst millennials of ever-decreasing interest. (Photo: Yad Vashem, from the Auschwitz Album)

The role of social media platforms is critical. It is here where the younger generations interact and sadly, form their opinions on global events. On the one hand, these platforms create the opportunity for people to express themselves – and on the other, allows for predatory antisemites, Holocaust deniers and distorters to find a captive audience and create communities.

We do not need surveys to tell us how critical Holocaust education is. We are seeing a rise in antisemitism that is rivalling that of pre-World War II. Subsequent genocides and human rights violations have shown us that the lessons of history have not been learnt. Holocaust education is vital not just to help combat antisemitism; but to reinforce the lessons of history. NEVER AGAIN has to mean something, right?

We cannot rely solely on educational institutions and the media to educate – we have to take the responsibility on board ourselves as individuals, organisations and communities.

Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children, the next generation!” (1 Joel 2-3).

These words are inscribed at the entrance to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial and Museum. As we lose our last eyewitness survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust to the passage of time, so it becomes more of an imperative that our generation must bear witness, remember and teach the ones to come.

Living Testimony. French Holocaust survivor Victor Perahia, interned as a child in the Drancy camp outside Paris and then deported to Bergen-Belsen, speaks to students during a January 2020 workshop dedicated to Holocaust remembrance at Drancy. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

This Yom Hashoah as we remember our 6 million and honour the individuals and the communities targeted for extermination simply because they were Jewish, we need to not only renew our vow of NEVER AGAIN, we need to commit to the 6 million martyred, that we will continue to bear witness, to testify on their behalf and to educate.

Seeing is Believing. A photo taken April 12, 1945, shows just some of the bodies found by U.S. troops when they arrived at Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany. (Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library)

Their voices cry out to us; they implore us, they remind us of the urgency of their plea. It is a plea we will hear. It is a vow we will honour.

May the memories of our 6 million be forever blessed.


Education is the Key. Young people at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem looking above at the dome displaying photos of the victims of the Holocaust and then below at the water, reflecting those NEVER to be forgotten faces.






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).

Ending Holocaust Distortion Through Education

A reflection this Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) on  protecting the history of the Holocaust

By Jonathan Feldstein

While I, like others have been following the Russia-Ukraine war obsessively, a specific US news report got me thinking! 

Firstly, it is hard to imagine that an unprovoked war is happening at all, much less obliterating entire communities. The human tragedy is underscored with more than five million – over 10% of Ukrainians – having fled their country.  However, because of whom and where I am, I tend to look at this horrific tragedy through a Jewish and Israeli prism. This stems from common experiences of war which Ukrainians are suffering and which Israel has suffered – and still suffers – as well as to the wholesale slaughter and destruction of Jewish communities during the Second World War at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

What is happening in Ukraine is unspeakable on many levels.  It’s unimaginable that anyone of good conscience can look at this reality and not at least be sympathetic to and supportive of the Ukrainians, and equally horrified by and opposed to the Russian aggression. I pray the war will end and that there will be sweeping war crimes trials and sanctions against Russia and the perpetrators, and that Ukrainians will all be able to return home and rebuild their lives.

Trivializing the Shoah. However horrendous the Russian leader’s actions are, comparisons of Vladimir Putin to Hitler is inappropriate, inaccurate and offensive to the victims of the Holocaust.

However, while not in any way detracting from my heartfelt sympathy with the people of Ukraine, I take strong exception to parallels drawn between Ukraine today and the Holocaust.  Sadly, there have been a plethora of such people’s ignorance of history, which I find particularly unsettling this week as Israel observes Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day. Part of the problem is ignorance.  I don’t fault people for not knowing, but people should avoid publicly expressing such false analogies if they know only too well that they are ignorant on the subject. This is something they can correct by self-education. There cannot be enough education about the Holocaust which can take many forms from reading informative books – particularly the testimony of survivors  – to watching accurate documentaries.

Holocaust ignorance, however, does not excuse Holocaust distortion. Ignorance was recently spotlighted when Whoopi Goldberg asserted that “the Holocaust isn’t about race.” What it was about, according to Whoopi was:

 “… White people doing it to White people, so y’all gonna fight amongst yourselves.”

The sad truth is that Whoopi’s Holocaust ignorance is less about her and more a reflection of how widespread that ignorance is. This celebrity was a microcosm of a disturbing global phenomenon.

Watching a report on the Ukraine by Brian Kilmeade on FOX News, exposed how inappropriate Holocaust analogies are and the need to prevent this phenomena. Exposing this ignorance was the wanton display of photographs of the Holocaust parallel with pictures of Ukraine today – as if the two shared equivalence. I was going to let that lie, so in my quest to educate, I took to FOX’s social media and sent messages to correct the inappropriate parallels: 

It’s not cool to show pictures of Ukraine juxtaposed with the Holocaust. That’s lazy and grossly inaccurate. What’s happening in Ukraine is horrific. It is not a genocide. It is not the systematic murder of millions of people because of their religion. It’s not based on an ideology of racial purity. Other than the fact that people are suffering, and it happens to be in part of the world where the Holocaust took place, there is no parallel.”

In another message:

I don’t believe that this was done with malice, and whoever wrote this material needs to learn more. This month is Israel’s national Holocaust Memorial Day. I am very happy to speak with any of your staff who would like to be educated in a constructive way, and to meet in person the next time I am in the US. It is incumbent for anyone reporting the news to use proper language and accurate parallels, and if there are no accurate parallels, not to go fishing for ones that are inappropriate.”

Sadly – possibly indicative of not only ignorance but also indifference – I received no responses.

Designed to Deceive. Photographs of the current situation in Ukraine (when shown in black and white) are being used to compare millions of people across Europe who were forced to flee Nazi aggression during World War II and the Holocaust.

I also took great exception to President Biden calling the war in Ukraine “a genocide”.  Horrific as it is, it is not “genocide”. His depiction is an inaccurate distortion

Are there war crime happening? Yes.

But genocide, the systematic murder of an entire people, no; not even close. Biden is wrong as is anyone using the “genocide” analogy. 

Biden is not the only president to speak inaccurately. Even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was wrong contriving Holocaust analogies. The fact that he’s Jewish doesn’t excuse him. On the contrary, if anything, he should be more informed and accurate and sensitive to the memory of Jewish Ukrainians who perished not because of war but solely as a consequence of true “genocide”.  When Zelensky’s family were murdered in the Holocaust, it was not because they were Ukrainian – it was because they were Jewish!

Despite his inappropriate Holocaust analogies, I am prepared to cut Zelensky some slack for leading his country with such heroism and moral clarity.

Mirky Past made Mirkier. Back in 2019, a staircase in a shopping mall on Kiev’s Bandera Avenue located on a street named for a collaborator with the Nazis is decorated with a large swastika.
 

However, Zelensky had the temerity to castigate Israel and the Jewish people of not standing sufficiently with Ukraine because Ukrainians “saved Jews during the Holocaust”. Here again is a display of gross ignorance or denial of the truth. While Israel and the Jewish people are fully supportive in word and deed with the Ukrainian people, Zelensky conveniently forgets his people’s lack of concern when Jews were singled out for total annihilation – to the last man, woman and child. Factually, fewer than 2,700 Ukrainians have been recognized as Righteous Gentiles for risking their lives to save Jews. While many of Ukraine’s 200,000 Jews today owe their lives to these heroes, many millions of other Ukrainians were indifferent or collaborated with the Nazis as willing partners in the mass murder of Jews. That is their history.

Whitewashing or ignoring the horrid history of Jews being murdered before and during the Holocaust by complacent and willing antisemitic Ukrainians is offensive. The Holocaust is not a smorgasbord of horrors that people can pick from to use as they so please to compare to the suffering of others.  As I wrote to FOX, the Holocaust or Shoah has no comparison with what is horrifically unfolding in Ukraine, the US border, or any other suffering around the world. 

Distorting the Past. Israel’s Holocaust research center “Yad Vashem” condemns comparison of the Holocaust to the Ukraine conflict
 

In a recent conversation with Lithuanian journalist and author Ruta Vanagaite, we discussed how ignorance and antisemitic stereotypes led to Lithuanians active participation and complacency in the murder of all but 1.5 percent of Lithuania’s Jews.

What’s the answer?

Education, education, education.”




About the writer:

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





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).

Lithuania’s Holocaust by Bullets and Revisionism

Based on the Keynote address delivered at the 30th Annual Educators’ Conference on the Holocaust at Arizona State University on February 28, 2022.

By Grant Gochin

Three of my grandparents were born in the Baltics. Their families were slaughtered. They spent their lives searching for anyone that could have survived. There were none. Those three grandparents were Brocha Leya Novosedz of Birzai, Lithuania. Samuel Gochin of Papile Lithuania, and Dora Rummel of Janjelgava, Latvia.

World War II began in 1939. Nazis created ghettos in Poland and elsewhere but the “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem” and the mass slaughter of Jews was not decided until the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942.

What changed between the launch of Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941, and the Wannsee Conference in 1942? What changed was the slaughter of Jews in Eastern Europe, in the “Holocaust by Bullets”. This genocide, perpetrated by locals, showed Nazis how easily a population could be co-opted to murder their neighbours. It showed the Nazis a path to the possibilities of total annihilation of Jews throughout Europe.

The slaughter of Jews in Lithuania began prior to the arrival of the Nazis.

In a country of 2,500,000 people, there were fewer than 1,000 Nazi’s in the whole of Lithuania during the Holocaust. With so few Nazi’s, they alone could not have forced Jews into ghettos, plunder their assets even before they are murdered, torture them, commit mass rape, and then murder about 220,000 Jews. This was done mostly by Lithuanians, in, what is now known as – the “Holocaust by Bullets”.

915 Lithuanians or 0.04% of the Lithuanian population were found by Yad Vashem to have rescued Jews. This leaves 99.96% of Lithuanians either perpetrators, bystanders or have insufficient proof of their unsubstantiated claims. It is rather ironic that almost every Lithuanian I have met in the past 30 years has told me that their family was within the 0.04% of rescuers – unsubstantiated claims to be sure. These misstatements reflect the widespread revisionism within Lithuanian society and the dishonest official teachings of the Holocaust by the government of Lithuania. Included within the 99.96% of Lithuanians, are those responsible for the “Holocaust by Bullets”, and the annihilation of 96.4% of Lithuanian Jews. My family included!

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance:

– “Holocaust denial seeks to erase the history of the Holocaust. In doing so, it seeks to legitimize Nazism and antisemitism.”

– “Holocaust distortion acknowledges aspects of the Holocaust as factual. It nevertheless excuses, minimizes, or misrepresents the Holocaust in a variety of ways and through various media”.

Lithuanians began murdering Jews prior to the arrival of Nazi’s. Often at murder sites, no Germans were even present. There are multiple cases where Nazi’s complained about the savagery and cruelty of Lithuanians. Lithuanians traveled to neighbouring countries to murder Jews. Lithuania had the highest murder rate percentage of Jews in all of Europe. Some Lithuanians were disturbed by the blood lust displayed by their countrymen. National leadership asked that Jews not be murdered so publicly to reduce angst suffered by spectators. Nonetheless, the slaughter of Jews was often perpetrated in public festivals with parties held after to celebrate the slaughter of their neighbours and the sharing of the plunder.

The Real Killers. Crowd views the aftermath of a massacre at Lietukis Garage, where pro-German Lithuanian nationalists killed more than 50 Jewish men. The victims were beaten, hosed, and then murdered with iron bars. Kovno, Lithuania, June 27, 1941.
 

Facts are inconvenient for Lithuania. Who wants to be known as a country of such savagery? There was no possibility of Lithuania denying the Holocaust, it is the most documented genocide in history. The government of Lithuania therefore decided to implement a state sponsored programme of Holocaust distortion. Here are four examples:

Example one: Kazys Skirpa was supposed to be the Prime Minister of Lithuania, but he was detained in Berlin. Brazaitis became Prime Minister instead. Skirpa represented Lithuania to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Government. Skirpa called for the elimination of Jews from Lithuania and likely proposed this idea to Nazis. He was the founder of the Lithuanian Activist Front who was responsible for murdering Jews publicly, and who broadcast Nazi talking points into Lithuania inciting the murders. The government of Lithuania called this merely an “incident of antisemitism” and claimed that by calling for the elimination of Jews, he didn’t mean to actually hurt them! Lithuania has absolved Skirpa of any crimes and officially hail him as their national hero. This is Holocaust revisionism.

Example two: Juozas Ambrazevičius Brazaitis became the Lithuanian Prime Minster. He called for Jews not to be murdered so publicly. He established the first concentration camp for Jews in Lithuania.

After the Holocaust, both Skirpa and Brazaitis were given visas to immigrate to the USA. Brazaitis’s crimes were investigated by US Congress, but Congress screwed up. They investigated an incorrect name, with incorrect data. The investigation therefore was invalid from the start. Leading the investigation was the US Immigration Service. Brazaitis died prior to the end of the investigation which meant there was no possibility of concluding the investigation as there was no longer a living body to deport. The investigation was therefore terminated for lack of a legal subject.

The Government of Lithuania falsely stated that US Congress closed the investigation not for lack of probative value, but rather that Congress “completely exonerated and rehabilitated Brazaitis”. This is an absurd falsification. Four different US lawyers wrote lengthy legal analyses on the reasons the Lithuanian government interpretations of “rehabilitation and exoneration” were just plain ridiculous. The Lithuanian Government ignored these American legal analyses of Congressional statements.

US Congress took note of the official Lithuanian governmental reinterpretation of Congressional documents. In 2019, Congressman Brad Sherman wrote to the Lithuanian Prime Minister explaining US Law, and that the Lithuanian government’s finding of facts were misrepresentations and misstatements. They were legally impossible and needed to be revoked. The Government of Lithuania ignored Congressman Sherman.

I filed a legal action against the government of Lithuania in their own courts for their Holocaust deceptions. The Lithuanian Government responded that they know more about US law and operation of Congress than Congress, and specialist US lawyers. They called Congressman Sherman “just a politician” and to date, Lithuania continues their fraud. This constitutes Holocaust fraud. The Lithuanian Government freely reinterprets official Congressional documents for Holocaust deceptions and they insult our legislators.

Example three: Antanas Baltusis. Majdanek Concentration Camp was public. The fences were barbed wire. The citizens of Lublin could see the prisoners. They complained about the smell of death. Nobody in the surroundings were unaware of the daily slaughter taking place in this death camp.

The leader of the guards at this concentration camp was a Lithuanian named Antanas Baltusis. The government of Lithuania declared Baltusis innocent of any crimes on the grounds he served on the outside of the camp and did not know what he was guarding on the inside of the Camp. Apparently, he could not see through the wire, he did not smell what the general public could smell from many miles away; he did not see the Jews going in and ash coming out. His colleagues who were committing murders every single day did not tell him what they were doing. Supposedly he never asked what he was guarding, never saw anything, never heard anything, and never knew anything. This is Holocaust deception.

Example four: Jonas Noreika. This monster murdered my own family in Lithuania. He was just one regional leader that the Lithuanian Government continues to glorify. Many years ago, I was standing over a death pit containing the twisted bodies of my own relatives. I asked, who did the actual murdering? It was Jonas Noreika. This information was first exposed in Germany in 1984. This was six years before Lithuania regained independence. In 1995, President Brazauskas of Lithuania stood in front of the Israeli Parliament and offered his apology for the actions of Lithuanians. That’s what he said outside Lithuania. But when he returned to Lithuania, he promptly declared many Holocaust perpetrators innocent of the crimes they committed and made them into national heroes, Noreika included.

Truth Revealed. Left to right: Grant Gochin (Courtesy); Accused Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika (Courtesy); and granddaughter Silvia Foti (Ina Budryte/via JTA)

Hitler wrote the book “Mein Kampf” where he outlined his plans for the Jews of Europe. Noreika wrote the Mein Kampf of Lithuania. He was a rabid Jew-hater. He was one of the most powerful leaders in Lithuania and was a mass murderer. We do not know if he murdered with his own hand; however, we do know that he ordered the murders and signed many documents persecuting Jews. Noreika was responsible for the slaughter of anywhere between 8,000 – 15,000 Lithuanian Jews. Men, women, children, babies, elderly, sick and disabled.

I have been addressing the issue of Noreika with the Lithuanian government for almost a decade. They have threatened me with criminal and Constitutional charges for exposing their fraud and for insulting their heroes. These threats remain ongoing.

Over the past many years, I have filed at least 20 legal actions against the government of Lithuania, all rejected by their Courts and government. Every branch of the Lithuanian government involved has contributed to the deception, this includes the current President of Lithuania.

What Lithuania never contemplated is that a witness would step forward. Noreika’s own granddaughter, Silvia Foti. Foti wrote a memoir about her own shocking discovery of her grandfather’s crimes – his murder of anywhere between 8,000 – 15,000 Lithuanian Jews. The Lithuanian Government’s only response to her discoveries are to attack her credibility and her family. To enforce their ideology, they then further rewrote history to absurdly declare that Noreika was a secret rescuer of Jews. Silvia Foti has become a leading international voice speaking against government sponsored Holocaust revisionism.

Ponary Massacre. Lithuanian  collaborators  guard Jews before their execution at Ponary, Lithuania , June–July, 1941. Some 70,000 Jews were murdered at Ponary, most of them from nearby Vilna.

Lithuania’s then Ambassador to Germany – Ambassador Semaska, also the grandson of a Holocaust perpetrator, (whose grandfather was similarly rewritten into a rescuer of Jews), made the public case that Noreika had not murdered a single Jew. Adolf Hitler did not murder a single Jew by his own hand either! Vladimir Putin has not murdered a single Ukrainian by his own hand. This is how far the Lithuanian government has stretched itself to protect their murderers.

The government of Lithuania stated that Noreika MUST be considered “completely innocent” as he had not been placed on trial and convicted during his lifetime. Neither was Hitler or Stalin.

Shortly after denying Noreika’s crimes and claiming he could not be prosecuted after his death, the government of Lithuania declared that a poet named Cvirka was an enemy of Lithuanians and removed his statue. This duplicity displays Lithuania’s standards of historical accuracy and guilt depend exclusively on the victim’s Jewishness or lack thereof.

The Lithuanian military have honoured both Skirpa and Noreika on the covers of their military magazine as the State honors them as heroes. This is Holocaust revisionism. The current Lithuanian Minister of Defense was the head of a programme to investigate Holocaust Survivors for possible war crimes. This is Holocaust inversion. He also contributed to Lithuania’s Holocaust deception.

Twenty legal cases, vast amounts of international publicity and affirmation by multiple governments and NGO’s have shown there is no path for truth inside Lithuania. My legal case is currently in front of the United Nations. It will only be a foreign body that imposes truth upon Lithuania.

These are just four examples of Holocaust denial, distortion, revision, deception, fraud and inversion in Lithuania, and there are many more. While, in my opinion, Lithuania is the worst of the Holocaust revisionists, they are by no means the only ones.

Both the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the US State Department have since identified and declared Lithuania as Holocaust revisionists. One has to ask the question – “That Lithuania continues to commit such blatant fraud about events from 80 years ago – is there anything about which they will not lie?”

The truth about the murder of approximately 220,000 Lithuanian citizens is dependent only upon their Jewish ethnicity.

Since regaining independence in 1990, Lithuania has not punished a single murderer of a Jew. Or is it that it “will not”? Lithuania did all they could NOT to prosecute Holocaust perpetrators and waited until they died so they could not be prosecuted. This is Holocaust revisionism.

The declarations by the Lithuanian Government that murderers were actually rescuers and that the guilty cannot be determined is finding its way into Lithuanian academia. These frauds have now become primary source facts published by a European Union member government, who is also an ally of America. It is only a matter of time before these falsifications find their way into American textbooks and destroy decades of combined and cumulative work towards factual Holocaust education. The biggest threat against Holocaust education in the world today is the Lithuanian governments’ Holocaust frauds.

Complicit in Killing. What Lithuania today prefers to hide –  a Lithuanian militia in 1941 leads a group of Jews to the site of their execution, at Ponary, near present-day Vilnius,
 

Not only does this lead to a corruption of education, but it also has a wider and worrisome impact. When such a clearly documented genocide can be so easily rewritten – it gives license to future perpetrators to escape culpability. After all, if a European government can commit Holocaust fraud so openly, why would we think genocide fraud could not be so easily replicated in Africa, or Central America, or even in Ukraine? Allowing the rewriting of the Holocaust facilitates the next genocide. Perpetrators knowing they can rewrite history allows them to start wars with impunity, because, as we know, it has been the victor that has written the history books. Truth must prevail for the course of history to veer towards peace and justice.

Lithuania is currently impervious to truth, but we cannot allow this to impact our educational systems in America. We are working to implement new policies that will require the State Department to provide annual updates in their Human Rights Reports and flag any government that engages in Holocaust and other genocide denial and distortion. This will lay the foundation to track and report on government-sponsored genocide, denial and distortion, ensuring that crimes against humanity will not be whitewashed and rewritten by future governments.

For a country such as Lithuania to find a path out of this morass, it will need fresh leadership. For future generations to not be tarred with the taint of Holocaust deception, falsified history must be repudiated, and truth told. For Lithuania to show sincerity, national leadership responsible for Holocaust denial must be charged under their own national Holocaust denial laws. This problem did not begin recently and it will take time to correct. It is the task of international academia to ensure that history is reported accurately. We do have real allies inside Lithuania who would like to see their country break with their past. We need to encourage them.

One thinks of the people of Ukraine. May they not be the victim of the world’s next genocide and may history accurately record what is happening.



About the writer:

Grant Arthur Gochin currently serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Togo, and as Vice Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps, the second largest Consular Corps in the world. He is the Emeritus Special Envoy for Diaspora Affairs for the African Union, which represents the fifty-five African nations. 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.





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).

Soul of Salonica

Violent endings and new beginnings are the weave in this tormented tapestry of three great faiths and peoples inhabiting this bewilderingly exotic city

By Alex Rose

Thessaloniki  – also known as Salonica – is today the second largest city in Greece. Once the second largest city in the Byzantine Empire and later the second busiest port in the Ottoman Empire, I was fascinated to read in Lay of the Land,When Jews Thrive, the World Thrives”, that Israel’s 2022 Genesis Price recipient, Dr. Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, was born and educated in this ageless cultural crossroad.

“The Jerusalem of the Balkans”. According to the 1913 census, the city’s population was 157,889, comprising 61,439 Jews, 39,956 Orthodox Greeks, 45,867 Turks, 6,263 Bulgarians and 4,364 “foreigners.”

For me, it is of particular interest in that my maternal grandmother and a cousin were the only family members to find their way from Salonica to Jerusalem shortly prior to the commencement of WWII.

So they too were spared the horrors that befell the Jewish community there under the Nazis.

Out in Time. The writer’s maternal grandmother Reina Calderone, who left Salonica for Jerusalem shortly before the outbreak of WWII.(Courtesy Alex Rose)

Salonica City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950” by historian  Mark Mazower is described by  the Guardian’s Jan Morris as “A tremendous book about a city unique not just in Europe, but in the entire history of humanity.” The 509 page book consisting of of 23 chapters and includes a number of historical photographs, provides a history of a fascinating, turbulent city and a brilliant guide to Salonica’s rich past.   It unearths the buried past and recounts the haunting story of how the three great faiths – Islam, Christianity and Judaism  – that shared the city were driven apart.

Europe meet the Orient. The history of a bewilderingly exotic city of clashing cultures and peoples, from the glories of Suleiman the Magnificent to its nadir under Nazi occupation.
Salonica is the point where the wonders and horrors of the Orient and Europe have met over the centuries.

Salonika’s  initial character was Byzantine – a synthesis of imperial Rome, the Greek language and Orthodox  Christian faith. Subsequently, the big upheaval was the advance of the Ottoman Turks into the Balkans from Anatolia in the 14th century.

Lost Legacy. Little remains from the 2,000-year presence of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, though its contribution has been pivotal to the city’s culture, society and economy.

Under the rule of the Ottoman Sultans, one of the most extraordinary and diverse societies in Europe, lived for five centuries amid its minarets and cypresses on the shore of the Aegean, alongside its Roman ruins and Byzantine monasteries. Egyptian merchants and Ukrainian slaves, Spanish-speaking rabbis – refugees from the Iberian Inquisition – and Turkish pashas rubbed shoulders with Orthodox shopkeepers, Sufi dervishes and Albanian brigands.

Thriving Jewish Life. A Jewish family from Thessaloniki, Greece seen in 1917. (Wikimedia Commons)

In essence, it was generally inhabited by people of the three faiths who for the most part lived peacefully.

Flames over Salonica. In 1917, a massive fire roared through the Mediterranean port city of Salonica, Greece, then home to the largest and most dynamic Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jewish community in the world is depicted in this “Study for 1917 Fire —Salonika” (2016) by Harry I. Naar (Courtesy of Naar via JTA)

Mazower describes in Chapter  16 ‘The Great Fire’ of 1917, as “one of the seminal issues.”  He quotes the British journalist and author Collinson Owens:

“……the wailing families, the crash of falling houses as the flames tore along, swept by the wind; and in the narrow streets, a slow moving mass  of pack-donkeys, loaded carts, camels carrying enormous loads; Greek boy scouts [doing excellent work]; soldiers of all nations as yet unorganized to do anything  definite; ancient wooden fire-engines that creaked pathetically as they spat out ineffectual trickles of water; and people carrying beds [hundreds of flock and feather beds], wardrobes, mirrors, pots and pans, sewing  machines [every family made a desperate endeavor to save its sewing machine] and a general collection of rubbish.”

The damage was  almost incomprehensible.

No less than three quarters of the old city had been destroyed, according to an official report. Close to ten thousand buildings were destroyed and over 70,000 people had lost their homes. The Jewish community was worse effected, for the fire had consumed its historic quarters; most of its thirty-seven synagogues were gone, its libraries , schools, club buildings and offices.

Surviving Synagogues. The Yad Lezikaron Synagogue in Thessaloniki commemorating the victims of the Holocaust which the writer’s wife  Renee visited in 2015. Out of 40 synagogues before WWII, only left are the  Monastir and Yad  lazikaron, the last working synagogue, which includes the ‘remains’ from the destroyed synagogues. (Photo Alex Rose)

In Salonica, fires were such a regular occurrence that prayers against them formed part of the local Yom Kippur (holiest day of the year in Judaism) service. This fire dwarfed all previous fires suffered by Salonica as it destroyed the essence of the Ottoman town, and its Jewish core. Out of the ashes, an entirely new town began to emerge, one molded  in the image of the Greek state and its society.

The Shoah

In Chapter 22, Mazower addresses, “Genocide”. On 6 April 1941, German troops  attacked Greece from the north and three days later entered Salonica. The country was partitioned, while Salonica and its region were among  the strategically vital areas which remained  under the control of the German army.  As the resultant death toll rose, fear of famine gripped the population. Emaciated adults were collapsing on the pavements. The wife of the Swiss consul  upon arriving home at the end of 1941, reported:

 “The specter of a contrived  extermination of a whole population cannot be dismissed as a hallucination conjured up by starved stomachs, but rather viewed as a logical appraisal of German  behavior in Greece since the invasion of Russia.”

Around this time, Hitler’s ideological commissar, Alfred Rosenberg was setting up a research center in Frankfurt for the study of world Jewry. When Greece fell , he immediately sent a team to Salonica – “one of the main Jewish centers, as you yourself know”, he told Martin Bormann. In October 1941, Heinrich Himmler warned Hitler that the city’s large Jewish population posed a threat to German security.

Alfred the Monster. Nazi theorist and ideologue Alfred Rosenberg  who played a decisive role in shaping Nazi philosophy and ideology, sent a ‘team” to Salonica.

It came as a shock when on July 8, 1942, the local Wehrmacht commander in Salonica instructed all male Jews aged between 18 and 45 to present themselves for registration. From eight o’clock in the morning, the following Saturday, 9,000 Jewish men stood in lines in Plateia Eleftherias while their names were taken down. The round-up on July 11 helps one to realize how the Final Solution unfolded: not only through instructions from Berlin, but also through the voluntary participation and initiatives of local  authorities.

Something less than 5% of Salonika’s Jewish population escaped deportation compared with perhaps 50% in the Greek capital a year later.

Lost World

In Chapter 3, “The Arrival of the Sephardim”, we read and lament of so much of the Jewish character of the city that was lost.

By1668, the Jews were such an integral part of Salonica that it seemed impossible to imagine they had not always been there.  And indeed there had been Jews in the city before there were any Christians. At the conclusion in the paragraph prior to Chapter 23 – “Aftermath” – we find according to German records, approximately  45,000 people reached Auschwitz  from Salonica and within a few hours of arrival, most of them had been murdered  in the gas chambers.

Hell on Wheels. A railway officer walks in front of a train that was used by the Nazis to carry Jews from Thessaloniki  (Salonica) to Auschwitz during the WWII. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

The tragedy of this transition is captured in Devin E. Naar’s 18 August 2017 article in Times of Israel, ‘A century ago, Jewish Salonica burned’, which he describes in his sad subhead:

“The home to the largest and most dynamic Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jewish community in the world was rebuilt, only to be destroyed anew”

Salonica had suffered from a series of fires in its history, but during the four centuries under the benign rule of the Ottoman Empire, the city’s residents were permitted to rebuild without much state interference. Not so after ‘The Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917’. The Greek government, which had only recently annexed Salonica during the Balkan Wars (1912-13), saw in the fire an opportunity to transform once and for all Jewish and Ottoman Salonica into Greek Thessaloniki.

They Came, They Conquered, They Murdered. Invasion of German army into Greece spelled disaster for most the Jews of Salonica.. (photo credit: YAD VASHEM)

As much as Salonika’s Jewish community rebounded from the fire of 1917, the destruction wrought by the German occupation was insurmountable. Beyond the dispossession, deportation and murder of almost all of Salonika’s Jews by the Nazis, the entire character of the city was irrevocably transformed. Several dozen synagogues, with the exception of one or two, were destroyed by the Nazis and their collaborators; visual traces of the Jewish presence in the built environment were gone.  

A journalist further lamented:

The most important thing that the fire destroyed was the Jewish soul of Salonica. It is a terrible story.”



About the Writer:

Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until emigrating to the USA in 1977 where he spent 26 years as an engineering consultant, much of it at Westinghouse. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York ( Committee for Accuracy in the Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon. His writings appear frequently in Times of Israel – The Blog.





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).