Story-ideas-1011172

Lithuania: Jewish history on trial

  • GrantGochinUSE
“This is the Holocaust trial of the 21st century,” says Grant Gochin, an ex-South African who has taken the Lithuanian government to court.
by TALI FEINBERG | Mar 14, 2019

He is demanding that it acknowledges how “national hero” Captain Jonas Noreika was responsible for the murder of 14 500 Lithuanian Jews in 1941, including 100 of Gochin’s own relatives.

Gochin believes the trial is essential because it will highlight how “Holocaust distortion as an official policy of the government is not acceptable, and will not be tolerated by international Jewry”. He believes this trial gives “voice to the 220 000 victims in Lithuania.”

Gochin insists that the case – which was heard in the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court on 5 March – was being skewed by the Lithuanian government because its arguments were based on “standing”, not fact.

For example, a member of the Lithuanian Jewish community, Gersonas Taicas, who attended the trial, wrote: “One attorney seemed to slip up, saying, ‘If the Genocide Centre changed its finding and did admit Noreika had contributed to the Holocaust, then all the history textbooks would have to be changed, and the dispute would have to be resolved at conferences, forums, symposia and so on.’”

The Lithuanian government also argued that Gochin’s historians were unqualified to make determinations, and that their investigation was in 2015 – so Gochin contesting it in 2019 came after the time limit.

“The government doubts my interests in this case. They see my claims as political to attempt to damage the country. They accuse me of using Soviet methods. They say my efforts are solely to spread lies about Lithuania abroad,” says Gochin.

During the trial, the government also argued that Noreika had friends who saved Jews, and that his wife gave bread rolls to Jewish children.

“They say I was not personally damaged by Noreika and therefore I should not have standing to sue, and that their historical research has been over a longer period than mine, so I should not question their research. They say it is not the place of a court to determine history and I should not have the right to litigate.”

Gochin has worked closely with Silvia Foti, a Chicago schoolteacher and the granddaughter of Noreika, in putting his case together. Foti grew up on stories about her grandfather’s heroic actions against the Soviets, but as an adult she learned that he gave the orders in cities where 14,500 Jews were murdered.

“It was of particular note that the government did not present their prior defence, which was that Noreika was completely innocent of any crimes, since he was not tried and convicted during his lifetime,” says Gochin.

“Only when it was pointed out to the Lithuanian government that this new standard excused both Hitler and Stalin of any crimes, did they drop that defence. Nonetheless, it showed the lengths to which the government would go to protect their local Jew murderers.”

The verdict is due on 27 March. “I have already instructed my lawyer to work on an appeal. We have to see how the court rules – that will determine our next move. After almost 30 years of deliberate distortion, I do not expect the truth to be acknowledged in its full form. I do expect that I will ultimately have to take this case to the European Courts.”

Gochin wants the story to get as much publicity as possible. “In the trial, the government admitted that they are sensitive to the international press. There is no movement inside the country to tell the truth, so the single best tactic for Jews in the diaspora is to shine the light of truth on the subject, and to counter their distortions. The press is the only tool that will sway them, so I ask and urge all communities of truth to maintain this in the public domain in the press.”

Gochin believes this case is highly relevant to the South African Jewish community. “South African Jews have been lied to enough. The only thing we want from them is to tell the truth about what they did to our families. It should be our minimal expectation.”

He adds that South African Jews can support him by demanding the truth about what was done to their families. “Lithuania cares about their public image, but we will not sell the memories and truth about our families to enable their falsified narrative. The single best way to support this is to share articles about what is actually happening inside Lithuania, and to generate as much press about their Holocaust distortion as possible.”

Gochin says “ordinary Lithuanians do not know [this history]. The government told the population that people like me who seek historical truth have political agendas to damage the country. Lithuania is unable to conceive that people like us care about what happened to our families and simply want the truth told. We are not trying to destroy that country; we simply want truth.

“There has been very little press inside Lithuania. The youth of the country have to seek external press to find out what is happening, and when they do, they leave. Almost a third of the population has left Lithuania, almost all of them the youth of the nation. The educated are voting with their feet.”

He adds that there are instances of ordinary Lithuanians questioning the government’s narrative, but each time they are labelled “Russian agents” or enemies of the state, or they suffer intimidation by the government. “Lithuania today is more reminiscent of the Soviet intimidation system than any European democracy.”

3 Comments

  1. 3 Leah Glogauer 14 Mar
    How about the Jews who were murdered at the Ninth Fort in Kaunus......the Nazis were aided and abetted by the Lithuanians!  Many of our family members were shipped to Kaunus and murdered there!  
  2. 2 Etta heller 14 Mar
    I I’m greatful the Lithuanian gov is being challenged about the murder of their Jews. I’m an ex S A patriot now living in the US  and want to know the truth about my family who were annihilated because of anti - semitism in that country.
  3. 1 Dr sorrel Kerbel 15 Mar
    Delighted to see this excellent  report and await the outcome of this court case.  Clear, concise and to the point. Grant Gochin is bravely tackling Lithuanian anti-Semitism at its source, while the present government continue to spend EU funding on statues to General Noreika.  Kol hakavod to him and to Talia Feinberg.
     We in London await the outcome of the Noreika case- noreika’s granddaughter is an important witness for Gochin.  Please publish the outcome of this trial. 

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