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Fight not over for Lithuania activist Grant Gochin

  • GrantGochin
When Grant Gochin took the Lithuanian government to court in March, he knew he might lose the battle. And he certainly lost this particular one, when the judge ruled in favour of the government last Wednesday, saying that Gochin’s case was “ill-based”.
by TALI FEINBERG | Apr 04, 2019

But, from the beginning, he knew that losing one battle did not mean losing the war.

That war is to ensure that the Lithuanian government recognises that many of its political and military leaders played an active role in the extermination of the country’s Jews during the Nazi era.

Furthermore, it is to reverse the dangerous trend of Lithuania calling these people heroes, and whitewashing this history.

Gochin focused on the actions of Jonas Noreika, who is hailed as a hero and martyr in Lithuania. In reality, Noreika played a key role in facilitating the massacre of thousands of Jews in the shtetls of Lithuania, where many South African Jews’ relatives were killed.

Although he was expecting the Lithuanian government to win this case, it was still a blow to the passionate activist. Yet, he remains resolute. “I’m not surprised by this verdict. Lithuania is a Holocaust-distorting state... the government’s legal position was that we Jews have ‘no material interest’, in what was done to our families,” he told the SA Jewish Report.

“That shows the dishonesty and insincerity of the diplomatic and financial outreach to Jews. [The government’s] real feelings about Jews and what Lithuanians did to Jews during the war have been exposed by this case. They have made their real attitudes clear. Jews should no longer have any illusions about a changed Lithuanian state.”

Gochin says that dismissing a case because it is “ill-based” does not bode well for future foreign investment and tourism in Lithuania. “Seeking truth is ‘ill-based’. Evidence is ‘ill-based’. If a business case comes before the court of a foreigner against a Lithuanian, this standard of law says that such a case is ‘ill-based’ and may be dismissed. This is a catastrophe for Lithuania. It is the end of foreign investment in that country. The courts are an arm of government, they rule as instructed. At least now decent people know what Lithuania is and has always been. It is consistent. Jews should never mistake what we face,” he said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Dr Ephraim Zuroff, termed the decision of the court “absolutely ludicrous, and an insult to victims of the Nazis [and] survivors the world over... In Lithuania, Nazi killers are glorified and their bloody past ignored, as if the Jewish citizens murdered there are of no concern to the country.”

The Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) also expressed deep disappointment and demanded that “representatives of the Lithuanian executive and legislative branches respond appropriately and in a timely manner by condemning this incident of institutional anti-Semitism, and that the centre take responsibility and publicly retract the text, apologise to the LJC for the gross belittlement of the scope of the Holocaust, and apologise to the Lithuanian public for misinforming [it]”.

If neither of these actions are taken, “the LJC, in defence of its interests protected by law but now violated, reserves the right to make sue [sic] of the defensive measures and remedies provided in Lithuanian law”, according to the organisation’s chairperson, Faina Kukliansky.

Indeed, Gochin is not alone. Silvia Foti, the granddaughter of the late Noreika, has bravely fought to ensure that his role in the extermination of Lithuanian Jews is recognised and condemned.

Gochin, meanwhile, said he would appeal the case all the way to the European Court of Justice.

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