OPINION | COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED | GENOCIDE CENTER | DOUBLE GENOCIDE POLICIES | THE NOREIKA SAGA | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH RELATIONS | LITHUANIAN JEWISH AFFAIRS
VILNIUS—Author Silvia Foti, the American granddaughter of the notorious Lithuanian Holocaust collaborator, Jonas Noreika, has been described as “exceptionally courageous” for publicly telling the truth about her grandfather, whom far-right elements in the Lithuanian government and its “history fixing agencies” continue to revere with street names, plaques and state-contrived history. That rewriting of history has a “higher purpose” — to downgrade the Holocaust and beyond whitewashing, to recast the local perpetrators as “heroes” (because they were “anti-Soviet,” a description that could match close to 100% of the East European Holocaust murderers). He is only one of a series of collaborators in the destruction of around 96% of Lithuanian Jewry (among the highest proportions in Holocaust-era Europe) who are regarded as “national heroes” in tandem with the vast, and lavishly state-financed, campaign to rewrite World War II as “two equal genocides,” thereby, according to some, seeking to write the Holocaust out of history as unique event here — without denying a single death.
This week, Ms. Foti launched an international petition boldly entitled “Remove all honors awarded to my grandfather Jonas Noreika.” In some ways, it is a follow-up to an earlier petition, launched some years ago by London-based Monica Lowenberg.
The Noreika saga started seven years ago when Lithuanian born and bred Evaldas Balčiūnas published, in Defending History, his essay on Noreika, as part of a wider series entitled “Why does the State Commemorate Murderers?” See Balčiūnas’s section in Defending History, his pioneering piece on Noreika, and the campaign of legal harassment, kangaroo trials and disemployment the he suffered for his fortitude and courage (to follow the campaign against him, please scroll down to March 2014). In 2018, Grant Gochin, a California resident hailing from the part of northwestern Lithuania where Noreika was active took the state’s Genocide Center to court, commissioning specialist Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, a regular contributor to Defending History, as the expert for the case. The 2019 case is covered in DH. Presumably Mr. Gochin will appeal the recent lower court decision vindicating the Genocide Center. But the public saga proceeds with a life of its own, including the smashing of one of Vilnius’s Noreika memorials by a maverick candidate for the European Parliament (he is currently seeking asylum in Austria), and the government’s rapid replacement of the plaque on the eve of Passover and Easter, to the publicly expressed pain even of the often reticent official Jewish community, which headlined its own report: “Jews Confronted with Resurrection of Monument to Holocaust Perp on Passover.”
The Jewish community in Lithuania has itself produced a number of heroes of truth telling over the years, including Milan Chersonski, Prof. Pinchos Fridberg. and Rachel Kostanian. This month, Roza Bieliauskiene spoke out on what it feels like for a Jew here to live with plaques and street names commemorating those who assisted the Nazis in destroying Lithuanian Jewry and their own families, taking the Noreika memorials as an example. A number of Lithuanian intellectuals, as well as others from all walks of life, have also spoken out against the state’s “history ministry” using taxpayer funds to glorify those who helped the Nazis destroy a six hundred year old minority within its own country’s citizens. Some of them, like Evaldas Balčiūnas, continue to remain unsung heroes in the face of foreign and foreign-born campaigners, at times, failing to properly credit the ethnic Lithuanian born-and-bred-here champions of truth, whom history will recall as the first heroes of this saga, and, indeed, the real heroes of Lithuania in the teens of the still-young century.