June 17, 2024
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Lithuania: How Long Will the Lie Continue?

Grant Arthur Gochin, a South African expat businessman in Los Angeles, has been speaking truth to power for years. An activist, he doesn’t mind being a thorn in the collective side of an “antisemitic” nation that carried out a pre-Shoah Shoah in 1915, deporting Jews to Ukraine, “where most were left destitute and died.” During the Nazi era, Lithuania murdered 80% of its Jews “before the Wannsee Conference.” Gochin thinks an argument could be made that the Lithuanians taught the Germans about industrializing mass murder (by bullets).

On Jan. 28, Gochin, as honorary consul of Togo, was master of ceremonies at an International Holocaust Memorial Commemoration sponsored by the Latvian and Estonian societies of Los Angeles. The event included a screening of “The Baltic Truth,” a documentary that is transparent about the genocide of Jews carried out by Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. The event, which was blocked last year by protests from the highest echelons of Lithuania’s government, went off without a hitch despite ongoing threats from Lithuania.

This nation of liars and deniers also harassed David Katz, a Brooklyn-born yeshiva student who earned degrees from Columbia and Oxford universities, then went on to teach Yiddish at Oxford, YIVO and the University of Vilnius. The brilliant and engaging professor, lecturer, author and archivist accused Lithuania of “Holocaust obfuscation” and attempting to rewrite history by hiding its sordid past behind claims of victimhood.

At the recent commemoration, the consuls from Latvia and Estonia were open about the past. Republic of Latvia Honorary Consul Juris Bunkis revealed that his grandfather was a member of the Latvian SS. It was, for him, “an unburdening.” To publicly admit that your grandfather was a murderer, whether of one or multitudes, is a painful and courageous act.

Lithuania has proven incapable of accomplishing this, instead choosing to deal with its lurid legacy of genocide by playing the victim card. In fact, Lithuania insists it was a double, even triple, victim of the Nazis and the Communists. It’s true that Lithuania was occupied by the Soviets, then the Nazis, and post-WWII, reoccupied by Communists. That said, the whole truth is that Lithuanians were also victimizers. In fact, they considered the Nazis their liberators. Lithuanians, not the Germans, willingly carried out the Nazis genocidal policies, rounding up and murdering nearly all its Jews.

When Hitler broke his non-aggression pact with Stalin (that had given each control of substantial territories), Lithuanians (as well many Poles and Ukrainians) rejoiced. Eager to ally themselves with Germany, they were thrilled at the opportunity to kill the Jews who had lived among them for generations, some dating back almost 1,000 years. Among the victims in Lithuania were Jewish refugees, mostly from Poland, who had fled the Nazis to what they believed was relative safety.

After the war, Lithuanians conveniently forgot their history of mass murder and portrayed themselves as victims of two oppressive regimes. They continue to promulgate this quasi-truth. Although they lost their independence most, albeit not all, Lithuanians were Nazi supporters and collaborators. They were hardly the only active collaborators among the nations. Antisemitism, envy and greed made many Poles, Hungarians, Ukrainians, French, Slovaks, Dutch and others glad to do Hitler’s dirty work and reap the rewards (Jewish property). Post-liberation, some, such as the French and Dutch, promoted themselves as resistors, a large lie with a grain of truth. Heroes are few, exceptions to the rule.

How long will Lithuania continue to lie about its shameful past now that their immediate neighbors to the north hosted an historic commemoration? The biggest of the Baltic states in terms of territory and population is beginning to crack now that Latvia and Estonia are ignoring its bullying taunts and threats and are finally publicizing the truth. Poland’s ludicrous attempt to shrug off responsibility and revise WWII history had a brief run until its leaders lost the recent election. Justice may be blind, deaf and slow, but it is not dead.

Jews have learned patience and perseverance. They have succeeded against all odds. Think what a Jew 80 years ago would have said if told that Balts would host a Holocaust commemoration with a Jew as its master of ceremonies. “You’re crazy. It would take a miracle.” Clearly, miracles do happen.


Barbara Wind is a writer, speaker and Holocaust-related independent scholar, curator and consultant.

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