On Thursday, the students at Rambam were honored to see a sneak peek of the opening minutes of an incredibly important film: “J’Accuse!: A Cry from the Killing Pits of Lithuania.” One of the makers of the film, Grant Gochin of Los Angeles, addressed the students about the horrors that befell Lithuanian Jews during the Holocaust, and what he and others are doing to set the facts straight and bring justice to the memory of those who were murdered.
Grant Gochin is leading the fight against Lithuania’s Center for the Study of the Genocide and Resistance of Residents of Lithuania, or Genocide Center. They posit that that Lithuanian Nazi collaborator, Jonas Noreika, was actually an anti-Nazi hero in disguise. Gochin, however, maintains that Noreika was “directly responsible for the murder of his relatives in Šiauliai” and calls for Genocide Center apologies and the end of “equivocations of Holocaust denial.”
The nature of Mr. Gochin’s film follows his quest for justice and how it is paralleled by the story of a writer, Silvia Foti, currently living in Chicago. The personal account of how Mr. Gochin visited the killing pits of Lithuania and discovered that Noreika was behind it, converges with Ms. Foti’s story as she learns about her personal history. Ms. Foti’s story has been published in her book, The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather Was a War Criminal, and tells the shocking story of how she discovered that her childhood hero, her grandfather, Jonas Noreika, was actually a war criminal involved in the deaths of some 14,000 Jews (many in the town of Telsai whose survivors later transplanted to the Telz Yeshivah) included the Lithuanian relatives of Mr. Gochin. The Lithuanian government and people have not come to terms with their atrocious past and have made Noreika a national hero, named schools after him, and have monuments honoring his memory.
Mr. Gochin spoke to the Rambam students about the horrific history of anti-Semitism in Lithuania and how centuries of lies about Jews sowed the seeds of hatred. When the opportunity to murder Jews presented itself, thanks to the Nazis, Mr. Gochin remarked that “in a typical village there was 50-percent participation in the killing of the Jews, and the rest of the Lithuanian people did nothing.”
The assembly was informative, moving, and the message from Mr. Gochin to never forget, get involved, and fight for the truth is paramount. He concluded by saying that “not honoring the memories of the dead would be killing them all over again.”
Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, Rosh Mesivta of Rambam, who introduced the film and Mr. Gochin, also pledged on behalf of Rambam that they would do their part to let the Lithuanians know that they have not forgotten.