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Numerous members of Grant Gochin’s family were murdered in Lithuania. Gochin, who is featured in the film J’Accuse has spent decades in legal battles in an effort to get Lithuania to correctly identify some "heroes" as men who are guilty of crimes against Jews.

In his decades of spending time and money dealing unsuccessfully with Lithuanian courts, Grant Gochin has never given up on his push to get Lithuania to come clean about the nature of some of their “heroes” who were involved in the murder of thousands of Jews. Hit with an arsenal of obfuscation, denial and distortion, as well as media manipulation, Gochin said people called him a broken record. But has the needle finally moved? Perhaps a little.

A plaque for Jonas Noreika has recently been taken down, though it was said that it was for cleaning, so it is not known if it will be put back up again.


“I consider it a small victory with still more to accomplish and to do,” Gochin told The Jewish Press. “I hope they are not simply taking it down ahead of the NATO summit only to put it up afterward. But even if they say the reason is for cleaning, it’s quite clear they are embarrassed. It has been a mission of mine and over the years I maintained the mindset that I would not stop.”

The NATO summit will be held July 11, and July 12 will bring 30 world leaders to Vilnius, Lithuania, where they may end up standing by or in front of monuments of those whose work resulted in the murder of Jews.

“They certainly should not have chosen to have it there,” Gochin said. “I think it would be a huge embarrassment for President Biden and leaders of other countries to be walking by or standing in front of plaques or statues of people who are responsible for atrocities against Jews but are viewed as heroes. In the 1936 Olympics, Germany took down the signs against Jews and put them back up once the people went home. I hope it is not a repeat of that.”

About 94 percent of the Jewish Lithuanian population was murdered, amounting to about 220,000 people, with estimates of about 25,000 Lithuanians involved. The documentary features Gochin speaking about how most of his family were murdered in Lithuania and his quest for justice, and Silvia Foti. Foti is Noreika’s granddaughter, and she was planning to write a flattering biography until she learned to her horror that he was responsible for organizing the deaths of Jews. She wrote that truth in her book, “Storm in The Land of Rain,” as well as other books. Noreika was referred to as General Storm.

J’Accuse has won or been nominated for more than 100 awards, and most recently was an official selection for the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. It has been shown all over the globe. Director Michael Kretzmer said he was thrilled to show the film at three screenings recently in Israel, in Ra’anana, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“People came up to me and thanked me for our pursuit of justice,” Kretzmer told The Jewish Press. “We have raised the voices of the victims. They needed a platform. I was pretty pleased they took down the plaque, but I’ve never called for these things to be taken down. If they could have just added the words, ‘and Holocaust mass murderer’ I would have been happy for them to keep it up. It’s a sign that the truth has power. But I believe what we are offering Lithuania is a chance for redemption; it’s a huge gift that they can come forward. Certainly, taking down the statue is a sign they are worried – and so they should be.”

Gochin and Kretzmer said it is significant that a Lithuanian ambassador has spoken out. The South African Jewish Report quotes Dainius Junevcius, Lithuania’s ambassador to South Africa, as saying of Noreika that “…his admirers mustn’t turn a blind eye to the fact that he was involved in the murder of Jews while working as a head of the Siaulial district of the German occupation civil administration in 1941-1943…no other real or perceived merit can wash away this sin. We Lithuanians cannot be unconditionally proud of such individuals and the memorial plaque is an example of such pride.”

Born in South America and living in Los Angeles, Gochin said he doubts the school named after Noreika will change its name. Gochin credited the power of the Jewish community in South Africa.

The author of Malice, Murder and Manipulation also noted a recent joint statement by the United States and Germany which addressed whitewashing or making a hero out of those who have done evil.

The statement in part reads: “Rehabilitation takes place in many countries for many reasons, ranging from transparent attempts to make heroes out of villains to serve contemporary political ends, to a lack of historical awareness.” The statement went on to describe that such actions “can promote impunity for war criminals, normalize antisemitism, racism, discrimination, and exclusion increase tensions between countries, and undermine public support for democratic institutions and value-based international structures.”

Kretzmer said the reaction to the film is more than he could have hoped for.

“I made this documentary with no money and I feared it might die a slow death on YouTube,” he said. “Credit goes to Grant and Sylvia and I think the film put pressure on Lithuania.”

In the entire world, the man who best understands the ways of governments trying to hide atrocities against Jews is the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff. He’s written several books and more than 450 articles, and has been featured in numerous documentaries.

“It’s encouraging but we’ll have to see exactly what it means,” Zuroff told The Jewish Press, noting that there has been a massive decades-long effort to downplay or deny culpability regarding the murder of Jews, which has taken numerous forms.

He cited one statement from an official who said that killing was done by “Nazis and others.”

“What do they think, Martians came down and joined the Nazis?” Zuroff asked sarcastically.

While he placed the brunt of the blame on the Lithuanian government, and has said Latvia and Estonia have also tried to downplay their roles. Zuroff said Israeli leadership could have done more.

“(Prine Minister) Netanyahu went to Lithuania in 2018 to praise their commemoration of the Holocaust,” Zuroff said. “As soon as they got into NATO it’s like they could do whatever they wanted. It’s like killing Jews again. If you say what about a U.N. vote? What about arms they buy from Israel? Obviously, Israel wants to be firm with support from the United States and Germany. But if we speak of Lithuania, Latvia Estonia, these are small countries. They need us more than we need them. We have an obligation to the victims of the Shoah.”


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Alan has written for many papers, including The Jewish Week, The Journal News, The New York Post, Tablet and others.