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A blueprint for Litvaks

(Courtesy of author)
(Courtesy of author)

The King of Lithuania had an inspired  dream – to build and grow Lithuania into a modern state. He invited Jews to move to Lithuania in 1323 and help him build the nation. His dream came true. Jews were fundamental to the growth and the success of Lithuania. Jews were integral to Lithuania. We were Lithuanians. We are Lithuanians.

Jews lived in Lithuania for 700 years. Jews fought for Lithuanian statehood, they farmed the land, Jews financed independence, and became Lithuanians that just happened to be Jews. Repeatedly, Jews were betrayed by “ethnic” Lithuanians culminating in the slaughter of 96.4% of Jews on their territory, and the plunder of their assets. Their loyalty to Lithuania for seven centuries was repaid by slaughter.

Jews were Lithuanian citizens, but unequal under the law; denied the right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Ethnic Lithuanian citizens murdered other Lithuanian citizens (Jews), simply because they prayed to a different deity.

The Lithuanian government now seeks to identify Litvak Jews as Lithuanians. Their words are cheap. If Lithuania seeks to camouflage their racist identity politics, let them show sincerity in their words and issue citizenship to all Litvak Jews, proving that we are Lithuanian, now equal under the law.

I delivered a speech in Cape Town to well over 200 guests and was inundated with questions. Many questions referenced the Lithuanian government’s freshly re-invented identification of us as “Lithuanian”, going back in time hundreds of years, merely forgetting the interim period when our families were annihilated by theirs.

Many attendees questioned why so many Lithuanian lawyers appear to be charging exorbitant fees to process applications for citizenship restoration. I am not a lawyer. I cannot and will not offer legal advice. However, I am able to provide information to address your concerns.

Lithuanian citizenship is a permanent legal relationship of a person with The Republic of Lithuania, based on mutual rights and obligations.

Lithuanian Citizenship is acquired by:

  1. birth;
  2. citizenship restoration;
  3. being granted Lithuanian citizenship.

Citizenship applications in Lithuania are handled by the Lithuanian Migration Department. Many employees here are low paid functionary state workers. They show resistance by impeding applications and adding bureaucratic hurdles.

Dual citizens and descendants of people naturalized in foreign countries are able to apply. There are no grounds in Lithuanian law to reject an application because an ancestor naturalized in South Africa. If your application was previously denied on these grounds, please re-submit. The requirement to renounce citizenship of a different state is not applied to persons who can be citizens of both the Lithuania and a different state, in accordance with the Law on Lithuanian Citizenship article 7 subsections 2, 3, and 4, i.e.

  1. the person who was exiled from the occupied Republic of Lithuania prior to 11 March 1990 and has acquired citizenship of a different state;
  2. the person who left Lithuania prior to 11 March 1990 and acquired citizenship of a different state;
  3. the person who is a descendant of a person mentioned above.

If your family left Lithuania prior to their recovery of independence in 1918, then your ancestor left the legal entity of Russia, not Lithuania, and is not eligible.

Descent eligibility is not dependent upon gender of the ancestor. All you need is one great-grandparent from Lithuania, giving the applicant eight application opportunities.

Citizenship restoration (different than immigration applications) is a simple application process. The forms in Lithuania are simple. Unless litigation is necessary, there should be no reason why a lawyer is required. South Africans appear to be under the erroneous illusion that they need a lawyer to handle their application. That is simply incorrect. Some lawyers are charging fees of R50,000 (per family member) to process applications that most applicants could handle for fraction of that expense. An instruction manual follows.

Required documents from Lithuania (certified by the archive repository) include proof of Lithuanian citizenship of the ancestor, such as;

  1. Birth Certificate
  2. Marriage certificate
  3. Death certificate
  4. Any documentation that proves the ancestor was a Lithuanian citizen, i.e. it can be home ownership, etc.
  5. Applicant must provide info about themselves (all notarized documents), i.e. Birth Certificate
  6. Marriage certificate
  7. Passport
  8. Proof of relationship to ancestor.

Lawyers are not needed to find documents for a claim.

For those that don’t want the personal hassle of applying for South African documents, Anne Lapedus Brest has done superb work for me in the past, she can be reached at digitalphoto@icon.co.za

Apostilles are a simple process, just follow the instructions. No lawyers needed.

Where to look for original records in Lithuania

The search for family documents in Lithuania should begin at LitvakSIG. For disclosure, I served on the Board of LitvakSIG for many years. LitvakSIG has already digitized most of the Jewish personal records from Lithuania and made them available.

Lithuanian archives may be contacted via the links below. (Always write to them in English).

Lithuanian State Historical Archives (LVIA)

Lithuanian Central State Archives (LCVA)

Kaunas Regional State Archives (KRA)

Private researchers that I personally can recommend are listed below. I have no idea how much money they take, but I know that they are good.

  1. Rose Lerer Cohen, PhD, born in South Africa, lives in Israel and specializes in finding documentation RLererCohen@gmail.com
  2. Regina Koplilevich, lives in Vilnius kopilevich@gmail.com (sometimes she doesn’t answer right away)
  3. Galina Baranova, former archivist in the Historical Archive odegute@gmail.com

An application can be made to the archives using this form: https://eu.docs.wps.com/l/sIPWC5a6mAeeh9JoG?sa=00&st=0t

No lawyer is needed. If the response arrives in Lithuania, there are many apps and websites available that can translate it.

Known researchers (who sometimes appear to represent they could be a lawyer) use this exact application form, paying the archive and hired research workers a paltry 21 Euro’s while charging unsuspecting South Africans R50,000.

Applications to the State History Archive are here: https://www.archyvai.lt/lt/lvia_prasymu-formos.html

Relations between states are governed by the Vienna Conventions. It is under this treaty that foreign embassies and Consulates are established. A primary function of diplomatic missions is citizen services. (In this manner, I am able to renew my own South African passport at the South African Consulate in Los Angeles.)

Applicants should call their nearest Lithuanian Embassy or Consulate to request information, and request assistance in completing applications. Consulates will also be able to check the status of applications and answer any questions about citizenship, assist in filling out forms, and update applicants of status during the process. This is the function of a Consulate (I serve as a Consul for Togo so I know). The Government of Lithuania publishes a list of their Honorary Consulates at this site:

https://keliauk.urm.lt/en/consular-services/embasycontacts?type=embassy_consuls&letter=S

There are Lithuanian Consulates in Cape Town and in Johannesburg. These Consulates should fulfill almost all functions of any citizenship lawyer, without service charges for applicants.

The Consul in Cape Town is The Honorable Paul Berman, who may be reached at paul@bermanbros.co.za

The Consul in Johannesburg is The Honorable Raymond Joffe, who may be reached at raymond@rjalaw.co.za

Lithuania also has an Embassy in Pretoria. It is a function of the Embassy to assist citizens and handle citizen applications. The government of Lithuania lists their Embassies here:

https://keliauk.urm.lt/en/consular-services/embasycontacts?type=embassies_abroad&letter=S

The Lithuanian Ambassador to South Africa is His Excellency Dainius Junevicius who may be reached at dainius.junevicius@urm.lt

Certainly no lawyer is needed for ordinary applications. Mostly, lawyers in the field of Lithuanian citizenship law merely add layer of bureaucracy and many of those that actively market their services add a massive layer of expense. The Consulates should be able to fulfill almost all these same functionalities without charging.

My personal experience shows that only those with problematic paperwork might gain value by using lawyer. I highly recommend the Chair of the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Lithuania, Faina Kukliansky, who is a lawyer in Lithuania, specializing in Lithuanian citizenship law. She wrote much of the new Lithuanian citizenship law and, is, in my opinion, the top citizenship lawyer in Lithuania.

Expense should not be a barrier to citizenship. Lithuanian Consulates have an obligation to assist with most of those functionalities at no cost. That is their job. If they do not assist, then what exactly is their function and why have they been accredited by the State?

Conscription concerns

After the negative experiences of South African Jews in the South African military, Lithuanian conscription appears to be a concern. No Jew is safe in the Lithuanian military. The Lithuanian Minister of Defense is a well known antisemite, he was exposed here:

https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-value-of-a-jewish-life/

The Chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee was exposed here: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/america-and-israel-beware/

My own son received a conscription notice from Lithuania.

My Grandfather fought in the Lithuanian War of Independence and my family served Lithuania for hundreds of years. For their service, the government of Lithuania slandered my Grandfather’s service and Lithuanians murdered my family.

I simply notified the Lithuanian military authorities that my also has American and South African citizenships, and they advised me that the Lithuanian military does not accept dual citizens and deleted my son’s conscription. It was an email exchange with them – zero complexity, no lawyers needed.

I urge every South African Litvak that is eligible to reclaim our heritage citizenship, and validate Lithuania’s claim that we are indeed Lithuanian. And we are still here.

About the Author
Grant Arthur Gochin currently serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Togo. He is the Emeritus Special Envoy for Diaspora Affairs for the African Union, which represents the fifty-five African nations, and Emeritus Vice Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps, the second largest Consular Corps in the world. Gochin is actively involved in Jewish affairs, focusing on historical justice. He has spent the past twenty five years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania. He has served as the Chair of the Maceva Project in Lithuania, which mapped / inventoried / documented / restored over fifty abandoned and neglected Jewish cemeteries. Gochin is the author of “Malice, Murder and Manipulation”, published in 2013. His book documents his family history of oppression in Lithuania. He is presently working on a project to expose the current Holocaust revisionism within the Lithuanian government. He is Chief of the Village of Babade in Togo, an honor granted for his philanthropic work. Professionally, Gochin is a Certified Financial Planner and practices as a Wealth Advisor in California, where he lives with his family. Personal site: https://www.grantgochin.com/
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