Silvia Foti
The Storm Door, portal to General Storm

From I CAN’T to ICAN! The struggle is real: It takes a team

Wroblewsky Library in Vilnius where the Jonas Noreika plaque hangs. (courtesy)

While writing my book, now titled The Nazi’s Granddaughter, for the past 20 years, I have been working alone with virtually no support, spending nearly $100,000 of my own funds to undertake the research, translation, and writing, believing that this was an isolated family story. I applied for grants to help with expenses, but had been rejected at least 10 times. It’s a complicated story, and I wasn’t explaining myself sufficiently in the applications. Ultimately, I had to choose whether I would use my spare time to write the book or apply for grants. I chose the book and went into debt.

In early 2018, I had finished perhaps my 40th rewrite of the book. After yet another rejection from a literary agent, I had a good cry, wiped my tears, and did another rewrite.  I believed the story was incredible and just had to find the right way to narrate it. But the story is convoluted and difficult to explain. By that point, I’d grown older, had about 100 rejections by literary agents, and had learned the hard way that I needed an author platform if I had any hope of finding a New York literary agent who could lead me to a traditional publisher.

www.silviafoti.com

In March 2018, I reluctantly put up a website, as all introverted authors nowadays are grudgingly forced to do to promote themselves, and within a matter of days, received an email from a researcher in Lithuania–Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas. He told me that he had been researching my grandfather for the past few months for a man named Grant Gochin who had launched several lawsuits against the Lithuanian Government for Holocaust distortion, mostly concerning its verdict of my grandfather being a hero despite there being so much evidence he was involved in Lithuania’s Holocaust. (For a summary of all his lawsuits please go here. It is rather astounding.) Until then, I hadn’t even heard of the term Holocaust denial, let alone its finer derivative Holocaust distortion.

Funeral procession of Silvia’s mother and grandmother in October 2000 in Antakalniai Cemetery in Vilnius

A lawsuit? I asked myself. What does that mean? To be honest, I was terrified. The story had grown bigger than just a WWII family story. It concerned the entire nation of Lithuania, and I trembled at the loaded pressure of it. It felt like my grandfather’s story symbolized the essence of Lithuania during WWII: Its very soul was on trial.

Grant Gochin

About six weeks later, I summoned the courage to email Grant Gochin, asking if I could speak to him. He apparently already knew who I was. He later confided that he did not believe in generational guilt, which is why he had not contacted me first. On April 20th (Hitler’s birthday!!) we exchanged information and quickly realized we had covered a lot of the same ground concerning my grandfather. He had been working alone with no support for nearly 20 years as well, spending even more money than me during that same time period.

Despite the fact that my grandfather had been complicit in murdering approximately 100 of Grant’s relatives, we discovered we shared common values in determining historical truths, and eventually became friends. We took a big leap of faith in each other to partner up to tell the story. We are definitely an odd couple—the granddaughter of a genocidal mass murderer and the grandson of some of his victims. But then we were two, and for the both of us, everything seemed much easier because we were supporting each other in our lifelong missions–which had mysteriously converged as if one were designed for the other.

Grant Gochin and Silvia Foti, June 2020

Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas

My research contained almost all the data that Grant had discovered. Grant allowed me to place the research that Dr. Kulikauskas had found about my grandfather on my own website, saying it would be fitting for his granddaughter to host it, and Dr. Kulikauskas graciously offered to curate the Jonas Noreika online museum. And then we were three.

Dr. Andrius Kulikauskas, photo by Virgilijus Burba

From there, with a little more effort in getting an article written and placed in Salon.com in July 2018, the story exploded–eventually reaching the front page of the New York Times— and the front page of the Chicago Tribune.

Between my personal quest for the truth about my grandfather–at great emotional, psychological, and financial cost–and Grant’s quest for justice, the story became irresistible to the media.

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Then I finally, finally, finally got a New York literary agent, and we were four. After learning about the intimidation I was facing from the government and many other factors, the Simon Wiesenthal Center stepped in, and incredibly, named me their Woman of Valor in November 2019. That was when I became more familiar with the term Holocaust distortion and received a crash course on how this was similarly happening in almost all Eastern European states formerly occupied by the Soviet Union. My grandfather’s story had somehow become emblematic of the entire phenomenon. And then we were five.

Harper Collins, Mexico, and Regnery History

Soon enough, my agent contracted a publisher in May 2019 to publish it in Spanish, and then we were six. After that, she contracted another publisher to print it in English on Christmas Eve 2019, and then we were seven.

ICAN  

Dillon L. Hosier, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Israeli-American Civic Action Network, took notice of Grant’s and my progress, and offered to put the weight of his organization behind our efforts. ICAN is an organization dedicated to empowering Israelis and Americans for civic action in the United States. One of its priorities centers around Holocaust education and preventing Holocaust denial. And then we were eight. After all of Grant’s and my own decades of work, we finally had an institution willing to combine its efforts with ours.

“Following the passage of Poland’s Holocaust law in 2018, making it a civil offense to accuse the country of complicity in Nazi war crimes,” Mr. Hosier said, “ICAN’s leadership vowed never again to let such an action occur without organized and active opposition from the United States.”

Dillon Hosier, ICAN chief advocacy officer

When Mr. Hosier learned that the Government of Lithuania was considering similar legislation, ICAN quickly developed a strategic plan. They engaged high profile political leaders in the United States to go on the record in opposition to this action. Officials from the cities of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, and the State of California have condemned Lithuania’s proposed Holocaust law and its ongoing campaign honoring Holocaust perpetrators as national heroes.

ICAN has formed a Council of Advisors on the Prevention of Holocaust Denial. Current members are Arie Ben-Ari Grodzensky, chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel; Eduard Dolinsky, director general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee (in Ukraine); Dr. Marylin Kingston, former vice president of the International Network of Adult Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, as well as the former president of Second Generation in Los Angeles; and Dr. Steven Windmueller, Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service.

ICAN’s Townhall Meeting

Grant and I had our first townhall meeting on Tuesday, June 23, 2020: Stop European Holocaust Denial—Focus: Lithuania, co-hosted by Mr. Hosier and Rhonda Lees, the regional vice president of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. We were introduced by Alex Galitsky, communications director of the Armenian National Committee of America, Western Region.

Armenians have been fighting Turkey’s genocide denial for a century and have made great strides. Hitler once famously said, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Denial of one genocide accommodates the next, and we cannot be a party to that.

To learn more, please go here and here

The Storm Door Blog, portal to the life and times of Jonas Noreika, aka General Storm, photo by Virginia Allain

I had been so afraid of opening that Storm Door for fear of the political storm the book would cause. Where will it all end? I have no idea.

But we look forward to working with ICAN, and I am so grateful to no longer be working alone. It truly takes a team to stop Lithuania’s Holocaust distortion concerning my grandfather and others, and I hope you will join us in the struggle. I certainly will not stand by while the Lithuanian government uses my relatives to rewrite their national history of the genocide of Jews in Lithuania.

In related news….

Speaking of the continued campaign of glorifying heroes who participated in Lithuania’s Holocaust…

Lithuania’s premiere historian from the Genocide Center spoke about the 1941 Lithuanian Uprising to honor its heroes and how bravely they fought against the Communists. He stood before a photograph of my grandfather and Kazys Škirpa, founder of the Lithuanian Activist Front, seen here.  He begins speaking at 9 minutes before the end of the video about the history of the uprising in Vilnius. He wrote about that recently here. He also spoke in the morning at a press conference.

The crucial thing is what the official historian for the Lithuanian nation leaves unsaid. He mentions Stasys Žymantas-Žakevičius as the leader of the Vilnius rebels and cites his comments about the rebellion. But he doesn’t note his editorials in their newspaper Naujoji Lietuva of that week where he urges ethnic cleansing of Vilnius’s Jews and Poles. And that this ethnic cleansing by Lithuanians took place promptly.

Selecting material to portray only one aspect of WWII events—bravely fighting the Communists, while deliberately ignoring or minimizing others—shamefully calling for the ethnic cleansing of Jews, is Holocaust distortion.

Dr. Kulikauskas found one of the articles calling for ethnic cleansing, which can be found on page 1 and other pages, from July 4, 1941:
All of the issues are available online here Click on “1941”

The very first issue makes no mention that Lithuania declared independence: but has a big photo of Hitler.

US Supreme Court Takes Up Germany’s Appeal In Nazi Art Dispute, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2020

Wishing you truth and peace in the storms of your life,

Silvia Foti, granddaughter of General Storm—Jonas Noreika

Regnery History will release The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal in May 2021; Harper Collins Mexico will release Mi Abuelo: El General Storm ¿Héroe o criminal nazi? later in August 2020.

Taglines: Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN); Holocaust Distortion; General Storm; Jonas Noreika; Dillon Hosier; Simon Wiesenthal Center; Armenian Genocide and Hitler; Silvia Foti; Writer’s Life; The Storm Door blog; Genealogy; Grant Gochin

About the Author
Silvia Foti, MSJ, MAT, MFA, is a journalist, creative writer, teacher, and mother. She is author of the book The Nazi's Granddaughter: How I Learned My Grandfather was a War Criminal, Regnery History, coming May 2021; Mi Abuelo: El General Storm ¿Héroe o criminal nazi? Harper Collins Mexico, Spanish edition, coming August 2020.
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