The violentization theory was created to help explain how someone can be groomed to commit genocide or serial murders. According to Mark A Winton, PhD, LMHC, NCC, senior lecturer in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Central Florida, Jonas Noreika fits into this model.
Initially, the theory of violentization was developed by Lonnie Athens to explain violent behavior, such as murder, rape, and assault. It was later used by criminologists to explain serial murders, and more recently, the theory is being applied to perpetrators in genocides. Dr. Winton applied the violentization theory to the Bosnian and Rwandan Genocides, as well as to perpetrators in the Holocaust.
My own interest was to apply it to my grandfather Jonas Noreika, a perpetrator in the Lithuanian Holocaust.
I first met Dr. Winton at an online Teacher Institute conference hosted by the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Educational Center of Florida last June. I was giving a talk about my book The Nazi’s Granddaughter, and Dr. Winton was giving a talk on Violentization Theory, which he teaches at his university to students taking classes on genocides and serial murderers.
Fascinated by his lecture, I approached him to ask if he thought my grandfather would fit into this model, and whether I could interview him for my blog. He graciously agreed, and after reading my book, he said that unfortunately, he believes “Jonas Noreika fits.”
The rest of this blog is a combination of an interview with Dr. Winton and his article: Violentization Theory and Genocide.
The Violentization Theory has five stages—Brutalization, Defiance, Violent Dominance Engagement, Virulency, and Violent Predation.
As a documented Desk Murderer who wrote about 100 orders connected to the Holocaust while chief of the Šiauliai District during the Nazi occupation, Noreika seems to stop at the third stage, said Dr. Winton, as there is no evidence that he committed the murders himself, although as a military man, it is not inconceivable.
Stage 1: Brutalization
This stage occurs when one is taught how to engage in violent behavior through observation and demonstration. This stage has three types of experiences: violent subjugation, personal horrification, and violent coaching. They witness, learn, and experience violence. In cases of genocide, actors may be physically assaulted, threatened, observe others being threatened or assaulted, and coached on how to carry out violent behavior. This stage prepares perpetrators to a path of genocide.
The antisemitism in Lithuania during the 1930s set the stage for the coming genocide in 1941. The Nazi propaganda machine fed the community’s antisemitism, and inspired Lithuanians to write their own antisemitic literature.
In this stage, perpetrators are coached by others in how to be violent, how to carry out homicides. If they don’t kill others, they will become a victim. When Noreika joined the military, brutalization was part of the process in the coaching. You must kill sometimes to avoid being killed, to kill others for the good of the country.
Child-rearing practices were also very different than they are today. Physical punishment was part of the brutalization.
The antisemitic pamphlet that Noreika wrote in 1933 was a precursor to the violence to come, a technique he must have learned from the Nazis, particularly Hitler’s Mein Kampf written seven years earlier. When Noreika wrote his own pamphlet, he may have thought he would not advocate for violence against Jews, but when the situation arose a few years later, when all Jews were brutalized, he was ready to act upon his violent instincts because he had already been exposed to violence by the Communists. He may have become horrified and worried about becoming a victim himself.
Noreika was in a terrible situation where he had to deal with two opposition military units and figure out how to save himself. Should he work with the Nazis or the Communists? Should he switch back and forth? Death and destruction were all around. He saw a lot of violence occur in the community where he lived. With the two occupations, the entire country was exposed to different dimensions of brutalization.
Noreika was at risk of becoming a victim if he didn’t join the right group. He may have looked at the decision to join the Nazis based on saving himself and family, to survive the war.
Stage 2: Defiance
In the defiance stage, a belief system is created to support violent behavior. Violence must be used to stop violence, and it becomes an appropriate means to solve problems. Perpetrators become defiant against those who identify as a threat to themselves.
The internal logic was that all Jews were dangerous. The Nazis were very successful at fostering that belief system. This belief system mobilized citizens to become engaged in violence. The Lithuanian community became a support system to the perpetrators by providing approval and aid.
The country was already antisemitic and had animosity toward Jews, so the Nazis did not have to work too hard at fostering this belief system.
The genocidal community is known as a phantom community in the violentization theory, in which such a community supports and even encourages extreme forms of violence. It is a malignant community because it has had to endure a chaotic environment.
The Nazi leadership was telling Noreika he would have to help them get the Jews, put the Jews in ghettos and kill the Jews. The Nazis were teaching Noreika and socializing him to understand that it was a necessary part of his new role if he wanted to be a leader. He decided to go that route. He could have gone into hiding, join an anti-Nazi group, but instead he worked for the Nazis. He identified himself with the Nazis, believing that violence against Jews was an appropriate means to solve the nation’s problems.
Stage 3: Violent Dominance Engagement
This stage involves engaging in violent acts. The perpetrators present a violent supportive belief system that encourages the use of violence toward others. The brutalization and defiance stages allow the perpetrators to justify their violent behaviors and demand that violence is carried out.
In Lithuania, the perpetrators willingly agreed to engage in violence because they internalized the violentization script from their Nazi and Lithuanian communities. The perpetrators became more violent over time as groups and community support and permission to behave in violent ways was encouraged and promoted.
In Plungė, before he became chief of Šiauliai District, Noreika’s men were attacking and murdering Jews, initially in small numbers, and then within a month, in large numbers. A live witness, Aleksandras Pakalniškis, reported that Noreika gave the orders to kill all the Jews in Plungė. Shortly after, a celebration occurred, after which Noreika was rewarded with the highest position a Lithuanian could have under the Nazis in the country’s second largest region.
In writing his orders as chief of the Šiauliai District, Noreika directed others to carry out violent acts. By this point, he did not seem to need much coaching. He fell in with a lot of Lithuanians who joined in the attacks on the streets against Jews. Jews were being beaten and killed. Communities came out to watch and have a party, with mothers putting children on their shoulders to see Jews being killed. The whole community had gone through the stage of brutalization and defiance. It had become a community where violence was the norm.
Noreika was able to improvise his own tasks. He helped the Nazis persecute Jews by helping to round them up, identify them, allow people in the community to harm them by physically assaulting them, by taking things from their homes, by taking the actual homes.
Initially, Noreika may have been coached. A script was presented to him of what he would have to follow. This is very much in line with the Einsatzgruppen, who supervised and directed orders, and then claimed they were just following orders. Noreika rewarded those who carried out his orders, perhaps by giving out Jewish property. Noreika worked to segregate victims and directed individuals to carry them out. He supervised violent acts. He certainly was rewarded by the nature of his position, in which he was paid about 1,000 Reichsmarks per month, and with his family living in the best building in Šiauliai during the Nazi occupation.
Stage 4: Virulency
In this stage, a person defines themselves as violent and dangerous. They humiliate victims, and gain status for being a violent person. Although Noreika did not seem to join in this fourth stage of violence, he created the permissions and conditions for others to kill.
With just 1,000 Nazis in Lithuania during the Nazi occupation, it was impossible for the German Nazis to kill 220,000 victims by themselves. They had to have the help of locals.
Like many leaders in genocide, Noreika wasn’t there physically in the killing fields, engaging in violence, but he directed people. He may have been there watching and observing, but not engaging in physical violence. However, he created the conditions to allow that.
While there were very few written orders to kill, there had to have been verbal orders to kill. Noreika supervised the killing of thousands.
Stage 5: Violent Predation
This stage includes torture, mutilation of bodies, and rape. Dr. Winton referred to Lonnie Athens’s article “Violentization: A Relatively Singular Theory of Violent Crime,” where he states that the violent predation stage “is where the subject’s violence becomes completely unbound exceeding the outer limits of humanity.”
There have been reports of Lithuanian citizens participating in the murders and killings, torturing and raping their victims.
In the Plungė synagogue, where Jews were held captive, they were humiliated and starved. The synagogue was next to the home that Noreika appropriated from the Orlianskis for his own family who would have heard the screams from the Jews.
In Rainiai, while Noreika was in charge, Jews were forced to dig up the bodies of 74 Lithuanians, deemed martyrs for fighting against the Communists. The Jews were forced to wash and lick the decomposed Lithuanian bodies and rebury them. The chapel of Rainiai now stands in honor of those 74 Lithuanians. Across the way from the Rainiai chapel lie more than 7,000 Jews in an unmarked grave with a little stone as a marker.
The Storm Door Blog
As it turns out, Dr. Winton lost family members in Lithuania’s Holocaust. His grandfather left Lithuania after World War I, but left many family members behind.
“My grandfather would tell me that his parents, sister and nephews were killed by Nazis and Lithuanians,” said Dr. Winton. “I always thought he must be getting confused by including the Lithuanians. I didn’t make the connection for years.”
Noreika’s role in allowing the killings to occur under his watch is well documented. Of all the perpetrators, he may have left the longest paper trail. The denial by Lithuania’s politicians of Noreika’s role in the Holocaust is a common response after a genocide.
“It’s not unusual to see denial after a genocide,” said Dr. Winton. “Rwanda is the exception. We deny things that are threatening, that are scary, or that we don’t want to face.”
In related news….
Table of Truth on youtube: Held Sunday, September 12, 2021
The Last Nazi Hunter: Bridgehead
The Nazi’s Granddaughter: Blog by Sheldon Kirshner
Lithuania and the Holocaust, A Dark History: Wall Street Journal
Wishing you truth and peace in the storms of your life,
Silvia Foti, granddaughter of General Storm—Jonas Noreika
The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal is available. The book has been translated into Spanish, and is currently being translated into Lithuanian, Polish, and Hungarian. The paperback is coming in June 2022 with a new title: Storm in the Land of Rain: A Mother’s Dying Wish Becomes Her Daughter’s Nightmare
Taglines: Holocaust distortion; Violentization; General Storm; Jonas Noreika; Silvia Foti; Writer’s Life; The Storm Door blog; Genealogy; Grant Gochin.