Following the publication of my op-ed in the New York Times “No More Lies” last Wednesday, I received nearly 50 letters. Here are just two excerpts:
“It seems that countries in Central Europe are trying to show a different picture of the past and to minimize their role in cooperating with the Nazis. Again. your activity has to be highly appreciated.”
“I imagine it has been very difficult for you on several fronts: to confront difficult truths about your own family history but also to be challenged by those who would rather cling to a comforting narrative than more difficult realities. In this scary time where what is real is being dismissed as “fake news,” and “alternative facts” are spread widely over the internet, a dogged pursuit of the truth is essential.”
While my grandfather’s role in the Holocaust has been painful enough to discover, what has been equally painful was the discovery of the Lithuanian government’s denial of his role in the Holocaust. This is the 10th stage of genocide – Denial that it ever happened. In this case, Lithuania can’t deny that the Holocaust happened on its land. But it has been denying its own role in the annihilation of 96.4 percent of its Jews.
Since then, I’ve decided to stand up and speak out.
Mexico City Nidje Israel Synagogue and ICAN
Recently, I created a message for Mexico City’s Nidje Israel Synagogue, which is an exact replica of the synagogue in Siauliai, Lithuania, which was destroyed in World War II and ransacked by Lithuanians during the Holocaust. This message was distributed in Mexico during January. A transcript of the message is below.
Shortly after that, the Israeli-American Civic Action Network (ICAN) has launched an issue education initiative to ensure all 535 members of the United States Congress learn about the ongoing Holocaust revisionism campaign perpetrated by the Lithuanian government.
“The Republic of Lithuania is engaged in a cynical, dishonest, and morally bankrupt campaign to deny and distort facts about the Holocaust. Facts supported by indisputable evidence, which proves that Lithuanians engaged in Holocaust crimes on a massive scale,” said Dillon Hosier, CEO at ICAN.
“The Lithuanian government not only hides the criminal histories of Holocaust perpetrators but adds insult to injury by bestowing their highest national honors to those who are proven murderers of Jews,” Hosier concluded. “If the Lithuanian government is able to effortlessly lie about history’s greatest crime, then it begs the question: what won’t they lie about?”
On three separate occasions dating back to February 26, 2018, the Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania (LGGRTC) falsely claimed that the United States Congress and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) “completely exonerated” Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis for culpability in the murder of Jews in Lithuania. In response to inquiries and objections from senior members of Congress about these false claims, Lithuania responded that these members of Congress were “just politicians” and that their opposition has no merit.
ICAN’s initiative to educate Congress about Lithuania’s campaign to deny and distort certain facts about the Holocaust will be launched alongside the publication of “The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal” written by Silvia Foti, available on March 9, 2021.
Every member of Congress
In her book, Foti chronicles the story of how she discovered her grandfather, revered as a famous war hero by the Lithuanian government, was in fact a Nazi war criminal. ICAN plans to send every member of the United States Congress a copy of this book to illustrate just one singular example of Lithuania’s Holocaust distortion campaign. ICAN will also be encouraging and supporting Federal legislation to address Lithuania’s Holocaust frauds.
This campaign is being conducted in partnership with ICAN’s educational affiliate, the Israeli-American Civic Education Institute, a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization. For more information about this campaign, please visit http://bit.ly/holocaustbook.
Transcript of the Speech to Nidje Israel
Rabbi, members of the Congregation, ladies and gentlemen. I am humbled by your invitation to join you by Zoom. Unfortunately, due to COVID, I cannot address you in person.
My name is Silvia Foti, the granddaughter of Jonas Noreika. I am speaking to you from my home in Chicago, wishing that I could be with you in your magnificent, beautiful, and holy sanctuary–Synagogue Nidjei Israel in Mexico City. I am honored to speak with you today regarding the release of my book, “The Nazi’s granddaughter”. In Mexico it has just been released as “Mi Abuelo, El General Storm. Heroe de Guerra o criminal nazi?”
When I first learned that Nidjei Israel is a replica of the synagogue of the village of Šiauliai in Lithuania, it struck me on an extremely personal note, since I am familiar with the timeperiod of the original synagogue. Reflecting on the ties between the two synagogues in space and time has become of paramount importance to me.
You see, My Grandfather likely stood facing your families in the original of this synagogue in Šiauliai. Now, I, his granddaughter, stand facing the descendants in the replica of the original in Mexico City.
I would like to address the history of this Synagogue. Nidjei Israel was consecrated in 1941 by Jewish immigrants from Šiauliai. The prototype for Nidjei Israel was destroyed in that very same year, 1941. The Jews of Šiauliai who had not emigrated to Mexico or elsewhere, were murdered in that same year. 1941. Those were your families. A long-standing community of Jews and their holy spaces annihilated in the very same year this Synagogue was dedicated. Eighty years ago. Their children, the very future of the Jewish people, were murdered alongside their parents, grandparents, and families.
Why did this happen?
Who allowed it?
Who carried out the murders?
The woman I thought I was prior to beginning my research for this book, no longer exists. The woman I have become after having diligently conducted my investigation, are two dramatically different women. I started out as the granddaughter of a Lithuanian hero. Today I am the granddaughter of a Lithuanian monster. Let me reconcile for you how that is possible. Let us go back to the beginning.
Hatred toward Jews became a feature of Lithuanian society in the 1930s. My grandfather was at the forefront of that movement. He wrote Lithuania’s equivalent of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. During the Holocaust, my grandfather was in charge of the second largest region in Lithuania, and therefore, he was responsible for the persecution and murder of Jews under his dominion, and the plunder of their property. He may or may not have participated in the direct physical murders of your families and other Jews. He may or may not have personally destroyed the original of this Synagogue. He may or may not have been directly responsible for the destruction of many other Synagogues in that region; but during that period, he was in command, and those atrocities were under his watch. Those atrocities, in my book, were his responsibility.
The government of Lithuania is engaged in Holocaust denial and revisionism, and currently heralds him as a national hero. He enjoys mythological status within Lithuania. An intricate web of lies has been written about him while totally negating his horrendous deeds. His Jewish victims have been dismissed by Lithuania as an inconvenient tragedy to be explained away. What the government of Lithuania has done regarding my own grandfather is one of the greatest criminal cover ups in all of history.
As a young girl, I believed my grandfather was one of the most splendid heroes of all time. As an adolescent, I was proud to be connected to his glorious name. Then, as an adult, the unspeakable truth was revealed to me. I only then realized that the mission of my research had to change. As a practicing Catholic, I simply had to do the right thing. It is incumbent upon me to correct history.
My greatest hope is that this book will light the flame of truth for Lithuania to recognize the terrible history of the Shoah as it unfolded in 1941. Once that is truly recognized, and it will take time, it will allow the crucial healing process to begin for all Lithuanians. True reconciliation between Lithuanians and Jews can only be based on truth.
Now, in 2021, 80 years after my grandfather enabled the destruction of the original of this Synagogue, I stand before you. I acknowledge the culpability of my family in the murder and destruction of yours. My grandfather will remain to me a monster. Those watching are the families of his victims. I know that forgiving is impossible.
Only the murdered may forgive and they are not here to do that. So, I ask you to accept my genuine personal apology. I am sorry for the sins of my grandfather and I am sorry for what the Lithuanian government continues to do. I know that I personally am not responsible for my family and national guilt. Nonetheless, I face you with humiliation, ancestral guilt, remorse, and overwhelming sadness.
I promise you, I will do everything I can to make certain that the truth about my grandfather will be the only story of his life. The little girl who never met her grandfather but was raised to idolize him, is now grown up and willing to tell the truth. I implore the Lithuanian government to do the same. The cover up and rewriting of history must be brought to an end. Now.
My mission will continue to be to speak the truth about this time in history, 1941, to bring awareness and education, and through this, to help us walk toward healing eighty years later.
The Storm Door Blog
The cover-up of the Holocaust is the news in 2021. What happened 80 years ago is indeed tragic, but I don’t think it would be making so many headlines today if the Lithuanian government would acknowledge the role of its leaders and other citizens in 1941. One thousand Nazis could not have murdered 220,000 Jews by themselves. They needed the help and enthusiasm of Lithuanians to complete the horrifying task.
In related news…
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 releases on March 9, 2021; the book is available for pre-orders: www.silviafoti.com
Taglines: Nidje Israel; ICAN; General Storm; Jonas Noreika; Silvia Foti; Writer’s Life; The Storm Door blog; Genealogy; Grant Gochin.