Thank you, Ambassador!
For me, one of the most powerful moments in my film J’Accuse! occurs when Grant Gochin describes his first telephone conversation with Silvia Foti.
Gochin says: “So I pick up the phone and she’s like “Hello, this is Silvia Foti” and I’m like “Yes” and she said ‘I’ve read all of your research…but you’ve made a mistake’. And I was just expecting suspicions, objections, obfuscation and denials… but then she says to me: “You’ve missed approximately 10,000 of my Grandfather’s victims”…. and with that phrase all suspicion left. With that phrase, I knew that I finally had somebody to travel this road with.”
Well, something like that happened when I read the Lithuanian Ambassador to South Africa, Dainius Junevičius’s comments to the outstanding South African Jewish Report:
“For some (Lithuanians) the facts on the memorial plaque (to Noreika) outside the building where he worked [now the library] will be important: he organised armed resistance to the Soviet occupation, and was killed by the Soviet authorities for this,” the Ambassador said. “However, 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 Šiauliai district of the German occupation civil administration in 1941-1943. In my opinion, this is completely unjustifiable, and no other real or perceived merit can wash away this sin.”
For this reason, the ambassador unambiguously said, the plaque must never be resurrected.
This is a remarkable statement for three reasons. Firstly that it came from a working ambassador. Secondly because it unambiguously calls out Noreika as the mass murderer that he was. And thirdly, because it states that mass murderers do not deserve to be national heroes.
Dainius Junevičius, I honour you. With these short sentences you have unlocked a door to a new chapter in Jewish and LIthuanian relations. With this phrase you have made it possible to effect real, lasting change. With this phrase you have started the liberation and redemption of your own People. With this phrase, you have enabled the possibility of a true reconciliation between the Lithuanian and the Jewish Peoples.
It is important to understand this: the Lithuanian People are entirely innocent of the crimes of thousands of their grandparents, because guilt for these terrible crimes does not and cannot transmit intergenerationally. It is the Lithuanian Government’s lies that imprison its people and make them complicit in some of the worst crimes in world history. Mr Ambassador, you have it in your gift to liberate your people, finally, from the worst chapter in your country’s history.
On our side – and every Jew knows this – we are ready. All it takes is the Truth.
Be brave, Ambassador. You are making history.
And we are with you, Sir.