Michael Kretzmer

The Warrior, Grant Gochin

Once I’d made the decision to devote my life to making J’Accuse! the immediate challenge was to raise money. The first approach to a potential donor did not go well. 

“You want to make a film about Grant Gochin? He’s toxic!”

She was not the only person to express this view. In fact I soon came to understand that a lot of people don’t like Grant Gochin and that this dislike is curiously shared by both the antisemites of the Lithuanian government and many ‘pragmatist’ Jews across the world. 

And why? 

Because Grant Gochin tells the unvarnished truth. And unvarnished truth is the last thing a lot of people want to hear. 

Here’s an “unvarnished truth” for you. The Lithuanian government employs scores of bogus ‘historians’ to tell lies so the country can continue to hero worship the petty thief, ideological antisemite and mass murderer of 14,500 Jews, Jonas Noreika. 

It seems to me, a keen observer, that very, very few of the great Jewish or even Holocaust institutions care much about this truth. Nobody has challenged Lithuania. And very few have offered support to Silvia Foti, Noreika’s granddaughter, who has courageously driven a horse and cart through the shabby defenses of the Lithuanian government. 

What the people who run these organizations seem to prefer are performative platitudes, big-name bullshit and schmaltzy mission statements. But substance? Forget it. A government has a systemic policy of making up lies to exonerate mass murderers? Well that’s okay as long as they put on their long faces on Holocaust Day, drone on about how much they miss their ‘talented, missing Jews’ and enthuse about latkes and the Vilna Gaon. 

Which is why we are where we are. Why, just 80 years after the slaughter, we have a European government of a perpetrator nation, a member of NATO and the EU, openly espousing the most egregious and insulting form of Holocaust denial and getting away with it with barely a whimper of protest. 

Well, decades ago Grant Gochin decided to fight. And he’s been fighting ever since. 

Gochin fights every day. From the early morning to the late night. He is disciplined and unrelenting. His weapons are his determination, his moral sense of purpose, his obligation to his murdered family and people and his outrage at the insult. And Gochin will never stop, not until he draws his last breath. Yes, obsessed (though here’s a tip: if you ever want to melt him just say: “So how’s the dog?” and he will immediately transform into a slobbering blancmange of schmaltz).

The Gochin day includes the following: writing letters to diplomats, historians, lawyers, politicians and journalists; producing, commissioning and funding articles for websites, social media, scholarly publications, journals, newspapers; organizing campaigns, petitions and flyers; chasing witnesses, opinion-makers, influencers, academics; commissioning research; funding legal actions; flying here there and everywhere to deliver speeches on Lithuanian Holocaust distortion and lies; and making contact with anyone who can advance the cause of Holocaust truth across the world. All of this in addition to his day job.

All his actions have been self-funded (he has launched over 30 legal actions against the Lithuanian government and lost every one). And he has stated that the one thing he will never accept from the Lithuanian government is financial recompense because it just isn’t about money. Gochin has never taken or earned a penny from his activism.

His successes are few but deeply significant. It was Gochin who forced the Lithuanian government to reverse its No Jew policy on passports. If you have a Lithuanian passport today, Gochin’s largely the guy to thank.

It was also Gochin who launched legal cases against Lithuania in the European and international courts, keeping alive the issue of Holocaust denial. 

And even more importantly it was Gochin who worked tirelessly to publish in English the 175 eye witness testimonies of the Lithuanian slaughter collected by Leyb Koniuchowskey after the war. One cannot overstate the importance of these testimonies. They tell us, and the world, what happened. 

I’ve come to know Grant Gochin well. Of course we share many ideas, most obviously a determination to fight Holocaust lies in Lithuania. But frequently we disagree and frequently we bicker. His faults (he won’t mind me telling you) include his temper, his micromanagerial instinct, his relentless  efficiency, his brusque manner (frequently misinterpreted as rudeness)  his demands and requests, his obduracy, his spectacular rudeness to people perceived as ‘enemies’ and a few other things of that pugnacious ilk.

But these are the things I like about Grant. His stubbornness, his courage, his sense of humor, his openness, his ability to admit error, his sincerity, his energy, his generosity, his sense of adventure (this is a guy who goes steerage to South Sudan to live in huts on his vacation)…  and, above all, the fact that he has devoted his life to the pursuit of justice and the restoration of Jewish honor in Lithuania.

There is an easy way and a difficult way to memorialize our robbed, raped, humiliated and murdered families. 

The easy way is to stage schmaltzy memorials and read predictable cliches. 

The difficult way is to tackle the liars and distorters head on, and demand action. This is the Gochin way.    

About the Author
Bulawayo born, a former travel writer for the Sunday Times and director/producer for the BBC and other once important media organisations, a keeper of chickens and grower of fruit and veg, a biker, a student of Torah, a Dad and Grandad... and a man determined to fight for justice in Lithuania.