Petition: Remove all honors awarded to my grandfather Jonas Noreika
I am Silvia Foti, granddaughter of Jonas Noreika. The facts about my Grandfather have been clearly established. The convoluted gymnastics of the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania to deny his culpability is a stain on the nation and an abuse of the memory and dignity of my Grandfather’s victims.
I cannot stand by and watch the deceptive distortions and revisionism by the Government of Lithuania in order to validate its conduct in reforming my Grandfather into a national hero. He was not. My Grandfather was a Holocaust perpetrator, and he was not alone. Lithuania has the freedom—and responsibility—to look at the actions of Lithuanians during the Holocaust. We must face our grandparents’ misdeeds. It is time.
I urge the Government of Lithuania to tell the truth, and to remove all honors awarded to my Grandfather. Simply as a matter of respect to his victims. I ask all freedom and peace-loving Lithuanians to sign this petition in the name of regret, sorrow, and respect for Jonas Noreika’s victims.
Silvia Foti, USA
Please Sign Below in English and/or Lithuanian
Jonas Noreika ne Didvyris
It is Time for Lithuania to Acknowledge Its Role in the Holocaust
The plaque honoring my grandfather, Jonas Noreika, on the Wroblewski Library in Vilnius has turned into a flashpoint between those who believe he should continue to be honored as a hero and those who believe he is guilty of willingly participating in the Holocaust.
For much too long, the discussion of Lithuania’s role in the killing of 200,000 Jews in 1941 has been buried because it has been too painful to work through the collective guilt.
It has been too easy to cast blame on everyone else but the Lithuanians—it was the Germans who “forced” the Lithuanians into killing Jews, or the victims themselves deserved it. They were Communists after all, including the babies and grandmothers. The Jews stole from Lithuanians who had no choice but to defend their country and honor. Killing Jews meant killing Communists, end of story.
This form of denial and obfuscation worked during the Soviet occupation when Lithuanians were not allowed to analyze their history, when it was forbidden to discuss anything except what they were told to evaluate.
But now that the country has been free for nearly 30 years, Lithuania has the freedom—and responsibility—to look at its actions during the Holocaust squarely in the eye.
We must face our grandparents’ misdeeds. It is time.
My grandfather agreed to be the head of the Šiauliai district during the Nazi occupation. Nobody “forced” him into that position. It was a huge promotion for him. He was only 30 years old. Nobody “dragged” him into living in the best house in Šiauliai or into accepting a salary of 1,000 rubles/month. For him it was an honor and his family lived in style.
In fact, he tried to convince other Lithuanians into taking leadership roles in the government during the Nazi occupation. Documents prove this. Several Lithuanians refused. They knew what it meant to be a leader during that time period. And yet my grandfather didn’t?
Nobody “coerced” him into signing a document on August 22, 1941 to send Jews into a ghetto in Žagarė. My grandfather was a brilliant lawyer, a captain in the Army, who was also a creative writer. He certainly had the imagination to understand what would happen to those Jews once they were rounded up into the ghetto.
Two months earlier, he led the uprising in Żemaitija, with his headquarters based in Mardosai, just outside of Plungė. By mid-July 1941, 1,800 Jews were rounded up into a Synagogue, which served as a ghetto, and then marched into the woods and shot, one by one. Plungė has the unfortunate distinction of being the first city in Europe where Jews were killed on a massive scale during World War II. My grandfather was in the middle of all this—before the Nazis had arrived in any substantial numbers, and it was no accident.
Yes, the Nazis started it. Yes, the Nazis “ordered” the Lithuanians to kill Jews. But why couldn’t the Lithuanians drag their feet? Make excuses? Create obstacles? Instead, they “followed orders”—worked as fast and furiously as they could to help the Nazis exterminate Jews.
I have always heard how my grandfather resisted the Nazis when they wanted Lithuania to join the SS. He was sent to a Nazi concentration camp in March 1943 for taking such a stand. Here is some more information: Heinrich Himmler made him an “honorable prisoner.” This means he had his own bed with sheets, did not have to work, and could walk freely around the camp. He did not experience what Jews did. Why do you think he survived this camp?
Please go deeper into history and think about these questions:
• Why didn’t he take a stand 18 months earlier, in the summer and fall of 1941, when all the Jews were being killed?
• Why did he stay silent in the second half of 1941?
• Why didn’t he refuse to sign documents sending Jews to a ghetto in 1941?
• Why didn’t he refuse to sign documents calling for the distribution of Jewish property once they were taken to the ghetto?
• If he could resist the Nazis to have Lithuanians join the SS, why didn’t he resist the Nazis when he was “ordered” to participate in the killing of Jews?
• Why did Himmler make him an honorable prisoner? What did my grandfather do that was so “honorable” in Himmler’s eyes?
• He lived for another six years after all those Jews were killed. If he was so sorry about what happened to the Jews, if he was “forced” or “dragged into it,” why didn’t he write at least one article expressing his remorse?
When my mother, on her deathbed, asked me to write a book about her father, I thought I would be writing about a hero. But once I started researching the Nazi occupation, particularly my grandfather’s role during that “complicated” time period, I realized my grandfather was no hero.
How should I view my own grandfather? As his granddaughter, I have decided to love him because he is still my grandfather. But I hate his sins, and I am willing to bear witness to them in their full horror so that others understand that his actions were wrong.
Just because Lithuanians were victimized by the Russians did not give Lithuanians the right to victimize Jews.
This “tragic figure” does not deserve to have a plaque to honor him. We should weep over what he did and express our sorrow over his actions, vowing to do all we can to make sure there are no other “tragic figures” like this in the future of our beloved Lithuania.
Silvia Foti, Chicago