Press "Enter" to skip to content

Jonas Noreika: Nazi Collaborator or National Hero? A Test for Lithuania

Hits: 1014

For the tiny village of Sukioniai in western Lithuania, the exploits of General Storm, a local anti-Communist hero executed by the Soviet secret police in 1947, have long been a source of pride. The village school is named after him, and his struggles against the Soviet Union are also honored with a memorial carved from stone next to the farm where he was born.

All along, though, there have been persistent whispers that General Storm, whose real name was Jonas Noreika, also helped the Nazis kill Jews. But these were largely discounted as the work of ill-willed outsiders serving a well-orchestrated campaign by Moscow to tar its foes as fascists.

Blaming Russian propaganda, however, has suddenly become a lot more difficult thanks to Mr. Noreika’s own granddaughter, Silvia Foti, a Lithuanian-American from Chicago who has spent years researching a biography of her revered relative and went public in July with her shocking conclusion: Her grandfather was a fierce anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator.

Her unequivocal verdict — announced in an article posted on Salon — has stirred emotional debate inside Lithuania and prompted a flood of “told you so” reports by state-controlled news media outlets in Russia.

“It was terribly shocking,” Ms. Foti said in a telephone interview of her finding that her grandfather was a killer, not a hero. “I had never heard about any of this Nazi stuff.”

It was also shocking for Jolanda Tamosiuniene, a teacher and librarian at the J. Noreika Basic School in Sukioniai, where Mr. Noreika was born at the end of the hamlet’s only street in 1910.

What shocked her, however, was not Ms. Foti’s discovery that her grandfather was complicit in the Holocaust — that was not really news to locals — but that a member of a patriotic émigré family had gone public and turned a private family matter into a public national shame.

“We have all heard things about what Noreika did during the war,” Ms. Tamosiuniene said. “He obviously took the wrong path. But his granddaughter should have kept quiet. Every family has its ugly things, but they don’t talk about them. It is better to stay silent.”

Keeping things in the family might be a natural self-defense mechanism in a small, traumatized country that, since it first gained independence from Russia in 1918, has been occupied once by Nazi Germany and twice by the Soviet Union.

A monument for Jonas Noreika in Sukioniai, Lithuania, the town where he was born

But the silence has only played into Russian claims of a cover-up and cast a long and sometimes unfairly dark shadow on a country justifiably proud of its success in building a tolerant, democratic nation on the ruins left by the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991.

Virtually nobody in Lithuania is denying the Holocaust or the role in it of local people. Its horrors are taught in schools and denounced by officials. And lately there have been growing calls, at least from a younger generation less scarred than its elders by memories of Soviet oppression, for an honest accounting of the role played by some national heroes like Mr. Noreika.

Indeed, on a visit last month to Vilnius, the capital, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, praised the country for taking “great steps to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust” and for its “commitment to fighting anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head.”

Ms. Foti’s research into her grandfather helped prod the mayor of Vilnius into asking the country’s guardian of official history, the Genocide and Resistance Research Center, to take a fresh look at whether Mr. Noreika merited his status as a national hero — and whether a plaque in his honor at the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in Vilnius should be taken down.

But at a time of rising nationalism across Europe and heightened tensions with Russia, Mr. Noreika has managed, despite repeated protests, to stay secure on his pedestal.

Appeals that he be toppled have met resistance from nationalists and the many Lithuanians whose relatives were deported to remote Soviet regions by Stalin or tortured by the K.G.B. intelligence service, crimes that blur the far greater crime of the Holocaust and often make them loath to condemn the actions of those who resisted Soviet power.

“They have built up a whole national narrative around fighting Communism that they cannot dismantle,” said Grant Gochin, a South African of Lithuanian descent who has calculated that he lost 100 family members to the Holocaust in Lithuania, dozens of them in territory under Mr. Noreika’s control during the Nazi occupation.

For many citizens of Lithuania and the two other Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia, the all-important memory of the war and its aftermath is of the 200,000 people deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan from 1941 to 1949 and of the tens of thousands who took to the forests at the end of World War II in a doomed fight against rule from Moscow.

For others, particularly those with family memories of the Holocaust, this is an undeniable calamity but one far less horrendous than the systematic extermination of more than 200,000 Jews in Lithuania alone from 1941 to 1945.

“Every nation has to have its heroes. I understand Lithuanians on this. But how can we have heroes like Noreika?” said Pinchos Fridberg, 80, a retired professor and the only Jew left in Vilnius who was born in the city before the Nazis invaded in 1941.

Clouding Lithuanians’ judgment, Mr. Fridberg said, has been a deep fear of Russia and a widespread assumption that anything that puts their country in a bad light must be Russian disinformation or at least worthy of skepticism because it comforts the Kremlin.

“Whatever someone says or does, so long as they are against Russia they are heroes,” Mr. Fridberg said.

When a group of prominent public figures in Lithuania signed a petition in 2015 demanding the removal of the plaque honoring Mr. Noreika on the library in Vilnius, the Genocide and Resistance Research Center protested that “the contempt being shown for Lithuanian patriots is organized by neighbors from the East.” In other words, Russians.

Portraying opponents of Moscow as fascists has been a feature of Russian propaganda for decades. After the end of World War II in 1945, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Ukrainians who resisted their incorporation into the Soviet Union were invariably tarred by Moscow as Nazi collaborators or their ideological heirs, no matter their record or views.

President Vladimir V. Putin has further stoked this narrative, repeatedly smearing Russia’s opponents at home and abroad as fascists as he establishes reverence for Russia’s huge role in defeating Hitler at the center of his campaign to revive national pride and his country’s status as a great power.

Dovid Katz, an American authority on Yiddish who lives in Vilnius, said the best response to Russian propaganda would be for countries like Lithuania and Ukraine to draw a clear line between heroes and criminals in their accounts of the war. Instead, he said, they have often gone into a self-defeating defensive crouch.

“Just because Russia says something for the wrong reasons does not mean it is automatically wrong,” said Mr. Katz, who runs a website focused on the Holocaust.

Mr. Noreika spent the last months of the war in Nazi detention, a fact that his defenders cite as evidence that he was never really pro-Nazi. But his principal claim to hero status is that the Soviet Union convicted him of treason and executed him for his role in organizing anti-Communist resistance while working as a lawyer in Vilnius at the Academy of Sciences following the war.

After regaining its independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union, Lithuania canceled the conviction and declared Mr. Noreika a heroic martyr, ignoring his role as an official under Nazi occupation, which resulted in the slaughter of about 95 percent of the more than 200,000 Jews living in Lithuania when Hitler invaded.

A plaque commemorating Mr. Noreika at the library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in Vilnius

Today the country is dotted with Holocaust grave sites and memorials. One of the biggest stands in a forest outside the western town of Plunge, where Mr. Noreika served as commander of the Lithuanian Activist Front, an openly anti-Semitic group that was fiercely hostile to an initial Soviet occupation in 1940 and cheered the Nazis as liberators the following year.

Plunge’s entire Jewish population of more than 1,800 was murdered within days of the invasion, mostly by local people.

Eugenijus Bunka, the son of a prewar Jewish resident who survived because he fled to the Soviet Union, said Mr. Noreika probably didn’t kill Jews himself but still bore responsibility as an administrator who signed orders seizing their property and ordering their “isolation.”

“I hear all these people shouting about defending our patriots, but the people who have another view are all silent,” he said, pointing to one of the pits where Plunge’s Jewish residents were buried after being shot or beaten to death by their neighbors.

When Ms. Foti started researching her book on her grandfather 18 years ago, she expected to produce a glowing tribute.

“My grandfather was going to be the white knight in shining armor, a pure hero from beginning to end,” she said. “I had always heard how he had done so much for Lithuania and had died at the early age of 36 at the hands of the K.G.B.”

Instead, after digging up wartime documents with her grandfather’s signature relating to the treatment of Jews and talking to relatives and others during research trips to Lithuania, she realized that he had been an accomplice in mass murder. Mr. Noreika, she said, did not pull the trigger himself but was a “desk killer.”

She said he oversaw the slaughter in Plunge, where his family moved into a handsome home seized from its Jewish owners, and also in the nearby town of Siauliai, where he served as county chief under the Nazis starting in late 1941 — and where the main government building now has a plaque in his honor.

“Lithuanians have been raped three times — by the Communists twice and by the Nazis once,” Ms. Foti said. “All they know is that they were raped, that they are the victims. They have no more room in their psyche for any other victims.”


Originally published on 2018-09-10

Author: Andrew Higgins

Source: The New York Times

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

Kaunas, Lithuania, June 1941 (before Germans arrived): Killing of the Jews by local Lithuanians

READ MORE!
McCain Against the World
In his militarist lust he was near lunacy; his ignorance: profound; he was, in many respects, conventional—numbingly conventional—on Washington’s global role. That was John McCain. This was a man who, post-9/11, promoted measures expected to boost foreign terrorism. “Within hours” of that morning’s carnage, he made himself “leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan,” to countries—like Iraq—with no Qaeda ties, where revenge, really, would be aggression. On CNN, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on “Face the Nation” he pushed for assaulting Iraq, stressing the “need to keep telling the American people” about Saddam’s menace, to ...
READ MORE
Distorting Fascism to Sanitize Capitalism
The facile and indiscriminate use of the term fascism has led to a widespread misunderstanding and misuse of its meaning. Asked to define fascism, most people would respond in terms such as dictatorship, anti-Semitism, mass hysteria, efficient propaganda machine, mesmerizing oratory of a psychopathic leader, and the like.Such a pervasive misconception of the meaning of the term fascism is not altogether fortuitous. It is largely because of a longstanding utilitarian misrepresentation of the term. Fascism is deliberately obfuscated in order to sanitize capitalism. Ideologues, theorists and opinion-makers of capitalism have systematically shifted the systemic sins of fascism from market/capitalist failures ...
READ MORE
The Nazi Glorification of Ataturk
Historical research into the Nazi era rarely throws up many surprises any more. German historian Stefan Ihrig, however, is an exception to this rule. By studying long-published sources, he has uncovered the fascination that Ataturk's modern Turkey held for the German far right, which has been seriously underestimated until now and which set an example for Hitler and the National Socialists.From a right-wing viewpoint, what Ataturk had achieved was an unattainable goal for Weimar-era Germany. Using force of arms, he had managed to reverse the Treaty of Sevres, which had been forced on his country by the Entente in 1920, ...
READ MORE
Noel Malcolm: “Kosovo – A Short History”, 1999. A History Written With an Attempt to Support Albanian Territorial Claims in the Balkans (Fourth Part)
Ema Miljkovic-Bojanic, M. A. Institute of History of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts Belgrade, 2000 Malcolm’s Apology of the “Pax Ottomana”   (Ab)using of historiography and historical facts for political ends is not a novelty introduced towards the end of the twentieth century. Its instances have been known throughout history, so that “practically there is not a single epoch of human history that was not controlled – by the Church, state, nation, party, leadership…” But precisely at a time when historiography seemed to be getting rid, at least partly, of the grip of “supervision” and when a critical approach was getting the upper hand, the ...
READ MORE
Enabling Genocide by the West: The Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.SaveSave
READ MORE
Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone
During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMSBecause Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations ...
READ MORE
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
One of the most ingenious propaganda weapons ever developed is that the powerful nations of the West—led by the United States—have a moral responsibility to use military force to protect the rights of people being repressed by their governments. This “responsibility to protect” (R2P) always had a dubious legal standing, but its moral justification also required a psychological and historical disengagement from the bloody reality of the 500-hundred-year history of U.S. and European colonialism, slavery, genocide and torture that created the “West.” This violent, lawless Pan-European colonial/capitalist project continues today under the hegemony of the U.S. empire. This then begs the ...
READ MORE
Trump and Palestine
For decades, much of the world seemed to believe the fairy tale that the United States was a neutral broker, working for a solution to the issues plaguing Palestine and Israel. The U.S. sponsored endless rounds of negotiations, ostensibly looking for an end to these issues. Before this writer points out the nonsense of that belief, allow him to state two, self-evident (one would think) truths: (1) No broker is needed. All that is required is for Israel to adhere to international law. This means removing all the illegal settlers, ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip, allowing all Palestinian refugees to ...
READ MORE
A Croatian Role in the Destruction of Yugoslavia in the 1990s (III)
Part I, Part II Territorial imperialism of the HDZ’s Croatia The fact was that all ultranationalistic parties and organizations in the 1990s struggled for the creation of a Greater Croatia according to the principle of the ethnographic, historical and even natural rights. In all of those concepts, Bosnia-Herzegovina was seen as an integral part of united Croatia. There were, in principle, two concepts of united Croatia: A minimal concept of Croatia within the borders of the Banovina Hrvatska as it was in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1939−1941 (when a Greater Croatia as a separate and autonomous administrative territory became a state ...
READ MORE
The CIA and a Greater Albania: The Origins of the US Role in the Balkans
Introduction: The Missing LinkWhy did the US support the separatist and terrorist so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA, or UCK in Shqip), which sought to create an ethnically pure Albanian Kosovo based on ethnicity? Why did the US sponsor a criminal and illegal separatist movement that sought to ethnically cleanse non-Albanians and create an independent state of Kosova? Why was the US supporting and sponsoring the re-establishment of a fascist-Nazi Greater Albania that Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini had initially created?When did the US begin to play a role in Kosovo? Did the US role in Kosovo begin with the arming ...
READ MORE
Manchester Terror Act on May 22nd, 2017: Photo Evidence Not Presented on the Mainstream Global Mass-Media (Euronews, CNN, DW, BBC, ABC…)
See photo evidence here: Manchester terror act on 2017-05-22 Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest. Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations. © “Free Media Group” 2017
READ MORE
U.S. Crimes of Genocide Against North Korea
The crimes committed by the US against the people of Korea in the course of the Korean War but also in its aftermath are unprecedented in modern history.“We Killed Off – What – Twenty Percent of the Population. We Burned Down every Town in North Korea…”The above quotation is from General Curtis Lemay, who coordinated the bombing campaign (1950-53)Who is a Threat to Global Security? The US or the DPRK?The public perception of the entire population of  North Korea is that the US is a threat to their national security.During the Korean War, the DPRK lost more than 25% of ...
READ MORE
The President Needs Congressional Authorization for Military Action as Required by the Constitution
“While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked. The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution, and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer, and Syria will be no different.” Senator Rand Paul, (R-Kentucky), 7 April 2017. A central concern of the Founding generation, when writing the Constitution, was to ensure that no one man, or one man and his clique, could take the republic to war. To that end, the Constitution ...
READ MORE
Kosovo Albanian Muslims in the Nazi SS
Waffen SS troops in the Albanian Battalion of the Handzar Division, wearing SS-issued Albanian skullcaps, Bosnia, 1944 SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler formed a Kosovo Albanian Muslim Nazi SS Division during World War II, the Skanderbeg SS Division, 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), in 1944. He planned to form a second Kosovo Albanian Muslim SS Division but was not able to because the war ended before he could do so. The history of the Skanderbeg division has been documented and analyzed. What has rarely been analyzed, however, is the role of the Kosovo Albanian Muslim members in ...
READ MORE
Lawyers Serve Indictment on NATO Leaders for War Crimes
“This is an historic opportunity to demonstrate the even-handedness of international justice” – Michael Mandel, law professor, York University, Toronto, Canada, 1999 NATO leaders found guilty of war crimes in Yugoslavia “NATO leaders acted in open violation of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12th August 1949, and the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8th June 1977 . . .” Dr Will Podmore, The Lancet (June 26th 1999) In the District Court of Belgrade on September 22, 2000, the President of the court, Veroljub Raketic, handed down guilty verdicts against government leaders of NATO countries for ...
READ MORE
A Nazi past of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Censored Truth in the West
Bosnia’s Nazi past and role in the genocide of Bosnian and Krajina Serbs, Jews, and Roma during World War II has long been censored and covered-up in the U.S. and the so-called West. Film footage exists, however, of the Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS troops and Imams in the Handschar and Kama Nazi SS Divisions. Bosnian Muslim Division Imam Abdulah Muhasilovic shown in 1943 during training and formation of the Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS Division Handzar Moreover, German film footage also exists of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, a self-proclaimed leader of the Muslim world, reviewing the Bosnian Muslim ...
READ MORE
Paving the Road to the End of NATO
It's no secret that President Trump believes NATO is an anachronism. It's also no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron wants a Grand Army of the EU and a single EU Finance Minister to further integration of the EU into the United States of Europe. He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been championing these two things since the day after Macron took office. They are both pushing hard for the EU to conduct independent foreign policy, framing Trump's belligerence as the catalyst for its need now. So, I’m not surprised in the wake of Merkel’s garden summit with Russian President Vladimir ...
READ MORE
The Sickness of American Foreign Policy
The Military-Industrial Complex runs U.S. foreign policies. What passes for international 'news' reporting in the United States media was supremely represented by the instance of those 'news' media stenographically reporting the Government's lies about 'Saddam's WMD', even after it was unarguably clear that those were just blatant lies from the President and his Administration. America's media were merely passive megaphones for the regime's lies. Instead of disproving the regime's lies — as they could have done if they were journalistic, instead of propagandistic, media — they merely reported the lying government's assertions. It was like 1984 "Big Brother"; and it ...
READ MORE
War Crimes: Agent Orange, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Other Ugly Legacies of the Vietnam War
Fifty years ago this next month (December 1965), with the urging of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the rubber stamp approval of President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, the United States Air Force started secretly spraying the forests of Laos with a deadly herbicide that was known as Agent Orange. Operation Ranch Hand, whose motto was “Only We Can Prevent Forests” (a shameful takeoff of Smokey the Bear’s admonition), was a desperate, costly and ultimately futile effort to make it a little harder for the National Liberation Front soldiers from North Vietnam to join and supply their ...
READ MORE
The Cold War is Over
Like most Englishmen, I grew up with a natural dislike of “abroad” and a belief in the inferiority of all foreign things. I think it took me five visits to France before I began to regret leaving that lovely country rather than to rejoice at my return to our safe and familiar island. It often strikes me as quite funny that I spent so much of my life as a foreign correspondent, a profession for which I am so unfitted. When I went to live in Moscow in 1990, I felt that I had somehow betrayed my native soil. (I was ...
READ MORE
McCain Against the World
Distorting Fascism to Sanitize Capitalism
The Nazi Glorification of Ataturk
Noel Malcolm: “Kosovo – A Short History”, 1999. A History Written With an Attempt to Support Albanian Territorial Claims in the Balkans (Fourth Part)
Enabling Genocide by the West: The Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Trump and Palestine
A Croatian Role in the Destruction of Yugoslavia in the 1990s (III)
The CIA and a Greater Albania: The Origins of the US Role in the Balkans
Manchester Terror Act on May 22nd, 2017: Photo Evidence Not Presented on the Mainstream Global Mass-Media (Euronews, CNN, DW, BBC, ABC…)
U.S. Crimes of Genocide Against North Korea
The President Needs Congressional Authorization for Military Action as Required by the Constitution
Kosovo Albanian Muslims in the Nazi SS
Lawyers Serve Indictment on NATO Leaders for War Crimes
A Nazi past of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Censored Truth in the West
Paving the Road to the End of NATO
The Sickness of American Foreign Policy
War Crimes: Agent Orange, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Other Ugly Legacies of the Vietnam War
The Cold War is Over
Mission News Theme by Compete Themes.