Interview with Grant Gochin
LF- International Lithuanian Federation www.IamLietuva.com
Interview with Grant Gochin
Conducted by: Alexandra Kudukis
Alexandra: Hello Grant, thank you for speaking to me today. Your recent article in the Jerusalem Report magazine - https://ggochin.wordpress.com/2017/11/27/jerusalem-report-article-11-29-17-dated-december-7-title-defective-heroes/ - has caused quite a stir. Various segments of the Lithuanian government and society have called you an “agent of the East,” a “Kremlin puppet,” a “useful idiot for Putin,” and other such descriptions.
Grant: Such ad hominem assertions reveal the utter absurdity of the Lithuanian government’s position on these matters. No matter how small an issue, everything is dismissively ascribed to Russia so that the government need not take responsibility for historical truth. It used to be that Jews were the ultimate source of blame, but now that Lithuania has virtually no Jews remaining, all ills are attributed to the Russians.
In America and, frankly, in all Western democracies, people acknowledge problems and actively seek solutions. By contrast, in Lithuania, it would seem the Government’s response is to say: “We have a problem, let’s find a way to ignore it or blame an external party.” You cannot fix a country’s problems that way, especially with the whole world watching. The outside world has long been aware of how Lithuania’s Jews were murdered in 1941 and that this preceded the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, when Nazi Germany decided to make mass-murder its state policy.
The Lithuanian government’s continued efforts to deny the truth – and to blame the messengers of truth – reflect negatively on the country, not on the messenger. Germany and Austria, which have honestly and thoroughly confronted the past, would never consider a monument honoring anyone who planned, promoted, or implemented the Holocaust. Lithuania’s excuses for continuing to honor war-crimes perpetrators simply make the country look ridiculous in the eyes of the world.
Alexandra: But aren’t Russians to blame for some things in Lithuania?
Grant: Without a doubt, the Russians ended Lithuanian independence, imposed collectivization, and sent “enemies” to the gulags. But that doesn’t explain how or why 95% of Lithuania’s Jewish citizens were murdered in 1941, at a time when even the Germans, who had occupied Poland since September 1939, had no such policy. Nor can Russian actions against Lithuania be grounds for refusing to look at the root causes of the only genocide that occurred in Lithuania during the Second World War.
Alexandra: The Lithuanian government has not released a list of Holocaust perpetrators. Recently, the government has said that instead of official investigations and determinations, the matter should be left to historians. What do you think?
Grant: I come from South Africa, where Apartheid governments long covered up state-sponsored crimes against part of the country’s population. The negative perception of the country was only changed after a truth and reconciliation process that was objectively open, thorough, and honest. Today, South Africa is now able to attract political allies and foreign investment. Other countries have also used this model to try to salve deep wounds from atrocious internal human-rights violations. If a government’s efforts are sincere and credibly acknowledge the truth, the outcome can enormously help a country lay the foundation for growth.
Alexandra: Your efforts for the past many years have focused on the monuments and honors given to Holocaust perpetrators. Since the monuments remain, do you see your efforts as being successful?
Grant: These honors do remain. However, the honors symbolize Lithuania’s official posture of enforced ignorance about the true nature of the Holocaust. From my efforts, people in Lithuania are learning the history of their country that is officially denied or obfuscated. Lithuanians increasingly recognize that those who are glorified as their national heroes are some of the worst monsters in the history of the world. While the Lithuanian government persists in embracing a false narrative, the population is increasingly asking questions. And from examining original source materials written contemporaneously by Lithuanian leaders themselves Lithuanians are learning what successive governments have concealed, namely, that the acts of these monsters is not fiction invented by Russians, Poles, Jews, Americans, or Martians. In this regard, they are following the suggestion made more than 15 years ago by Prof. Saulius Suziedelis, who urged anyone who doubted the plans and actions of the Lithuanian leaders in 1940 and 1941 to go to the Lithuanian archives and read the material themselves. He also recognized, however, that “some will continue to live in the never-never land of denial and fantasy, charging that these negative traits … are based on Communist fabrications.” (“The Burden of 1941,” fn. 4). As is clear, a succession of Lithuanian governments have continued to live in that “never-never land”.
Despite my efforts to ask the government to acknowledge facts readily found in Lithuania’s archives, no action has been taken by any political leader to alter the status quo, and the inaction of officials has been ratified by Lithuanian courts, effectively endorsing the honoring of monsters. This reveals Lithuania’s national values, in excruciating detail. Lithuania’s modern leaders, such as President Grybauskaite, Genocide Centre Chair Burauskaite, and Vilnius Mayor Simasius, cannot plausibly claim ignorance of the facts as an excuse for maintaining the status quo of honoring the murderers of her own citizens. They will be remembered as those who steadfastly sought to shore up the dubious reputations of Skirpa, Noreika, and others.
Alexandra: Are you condemning an entire generation of Lithuanians?
Grant. Youth is traditionally idealistic. The youth in every civilized country are taught to think and question. In Lithuania, the youth are also taught to fear a wide variety of people collectively called “foreigners.” This generation has been told that Russians are to be considered at the top of the “foreign” list of enemies and, therefore, that anything negative said about Lithuania must originate in Russian lies. However, Lithuanian youth are also inquisitive. When they leave Lithuania’s information “bubble” looking for jobs and to make friends in places such as Berlin, London, or New York, they are taken aback by the stares they receive when they mention the name of their native country. They do not get those all-too-familiar stares because of me, or Russians, or other “usual suspects” used to deflect blame. They get the stares because the Lithuanian government has created the appearance that Lithuanians are Holocaust distorters.
Another attack critics launch against me is to call me a “Lithuanian hater”. That is equally absurd. My family have lived in Lithuania for 700 years, we are Lithuanian citizens. It is often said that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. If we love our country, and I do, it is our patriotic OBLIGATION to point out defects and improve the situation.
Given the dozens of cemeteries I have restored in Lithuania, given my charitable giving there, my very many trips to Lithuania, and the many friends I have there, I feel very at home in my homeland of Lithuania. I am firmly Lithuanian and proud of it.
Alexandra: You have frequently criticized Teresa Burauskaite, who has been the director general of the Genocide Center since 2009.
Grant: The extreme contortions she has used to deny the active role of Lithuanians in the murder of nearly all of its Jewish citizens have reinforced the view that the Genocide Center is not designed to make informed, fact-based determinations. For example, she took the position that the leader of the guards at a concentration camp could not have known what was going on in the camp. Her pronouncements are then cited by others in government to create a pretext for denying the truth. Given her lengthy tenure and the reliance officially placed upon her positions, it is clear that the Genocide Center is a cynical political ruse. No Westerner finds her credible because she has forsaken her ostensible role as a fact-finder to become the chief defense counsel for murderers, advancing on their behalf spurious, ideologically based theories to distort facts. And, when all else fails, when facts are undeniable, she will assert that they facts were Russian inventions. To her credit, however, she has confessed that her findings are not factual but rather the product of political pressure – which, by the way, is a vintage Soviet strategy. For her service, certain hard-line elements in Lithuania may hail Burauskaite as a national hero, much like South Africa’s Verwoed, Zimbabwe’s Mugabe, and Colombia’s Chavez have enjoyed support from “hard-line” elements in their respective countries. But history is not on Burauskaite’s side. Her statements simply remind the world that officially Lithuania still has not come to terms with its past.
Alexandra: What is your next step?
Grant: The record is established – despite facts found in its own archives, the Lithuanian government knowingly and openly considers Jew murderers as their national heroes. Again, the persistence of the monuments and of street names honoring the architects of the Holocaust must be understood to symbolize something greater – the national values of modern Lithuania.
I have been able to get the Seimas Ombudsman on record, the President, Prime Minister, Mayor Simasius and multiple levels of government. The public record shows that they were aware of the distortions at the Genocide Center, and they were aware of the honoring of monsters and they chose to protect the monuments and Burauskaite over truth and national dignity. One day, when the monuments eventually do come down, people like Simasius will try to claim it was his doing. President Grybauskaite might try to claim that she was seeking national reconciliation, but, the public paper trail of their positions exist. They have written their own record that future historians will be able to research.
Lithuania’s officialdom realizes the harm they do to the country’s reputation and soul, and have chosen to continue it in the face of public disclosure. They therefore own the problem, now and in the future. The moral bankruptcy is clear for the world to see. Lithuania has to find a path forward. I would like to help Lithuania move forward but first Lithuania must be willing to acknowledge its past, honestly, openly, and comprehensively. That is why I believe that Lithuania ultimately must have a credible truth and reconciliation process.
Alexandra: Are you going to continue your efforts?
Grant: Despite the official condemnations and maneuvers used to discredit what I have said, it is clear from hundreds of e-mails and social media messages that ethnic Lithuanians in Lithuania and around the world want to learn the truth and, among other things, are becoming uncomfortable with the continued honors bestowed upon the monsters. I have great hope for the Lithuanian people, most of whom do not believe the Holocaust participants reflected Lithuanian values. I will continue trying to educate. I look forward to a new day in which a new Lithuanian government recognizes that the nation’s best interest lies in a credible and complete examination of the events of 1941.
Alexandra: Thank you for your time in speaking with us. We will watch your future activity with interest.
Grant Gochin is a Wealth Advisor in Los Angeles. He may be reached at