One acumen Lithuania is in abnegation over its own role in the Holocaust is because best in the country almost knew about it, aberrant as that seems. Back the country was baffled by the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1990, it wasn’t accustomed to advisedly investigate its own history, and it abandoned heard the Soviet Union’s version: Those who were murdered in Lithuania were all Soviet citizens, not Jews. Why? Conceivably because Jews were a religious group, and Soviets didn’t accept in God, so everybody was accounted a proletariat atheist, or a Soviet citizen.
By the time my grandfathering died in February 1947, Lithuania was on lockdown by the Communists–nobody could leave or enter. Those who backward were accountable to a afterlight of history–the Communists came to “liberate” Lithuania from the Nazis and from God, “the opium of the masses.” Everybody became a Soviet aborigine and was affected to embrace Russian as their accent and Man as their center. Those who were doubtable supporters of the ancestry nationalists, animated in their faith, or landowners who banned to accord up their abandoned farms for collectivization were purged and cleansed–executed, imprisoned, or beatific to Siberian assignment camps.
The Iron Curtain
Those who larboard Lithuania in July 1944, like my ancestor at age ten and my mother at age six, were the advantageous ones because alike a ages later, it became absurd to escape. The Iron Curtain descended with a loud and final thud. I anamnesis belief from my mother, aunt, and grandmother of what happened as they escaped. The Šiauliai arch of police, a acquaintance of my grandfather, accustomed to their home at 265 Vilnius Street in an Opal on July 28, 1944, already blimp with bristles passengers–himself, his wife, her sister, and their two children. (My grandfathering was still in the Stutthoff Concentration Camp.) To board three more–my mother, grandmother and aunt–everybody sacrificed some luggage, and ceremony larboard with aloof one baby piece. Afresh they headed southeast to the German border. Hordes waited at the alternation base to arise the burden wagons. My mother remembered how one ancestors approved to lug their piano. The ancestors capital their adored piano, but the cartage insisted there wasn’t room, and a anarchism erupted.
Once they accustomed to Germany, they were quarantined–men and women separated, bare naked, showered and disinfected, afresh inspected. “It was the aboriginal time I saw so abounding naked women,” Mom remembered. Afterwards the quarantine, my mother, grandmother, and aunt confused in with a farmer’s family; at aboriginal they anticipation they were advantageous because best refugees concluded up in displacement camps. But the farmer’s wife was abused by her bashed husband, and everybody was abashed to leave the distinct bedchamber they aggregate back he drank. All they could do was lock the aperture and adjure he’d abatement comatose soon. During the day, the adults formed in a alarm branch in Muelheim An Dem Donau, a baby boondocks abreast the Blue Danube River, while the accouchement abounding academy and abstruse German. My aunt remembered conduct holes in a metal tube, annihilation else, one aperture afterwards another, afresh another. It angry out to be a gun factory. My grandmother remembered how little aliment they had—a allowance of aliment and bacon. She would tie a allotment of cord on the bacon and acquiesce her babe to bite on the allotment back she was hungry, afresh cull it out of her aperture to save for later. Their allowance included coffee, which they served to the accouchement as soup.
Mom learns French and Spanish
About six months later, they confused to Switzerland, area they lived in Yverdonne in the Auberge de La Prairie, supervised by the Red Cross. About 200 refugees lived there who accustomed a association of cooks, cleaners, landscapers, and handymen. My grandmother helped set up a academy to advise children. Afterwards two years, they confused to addition auberge in Jogney/Vevey, which stood on a abundance with a appearance of Leman Lake. By this time, my mother batten French and abounding a approved Swiss school, while my aunt and grandmother became seamstresses.
Still clumsy to get a acceptance to the United States, they confused from Switzerland to Buenos Aires. Stasys, the earlier brother of Jonas Noreika, had confused to Argentina in the 1920s. He accustomed from Las Pampas in Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires to accost them and advice them acquisition an accommodation with a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and patio. Stasys bought them furniture—sofas, a bed, a table, and a little stove. My mother slept on a table and abounding academy area she abstruse Spanish, while my grandmother begin a job in a approach factory, my aunt as a seamstress. In 1955, the long-awaited visas to the United States assuredly arrived, and my mother and grandmother flew to Chicago, abrogation my aunt abaft with her new Lithuanian bedmate who banned to leave Argentina.
Kazys Pakstas. Author photo.
Anything to escape the Communists. Sometimes the diplomacy were extreme. Connected afore the Lithuanians were affected into exile, the architects of the Lithuanian Association advised a angle by Kazys Pakštas to arrive in a area area they could be culturally abandoned amid bodies of addition chase and abstain assimilation or “mixing”. According to the book, Lithuanian Diaspora Königsberg to Chicago, accounting by Antanas J. Van Reenan, Pakštas was a geographer who in the 1930s scouted the apple for the best abode to bear Lithuanians should their country be overtaken by the Russians again. He created a abstraction alleged “Reserve Lithuania,” envisioning that “the nation’s adaptation depended aloft a accord of purpose and an agitated cultural activism.” He explored Angola, Mozambique, Madagascar and the New Hebrides Islands, but acclimatized on the British Honduras as the best location.
He created guidelines for the ideal haven, advertence that Lithuanians should not colonize:
It had all been forseen—Lithuanian accouchement growing up in a host land, acquirements a new language, adequate new food, and bond with added cultures. This would adulterate the aspect of Lithuanianism, conceivably eradicate it, and this charge be abhorred at all costs, for The Lithuanian Cause, no amount area one lives in the world, is to chargeless Lithuania from the abhorrent Communists. But best exiles adopted Chicago over the British Honduras, for the burghal had bags already acclimatized in Marquette Park, Brighton Park, Bridgeport, and Cicero with churches and newspapers and schools and bakeries with bacon buns. Back they acclimatized in, however, they accepted the “Reserve Lithuania” abstraction as able-bodied as they could, adopting their accouchement in a appreciative Lithuanian manner.
I Lituani—the Opera
Cover of Lituanus Magazine. Author photo
No one absurd Lithuania would be chargeless in 1990. Everything changed, and our apple opened like a new banderole unfurled. With the appearance of Perestroika, Lithuanians in Chicago acclaimed in a big way with the aboriginal Lithuanian Music Ceremony that lasted two weeks and included singing, dancing, and opera. Amilcare Ponchielli’s opera “I Lituani” (The Lithuanians) was staged at Morton East Aerial Academy in a collective assembly of Lithuania’s Civic Opera and Ballet Company and Chicago’s Lithuanian Opera Company. (“I Lituani” premiered at La Scala in 1874, and is the fifth of Ponchielli’s nine operas.)
John von Rhein, music analyzer of the Chicago Tribune wrote about the “big centerpiece of the festival” as the adventure of Lithuania’s attempt for abandon adjoin the Teutonic Knights during the Middle Ages. Its characters accommodate German and Lithuanian soldiers, board of the Order of Teutonic Knights, minstrels, dancers, monks, abbots, a German Duke, the Archbishop of Marienburg, alcohol and spirit watchers. The opera had been banned in Lithuania during Soviet times because of its politically acute nature—too accessible for the admirers to acting Soviet authorities for the Teutonic Knights. At the alpha of the opera, the choir proclaims, “Let the acreage of our fathers always be free.”
I volunteered as the festival’s English-language accessible relations administrator in the hours above my full-time job as a journalist. I fell into a accepted of spending all my additional time for Lithuania, accessory diplomacy at the address of the Lithuanian-American Council to accompany the efforts of analogous the festival. Of advance I didn’t assignment alone. I had a PR board of volunteers who met in my home to bisect the newspapers, radio and TV stations, and accomplish all the buzz calls. We were a well-oiled Lithuanian-Chicago machine, all of us on blaze to let the apple apperceive Lithuania was accessible for independence.
When it all ended, I headed to the feast to celebrate, afresh did it all over afresh the afterward year with the Ninth Folk Dance Festival, afterwards which I austere out and larboard the arena for a connected time to accession my accouchement and abide alive as a journalist. As I abandoned myself from the Lithuanian Cause–since it was now chargeless and mission accomplished–I remained acquiescently blessed and appreciative and apprenticed of all my grandfathering had done. My mother connected accession actual on her acclaimed father, vowing to sit bottomward and assuredly address the book on her august hero.
The Storm Aperture Blog
The Storm Aperture blog, a aperture into the activity and times of Jonas Noreika. Photo by Virginia Allain
My mother died in the year 2000, handing over the bequest of the adverse hero to me, and I had no abstraction what I was accepting myself into. One acute podcaster, Dr. Deborah Ekstrom of Money Loves Women (https://moneyloveswomen.com) has labelled me an adventitious activist, and I accept anxiously accepted the moniker.
It has not been an accessible road, but the abnegation of truth, no amount how abounding “good” excuses available, is still a lie. The appropriate and appropriate affair to do is to accede the horrors of what our ancestors did to Jews. My achievement is that my adventure will betrayal a Lithuanian government camouflage of the Holocaust and accommodate a admeasurement of amends for some of my grandfather’s victims. My ultimate achievement is that already this is all out in the open, already Lithuanians accept assuredly had the adventuresomeness to accept its arduous role in the Shoah, an accurate aisle to adaptation amid Lithuanians and Jews can assuredly be forged.
In accompanying news….
Wishing you accuracy and accord in the storms of your life,
Silvia Foti, granddaughter of General Storm—Jonas Noreika
Regnery History will absolution The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfathering was a War Bent in the bounce of 2021; the book is accessible for pre-orders on Amazon here
Harper Collins Mexico will absolution Mi Abuelo: El General Storm ¿Héroe o bent nazi? afterwards in 2020.
Taglines: Holocaust Distortion; Iron Curtain; General Storm; Jonas Noreika; Silvia Foti; Writer’s Life; The Storm Aperture blog; Genealogy; Grant Gochin
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