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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  April 19, 2021 12:30am-1:00am BST

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russia has announced that 20 diplomats from the czech republic will be expelled from the country. the czech ambassador to russia was summoned earlier on sunday. officials launch summoned earlier on sunday. 0fficials launch a protest. moscow's ambassador to london told the bbc that russian opposition leader alexei navalny won't die behind bars. mr navalny has been on hunger strike since the into march and is demanding access to independent medical care. he's been held behind bars since february. in brazil, of study found six and ten household face food shortages. government hand—outs introduced last year have been reduced as public debt rises. shops and churches in brazil's most popular state has reopened after eight month of lockdown. —— after a month.
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now on bbc news, hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. eight decades after the slaughter of millions ofjews began in eastern europe, the truth of what happened is still denied by some. my guest today is a silvia foti, an american writer whose grandfather was lithuanian — a man hailed as an heroic patriot who paid with his life resisting the soviets. but according to his granddaughter, jonas noreika was no hero. he had the blood of thousands ofjews on his hands. now she has chosen to speak out, angering many in lithuania. so, what happens when truth trumps family loyalty?
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silvia foti in chicago, welcome to hardtalk. hello, thank you. yours is an extraordinary story to tell. let's begin by establishing why you chose to dig so deep into the life of your grandfather who, of course, was a man you had never met because he was executed by the soviets in 1947. so, why did you go so deep into his life? i kind of a sort of stumbled into it, to be honest. i got the story from my mother on her deathbed. and i thought i was going
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to write about a hero when i started this. i had no idea about his dark past. and it really only came about when i was burying my mother in lithuania and visiting the school named after him when the director very casually mentioned that, "your grandfather was accused of killing jews." and i almost fainted when he said that. because that was the very first time i had ever heard that. i was 38 years old, my mother had just died, my grandmother had just died, i thought i was going to work on a wonderful story about my grandfather, a world war ii hero who fought against the communists. and when he said that that was the first time, that it really hit me like a ton of bricks. i went into denial for ten years. i assumed it was communist propaganda, i really only focused on his heroic side
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for ten years — that's what i thought i would write about, and — you know — all of these three bookshelves behind me is information my mother left me to write the story. and i spent ten years going through all that. i came across, however, a document that started to change my mind and he had written something in 1933, called �*raise your head, lithuanian!�* he was only 22 when he wrote it. and when i opened it up, um, you know, i've got it and when i opened it up, um, you know, i've got it right here next to me, when i opened it up, i thought i was going to read another patriotic little brochure about how wonderful it is to be lithuanian — and it was really not like that. it was all about why lithuanians should not buy anything from jews, why lithuanians should start boycotting everything from jews, why for lithuanians thejews are considered foreigners, and it was
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like this for 32 pages. yeah, i've read snatches of it, silvia and it's deeply, profoundly anti—semitic. and also, i've seen other documentation which you put in the public domain which suggests that by the late 19305, he was an admirer of adolf hitler and benito mussolini. i mean, these things he was writing about, your wider family must have known about some of this stuff. so, when you approached them, when you were commissioned by your dying mum to write the full history of your grandfather, obviously you couldn't discuss it with your mum, she'd passed away — but as you began to discuss it with the wider family, were people prepared to acknowledge that eunice was indeed a fascist sympathiser, an anti—semite and what that something you could have a discussion with them about?
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not at all, they all told me it was communist propaganda and like a a good lithuanian, that's what i believed initially, too. they — i don't know if they knew about this brochure, my mother must have known because it was in her archive, my grandmother must�*ve known it, but they never talked about it with me. i don't know that my father knew about it, her certainly never brought it up then. and, really, everybody believed it was just communist propaganda and lithuanians where the victims of two regimes — the nazis and the communists — and that lithuanians were just innocent of killing dues, innocent of killing jews, all thejews were killed by the nazis. that's all... so — right. ..they knew. now we're getting to the nub of this very dark story. because once you had read some of the stuff that you've described to me, and once you'd begun to realise that to make good on your promise to write your grandfather's
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story, you would have to dig and dig into dark places. you went to lithuania, i think, for quite some time, and you talked to an awful lot of people. and this is where it gets to the absolute crux of the darkness. you, ithink, believe, you have found absolutely overwhelming evidence and proof that your grandfather was intimately involved in the mass murder ofjews, am i right? i thought i would dig into it to exonerate him. so, that's how i initially talked myself into digging into it. but when i was in lithuania, you know, i talked to several people and it really became very clear that he played a very large role in killing 1,800 jews in plunge, which was the first town —
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first of three towns that he was involved in. so, um, you know, i... let's be clear here because the detail matters. when you say he was "very heavily involved", do you have evidence that he either killed jews himself or he commissioned — because he was a brigade — a sort of militia leader. he'd been fighting the russians, the soviets, and then, of course, the nazis were encroaching on lithuanian territory. i believe the nazis reached out to some of these militia groups, trying to enlist them as helpers in driving the soviets out, but do you have evidence that in this period, in the summer of 1941, your grandfather actually committed murder himself or commissioned others to commit murder? i don't have evidence that he committed murder himself. but there is evidence... he was the commandant of this area of samogitia, which is the lowlands. and he used plunge, a little town as sort of his headquarters waters to fight against the communists.
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of his headquarters to fight against the communists. the rebellion started 22 june, 1941, which is what i had always heard. what i had not heard, until of course i got deep into the story, was that it was the beginning of the holocaust in lithuania and the beginning of operation barbarossa. so, he was the head of samogitia, that area. and there is no way for someone to be the head of the militia and not understand what was happening to the jews. on top of that, there was a witness who was his secretary, and he wrote a memoir that said that jonas noreika gave the order to kill these 2,000 jews. so, he was a live witness. yeah, i mean, i've looked at the detail you provide, and you basically have this secretary working in noreika's office, describing how the commandant,
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that is noreika, said to him, "i have issued the order to shoot every last one of them." now, that's extraordinarily powerful, but i guess in a court of law, people would say that's oral testimony, some might even say it's hearsay. it isn't written documentary evidence. is that something of a problem for you? because now in lithuania, everything you have written, and we can see a picture of the book you've written behind you, �*the nazi�*s granddaughter�* everything you�*ve written is coming under the closest of close scrutiny. are you absolutely sure, in your mind, that this accusation you�*re laying at the door of your own grandfather of being notjust an accessory, but being a key part of the first months of the holocaust in lithuania — it is absolutely irrefutable, is it? in my mind, yes. you know, i am the last one who wanted to find this out.
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i�*ve really wanted a very pure, pristine, angelic saint as a grandfather. that�*s what i wanted. that�*s how i was raised to believe how he was. in a court of law — it�*s before a court of law now, so i guess we�*ll see what has happened. but, you know, i am a journalist. and as a journalist, you have — we�*re supposed to find at least three pieces of evidence to corroborate. well, there were more than three pieces. as we have alluded to in our conversation already, jonas noreika is a huge figure in lithuania�*s modern history. he is regarded as a hero, a martyr, a guy who gave his life resisting the soviets, because, as i said, he was executed in 19117 for standing up to the soviet occupation invasion of lithuania. but those who defend him, to this very day in lithuania make two points, first of all, they say you have to understand that lithuanians were victims twice over, they were threatened both
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from the west by the nazis and from the east by the russians and the lithuanians really had no agency at this time of 1941, 1942, in their own country�*s condition. that they were victims, you know, above all else. that is point one. and point two isjonas noreika was eventually put into a concentration camp by the nazis and his defenders say there�*s your evidence that he was no nazi. well, point number one, there was a provisional government of lithuania. and there was this lithuanian activist front that was kind of this militia, and they were extremely anti—semitic, they�*re the ones who lead this uprising against the soviets and won. the part that has been hidden to lithuanians is how deeply they worked with the germans to have this uprising. and the other part that was put in for me, at least, was that, and much of this was probably nazi propaganda to begin with,
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but i think the lithuanians just ate it up, and that is that every singlejew, from the tiniest baby to the eldest grandmother is a communist spy. and so theyjust gave lithuanians licence to kill everyone. and, you know, if it were just the military—aged men who werejewish, that would be one thing, but if it was everybody, everybody with just a drop ofjewish blood in them, that is a completely different story. that is beyond, you know, war. mm. this is genocide. and address my point, too, that actuallyjonas noreika ended up in a concentration camp, which suggests that the nazis did not regard him as an entirely sympathetic figure. yeah. this tripped me up for a long time, too, because i kept asking myself, "how could a jew killer end up in a nazi concentration camp?" that makes no sense to me.
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well, you have to go really deep into the details. most of the jews were killed in 1941. and my grandfather played a big role in all that. now, it�*s 1943, after the battle of stalingrad, and now the nazis are losing. and now, all of a sudden, my grandfather and a lot of other lithuanians have a lot of courage to stand up to the nazis. and that�*s what he did. it was right at that time that he started to stand up to the nazis. it was not to savejews, though. mm. it was to get lithuania free. for the purposes of time, i�*m now going to demand that we fast forward all the way to 2018—2019. what is extraordinary is a twist to your story, all this investigation into the evil, into the darkness, right at your own family�*s doorstep, you then decided you are going to confront lithuania with this, you are going to have a campaign to have your own grandfather�*s name taken off all of the different
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memorials that celebrate him, still, inside the country. and you joined forces with a descendant of lithuanian jews whose family had been wiped out and, you believe, some of them wiped out by your own grandfather. he�*s callled grant gochin and from grant gochin�*s point of view, you — yourfamily represent the reason why hundreds of his forefathers, you know, his predecessors in his family were eliminated. and he is so mindful, of course, that 95% of all lithuanian jews were eliminated in the course of the nazi rule in lithuania. so, this is a man who has every reason to regard you with the deepest of suspicion. yes. i think it was bowled over though by the fact that i was coming out against my grandfather
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and i was not defending him. so, i think i was one of the first lithuanians that he met that was willing to look into the holocaust of lithuania, and really, you know, believe that lithuanians, unfortunately, played a large role in that and it wasn�*t just the german nazis. and ijoined — he started a whole lawsuit against the genocide side of of lithuania. and here i think i need to just flag up something quite remarkable. that you and he were fighting against the so—called genocide and resistance research centre in lithuania and the museum of genocide victims, in vilnius, lithuania. these institutions which you would think would be in the lead, telling the truth about lithuania�*s troubled history and connections to the holocaust where in fact, it seems, in your view, covering everything up?
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yeah. i mean, to me, this is the problem. they�*re basing my grandfather�*s heroicism on the kgb documents. now, normally, they would foam at the mouth if anybody looked at a kgb docment and used that as their proof. but their entire case is based on 3,000 pages of transcripts of the interrogations of my grandfather. and they were interrogating him for leading a rebellion against the soviets. that�*s all they cared about. they really did not care about the massacre of dues. about the massacre ofjews. yeah, it was still early days for the soviets. so, in those 3,000 pages, there is no evidence that he killed thejews. but in their own archives, their own lithuanian archives in siauliai, when he was district chief of siauliai during the nazi occupation, he wrote about 1,000 documents. of those 1,000, 70 have to do with the holocaust. so, his signature is on, you
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know, 70 of the documents that have to do with the holocaust. creating a ghetto, funding, rounding up thejews, collecting their property, distributing their property, and even details of, like, finding barbed wire and nails for a ghetto. so, to me, this is pretty overwhelming! well, the whole story�*s overwhelming. i mean, here you sit as an american, but of course with lithuanian heritage. lithuania, this country that means so much to you, still, it seems to me, doesn�*t want to hear your story. you fought this court case to get the plaque honouring your grandfather taken of the academy of sciences. you lost the case and the plaque was vandalised, but it has been replaced by the authorities, so it still sits there. —— taken off. there�*s still a school in lithuania named after your grandfather, there�*s a road named after your grandfather, he�*s still collective memory regarded as a hero.
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how do you feel about that? i am not surprised, you know, on one level because i kind of expected this. it took me a long time to look at the truth, but i dug very deeply. most of them have not dug as deeply. they are in the denial and it�*s all communist propaganda. they all think i�*m a russian spy, with my chicago accent! so, i — ifeel very sad that lithuania cannot just take responsibility for what happened. this was 80 years ago. we can do it! we can look into our dark side of our souls and realise we did something really horrible, and we should, we should really admit it. right. how far do you think lithuania�*s culpability goes? because there are campaigners for example, efraim zuroff, who is a key investigator
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at the simon wiesenthal centre. he says — and he�*s partly drawing on what has happened to the story ofjonas noreika and the way it�*s treated in lithuania. he says that lithuania has been a locomotive pulling the whole train of holocaust distortion across eastern europe. would you go that far? oh, it�*s colourful. uh, maybe. i don�*t know. poland, too. i don�*t know poland�*s history, though — as much as i do lithuania�*s. lithuanians — look, the holocaust would not have happened if it were not for the nazis. probably what would have happened were pogroms here and there, but not the entire decimation of 95% of the jewish population. um, they — the nazis, there were only 1,000 nazis in lithuania during that time. not a single — you know, here�*s the nazi resistance
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from lithuania, not an single nazi was shot, not a single nazi was killed during the entire nazi occupation. and yet, over 200,000 jews were shot and killed. that�*s their nazi resistance. so, they have, silvia, how much does this matter today, the key event we�*re talking about, the mass murder of 1,800 jews that you believe your grandfather was directly and intimately involved with, happened 80 years ago, getting to the truth and telling the truth to all lithuanian people and all of the world, does that matter so much, 80 years on? i think 220,000 lives that were murdered needlessly, innocent civilians, matters deeply. this is a sin. i mean, lithuania�*s soul is at stake and it really needs to redeem itself. i do think it matters. you say lithuania�*s soul is at stake, i am intrigued
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by what has happened inside yourfamily. you have said that you would never have written this book if your mother or you grandmother were still alive. and you honestly say that your grandmother told you before she died that you should let history lie, there is no need to do this digging around. you ignored your grandmother. you did not find the story your mother wanted you to find. on a personal level, do you find this very difficult? it has been very difficult. you know, i mean, there were times i was really depressed about all of this. there were times ijust wanted to not continue with this anymore. there were times ijust wanted to throw the whole manuscript away and give up. but, i also feel like story is too important, you know? i eventually came back to it and i feel like this story is very important. and it�*s notjust jonas noreika. it�*s lithuania, and it�*s notjust lithuania,
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it�*s other countries in eastern europe as well. genocide is not a light matter. war is one thing — as horrible as war is, it�*s bad — but genocide is over—the—top, genocide is over—the—top and it really, it really upsets me that my countrymen, first of all, did it, and it also upsets me that my countrymen first of all did it and it also upsets me that theyjust can�*t admit they did it. they should. but notjust your countrymen, your grandfather, and not just your grandfather, but if i am honest with you, your story suggests that your own grandmother and your own mother knew and lied, and covered up, and you have to deal with that. i—i know. all i can say is they�*re products of their generation. i don�*t think my mother knew as much as my grandmother. i think my mother got as far as hearing about it and then going into denial, and i followed her footsteps
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for about ten years, so i think that�*s far as she got and just called it communist propaganda. my grandmother, though, knew. i�*m convinced my grandmother knew. that�*s very hard for you to accept because it�*s gonna going to fundamentally change the way you think of your own family? yeah, i lost my lithuanian identity, i really did, i do not have a lithuanian — it�*s like i don�*t know what my identity is anymore. i grew up so proud of being lithuanian, and, there are a lot of beautiful things about lithuania, but this is — this is big. this is big. mm. and, ah, i don�*t know. i don�*t like the denial, either. you know, it�*s one thing that it happened 80 years ago, but now the denial is making a current, that�*s what�*s making it current. silvia foti, it is an amazing story, it�*s a difficult story, but i thank you for sharing it with us. thanks for being on hardtalk.
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hello. no significant rain on the way again this week. there is an atlantic weather system close to parts of northern ireland and scotland, so a little rain during monday for some here. but for most of the uk it�*s high—pressure and dry and after a chilly start, it will feel quite warm in the sunshine. this area of high—pressure extending across from scandinavia, this area of low pressure giving parts of northern ireland and scotland notjust cloud but a little rain. where you have the clouds to start today you will avoid frost, but a touch of frost eastern parts of england or wales and close to or perhaps a touch below
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freezing in the coldest rural areas. and some earlylow cloud, mist and fog clearing from england. and some early low cloud, mist and fog clearing from england. following behind across much of england and wales and scotland, patchy cloud developing, an isolated shower later in the day can�*t be ruled out in southeast england, but the cloud is thickest across western counties of northern ireland, parts of scotland and outbreaks of rain occasionally — just ten to 12 degrees here. really quite warm when you get the sunshine elsewhere. 0vernight and into tuesday, the cloud and chance of seeing rain by tuesday morning, low cloud mist and fog returning to parts of eastern england, generally temperatures a bit higher going into tuesday morning, so frost will be harder to come by. low cloud, mist and fog gradually clearing from eastern england on tuesday. a shower can�*t be ruled out on tuesday. cloudy in scotland and northern ireland, not much rain left on this weatherfront, northern scotland brightening up
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but here behind the weather front, the air, the wind is changing direction and it will feel colder here. south of the weather front is still warm and light winds and where you get some of those sunny spells continuing. a cooler air behind this weather front with cloud and not much rain continues to push south overnight and into wednesday across the uk. and a new area of high pressure taking over and giving plenty of dry weather in the second half of the week, but the wind around that coming in for the northeast will be colder along north sea coasts, generally temperatures will come down a little bit but yet again, it will continue to feel really quite warm when you get to see some sunshine. though there is still the risk and the threat of frost overnight, for gardeners and growers, no significant rain this week.
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this is bbc news with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. i�*m mark lobel. tensions between moscow and prague escalate — russia expels twenty diplomats a day after the czech republic kicked out eighteen russian diplomats identified as secret agents. more deadly shootings in the united states. six people are killed in separate incident with an s in wisconsin and texas. —— incidents. some of europe�*s biggest football clubs announce plans to set up a new super league despite opposition from officials. and — how nasa is attempting to make history with the first powered flight on another planet.

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