Quaker Hilary Johnson reflects on a recent screening and discussion of the documentary ‘J’Accuse’, with the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ):
The film ‘J’Accuse’, produced and directed by Michael Kretzmer, was shown at Barnt Green Meeting House on 7th February 2023. Introduced by Michael himself, it attracted 48 people, mainly members of the CCJ (Birmingham and nearby branches) but also CEQ Friends and local people. The documentary reveals the truth about Jonas Noreika, revered as a national hero by his own government, yet a key commander in the mass murder of the Lithuanian Jewish community. The work of his granddaughter, Silvia Foti, through determination to fight for the truth at great personal cost, is remarkable. She has recently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The film also featured Grant Gochin, a South African Jew whose father escaped from Lithuania. Independently of Silvia Foti, for many years Grant has campaigned against the Lithuanian government’s systemic Holocaust revisionism. The two are now close friends.
The film prompted lively discussion, raising issues about prejudice, continuing anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Interestingly, the Holocaust is understood as not just a Jewish tragedy but a Christian one too. Do anti-Jewish sentiments continue to be preached, however unintentionally, from the New Testament Gospels? Foti, brought up in a Roman Catholic family, continues to pray within this tradition. Her grandmother, Noreika’s wife, and Noreika himself were Roman Catholic. A most thought-provoking remark by her grandmother, after refusing the Eucharistic last rite on her deathbed: “Jesus was a Jew who misled the world” leads us to ponder the meaning of both anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity. It raises questions about the fundamental tenets of any branch of Christianity that can understand Jesus in this way.
My thanks to all who helped me to organise this event. Viewers appreciated the hospitality offered and the high quality of the projection equipment. I’ve been most encouraged by the interest subsequently shown, not only in the film but in the work of CCJ, and by the potential for future networking.