Non­fic­tion

The Naz­i’s Grand­daugh­ter: How I Dis­cov­ered My Grand­fa­ther Was a War Criminal

September 1, 2020

A deathbed promise leads a daugh­ter on an incred­i­ble jour­ney to write about her grand­fa­ther who was a famous World War II hero. But this jour­ney had a ter­ri­ble des­ti­na­tion: the dis­cov­ery that he was a Nazi war crim­i­nal, direct­ly respon­si­ble for thou­sands of Jew­ish con­cen­tra­tion camp deaths.

Foti had no idea that in keep­ing her promise to her moth­er, her dis­cov­er­ies would bring her to a per­son­al cri­sis, unearth Holo­caust denial, and expose an offi­cial cov­er-up by the Lithuan­ian gov­ern­ment that result­ed in an inter­na­tion­al­ly-fol­lowed lawsuit.

Jonas Nor­ei­ka was a Lithuan­ian known as Gen­er­al Storm. He led an upris­ing that won the coun­try of Lithua­nia back from the com­mu­nists, only to have it fall under Nazi con­trol. Foti set out to write a hero­ic biog­ra­phy about her famous grand­fa­ther. But as she dug ever deep­er, she encoun­tered so much evi­dence prov­ing my flesh and blood hero was a Jew-killer, even I could no longer believe the lie.”

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Sil­via Foti

  1. How should our family’s past, shame­ful or noble, shape our identity?

  2. How could one man be revered as a hero, hav­ing a gram­mar school named after him, and yet be a vil­lain respon­si­ble for the deaths of thousands?

  3. Why are some Euro­pean coun­tries still in denial about their role in the Holocaust?

  4. How was this kept secret until now?

  5. What would you do if you dis­cov­ered a close rel­a­tive was a vil­lain”? Would you go pub­lic with it?

  6. What was the per­son­al toll on the author in writ­ing this book?

  7. When the author’s fam­i­ly was in cri­sis, par­tic­u­lar­ly her daughter’s hero­in addic­tion, should the author have gone to Lithua­nia for sev­en weeks to con­duct her research?

  8. If you were her spouse, how would you have felt?

  9. Grant Gochin launched a law­suit against the Lithuan­ian Geno­cide Research and Resis­tance Cen­tre for Holo­caust dis­tor­tion. Although he lost his case, he forced the gov­ern­ment to go on the record in defend­ing Jonas Nor­ei­ka. How would you feel about Lithua­nia if you had lost rel­a­tives dur­ing the Holocaust?

  10. The Lithuan­ian government’s posi­tion is that Jonas Nor­ei­ka was just fol­low­ing orders when he signed doc­u­ments to round up Jews, bring them to a ghet­to, and dis­trib­ute their prop­er­ty, even before their death. To what extent is Jonas Nor­ei­ka guilty of com­mit­ting war crimes?

  11. At this point, the case has gen­er­at­ed a lot of pub­lic­i­ty and has been mak­ing the coun­try of Lithua­nia look bad. If you had the posi­tion and pow­er, what would you sug­gest gov­ern­ment of Lithua­nia do? To what extent was Lithua­nia a will­ing par­tic­i­pant in the Holocaust?

  12. What should be done about the mon­u­ments” in the Jonas Nor­ei­ka name? Gram­mar school, plaques on build­ings, streets named after him? What hap­pens when nation­al heroes turn out to be more vil­lain­ous than orig­i­nal­ly thought? How would you con­nect this to the dis­cus­sion of mon­u­ments in our country?