tv Book Discussion on A Guest at the Shooters Banquet CSPAN November 15, 2015 3:00pm-4:01pm EST
september 11, 2003. my dad is a vietnam veteran. >> i'm happy to do that. >> i appreciate it. >> could you sign to jeff -- >> yeah, thank you. >> i loved tonight. i loved the discussion. i thought it was great. >> thank you. >> my niece's boyfriend came back and he's not doing so well. he's in jail. >> well -- >> self-medicating. >> yeah, well we can -- put him be this organization. >> that's why i want to check it out. >> okay. great. absolutely. [inaudible conversations]
>> every weekend on c-span2, book tv offers programming. keep watching for more here on c-span2. we had the privilege of welcoming poet and my father's pass. she'll share her journey as the daughter of russian jewish father and mission to unravel the truth who her grandfather she discovered with the chief of police in a town where 8,000 jews were murdered in 1941.
.. her publication includes harvard review, massachusetts review, poet the and i more, and she is also at the anthology of lit from inside 40 years of poetry. she teaches creative writing at hunter college and is speaking about a "a guest at the shooter's banquet," great reception from the miami book fair and washington, dc. please help me welcome rita gabis. >> thank you for that beautiful introduction. i just want to say that i love arthur miller. one of the first playwrights i ever read, so thrilled to hear
about the upcoming production. going to take a quick sip of water. i'm delighted to be speaking here at the west port public library, has a wonderful authors program. i want to thank all of you for coming, and also to think c-span for being here as well to cover this event. i'm just going to begin by reiterating what has already been said, i come from a blended family. my mother is first generation lithuanian catholic, and my father who passed away a little over ten years ago, was a russian jewish descent. i'm going to tell you a bit about my book, and because my book contains upwards of 70 images, i'm going to share a few photographs with you as i talk about my book. for me as a writer, the gathering of images and archival
material that ended up in pectoral form in my book was a way of anchoring myself to a long six-year journey that involved many trips to eastern europe to israel, many surprises. my hope is that you'll come away from our gathering obviously wanting to know about my book, but also perhaps you'll leave thinking of the stories in your own lives that are as yet untold, or questions perhaps that family members that you haven't asked yet. if i learned anything in the process of this journey, it's that particularly now, as so many survivors are passing on, it's crucial that we ask the questions that perhaps we haven't asked yet. so, in a sense what i'm talking about are opening those doors that haven't been opened yet in
our lives, and the first picture i want to share with you is a door. this is the doorway to the police station and prison in lithuania, at the time that i took this photograph, the new police station was being built right next door to it, but i could see the bars of the old prison cells on the window'ses of the first floor, and when i opened the door, which i wasn't supposed to do, but i did anyway, it led up one flight of stairs to my lithuanian catholic grandfather's office when he was chief of the security police, one of the deadliest co lab racingist forces in lithuania during world war ii. my grandfather is one of three
lithuanian commanders for the entire region, and i should say that it's a town -- the name of a town where his office was based, where this prison is, but is was also an entire region that contained many different towns and many different -- it was region that prior to the russian occupation, which many of you know predated the german occupation, had actually been part of poland. the russians came in, they delivered part of the territory to the bella russians and the germans delivered it to the lithuanians and remains part after lithuania today, though many pols still live in the area. how did i come to open this jail house door? the answer is a simple and complex -- a question i asked my mother in a cafe over six years ago.
i knew about -- the heroism before the war when he far as a partisan in the woods of light wayney against the russians and had been told men times about his bravery tend of the war when he rode a horse and buggy that held his older sister and three children over nine bridges, through bombings and fires, and ultimately to safety. but in the cafe, on the upper west side of new york, i finally sat before my lithuanian mother, whose war story had very gradually run the camp passion and sympathy of my jewish grandmother, the matriarch of my family. her story was the dominant war story in our lives. we didn't talk about the people who visited my jewish grandmother with numbers tattooed on their arm.
we didn't talk about extended jewish family members who ended up in the show of victims database, or simply vanished off the face of the earth from memory, from conversation. in the cafe, i asked my mother the stunning livors, and i always say -- stunningly obvious, and i always say it is my great embarrassment it took me so many years to ask the question, which was: what did my grandfather actually do during the war? my mother said, he was in the police. i said, you mean under the ss? and she said, yes. i had known my grandfather well, i loved him. my own father was a reader, a philosopher, a quiet man, kind of absent minded professor, my lithuanian grandfather was loud,
he fished, hunted. i was a tom boy. he took me with him. i adored him and he adored me. when my mother told me that my grandfather had in essence been a collaborator and at that time i certainly knew nothing about this door or the fact that he had been actually given a position of some importance, two visceral feelings ran through me. the first, which has stayed with me to this day, was that i had to find out if he had brought harm to anyone. and it was an overwhelming feeling, and has compelled me continually and even with the publication of this book, has not ended. secondly, i thought of my jewish
grandmother, rachel davis. here she is, on the right-hand side here as the young beauty that she was. she -- this was taken some years after her family left the ukraine, for london, then the united states. and here she is in her 80s. she lived to 104. keeping her own house until two weeks before she died. and she was my favorite family member. so the second feeling i had upon my mother's delivery of this information, was that i was grateful that my grandmother was no longer living because if she had known this information i felt that it would have destroyed her. with my grandmother actually, who although i came from a blended family, informed me how i was to think of myself, and i'm going read but a very small
passage, one of two very small passages from the book today, that illustrateds that particular moment. i'll begin here. i was raised in a secular household. we went to mass without my father on holidays with a lithuanian catholic side of my family, and celebrated the jewish holidays with my father's side of the family. yet when asked what i was, i always responded jewish. technically i was not. my father had married a nonjew. however, my jewish grandmother, rachel gabis, believed her will and wishes superseded rabbinical law, and gave me the nation of how to think of myself. she made her pronouncement the summer i was 12 on martha's vineyards where she lived the last half of her life and where, along with my parents, various
aunts and uncle each summer. it was a hot da and i was hanging out by the side of a local movie theater. a new poster was up advertising a movie i wanted to see. what was it? "jaws" comes to mind but probably different movie. the sun was bright with the salty white glare that only happens near the ocean, i was wearing a tiny gold cross around my neck i bought the drug store, because my girlfriends, polishing catholic tours of plumbers and rooming house owners, all wore them. absorbed in the movie poster at first i didn't see my grandmother drive up in her used goal impala. ignoring the traffic, she put her car in park, threw open already door, and made it to the curb where i stood before i could completely register the fact of her. she reached for me, towards the
little necklace with the cross off my instinct and through it on the sidewalk. i never want to see such a thingdown neck again, she said. i looked down at my ruined necklace and back up at her red face. she was always firey, loving, dominating, but i'd never seen her so angry before. you're youish, she spat. then -- you're jewish, she spat. then jumped into the impala and sped away. that was my grandmother. i knew in the cafe with my mother that -- actually over 95% of the jews of lithuania had been killed primarily by lithuanians. i knew that my paternal jewish relatives had lived just over the border. the question, did my grandfather harm anyone? which perhaps might sound naive to some of you, turned inside of
me the first year of my research about him was intensely private, and i want to say i had no idea writing a book at the beginning. this was a personal search. the notion of a book came later. i felt somehow that if i didn't learn what my grandfather had or had not been party to, it would destroy me or at the very least i would never understand who i was in the world. and more importantly, never be able to make an amends to a possible victim or relative of a victim. i didn't expect to find a paper trail on my grandfather. i didn't expect to spend five years traveling to eastern europe and israel, as i said before, and i certainly didn't expect beautiful red-headed woman in a small apartment in lithuania, whose father had been killed partially upon my grandfather's order to say when i tried to apologize, what is your crime? i found out that my grandfather
had worked for the gestapo, who, by the way, with many a lithuanians he hated. the lithuanians largely thought the germans initially -- the first two week of the german occupation, as a ticket to lithuanian autonomy, which is what the germans promised them, and of course as soon as they reneged on their promise, many of the lithuanian collaborators, including my grandfather, began working underground against the generallans but this is not the same as working on behalf of the jewish population. this is very important to make that distinction. so, in addition to that, the germans were allies with the lithuanians, in they're hatred of what they called the bolshevik jews, and i'm hear many of you heard of this.
a conflation of communism and judism, that the statistics in lithuania proved were it arely untrue. in fact right before the beginning of the war, statistically on paper, the number of nonjewish lithuanians who are members of the communist party was far greater than the number of jews who were in the communist party. so, as one of the survivors from the ghetto, i interviewed over several years, said to me, even as a cried growing up she was familiar with the phrase, kill a jew, save russia. the myth of the communist jew, while not a complete fiction, was a deadly rationale, if you will, for ridding lithuania of the jewish population once and for all. and my grandfather as it turned out certainly shared the view that all jews were communists,
and they were in the words of one of his daughters, his scapegoat. but let's take a brief look at the town where i was many times over five years and where he worked from 1941 to 1943. so here is the beautiful town green as it exists today still. it is a place that used to be of course full of jewish life, a place of sin no going -- synagogues. you can't see it but the catholic church that my mother went to as child is just out of view of this scene. here is the green, the village green, as it used to look like, at a time when there were still jewish shops that lined the square, and traders and the
3,000 members of the jewish population still alive there, still running their businesses, still raising their children. one of my interviewees remembered being very young and at the market, and remembered the smell of fish and horses, the overwhelming crowds, the noise of people, selling and trading, smoke, and the scent of bread. i love those particular details. then here -- oops. somehow that got mixed up. the next map i wanted to show you, which is out of order here so i will skip it but the next snap shows a division of the region by the german administration, and let me just -- probably singing to
choir but let me just say that the germans were tremendous administrators. they were constantly updating their maps. they were constantly updating their kill lists. they were constantly sending out memos and then destroying the type writer ribbon the secretary time on so no one could steal the ribbon and from the imprint of the letters understand what had been cement secret. however -- has been sent in secret. however in addition to that, administration skill, if you will, in regions like where my grandfather was one of three commanders, they had two german commanders present, neither of which spoke lithuanian, polish, or yiddish, which meant they were entirely dependent on the lithuanian commands to carry out
their orders. and also, this, of course, influenced the wartime layers of intrigue, rebellion, graft, and betrayal. bribery was a part of wartime lives, and really all over lithuania, and we could say all over eastern europe, particularly where there were so little germans present, and the command was basically handed over to those who knew the local language. so, this now is the right image. this is a picture of my grandfather as a young man in the early 1920s, when he was accepted into the lithuanian military academy for officers training. he was the first of his family to go to secondary school. he grew up in a two-room, dirt floor shack. his mother, barbara, was a mid
wife and a caster, nonjewish lithuanians were initially all pagan. her cell of choice was a cure for snake byte it's turned out, and i mentioned the this not to invoke pity for him but to say that, as i began my research, it was very important for me to understand as well as i could who my grandfather was before i knew him, and even before the war. what were his aspirations growing up? who did he want to be? i want to show you another image now. this is closer to how i remember him. this photo was taken just around the time that he emigrated. this is how he would have looked to a passerby during the time of his work there.
he began his military career really as a -- as chief of border police on the latvian border. there in 1941, when the russians came in, they arrested his wife, my lithuanian grandmother. she was taken to the prison in the soviet union in russia. she was tortured. she was asked to give up information about where my grandfather was, where my mother and her siblings were. she was put in a death cell numerous times. a standing room only dank place, where you were told if you don't confess you'll be shot the next morning, and then ultimate hill she was sent to various camps in siberia, hard labor, prison, for 15 years. this information is important not only because it's part of my blended family story, but because the germans were very
astute in the way they cherry-picked the lithuanians they put in power. they picked those people who had been damaged in some way by the russians. they picked the people who had the largest grudges. the people whoa wanted revenge of the worst kind, and certainly my grandfather fell into that category. so i treasure in particular the photo of my grandfather as a young man. he wrote about his military aspirations early in his life. i treasure it as i treasure this photo, because the word collaborator to me is a very inadequate word. he certainly was a collaborator, but what does that mean? it's an umbrella term, and i say in my book that the word erases
the moment of, yes, when someone says, yes,'ll do this, and the terms of, no, when someone perhaps refuses. and says, i will not do this. so, every collaborator's story was different, and if we lump them all together, the sing alert of moral choice -- the sing alert of moral cheese is lost, and personally i feel that's something for all of us that is tremendously important. ailes avoided words such as monsters, beasts, and animals in relation to the actions of accomplices or initiators or the horrible crimes of the holocaust, pickerly in lithuania, because those words to me, too, abstract the fact of the human capacity for violence and complicity, and certainly we know that there were psycho
paths and saidists who used the opportunity of he holocaust to enact there pathology but many people were like us, some like us, who made choices, and i'm not implying we would make the same choices but it's important to remember the spectrum of humanity. at least for me. in terms of my grandfather, but also in terms of all people who are players in genocide around the world. so in to the region two major actions took place. the first was september of 1941. all of the jews, aside from those who were declared useful jews, those who had perhaps bribed their way into the relative safety of a ghetto, and
often those who bribes-we are sent meetly back to what became a killing ground, 8,000 jews were rounded up. they were taken in carts. they were marched to a police about seven kilometers outside of the city. it was called polygon, which means shooter's range. it had been when they area was a polish control, a place for polish officers went to practice their shooting and to house their horses. they were taken there. they were shoved into make shift barracks, kept there for a period of days, and then they were taken first the men, then the women, and then the children, and they were shot. this next image is an image of the covered tip of poly grand. it's difficult to get the sense of the size of it, which is to say that heap of ground
stretches as far as you can see and beyond, into the woods, and then this next picture is what i call the killing trees. this was a tree that was -- the bark was carved out so that infants and young children could be smashed against the trees in order to save bullets. shooters were part of a lithuanian squad that traveled, recruiting locals at each stopping point. the germans on hand were few. this next photo is a very rare photo that came from one of my interviewees, and it's actually post war, young men who came back after the war, many of them had been serving the soviet soviet union on fronts as far away as japan, and came home to find their entire families killed, and they're holding a
box of remains, and trying to, with some dignity, rebury them. and the first man on the left is the husband of my interviewee, a very brave woman who gave me this photograph for the book. so, of course, was desperate to learn if my grandfather had a role in this massacre. you might say, well, of course he did. he is chief of security police. he is seven kilometers away from this. how could he not? one thing i was very careful of in my research was to double and triple source every piece of information, so proximity for me was never enough. in order to really substantiate the narrative of with wartime life.
i'm going to read a small passage, the last one i'll read -- the second to the last one i'll read from the book -- chill straights the first built -- which illustrates the first bit of documentation i found that connected my grandfather directly to polygon. there was a survivor of the ghetto, an engineer by trade. as soon as the war was over he traveled through all of the displaced persons camps where lithuanian jews were waiting to emigrate out, and and he took they're narratives, and as part of -- in part but his was an engineer help was very methodical. hi began by summarizing the narrative of each ghetto, each town, and then he took individual testimonies, and he made sure, when he took the testimonies, that no other people from the town were in the room so that there would be no kind of collusion, it happened
this way no, that way. he took the collection of individual testimonies, they were witnessed, and they were signed, and it was almost as if he was foreseeing what is happening now, which is that some historians would begin to question the validity, the reliability, of testimony taken from traumatized individuals right after the war's end. ...
they traveled with me all over eastern europe. i also carried an extra piece of luggage for all this material. i felt i had it have it with me at all times. sometimes repetitious they summarize to offer the readers, each time i opened a white binder pages more of life appears. teenagers back float in lakes, they had an iron business a woolen boot factory, with four or five employees that worked the good wool so good will, the glossy oil that the boots the region was famous for.
they saved it for the granddaughter stresses, i was us spoil girl she would tell me. months later in israel. shrugging one shoulder, leaning slightly to that side. as that side. as if she was listening to those who loved her as if they were still alive. just out of sight in the other room. i read read the pages quickly at first, skimming, and going back again looking for the name, it's not there. not. not here, not there, or there. the german wolf, the lithuanian, my copy to take home will be ready in a week, i can retrieve it and read it privately but i stay. suddenly there suddenly there is a girl, suddenly there is my grandfather. the girl is the cousin of father whose testimony was recorded on
april 30, 1938, the same region of germany where a remote hilltop village my grandfather and his children, having left lithuania waited for the war to end. they watch the allied bombers using the church steeple is a coordinate. the girls name she is very pretty, she is jewish and she spoke lithuania perfectly. this was very rare. she is rounded up and taken 13 miles from her village town with everyone she knows, on wednesday, october 8 when the shooting began the lithuania policeman she could plead to in his own language perhaps remember her lovely features, he seen her and maybe even knows her name. he covers her with branches and a gully, a pit in the earth
different from the mass pit. all day they watched groups of men in groups of women and children were taken out of the compound to be shot. with the help of the policeman she wake makes her way to the ghetto, a far 50 miles from polygon and what is now belarus. when the ghetto is liquidated and the jews fit for work transferred into the crowded gado, mira lorraine stayed at father's house for exactly two weeks. there, she described polygon, described polygon, the sound when children were killed, the terrible weeping and screaming like a slaughterhouse. she is 15 or 16, relentlessly determined to live. she lives the safety of the ghetto and goes to see the wife of a lithuania policeman who had promised to obtain papers for her. instead, the the woman reported
them matter to the with the weighing in, my grandfather, the head of security police. mike grandfather some of the head of the ghetto and other ghetto elders, members of the jewish council, he demands the girl be brought to him. the beautiful girl who speaks perfect with the waning. what was started in polygon cannot be undone. i can see him slamming his fist on the table. she won't come to the office and get a reprieve, shall be sent out on a daily work, she will be shot as she should have been on october 8, 1941. when one dwells in a homemade hut under a relief's, i see them in front of the citic guard all over new york city, and the dark chill. it reminds me of missouri fields, cropland starting the winter wrath of the moon and childhood. bring bring her to
meet mike grandfather demand. she finds out she's been betrayed, takes off for another ghetto. i write her name in a small notebook, close the large file and leave it behind me on a reading table. i don't stop to think the archivist, i don't ask about the pickup time for my copies the following week, it is dark when i leave. i think i'm weeping but but i cannot tell. i cannot tell anything. it is only late fall and when i look up, rain. so that was the first detail of my grandfather's involvement about polygon.
the second major massacre, just so you know we are going to be winding up fairly soon and then there will be time for questions. the second major massacre in the area - make their killings all the way through but just to say this happened in the spring of 1942 and it happened with an action against noncombatant polls of the region. lithuanians hated the polls. german commander was ambushed, the polls had nothing to do with it but in a reprisal action the germans gave the lithuanians free reign, first they set a week it but then the killing was so intense they shortened it to three days. they allowed the lithuanians to go out, roundup polls, many of them elderly, them down and shoot them. we do not know about this massacre here but in poland, aside from the killing of the jews it is considered one of the major work crimes against noncombatant. so, obviously i spent spent a
tremendous amount of energy researching my grandfather's involvement in this crime as well. i want to and with one more quick reading and to preface it i want to say, i did many interviews through this a book and in the book i track three survivors of this ghetto who have become very dear to me. one is an incredible historian, he was chairman in israel for 25 years and i am thrilled that in november i will be able to go to tel aviv to do a talk with him. it is the week of his 89th birthday. i'm quite delighted about that. i was told in lithuania by people who had a vested interest in finding the same eyewitnesses that i wanted to find, there was no one left in terms of polygon and i was too late. after four years through moscow,
israel, poland, lithuania, new york, back to poland, i was told there were four people in it town living and they would talk to me. i immediately booked my flight and went over to meet with them. i'm going to add not with a very short transcription of an interview i did with an amazing man, poet xenon and aside from giving information about polygon, his narrative provided me with the title of my book. it is from a chapter called devils -- >> we sit on a side porch, a strand of flypaper buzzes from the ceiling, there is there is a smell of a cat. the poet xenon is 91 years old old and holds agree notebook. behind him a geranium in the
august afternoon, to the left his wife sits and often contributes to elaborate. she is polish, his father was lithuania. i ask him about his green notebook. i can see see pages of handwriting, some smaller, some larger. poems i think? no. he is writing out all the words of the world and their dead. all the millions of people, the ones who are suffering, the jews, the polls, the germans the germans who did not want to fight. the wars in north america, the worse from ancient time. then he starts talking about polygon. this is a direct transcription. we have friends and they were forced to dig a pit. young pit. young men, he died already, he told how it was. not everyone was killed immediately. it was cries in the movement of hands, terrible. we were afraid to. we were absolutely innocent. the ones who were shooters the
smell on their uniform, everything was organized before hand, it was a ditch, local people were forced to dig in the evening before people in the town knew. the ones who doug told their families and next line to everybody and they knew the jews were over there. the the local people who are covering the ditches, a function like someone was bringing the dirt, others were putting in corpses like a conveyor, and they're putting my mom. i was born in january 1923, i was 19. when they are over with shooting the shooters were singing lithuanian songs. they were very joyful. they were drunk before hand and there is a big long table in the open air with food like a holiday. the mood was supported by an orchestra, they got drunker.
over here there were two synagogues and these were used as warehouses, all of the belongings of the jews were put over there, afterwards there is a sale, and auction. who would give give these marks, who get more? i'm not standing in line, it was like euphoria. people were very excited, it it was after the killing. everyone knew. later they figured out the best things have already been taken. there are suitcases of the jews were hiding them, i do not know, i do not care. the jews were killed, some people would go and take and find the gold in the houses. the face of his wife blend together, both both in, scrappy like two birds, when he talks about the two synagogues where the auctions were held he gestures be on the screen where the field runs between small houses. wooden synagogue, sweat runs into my eyes. i can see it, it presses the
crowd for a pair of socks, poverty shoes, in want of their original owner. when i rise to luke he offers me his green notebook. his record of horror, his list of what it is to be human. something be human. something is lost in translation and since i am writing a book it seems he thinks i can take the wisdom with the world with me. i do not take it. i'm not sure if he did not want me to sit with him for a while and go through the pages, different wars and names separated by a line pressed hard into the paper. his project, his burden, his, still. thank you. [applause]. i think i'll take that picture off. questions? >> i am reading your book with
great interest in fascination. i can tell you are a poet, there are many beautiful passages. i admire your courage and compassion of going back and forth as you did to poland and lithuania. my my question is, did you find after all of this time, in the communities in europe that you visited, any change in their attitude toward jews? is that in grade anti-semitism that we instinctively associate with the lithuanians? is that still true or is there perhaps been a change? >> that is an excellent question. i would not say a seachange. i am very close and they have begun a reciprocity with the
archives in lithuania to share archival material. there is just now the beginning of an effort to put proper signage, for instance that entrance to the polygon, when i was there simply said the place of the mass murderer. to get to the actual pit which has a memorial, you drive through so many twists and turns that you get lost. it was actually someone from britain who pay to have signs put up to mark the way. the young young people of the region were continually knocking them down. this movement for signage, for dialogue, has begun. i will say though, and this is my subjective opinion because there are others who are much more politic than i am, that
things have not changed that much. the hope is the youngest generation. they are the ones who are seeking to have an open society, assess that untried society where truth is told. they have done remarkable things, for instance they have created something called the lithuanian hollow cost atlas which is now online. you can go online and see exactly where these shooting sites are. another friend of mine in lithuania has now gained access to finally, what have been the library in the gado is architecturally unsound but she is trying to raise funds to have
the place made sound so it can become the remarkable memorial it should be. i do not know how many of you are familiar with the gado, i think 600,000 bucks thousand books have been read in the ghetto, it is an amazing story of just about that library. when when i went there over a period of five years all that was there was a sign. so now that is beginning to expand. in terms of the older generation, i met my lithuanian family, for family groups. i have to say they were very open and very loving, they were not overly anti- somatic as my grandfather was.
there is another generation of collaborators who hold on to the old notion. they do not want the role as murders exposed. >> when he went to lithuania what was your method of research? did you work with a jewish organization? how did how did you find people to interview? >> first let me start out by saying i am a strong and poetry. the first thing i did was i contacted the head of translation at the university and say i need a translation or to do archival work for me before i visit. i found a wonderful person who is now living with me for three months. she just got her green card.
i remember the day she sent me an email and said i have wonderful news for you. i found 200 pages of information about your grandfather. here's the bad news, it is in russian and it is all handwritten. so that was my introduction about what the research was going to be like. i went under my own -- i was my own organization. i found a team wherever i went, i was lucky because i found amazing people to work with me. thankfully, my husband works at the new york times and it was through him that i initially found what journalists call a fixer, a a wonderful woman and lithuania who is a genealogist by trade but is a holocaust scholar. she became like a sister to me and worked with me on every trip. i basically asked around, who can help me with this? the times was a great accent actually.
i did not have any organization working with me. >> when was your grandfather born and what happened to your grandmother? >> my grandfather was born, i'm going to forget i am really bad, i will show you, hold on one second i have have to look at the family tree. sorry. he was born in 1899. so i'm giving away a little bit of the book, hope you will still buy it because authors have to be supported and i want to do another research project. just to say that my grandmother
was considered to be dead. her older daughter never gave up hope that she was alive and continually petition the united states government for information about her. one day she was standing in her kitchen and she received a phone call from someone in the lithuania community in the town where she lived. she had gotten a letter and in that letter from lithuania semi- casually mentioned that they had seen my lithuanian grandmother walking down the street. she was released, she had done her sentence, she survived it. had she known what was in store for her she would have slit her throat, she was tough as nails, might lithuania grandmother. she ended up immigrating to the united states. although that
states. although that was a position she later regretted. she wished she had stayed in lithuania. she she was found and she survived. >> a two-part question. you acknowledge that your grandfather was openly anti- somatic. given that, first of all what was the interaction or relationship like between him and your father and your father's mother? the second part is you said it would've killed your grandmother if she knew, given the fact that during think it's possible that she knew somehow about the atrocities committed? >> a lot of that is addressed in the book. when i said he was openly anti- somatic i should qualify that by saying that not everyone. certainly not my jewish grandmother and certainly not front of my father. one day he took me aside and said no be like your father.
he was a little drunk and when he was drunk his english got worse. that was i was ten or 11 at that time and it took me a while to understand what he was saying was, don't be jewish. and that conversation i promised him i would go to catholic church, which i never did. i was so young but i had a sense of what he was saying was very hurtful and i decided never to tell my father, it is a decision i regret. i have a have a wonderful jewish aunt shirley, my father's sister and there's a chapter in my book called word gets a round. when i first got this information from my mother i called her and she said zero everyone knew he was a nazi. and i said what you mean? and she said we never talked about we all just knew. and i say in the book, in some
ways we could say that every memoir written in that time. should be called called we never talked about it. every memoir written now should be called, we talk too much about it. let me just say my mother's war story was embellished, it was told over and over again, she was a beautiful, young, damaged woman and my jewish grandmother was extremely compassionate. she embraced her. she embraced her story and she embraced the embellishments of the story. it did not happen overnight, but it happened. also, the two sides of the family did not come together with any frequency. with my lithuanian grandfather was in the presence of my jewish family he was on his best behavior.
it was not known, it was was never discussed what his occupation was. ever. in the family. it is interesting because and i will just say one more word about this, in terms of my father, he was devoted to my mother. the last couple of years of his life before he was diagnosed with cancer, he kept kept pressing the history of the jews army. i say in my book there's no snob like an ignorant snob because it was written by ritesh gentile historian. i said dad if you're going to give me something finally by judaism, which was becoming more important as we grew older, could it at least be written by a jew? i finally took the book from him which i treasure now, every chapter was annotated which was my father's way except for the chapter on the holocaust. so make from that what you will.
>> very complicit. she asked how complicit was the local catholic church in the massacres of the area? in that particular area, let me say there were other areas in lithuania were actually priests were speaking out against the killing of the jews. and that particular area of the local priest was in fact active in the incarceration of the jews, and later the killing of the polls. that was very well documented in my research, unfortunately. >> my grandmother's family were all in the warsaw ghetto, my grandmother and great aunt they
got to america earlier. but the remainder of them in the ghetto of my family, somehow which i don't know that part of the story, they ended up in lithuania. and they suspect i were victims, i've never been able to figure out from the warsaw ghetto, how on earth? >> i hope you find out. it is so hard to track. it is one of so many amazing stories, just to say again we do not want these to be lost. i just just want to share that the holocaust museum and d.c. is going to collect all of my hours of video because of course not
all of my entire transcription and hours and hours of tape made it into the book. it will be archived so that other researchers can access it. the stories are so important. even with the gaps they contain. >> is wondering if you could put the map up that you are able to show during the slideshow? this is the area you said was outside the town. >> right there on the the region , i have heels on some afraid if i climb up here i will slip. this is the region here, all of these little areas that are marked by the germans represent
different towns, different villages. each had their own local commander, but my grandfather was one of those who is in charge and local thugs and commanders. >> you are welcome to come up after and take a look. >> your title seems to be very timely in light of the fact that 60 minutes, i think it was 60 minutes, did did a piece with a french priest and had gone from town to town to interview people in finding out that the local people came out to see the shooting. he is determined that if you know you're not going to be shot
you are willing to, see other people being shot. i am assuming your title, a guest at the shooter's banquet. >> first of all let me say, father patrick correct? he has been around for years and he has just now hit mass media and i'm so glad because he has been doing this work for a long time and it is extraordinary. at one point i wanted to volunteer for him but the work of my own book was too demanding and i could not. i will give it all away, but but the title of my book actually comes -- first of all let me say when two below vic tell me about this banquet i thought he's a poet, port, poets exaggerate, i couldn't believe it. i cannot it. i cannot imagine it to be true. i