urrently, a documentary called, J’Accuse, is making the rounds of international film festivals and garnering many awards, including first place. It is also streaming on several platforms. The truth packs a powerful punch. The documentary highlights the Big Lie perpetrated by Holocaust deniers. In this instance, the revisionist history involves atrocities on and murder of over 220,000 Jewish lives in Lithuania between 1939-1941. Standing accused are successive Lithuanian governments, including the present-day administration, and the Lithuanian people.
The accusers are two South Africa Jews, Grant Gochin and Michael Kretzmer, third generation descendants of those Lithuanian Jews, who in their thousands, emigrated to South Africa between 1880s-1930s. These immigrants called themselves Litvaks, the name given to them as a slur in Lithuania and adopted in South Africa as a self-identifying tag.
These two accusers are joined by Silvia Foti, granddaughter of Jonas Noreika, an infamous Lithuanian leader who ordered the barbarous acts and slaughters. Presently, Noreika is regarded as a national hero in Lithuania, honored with statues, and his name is on streets and schools.
Foti, an American journalist of Catholic Lithuanian descent, published her well-researched book, The Nazi’s Granddaughter in 2017. The book uncovers Noreika’s mayhem. She is now a pariah in her Lithuanian community in Chicago.
The revision of history documented in J’Accuse, denies that ordinary Lithuanians had an active role—together with the government of that time—in murdering thousands of Lithuanian Jews. In an ongoing program this (Ig)Noble Lie is administered by government departments that churn out this propaganda in school text books, pamphlets, and military handbooks.
Philosopher Plato and the (Ig) Noble Lie
The idea of the (Ig)Noble Lie has its roots in a construct developed 2000 years ago by ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. As Plato explains, this concept is articulated in his Utopian (or some would say Dystopian) vision, The Republic. The Noble Lie is fundamental to the education system he advocates if his model of governance is to function as he envisages.
Basically, the (Ig)noble Lie is a device foisted on the citizenry to manipulate them into believing myths crafted to ensure the longevity of the Republic. The vehicle for inculcating these Lies is education. Plato’s aim is to brainwash children into believing the Lies. He proclaims these are for the common good. Generations of automatons will ensure the viability of the Republic. However, realistically, the Lie simply underscores Plato’s belief that his Republic—only with a strictly regulated educational system—will serve that common good.
Throughout the centuries religious orders, rulers, and governments have used the (Ig)noble Lie to justify unnecessary wars, encourage revolts and revolution, and brainwash huge numbers of their followers. Perhaps the biggest Lie of all (at least in the Western world) is Adolf Hitler’s Lie of the Herrenvolk, a Germanic Christian Nationalist master race that would rid Europe of “impure races” and so save civilization.
According to these Big Lies educational content must be controlled to spew forth iterations of the Lie, the media must be controlled so as not to impartially report reality, and witness bearers must be discredited. Books burned, critics silenced, official records banned—all actions aimed at justifying the Lies.
Ironically, brainwashing may be overcome through education as well; by teaching critical thinking skills, practicing open-mindedness, questioning the nature of reality and illusion.
But these truth-seeking mind states are anathema to governments and rulers who use ignoble ends to justify their means.
After George W. Bush’s Big Lie about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, and the disastrous Iraq war, as well as Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 Election being stolen, America needs to look in the mirror and see what face is staring back.
South African Apartheid Big Lies
Along with the accusers described above, I am a third generation Litvak descendant. I am also a South African born, American author. Often, I’ve been described in bios and elsewhere as such.I’m proud of this designation but think of myself as African American. I have deep family roots and historical ties to southern Africa.
I grew up in an educational system designed to keep black South Africans in a vacuum of servitude; to serve onlyin white South Africa’s economy or to be employed as domestics at minimal wages in segregated, privileged, white households.
As part of the apartheid government’s (Ig)Noble Lie, the format of all state school instruction (there were not many private schools), black and white, was Christian (Calvinist) and National (Afrikaner hegemony).
Black children in the township had four years of schooling (the United Nations minimum for reading, writing and arithmetic), white children had thirteen years K-12. Black children in the rural areas had even less education, relying on volunteers and scarce missionary resources. Rural white children were served the same Big Lies as their urban counterparts in fully staffed farm schools.
Nowhere was this Christian National slant more evident than in the study of history, civic affairs and social studies. My English-speaking classmates—white education being segregated along language lines, English and Afrikaans speakers—were deeply suspicious of the blatant racist material. Together with my classmates, we were fortunate that our fourth and fifth grade teacher was British, a WW2 bomber pilot who flew missions over Nazi Germany. He was shot down and served years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He actively debunked apartheid’s Big Lies, saying he had not fought in the War for the ideals of freedom that were being trampled in South Africa, to keep quiet about it. We owe Mr. Broderick a great deal.
I have been subjected to Big Lies for the political ends by those in power all my life.
In South Africa, the Big Lies perpetrated by the white apartheid government became more and more blatant propped up by States of Emergency, ever more repressive legislation, and then a slow burning civil war. As a child, at home I was fed confused Big Lies about the Holocaust, as if my family were embarrassed it ever happened.
At my liberal English-speaking university my history major studies taught me to always find all sides of any historical event.
Debunking Apartheid Big lies
Among the several books I have written (see www.janetlevine.com), two debunk many South African Big Lies. My first book on South Africa, Inside Apartheid (1988), is a personal and political memoir of my anti-apartheid activism and life in South Africa. Liv’s Secrets, my latest book, a historical saga, is a deep dive into Jewish immigration into South Africa from Eastern Europe (1880s-1960) and centers on one fictional Jewish family over three generations. Liv’s Secrets bookends Inside Apartheid,
Liv’s Secrets, publication date: April 17, 2023—Emancipation Day in the United States.
In the United States: Plato’s Vindication
In the United States from when I arrived in 1984 with my American born husband and our children, a militant right wing was rapidly growing and now we have a radically divided country. Currently, Big Lies abound aided by the growth of unreliable sources on social media, that attempt to subvert the truth into lies and Big Lies into truth. Sadly, very few can tell the difference.
Plato may feel vindicated if he walked through the (Ig)Noble lies of the previous 2000 years of world history and noted where we are now.
Janet Levine is an author, educator, and presenter. Janet has decades of published writing experience both as a book author and a freelance journalist. She is the author of five traditionally published works. Her sixth book, historical saga, Liv’s Secrets is forthcoming in April 2023. For twenty-nine years (1986-2014) she taught in the English department at Milton Academy in Massachusetts. She leads workshops and presents programs internationally on the psychology of personality using the E-model. An anti-apartheid activist, she is an expert on South Africa and South African politics. The founder and leader of several successful non-profit organizations, in South Africa and the United States, Janet remains a committed activist for human rights. Please check out her website at www.janetlevine.com