Holocaust documentary ‘J’Accuse!’ won’t get city-sponsored screening

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West Hollywood Council Member Lauren Meister pulled Item 5c from the March 6th City Council agenda because she knew it lacked support from her colleagues. The item proposed co-sponsoring a film screening and panel discussion of the documentary “J’Accuse!” with the Israeli-American Civic Education Institute, to be held on April 18, 2023, in the City Council Chambers.

Dillon Hosier, Chairman and CEO of the Israel-American Civic Action Network (ICAN), made the proposal to the City Council. ICAN had previously co-sponsored the Anti-Semitism Summit with Kol Ami during the last election cycle. During the summit, West Hollywood resident Grant Gochin asked a question to then-candidate Chelsea Byers about her support for Hamas. It was reported that Byers left the summit in tears, and ICAN later came out against her in the election. Byers declined to comment on the current situation.

“J’Accuse,” a documentary about Holocaust history, was originally planned to be shown in the Council Chambers on April 18th to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day. However, the city council withdrew its co-sponsorship, and the film will now be screened on April 18th at Congregation Kol Ami. There will also be a showing on March 20th at the Museum of Tolerance.

The documentary highlights ongoing efforts by some European governments to rewrite Holocaust history. It tells the story of Grant Gochin, an expert on Holocaust denial and distortion in Lithuania, and his friendship with Silvia Foti, the granddaughter of the Lithuanian captain who murdered Gochin’s family during the Holocaust. The film sheds light on the efforts by some European governments to rehabilitate their reputations for the crimes they committed.

Dillon Hosier, Chair of ICAN, issued a statement expressing disappointment that the film would not be shown in the Council Chambers but was pleased that it would be shown at other venues throughout the city.

The use of Council Chambers for other movies and screenings has often been approved on the consent calendar. For example, this week the screening of Motherland, which focuses on the invasion of the Republic of Artsakh by Azerbaijan and Turkey and the massacre of more than 5,000 indigenous Armenians, was approved. Last year, an event hosted by Ashlei Shyne, the ex-wife of Mayor Shyne, was also approved for use in city facilities with waived fees. “Sacred Space,” a wellness-themed Zoom conference featured meditation and breathing exercises. Several events have been approved for use inside Council Chambers with waived fees.

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In the end, city staff informed Dillion Hosier, Chair of ICAN was told ‘J’Accuse’ would not be allowed to play in the council chambers and that he may ‘find another movie’.

BEHIND THE FILM

The Lithuanian Jewish community was decimated in the Holocaust: over 220,000 Jews, more than 95% of the population, were murdered. A key player in the massacre was Lithuanian nationalist Jonas Noreika.

Jonas Noreika, also known as General Vėtra, was a Lithuanian military officer and a member of the Lithuanian Activist Front, an organization that collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II. Noreika is a controversial figure in Lithuania, as some view him as a hero for his role in the Lithuanian resistance against the Soviet Union, while others view him as a collaborator for his actions during the Holocaust.

Noreika is accused of playing a role in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust while serving as the head of the Šiauliai district under Nazi occupation. According to Holocaust historians, Noreika signed documents authorizing the establishment of a Jewish ghetto in Šiauliai and ordered the confiscation of Jewish property. He also allegedly played a role in the deportation of Jews to concentration camps.

In recent years, there have been debates and protests in Lithuania over whether or not to remove monuments and street names dedicated to Noreika. Some Lithuanians argue that Noreika was a patriot who fought for Lithuania’s independence, while others argue that he was complicit in Nazi war crimes and should not be celebrated. Noreika is protected by the contemporary government’s official policy and infamous Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Centre, which has been accused of engaging in historical revisionism, particularly with regards to Lithuania’s role in the Holocaust. Some critics have claimed that the LGGRTC downplays the extent of Lithuanian collaboration with the Nazi regime and the role of Lithuanian nationalists in the persecution and murder of Jews.

‘J”Accuse!’ follows the experiences of two dissident campaigners: Grant Gochin, whose family was murdered by Noreika; and Silvia Foti, a brave Lithuanian woman fighting for the truth and whose grandfather was Jonas Noreika. Together, the two push against Lithuania’s systemic Holocaust denial in an attempt to bring justice to victims and the truth to account.

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[…] the attacks. Three council members force ICAN, the Israeli American Civic Action Network, to pull the movie J’Accuse from being shown during National Holocaust Day. Our Mayor Sepi Shyne and co-council member Chelsea […]

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[…] leader Dillon Hosier, detailing the events in a recent opinion piece, wrote “Where no illegality occurred, this incident sets a dangerous precedent by some on the […]

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[…] leader Dillon Hosier, detailing the events in a recent opinion piece, wrote “Where no illegality occurred, this incident sets a dangerous precedent by some on the […]

Mikie Friedman
Mikie Friedman
11 months ago

Lauren had to withdraw the agenda item because she had no support from the majority of the city Council? WTF? Antisemitism and racism should have no place on West Hollywood city council! Shame on Chelsea Byers, John Erickson, and Sepi Shyne! Shyne publicly trumpets her support for the Jewish community. But sadly, her actions speak louder than her words! Byers is anti-Jews and pro-scooters! What a pity it isn’t the other way around!! Erickson talks a good game in public, but he can be a vicious gossip when the public doesn’t hear him! I would love to hear in their… Read more »

Grant Gochin
Grant Gochin
11 months ago

J’Accuse! has already been selected for, nominated, or won over ninety international film awards. It has been seen worldwide and is now being used as a teaching tool for genocide prevention, and a warning to human rights violators that they will be held to account. Preventing future genocide is not a welcome lesson in West Hollywood?

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
11 months ago
Reply to  Grant Gochin

Grant, Thank you for your courage and commitment. I hope that the City will at some point sponsor a viewing of your film; it is certainly timely. The way for evil to prevail is for good people to be silent. Unfortunately the City Council’s silence bodes ill for the future.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve Martin
Eric
Eric
11 months ago
Reply to  Grant Gochin

Wish that the details for this unacceptable decision would surface.

A Very Sad Moment
A Very Sad Moment
11 months ago
Reply to  Grant Gochin

A very sad moment in that Lauren Meister’s poor judgment created this blemish. Hopefully the film can be reintroduced happen as there are many sophisticated people that would appreciate it.

A Very Sad Moment
A Very Sad Moment
11 months ago
Reply to  Grant Gochin

Unfortunately the council members lacked the sophistication to stand up for this film showing.

voter
voter
11 months ago

I never thought I would live to see the day that the West Hollywood City Council would turn against the large Jewish population in the city.

Anti-Semite Chelsea Byers and avowed Iranian Sepi Shyne need to be discarded.

Eric
Eric
11 months ago
Reply to  voter

With our current council, there will be many many more days that we thought we would never live to see.

Tom
Tom
11 months ago

Because there is no anti-semitism in SoCal, none in WeHo, and certainly none on the Council. Meister should have forced the vote.

hifi5000
hifi5000
11 months ago

This is sad.The city of West Hollywood was founded in part by Jewish residents who wanted a community where they could be accepted and safe.

Eastside Straight Girl
Eastside Straight Girl
11 months ago

Simply, Lauren lacks strength & courage to be bold! Not standing up for Lynn Hoopingarner & now this! She could have easily gotten everyone to vote IN SPITE OF WHAT SHE THOUGHT just to put everyone on record! She is politically naive for the future of WeHo. Putting everyone on record would have helped in a variety of ways. I am not Jewish but many people in my family are & I find this utterly offensive! I voted for her but she has been a huge disappointment & is now a lame duck!

Last edited 11 months ago by Eastside Straight Girl
Backbone
Backbone
11 months ago

This is unfortunately true. Even though Lynn Hoopengarner did the noble thing and resigned, Meister could have first accepted it and then simply renominated her, provided Lynn was willing. However, now Lynn may be more effective, independently out of the fray with knowledge which speaks louder.

Robert Switzer
Robert Switzer
11 months ago

Absolutely shameful!

Eric
Eric
11 months ago

Weho voted in Byers, so this is no big surprise, not to mention a Council on the whole, that isn’t exactly pro Jewish. Meister should not have pulled it, would have been better to see the votes against it.

Robert Steloff
Robert Steloff
11 months ago

UTTERLY appalling & shocking on so many levels! It’s an ‘ism that JUST SHOULDN’T exist on our city council on any day. With the radicalized increase of anti-Semitic behavior in the world, racism, homophobia, transgender-phobia, or any other phobia, how is this possible – Lauren, at least take a stand on correctness for the citizens, why remove this from the city agenda?! Has this city council become an adjacent-soft radicalization of the NextDoor Platform of censorship? Beyond disgraceful, I’d love to hear of sound reasoning behind this decision!

Eric
Eric
11 months ago
Reply to  Robert Steloff

I would surmise that this is the start of Byers anti Jewish sentiment filtering through council decisions.

Robert Steloff
Robert Steloff
11 months ago
Reply to  Eric

You are highly likely correct, and the city council is there to represent ‘we the people’. It’s one thing if this is a single Chelsea buyers, agenda, and personal assault, it’s another, one council member, Meister removed it from the agenda, believing that no one else will be in favor. Shameful.

Eric
Eric
11 months ago
Reply to  Robert Steloff

Something is not adding up. I thought for an item to be tabled it needed to pass a vote. There’s more to the story.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
11 months ago
Reply to  Robert Steloff

it’s a movie. what does that have to do with running a city?

Robert Steloff
Robert Steloff
11 months ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

It’s s movie that has been singled-out based on an important relevant subject matter, & equally as important as any of the other films mentioned in the article – We now have a couple of known anti-Israel council members in Byers & Shyne, I think this points directly toward censorship & will find its way into other areas of city hood – That’s what it has to do with running a city.

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