LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH
June, 2001 (12)
- Latvia's Top Officials Open a Meeting of the Jews of Latvian Origin
- Elie Wiesel's Book "The Night" Published in Latvian
- President of Latvia and Simon Wiesenthal Discuss Latvia's Contribution to the Holocaust Research
- A Workshop on the Holocaust Teaching in Latvia's Schools Organised for Latvia's History Teachers
Latvia's Top Officials Open a Meeting of the Jews of Latvian Origin
On 1 – 8 June Riga hosted the third meeting of the Jews residing in other countries of the world who were born in Latvia or have ancestral relationship with Latvia.
On 4 June Latvia's top officials participated in the opening of the library of the Jewish community, as well as in the presentation of Elie Wiesel's book "The Night". The President of Latvia Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that it is a great honour for her to join the opening of the Jewish library. The President voiced hope that the library will facilitate deeper understanding of Judaism, provide guidance into the dramatic fate of the Jewish people, as well as the blissful moments of their history, and promote awareness of the world's cultural heritage in general.
In her opening address to the meeting, the President pointed out that this event is of high importance because it brings together Jews from across the world, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Israel, Kuwait, Sweden and other countries. "Whether it is your native land or a land where your roots reach... Latvia is also your homeland," said the President whose address was warmly greeted by the meeting delegates. The President also said that Latvia is proud of its daughters and sons regardless of their ethnic origin; among the Jews from Latvia there are people whose names are among world celebrities – many artists, chess player Mikhail Thal, philosopher Isaiah Berlin, also Mordehai Dubin, a political figure, who participated in events during foundation of the independent Latvian state, and had been elected to the first four Latvian Saeimas in succession.
Prime Minister Mr Andris Berzins in his speech to the participants described common elements in the history of the Jewish nation and Latvians, as well as illustrated their present relationship and concluded: "I am convinced that we will also have a common future. (..) I hope that you - the people who have something to do with Latvia, will help the Jewish community of Latvia and our state also in the future. You are the people who have proved yourself, your abilities and talent in the countries you live in. You have gained certain status in the society. However, you are still linked with Latvia. Many of you have near relations, friends and acquaintances here. I urge you – make use of opportunities in order to represent also Latvia, help in developing the economic and cultural relations between your home country and Latvia."
The meeting was joined by some 500 participants, who met with their relatives, attended memorials and got acquainted with life in Latvia.
Address by Mr Andris Berzins, Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia to the participants of the meeting of the Jews of Latvian origin, 4 June 2001: http://www.mk.gov.lv/eng/primeminister/news/ab/20010604.htm
Elie Wiesel's Book "The Night" Published in Latvian
A book about the Holocaust "The Night" by Elie Wiesel, writer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize of 1986, and Professor at Boston University, has been translated into Latvian. According to the President of Latvia, this translation is just another step in further intensification of activities that are taking place in Latvia in the field of informing the broader public about the Holocaust.
The publication of the book was supported by Mrs Sheila Johnson Robbins from the U.S. and entrepreneur Mr Sols N. Bukingolts from Latvia. The sponsors of the Latvian edition emphasised that the book is a historical testimony of the time, which remains shaded with terror in memories of many families in different countries. The author, a Holocaust survivor himself, in his portrayal of the Holocaust, however, never loses his faith into humanity. "The book while being a testimony of inhumanity and atrocities at the same time represents an appeal for humanity", writes the President of Latvia in the foreword of the book.
"The Night" is yet another book recently translated into Latvian, which tells about the fate of the Jewish nation. "The Sunflower" by Simon Wiesenthal was published last year.
President of Latvia and Simon Wiesenthal Discuss Latvia's Contribution to the Holocaust Research
On 18 June the President of Latvia Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga during her visit to Austria, met with Simon Wiesenthal, author of the book "The Sunflower" and the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. Among the issues touched upon at their meeting, which was held in a friendly and emotional atmosphere, there was a discussion over the book, as well as the events that incited its creation. Mr Wiesenthal was acquainted with the Latvian translations of the books "The Sunflower" and "The Night".
Simon Wiesenthal expressed satisfaction about the researches into the history of the Holocaust, which are carried out in Latvia; the work of Latvia's History Commission in this field was mentioned with appreciation. Mr Wiesenthal who has devoted his life to reminding the world about the Holocaust and other inhumanities of the 20th century Europe, welcomed the educational project recently launched in Latvia which apart of other educational activities comprises also the translation into Latvian of the book "Tell Ye Your Children?". This book on the Holocaust has now been distributed to all schools in Latvia. Dr Vike-Freiberga and Simon Wiesenthal also shared their opinions on possible collaboration of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and Latvia's History Commission in exchange of information and research materials.
During the meeting Dr Vike-Freiberga informed about the deportations of Latvia's inhabitants carried out by Soviet authorities in 1941 and later. Both sides were of the same opinion that the 21st century should be the century of humanity and democracy, therefore utmost attention should be paid to education of the young generation, who would safeguard the humane values in future.
A Workshop on the Holocaust Teaching in Latvia's Schools Organised for Latvia's History Teachers
On 16 June in Riga, a workshop for the history teachers of Latvia "How to use the book "Tell Ye Your Children?" in history lessons" was organised by the History Teachers' Association of Latvia with support of Latvia's History Commission, the Centre for the Contents of Education and Examination, and the U.S. and Swedish embassies in Latvia. During the seminar the history teachers of Latvia were acquainted with experience of their Swedish and American colleagues in teaching about the Holocaust. The workshop served as a forum for discussions over the issue.
The workshop was attended by 39 history teachers and experts from Sweden and the U.S., including the author of the book Ph. D. Paul A. Levine from Uppsala University in Sweden.
In spring 2001 every school in Latvia received the Latvian and Russian translations of the Paul A. Levine's book "Tell Ye Your Children?". The workshop was the first to introduce with methodology of its usage in schools. Series of workshops will also be organised in other cities and towns of Latvia.
In June this year history teachers from Latvia are visiting Minnesota and New York (U.S.) to participate in visitors programmes supported by the U.S. Information Centre and aimed at acquainting the teaching staff with methods of history teaching there.
Latvia's History Teacher's Association
Stabu 47-12/2, Riga,
Tel./Fax: (+371) 7 376 040