LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH
October - November, 2001 (16)
- Latvia commemorates 60th anniversary of the Holocaust
- Riga to host Fourth International Conference "Jews in a Changing World"
- Latvia's Action Plan on the Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research presented to the International Task Force
- History Commission of Latvia awards two history students
Latvia commemorates 60th anniversary of the Holocaust
This year in June 60 years passed since the Soviet deportation took place in Latvia, while in November 60 years since the extermination of the Jewish community of Latvia have elapsed. These remembrance dates have encouraged public discussion on the issue of crimes against humanity, including the crimes committed by totalitarian rules. The Holocaust therefore emerges as one of the most significant topics of these days.
The Holocaust has become the theme that is constantly in the focus of public attention - Latvian media feature articles, interviews and memories about World War II on regular basis. Late in November much attention is going to be paid to series of events that commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Holocaust in Latvia.
The international seminar "The Issues of the Holocaust Research" - a follow-up of the last year's conference on the Holocaust issues - will focus on the latest research into the Holocaust and also will highlight the 60th anniversary of the Rumbula tragedy when thousands of Jews were killed. The international seminar will be opened by the President of Latvia Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga on 29 November 2001. Historians from the Latvian Historical Institute, members of the History Commission of Latvia, researchers from Germany, and the U.S. will participate in the seminar.
Presentations and Speakers at the International seminar "The Issues of the Holocaust Research": http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4667
The project entitled "Latvia's Jewish Community – History, Tragedy, Revival" includes an exhibition, publication of a booklet based on exhibition materials, as well as publication of a brochure on the history of the Holocaust in Latvia. The entire project will be carried out by late November this year. The project is the first attempt to examine a very extensive topic in a condensed and well-designed visual form covering the period from the origins of the Latvian Jewish community to the present.
The exhibition is prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia in collaboration with the Museum and Documentation Centre "Jews in Latvia" and will be on display from 29 November. The exhibition illuminates three separate stages in the history of the Latvian Jewish community: the very origins of it, the period between the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, and the World War II and the Holocaust. The government activities of today's Latvia will also be revealed by showing the support to the Holocaust education, remembrance and research. In the year 2002 the exhibition "Latvia's Jewish Community – History, Tragedy, Revival" will travel to the U.S. and Israel.
The brochure will serve as an additional teaching aid both for teachers and for students who teach or study the history of the Latvian Jewish community. It will also be an additional source of information on World War II and the issues of the Holocaust in Latvia.
One of the main tasks of the project is to contribute to public understanding of the complicated issues of history (such as alleged participation of the citizens of Latvia in the Holocaust). The project is also viewed as a wish to assert the readiness of today's Latvia to re-examine history and openly discuss its tragic pages.
During the last Sunday in November a memorial ceremony traditionally will be staged in Rumbula – a place nearby Riga where around 25,000 Jewish people were killed in 1941.
On 30 November a new memorial site will be opened in the Bikernieki forest near Riga commemorating the day of execution of several tens of thousands of Jews that were forcefully brought to Latvia from Western Europe by Nazis. The memorial site already has been completed. Its two spacious squares on both sides of Bikernieki Street are covered with more than 5,000 stones that symbolise burial sites.
The Bikernieki memorial includes also a symbolic bell-tower. The stone next to it bears an inscription from the Bible in four languages - Latvian, Hebrew, German and Russian - "O earth, do not cover my blood, And let my cry have no resting place". (Job 16:18).
The building of the Bikernieki memorial has been supported by the Riga City Council, while the financial aid was granted by the German People's Association for Cemetery Maintenance. The latter has established the Riga Committee with 13 cities participating under the patronage of the Federal President of Germany. The Association and the Riga Committee of the Fraternal Cemetery – an institution authorised by the Latvian Government – have jointly implemented this project.
Riga to host Fourth International Conference "Jews in a Changing World"
From 20 to 22 November the Latvian capital will host the fourth international conference "Jews in a Changing World" dedicated to history and culture of Jews in Latvia and the Baltic region.
Representatives from about eight countries including Germany, the U.S. and Israel are going to participate in the conference. The Honorary President of the Conference is Mr Nathan Barkan, Chief Rabbi of Riga and Latvia, while Co-Chairmen of the Organising Committee are Prof Herman Branover, the University of Beer-Sheva (Israel), and Prof Ruvin Ferber, the University of Latvia. Among the organisers of the conference are Center for Judaic studies at the University of Latvia, Memorial Foundation of the Jewish Culture (USA), M.Dubin Foundation of the SHAMIR Association (Latvia), Riga Religious Jewish Community (Latvia), Riga Jewish Community Center "Alef"(Latvia) The Chais Center for Jewish Studies in Russian (Israel), Latvian Council of Christians and Jews (Latvia), Latvian Academy of Sciences), Ben-Gurion University (Israel).
The work of the Conference will be divided into four sessions: Session I - Jews in the Baltic States before 1918; Session II - Jews in the Baltic States between the Wars (1918-1940): Education and Culture; Session III - Jews in the Baltic States between the Wars (1918-1940): History and Politics; Session IV - Secular and Religious Jewish Thought.
Programme of the 4th International Conference "Jews in a Changing World", Riga, Latvia, 20-22 November 2001: http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4665
Latvia's Action Plan on the Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research presented to the International Task Force
On 22-23 October Under-secretary of State of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Armands Gutmanis participated in a conference organised by the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research in The Hague. During the conference the Action Plan 2002-2003 of the Republic of Latvia "Holocaust Education, Remembrance, Research" was presented to the member states.
Subsequently, in Riga State Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia Mr Andris Sarnovics, the Latvian representative in co-operation with the International Task Force, submitted the Action Plan to the Ambassador of Sweden to Latvia, Latvia's partner in the Task Force.
The Action Plan comprises 12 projects submitted by Latvian government agencies and non-governmental organisations. Part of these projects envisage organisation of seminars for history teachers on methodology in teaching about the Holocaust, trips to Yad Vashem Center in Israel to upgrade teachers' qualifications, translation and publishing of a book on the Holocaust, academic research, etc. Latvia in partnership with Sweden will decide on the projects to be later submitted to the International Task Force on the Holocaust to be considered for funding.
Latvia has launched co-operation with the Task Force on the level of individual projects following the statement of the President of Latvia made at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research" in Stockholm on 27 January 2000.
Action Plan 2002-2003 of the Republic of Latvia: Holocaust Education, Remembrance, Research: http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4666
History Commission of Latvia awards two history students
On 26 October as a promotional and supportive action the History Commission of Latvia during their regular meeting decided to award two students of the Faculty of History and Philosophy of the University of Latvia, Toms Gulbis and Zigmars Turcinskis for their research done on the issues of the history of Nazi and Soviet occupations in the 20th century.
Preparation of the Progress Report of the History Commission of Latvia will be the main topic of the Commission's meeting on 28 November. The Report will be the first step on the way to production of the Final Report on war crimes against humanity committed by two occupation regimes in the territory of Latvia during World War II.
Calendar of events:
- IV International Conference "Jews in a Changing World" (Riga);
- International seminar "The Issues of the Holocaust Research" (Riga);
- Opening of exhibition "Latvia's Jewish Community-History, Tragedy, Revival";
- Opening of the Bikernieki memorial site.
For further contacts:
History Commission of Latvia
Chairman: Professor Andris Caune
Address: c/o History Institute of Latvia
1 Akademijas lauk.,
Riga, LV 1050, Latvia
Tel.: (+371) 7 225 948
Fax: (+371) 7 225 044
Adviser to the President of State on the History Commission Issues
Dr. habil. hist. Assoc. Professor Antonijs Zunda
Chancery of the President,
3 Pils lauk.,
Riga, LV 1900, Latvia
Tel.: (+371) 7 092 109
Fax: (+371) 7 325 800