LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH
August - December, 2002 (23)
- Vike-Freiberga to be patron of monument to rescuers of Jews
- Memorial site to Nazi victims unveiled on the outskirts of Riga
- President of "Jewish Survivors of Latvia" awarded the Three Stars Order
- Representatives of the International Holocaust Task Force visit Latvia
- International conference "Occupation Policy of Nazi Germany in Latvia (1941-1945)" to be held in Riga in June 2003
- United States and Latvia sign Agreement on Protection and Preservation of Cultural Properties
- Latvian and Swedish experience of education on the Holocaust shared at a seminar for history teachers
- Latvian Lithuanian given Righteous Among the Nations award
- Modern ballet performance dedicated to Holocaust victims staged at the Latvian National Opera
Vike-Freiberga to be patron of monument to rescuers of Jews
On 5 December 2002, speaking at a reception dedicated to the Hanukkah celebrations in Riga, President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga announced that she has assumed patronage over the raising of a monument at the Gogola Street Synagogue in Riga to Zanis Lipke and other rescuers of Jews during World War II. As patron of the monument, Vike-Freiberga called on everybody who treasures the idea of the monument to support it.
"We must take care of remembrance, of memory: to be reminded of the good and bad of our past, to be able to honour those who have displayed their humanity and were ready to risk with their lives in order to protect their fellow-men and defend the principles of humanity. These are the very principles upon which we wish to build a new Latvia and new Europe," said Vike-Freiberga.
Memorial site to Nazi victims unveiled on the outskirts of Riga
The President and Prime Minister of Latvia, Jewish community members, foreign diplomats and other state officials and public figures joined a ceremony on 29 November 2002 in Rumbula on the outskirts of Riga to unveil a memorial site in commemoration of prisoners from the Riga Ghetto and other victims of the Nazis killed in the Rumbula forest in 1941.
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said at the dedication ceremony that "this is one of the darkest dates, perhaps the very darkest date, in Latvia's history; it is the day when this site became marked by bloodshed and lamentation. Thousands upon thousands of innocent people were brutally murdered here merely because for centuries and millennia they had been faithful to their ethnic identity and religion." "But this is also a day of mourning and commemoration for all of Latvia, because these events took place on Latvia's soil and our people took part in them," said Vike-Freiberga. The President called on the Latvian public to commemorate the victims and tell future generations about their suffering so that such tragedies as Rumbula never occur again.
Over 100 people had gathered for the ceremony to commemorate their relatives, acquaintances and other victims. They placed candles and flowers at the stones of the memorial on which are engraved names of those killed in the Rumbula forest. Although more than 25 000 Jewish people were killed there, so far names of just 1300 of them have been discovered. The officials in their speeches pledged to continue researching this tragic page of history and continue engraving on the stones the names of the people killed in the Rumbula forest so that their memory lives on.
The number of Jews massacred at Rumbula is one of the largest in Europe. Inscriptions on the Rumbula Memorial plaques (in English, German, Hebrew and Latvian) say: "Here in the forest of Rumbula on November 30 and December 8 of 1941 the Nazis and their local collaborators shot dead more than 25 000 Jews - the prisoners of the Riga Ghetto - children, women, old people, as well as around 1000 Jews deported from Germany. In the summer of 1944 hundreds of Jewish men from the concentration camp "Riga-Keiserwald" were killed here."
The erection of the memorial ensemble was financed by donations from Latvia, Israel, the United States and Germany, as well as from private individuals. The commemorative event was organised by the Riga Jewish Community and the Riga City Council.
Address by the President of the Republic of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, on the occasion of the dedication of the memorial to the victims of the Nazis at Rumbula, 29 November 2002: http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=3508
Remarks by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Einars Repse, on the occasion of the dedication of the memorial to the victims of the Nazis at Rumbula, 29 November 2002: http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=3542
Ambassador Brian Carlson's Remarks at Rumbula Memorial Dedication Ceremony, Riga Jewish Community Centre, 29 November 2002: http://www.usembassy.lv/EN/Speeches/rumbula
President of "Jewish Survivors of Latvia" awarded the Three Stars Order
On 4 December 2002, President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga awarded Latvia's highest award - the Three Stars Order to Steven Springfield, President of the U.S. organisation "Jewish Survivors of Latvia" since 1984.
Riga-born Springfield has been working for Latvia's Commission of Historians since 2000. He has read lectures at international historical conferences and presented an unbiased account of the history of the Holocaust in Latvia. Springfield has contributed to Latvia's move towards NATO by sending letters to U.S. Congressmen on behalf of his organisation in support of Latvia.
The Three Stars Order was also awarded to the President of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and member of Latvia's Commission of Historians, George D. Schwab.
Representatives of the International Holocaust Task Force visit Latvia
In order to acquaint themselves in person with the state of Holocaust education, research and commemoration in Latvia, three representatives from France, the presiding country of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research - Patrick Amiot, Jean-Marc Dreyfus and Karel Fracapane - visited Riga from 6 to 9 November 2002.
As part of the working visit, the Task Force representatives held meetings with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Science, Andris Sarnovics, Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Armands Gutmanis, Director of the Centre for Judaic Studies at the University of Latvia, Professor Ruvin Ferber, Chairman of the Commission of Historians Holocaust Subcommittee, Professor Aivars Stranga, and representatives of the History Teachers' Association of Latvia. They also visited the museum "Jews in Latvia" and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, as well as met with the Chairman of the Jewish Community, Arkady Suharenko and the Israeli Ambassador to Latvia, Avraham Benjamin.
The International Task Force representatives voiced satisfaction over Latvia's accomplishments in the Holocaust education, commemoration and research. Latvia has co-operated with the Task Force on educational and translation projects.
Holocaust education, research and remembrance in Latvia: http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4668
Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research: http://taskforce.ushmm.org/
International conference "Occupation Policy of Nazi Germany in Latvia (1941-1945)" to be held in Riga in June 2003
Latvia's Commission of Historians, Faculty of History and Philosophy of the University of Latvia, Institute of Latvian History of the University of Latvia, and the Latvian State Archives are organising an international conference "Occupation Policy of Nazi Germany in Latvia (1941-1945)", due to take place in Riga on 12 and 13 June 2003.
This conference will continue the work of previous conferences, organised by Latvia's Commission of Historians: "Latvia in World War II" (1999), "The Issues of Holocaust Research in Latvia" (2000), "The Deportation of June 14 1941: Crimes Against Humanity" (2001), and "Soviet Occupation Regime in Baltic: Policy And Its Consequences"(2002).
The conference intends to focus on detailed analysis of the manifestations in the Baltic region of Nazi occupation policy. It will, likewise, identify basic areas for future research. An important task of the conference will be to define common and distinguishing features of Nazi occupation policy in Latvia and other European states. Comparative research opens new opportunities for revealing the historical truth. The aim of the conference is to provide researchers with new theoretical concepts and specify directions for further research.
Three main issues will be discussed at the conference:
- The Holocaust in Latvia;
- Nazi Occupation Policy in the Baltic States: Problems of Research;
- Nazi Occupation in Latvia and Other European States: The Common and the Different.
The working languages of the conference are Latvian and English.
Chairman of the Organising Committee
Inesis Feldmanis - Professor, University of Latvia
Faculty of History and Philosophy
Brivibas 32, Riga, LV-1586, Latvia
Applications for participation should be sent by 1 March 2003 to:
Faculty of History and Philosophy
Brivibas 32, Riga, LV-1586, Latvia
Tel.: (+371) 7 283 734
Fax: (+371) 7 284 488
United States and Latvia sign Agreement on Protection and Preservation of Cultural Properties
On 7 October 2002 Latvian Minister of Culture, Karina Petersone and the Chairman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, Warren L. Miller signed an agreement between the governments of the United States and Latvia on the Protection and Preservation of Certain Cultural Properties. Under this agreement, the United States will work together with Latvia to preserve historic sites, places of worship, monuments, cemeteries, collections, and documentary materials that are important to the joint cultural heritage of the people of the United States and Latvia.
During the signing ceremony at the Latvian Ministry of Culture, Warren L. Miller said that this agreement "commits our countries to protecting the cultural heritage of all national, religious, and ethnic groups that were the victims of genocide, and ensures that there is no discrimination against their cultural heritage". The agreement expands upon the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Latvia was the first Baltic country to sign such an agreement with the United States.
"While today's agreement commits our respective nations to a joint effort to preserve cultural heritage, our efforts have already begun. The U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad is proud to be part of the international effort, together with the Municipality of Riga and other entities, to create an appropriate memorial at Rumbula, one of the two most notorious Holocaust massacre sites in Latvia. The project will be completed and dedicated later this year. Its completion will insure that the more than 25 000 men, women and children murdered in two days on that site will be remembered with dignity," Mr Miller said during the agreement signing ceremony on 7 October.
Latvian and Swedish experience of education on the Holocaust shared at a seminar for history teachers
On 25 October 2002 the exhibition "Latvia's Jewish Community: History, Tragedy, Revival", prepared by the Latvian Foreign Ministry in conjunction with the museum "Jews in Latvia" and the Institute of Latvian History was opened at the Liepaja Pedagogical Academy. The exhibition opening took place within the context of a seminar for history teachers.
The seminar, running from 24 to 26 October, was organised by the History Teachers' Association of Latvia in co-operation with the US Embassy in Latvia, the Swedish Institute and Latvia's Commission of Historians. The goal of the seminar was to share experience of education on the Holocaust in several schools in Latvia and Sweden, develop practical teaching models, acquaint the audience with recent developments in Holocaust research in Latvia, and introduce them to memorials to the Holocaust in Liepaja. The seminar was run by experts from Latvia and Sweden.
The exhibition "Latvia's Jewish Community: History, Tragedy, Revival" was first shown on 29 November 2001 in the University of Latvia during an international seminar organised by Latvia's Commission of Historians, and in 2002 it was shown in Daugavpils University, Vidzeme University College, Liepaja Pedagogical Academy, and the National Library of Latvia. The exhibition provides information on the history of the Latvian Jewish community from the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the Second World War, the Holocaust, rescuers of Jews in Latvia and current state policy in relation to Holocaust research and commemoration.
From 11 December to 20 January this exhibition is on display at the Rezekne branch of the State Archives of Latvia.
Exhibition "Latvia's Jewish Community: History, Tragedy, Revival" in photographs: http://www.am.gov.lv/foto/29112001(exhibition)/
The booklet "Latvia's Jewish Community: History, Tragedy, Revival" (MFA, 2001): http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4299
Latvian Lithuanian given Righteous Among the Nations award
On 20 August 2002 in Riga, the Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Baltic States, Avraham Benjamin, awarded the Medal and Diploma of the Righteous Among the Nations to Stasis Tautavicius, a Latvian citizen of Lithuanian origin. His parents, Zenonas and Stanislava Tautavicius, were awarded the title posthumously. The Tautavicius family sheltered a Jewish girl Maria, who had escaped from the Jewish ghetto in Telsiai, western Lithuania, in 1941.
Under the provisions of a special law enacted in Israel in 1953, Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority locates and honours persons who, at the risk of their own lives, saved Jews during the Holocaust. These people are called the "Righteous Among the Nations" and are given special awards. Their names are inscribed on the Wall of Honour in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem. This is the highest honour bestowed by the Jewish people, through the State of Israel, on non-Jews.
Modern ballet performance dedicated to Holocaust victims staged at the Latvian National Opera
On 29 and 30 September 2002, "Voices from the Ground", a modern ballet dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust, premiered at the Latvian National Opera.
Choreographed by Sharon Perry from the United States, this intensely emotional performance touches the heart and awakens the conscience. Original music was created especially for this ballet by Lithuanian composer and musical producer Zeraldas Povilaitis. The solo dancers were students at the Riga Choreography School and the Latvian Academy of Culture.
Sharon Perry: "The painful truth is that the Holocaust happened, and we were there, our ancestors were there, the rest of the world was there. This is why I believe it is so important to remind ourselves and educate our children so that we might not only remember and honour those who suffered, but be ever vigilant so that history may never repeat itself. We are reminded that 'the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.' "
For more information:
Latvia's Commission of Historians
c/o History Institute of Latvia, Akademijas lauk. 1, Riga, LV-1050, Latvia
Tel.: (+371) 7 225 948
Fax: (+371) 7 225 044
Adviser to the President on History Issues, Dr. habil. hist. Assoc. Prof. Antonijs Zunda
Chancery of the President, Pils lauk. 3, Riga, LV-1900, Latvia
Tel.: (+371) 7 092 109
Fax: (+371) 7 092 157
History Teachers' Association of Latvia
Stabu 47-8/4, Riga, LV-1011, Latvia
Tel./fax: (+371) 7 316 992
Newsletter "Latvia's History: Education, Remembrance, Research" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the mass media and official sources.