[LH] No. 24, January - May 2003

15.12.2015. 16:07

LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH

January - May, 2003 (24)


HEADLINES

  • Volume of research into the Holocaust published by Historians Commission of Latvia

  • Representative of Latvia visits Washington to meet with Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research

  • President of Latvia meets with representatives of the World Jewish Congress


Volume of research into the Holocaust published by Historians Commission of Latvia

On 7 May 2003, an official presentation of the eighth volume of the Symposia series by the Commission of Historians of Latvia, entitled "The Issues of the Holocaust Research in Latvia" took place at the presidential residence in Riga Castle. The volume is a collection of papers presented at an international seminar in Riga and the latest research on the Holocaust in Latvia during World War II, and altogether comprises 16 academic papers and the testimony of two Holocaust survivors.

The presentation brought together members of the Commission of Historians, foreign ambassadors, researchers and representatives of Latvia's Jewish Community. The participants were addressed by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Chairman of the Holocaust Sub-committee of the Commission of Historians, Professor Aivars Stranga.

Professor Stranga: "The Commission of Historians has made an important contribution towards establishing a new line of enquiry in Holocaust historiography, through its research into the Holocaust in rural Latvia. The research direction down which Rudite Viksne, Dzintars Erglis, and Svetlana Bogojavlenska have travelled is now being followed by a whole group of researchers, which constitutes a significant achievement. While researching the Holocaust in Latvia under the Nazi regime, historians have come to the academically well-grounded conclusion that the notion of a so-called non-German Holocaust, in which Latvians were accused of organising and perpetrating the murder of Jews by themselves, is groundless. Similarly, the fallacy of there being a lengthy so-called "interregnum" following the flight of the Soviet Red Army, during which Latvians were said to have exacted a terrible revenge on the Jewish population of their own accord, has also been refuted. [..] Our researchers most certainly need to expand their international contacts, including with the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel. [..] Our immediate task is to establish cooperation with our Israeli colleagues, and those working in other distinguished centres of research in Europe and the United States. [..] We need to affirm that research into the Holocaust will continue and that its main goal is to arrive at an understanding of the Holocaust's root causes. We must also continue to educate, in order that the Holocaust never be repeated, and - what is most important - we must preserve the memory of those who were its victims."

The seventh volume of the series, entitled "Occupation Regimes in Latvia in 1940-1956", was published in January 2003.

Address of the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga at the opening of the Eighth Volume of the Symposium of the Commission of Historians of Latvia "The Issues of the Holocaust Research in Latvia", 7 May 2003

Distinguished Chairman of the Commission,

Distinguished Members of the Commission,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today we can with great satisfaction mark the completion in the latest phase of the work of the Commission of the Historians of Latvia. This eighth volume of research is the crowning achievement of this, the Commission's fourth year of activity, to be placed alongside the Commission's prior achievements which include the successful organisation of six varied academic conferences, and a broad range of other projects involving cooperation with museums, schools, foreign archives, academics and a variety of institutions.

The theme of this volume, The Issues of the Holocaust Research in Latvia, falls within one of the Commission's most important areas of enquiry, as through it we are brought face to face with one of the darkest and most tragic pages of Latvia's history - pages which demand to be scrutinised thoroughly and exhaustively, as the events of those times took place under very unusual circumstances, where one totalitarian regime followed upon the heels of another. Furthermore, under Nazi occupation a policy was implemented unlike any before experienced in the whole of European history: the totally planned and purposeful genocide of an entire nation.

Latvia became involved in this policy as an occupied state, and was made as if to "liberate" itself from all those persons deemed to be non-human or sub-human with the stroke of a pen. What is even more horrific, Latvia became the site for the slaughter of many innocent civilians, brought to Latvia by the wagonload and shipload for extermination. All of these circumstances demand full and detailed investigation, in order that the memory of the victims be preserved, and so that schools, colleges and universities can assist coming generations in gaining an understanding of what occurred. More than anything, of course, future generations need to realise how totally unacceptable and inhuman it all was, and how important it is to be constantly vigilant for signs of inhumanity, racism and intolerance in any society. Otherwise, like weeds left to grow unchecked, these problems can have dangerous and violent consequences.

(unofficial translation)

Representative of Latvia visits Washington to meet with Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research
On 12-13 May 2003, Undersecretary of State at Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Armands Gutmanis attended a meeting of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research in Washington. Mr Gutmanis informed representatives of the Task Force member states about projects in Holocaust education, remembrance and research currently underway or being planned by Latvian government institutions and non-government organisations. Projects carried out by the History Teachers' Association of Latvia, the Commission of the Historians of Latvia, the Centre for Judaic Studies at the University of Latvia and the Museum Jews in Latvia have previously received high recognition from the Task Force.

Since 2000 Latvia has been cooperating with the Task Force on a number of specific projects involving teacher education, the organisation of seminars, the translation of educational materials into Latvian, and the organisation of exhibitions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers it important that Latvia become a permanent member of the Task Force, given the invitations received from the Task Force, the willingness expressed by Latvian officials to cooperate with it and the opportunities that membership gives for obtaining funds for the projects already underway.

The Task Force was established in 1998 at the initiative of Sweden, and brought together the United States, Germany, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, France, Italy, the UK, Sweden and later Austria. In 2002 the Task Force was joined by Lithuania, Argentina, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Croatia. The organisation aims to foster support among political and community leaders for Holocaust education, research and remembrance at both the international and national level.

President of Latvia meets with representatives of the World Jewish Congress

On 15 May 2003, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga met with representatives of the World Jewish Congress. The delegation comprised Dr Israel Singer (Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress), Serge Zweigenbaum (General Secretary of the European Jewish Congress), Dr Michel Friedman (President of the European Jewish Congress), Alexander Mashkevich (President of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress), Rabbi Moshe Rose (Director of the Conference of European Rabbis) and several other well-known leaders of world Jewish organisations. During the meeting Latvia's successful involvement in the creation of a new Europe and, more generally, its participation in processes of global and regional integration were discussed.

The President's guests expressed pleasure at Latvia's integration into the new Europe, the country's rapid economic development and its democratic atmosphere. Holding the World Jewish Congress in Riga is testament to Latvia's full integration into the international community. The President's contribution towards the promotion of the values of humanism and human rights was highly praised, as was her plea for people to be valued for their individual qualities, rather than categorised according to race, ethnicity or other differences. The representatives of the World Jewish Congress said that they would willingly contribute to Latvia's further development.

Latvia's work in preserving the memory of those who perished in the tragic events of last century was acknowledged, as was the work of the Commission of the Historians of Latvia.


Newsletter "Latvia's History: Education, Remembrance, Research" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the mass media and official sources.