LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH
October 2003 - February 2004 (27)
- Representatives of International Task Force on the Holocaust visit Latvia
- Research into the Holocaust goes on - an international conference held in Riga
- Latvia-International Task Force meeting held in Washington
- Latvia ready for work in Task Force on the Holocaust
- Latvian representatives attend a seminar on teaching about the Holocaust in Luxembourg
- President of Latvia participates in international forum Preventing Genocide in Stockholm
- New on-line resource on research into the Holocaust
- Film about the Holocaust helps to learn history
Representatives of the International Task Force on the Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research visit Latvia
From 23 to 24 October 2003, the US and Swedish representatives of the International Task Force on the Holocaust visited Riga (representatives from the US Office of International Task Force - from the USA, and representatives of Swedish Task Force, Living History Forum, National Council for Crime Prevention, and Västsvenska Kompetensakademin - from Sweden) to meet with representatives of Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education, and the Historians' Commission. The Delegation visited the University of Latvia Centre for Judaic Studies, and on October 24 it took part in the Conference on the current issues of the Holocaust research in Latvia organised by the Historians' Commission. The delegation aimed to identify the prospective projects for further cooperation between the ITF and Latvia.
Under-Secretary of State of and remembrance, as well as about the prospective development of cooperation with Latvian museums of local history (already started with Bauska Museum of Local History), and with representatives of the regional press.
Director of the University of Latvia Centre for Judaic Studies, Ruvin Ferber, informed the delegation about the long-term research project Names of the Holocaust Victims. A Memorial list of the Latvian Jewish Community 1941-1945 that has been implemented successfully. At the Historians' Commission, the delegation was acquainted with what has been achieved in the Holocaust research in Latvia. Member of the Commission and Director of the museum Jews in Latvia Margers Vestermanis presented an overview of the main issues in the Holocaust research; he noted that regional organisations, schools, and local history researchers are currently getting more actively involved in the research.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (27.10.2003)
Research into the Holocaust goes on - international conference held in Riga
On 24 October 2003, an international conference Research into the Holocaust Goes On, organised by the Latvian Historians' Commission and the University of Latvia History Institute, and hosted by the museum Jews in Latvia took place in Riga.
Extensive reports were delivered by a number of conference participants. Member of the Historians' Commission, President of Jewish Survivors of Latvia, Steven Springfield (the USA) with his report The Holocaust: A History Lesson of Anti-Semitism compared the past events to the surge of modern-day anti-Semitism. In his paper The Report of the Third Reich on the Situation vis-à-vis Jews in Latvia: June 1940 - June 1941, Commission member Karlis Kangeris had collected data from over 100 documents revealing how informed the secret services of the Third Reich were about the situation in Latvia. Mr Vestermanis in his report The Victim's Spirit of Resistance reflected what we know about people who were killed in the Holocaust. The reports of Latvian historians read during the second plenary session of the Conference were devoted to the events of the Holocaust in Latvian districts and towns. Much work has been done in researching the fate of Jewish communities in Dundaga County, in Ventspils, Valmiera and Ludza districts, in Valdemarpils and Jaunjelgava and elsewhere in Latvia.
Address by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, at the international conference Research into the Holocaust Goes On, museum Jews in Latvia, 24 October 2004, Riga (excerpt, unofficial translation):
[.] This is already the fifth year that the International Commission of Historians has been operating in our country and investigating the policies of Soviet and Nazi occupation regimes in Latvia in the period from 1940 to 1956. The Commission organises annual international conferences of historians to analyse various aspects of the two totalitarian regimes. This time you have come together to evaluate academically the problem of the Holocaust in Latvia during World War II.
I am truly pleased that this topic has constantly been in the focus of attention of the Commission of Historians and researchers. This is evidenced by the fact that two out of six historians' conferences of the recent years were dedicated to the Holocaust research. Materials from these conferences have been published in the Commission's compilations of research papers and are available to the general public. [.] Working with the topics under consideration, the historians have come to an academically grounded conclusion that the Holocaust during World War II in Latvia, occupied at the time by Nazi Germany, has been one of the gravest criminal offences of the Newest Times in the history of our country [.].
I would like to point out that Latvia, after the restoration of its statehood, has condemned the Holocaust at the highest political level, stressing the necessity to research and find out all the truth about this crime committed in the territory of our occupied state. A lot has been achieved during the recent years in educating the public specifically about this issue. Holocaust issues have been included in school programmes and history textbooks. We have managed to tidy up the memorial places of mass burial of the victims in Rumbula, Bikernieki and elsewhere. Work is being carried out for erecting a monument to one of the outstanding rescuers of Jews in Latvia, Zanis Lipke. As part of the project The Baltic Mass Graves, major work has been commenced in cooperation with Latvia's local governments to determine the location of mass graves of the Holocaust victims and tidy them up throughout Latvia. A good example for this is the memorial site for the Jews murdered in the forest of Putni, not far from the outskirts of the town Auce [.].
Address by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, to the Meeting of the International Commission of Historians in Riga Castle, 23.10.2003 http://www.president.lv/index.php?pid=2220&vdate=20031023&id=944
Address by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, to the Meeting of the International Commission of Historians in Riga Castle, 23.10.2003 http://www.president.lv/index.php?pid=2220&vdate=20031023&id=947
Latvia-International Task Force meeting held in Washington
On 2 December 2003, a working group meeting between representatives from Latvia and the International Task Force (ITF) met in Washington to review Latvia's cooperation with the ITF. Participants of the meeting included Chairperson of the Latvian Working Group Ann Wikström (Sweden); Head of the Latvian delegation Andris Teikmanis: the newly appointed government representative to the Task Force, Head of Sweden's delegation Heléne Lööw; Jan Ahlberg, National Council of Crime Prevention (Sweden); Karel Fracapane, USHMM (USA), Grete Haug, Board of Education (Norway), Head of Luxembourg's delegation Paul Dostert; Marc Schoentgen, CDDR (Luxembourg); Advisor to the ITF Yehuda Bauer; and Head of Italy's delegation Giorgio Franchetti Pardo.
In 2003, Latvia submitted to the ITF three project proposals, two of which were approved, namely, Names of the Holocaust Victims. A Memorial List of Latvia' s Jewish Community 1941-1945 (submitted by the University of Latvia Centre for Judaic Studies); and a seminar for Latvian teachers in January 2004 in Luxembourg.
Ann Wikström reported about the teacher training seminar held in the town of Rezekne on 24 and 25 October 2003, which was the fifth in a series of regional seminars organised by the Living History Forum, the Swedish Institute, the Latvian History Teachers Association and the US Embassy in Riga. A seminar for the further training is planned for August 2004 in cooperation between the Living History Forum, the Latvian History Teachers Association, the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education. Lecturers from other ITF countries will also be invited.
Head of the Latvian delegation Mr Teikmanis gave an overview of the activities in the Holocaust remembrance and research planned for 2004 in Latvia, which include the erection of a monument to Zanis Lipke and other rescuers of Jews during World War II, teacher training seminars, launch of a website The History of Latvia's Jewish Community, publication of a book about the Riga Ghetto, and translation into English and/or Latvian of reports and conference materials on the research into the Holocaust. Mr Teikmanis noted that the Government of Latvia is strongly committed to apply for the ITF membership in 2004.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (02.12.2003)
Latvia Ready for Work in Task Force on the Holocaust
On 9 December 2003 Latvia's Cabinet of Ministers adopted important decisions concerning the erection of a monument to Zanis Lipke and others who saved Jews in Latvia, and Latvia's participation in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
Convinced of the necessity to remember and honour those who saved Jews in Latvia during World War II, the Cabinet of Ministers decided that this project should have state support and allocated funds for building a monument. Plans have been made to announce an international competition for sculptors and architects wishing to submit their designs for the monument. The work is coordinated by a commission, formed in May 2003. Latvia's President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, is the patron of this commission.
No less important is the adoption of the directive on "Latvia's Participation in the International Task Force on the Holocaust" by the Cabinet of Ministers, because it affirms Latvia's decision to join this organisation. The Cabinet of Ministers also allocated USD 25 000 for annual membership dues. Latvia will be represented in the Task Force by Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andris Teikmanis.
The Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research was formed in 1998 at the initiative of Sweden's Prime Minister Göran Persson. Currently there are 16 members: Argentina, Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.
Closer cooperation with the Task Force will help attract more financial support for the projects supported by the state and non-governmental organizations that deal with education, research and remembrance of the Holocaust in Latvia.
Acting on the words of its President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, at the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research on 17 January 2000, Latvia has been working with the Task Force to implement specific projects and to reassess and understand events of the past.
Comprehensive and unbiased research of the fate of Latvia and its people started in Latvia after independence was regained. A central topic of research is the crimes committed by the totalitarian regimes, including the Holocaust on the territory of Latvia. An equally important task is to make these findings widely known. The tragedy of the Holocaust touched nearly every Jewish family living in Latvia. It is, therefore, vital for us to understand our own complicated history and to transmit this knowledge to the future generations.
Condemning all forms of intolerance, chauvinism and racism, Latvia is deeply concerned about recent manifestations of anti-Semitism in the world. Leaders of different countries have emphasized the crucial importance of tolerance in a democratic society and have developed initiatives to prevent the resurfacing of intolerance. On 17 November 2003 France's President Jacques Chirac issued a directive to form a ministerial committee to fight against racism and anti-Semitism; the committee will be led by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Later Ireland proposed to the United Nations a new resolution concerning the anti-Semitic threats. Convinced of the need to continue to promote mutual understanding and tolerance throughout the world, Latvia fully endorses these proposals.
Cabinet of Ministers (09.12.2003)
Latvian representatives attend a seminar on teaching about the Holocaust in Luxembourg
On 5-11 January 2004 twenty-two history teachers from Latvia participated in a seminar devoted to teaching of the history of the Holocaust held in Luxembourg.
The seminar was organised jointly by the Government of Luxembourg and the Contemporary Jewish Documentation Centre (CDJC) in Paris. While acquainting the guests with the most tragic phase in the recent history of their country, Luxembourg colleagues were themselves interested to get a deeper insight into certain facts in the Latvian history that were less known to them. For example, the fact that genocide against the Latvian nation, including Jews, was started by the USSR occupation power already before the German invasion. Or, that the blame for the killing of Latvian residents of various nationalities lies with the two totalitarian regimes - Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union. In the West, the opinion still prevails that the communist totalitarian regime was less violent than the Nazi regime.
Therefore, Latvia's historical experience is significant for the Western Europe, and Luxemburg researchers are among those ready to investigate it in the course of the further cooperation. Besides, their suggestion that more research papers should be published in foreign languages, not only in English but also in French, should be taken into consideration, as this would ensure that they are more accessible to West Europeans.
Latvijas avīze (13.01.2004)
President of Latvia participates in international forum Preventing Genocide in Stockholm
Representatives from 58 countries and 13 international organisations, including the UN and the EU, participated at the international forum Preventing Genocide, held in Stockholm from 26 to 28 January 2004. Many of the countries invited were represented at head of state/head of government level, and several more - at ministerial level. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union Javier Solana attended the Forum in the capacity of keynote speakers.
On 26 January 2004, apart from participation in the forum, the President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga, met with the Prime Minister of Sweden, Göran Persson. Bilateral relations between the countries and the international agenda for the prevention of genocide and intolerance were among the issues discussed at the meeting. Talking about the significance of the international conference on the prevention of genocide that was taking place in Stockholm, the President of Latvia and Prime Minister of Sweden stressed the need to assess the totalitarian crimes of the communist regime in the 20th century in order to make the future Europe safe, stable and prosperous. The officials supported the initiative of members of the European Parliamentary Assembly to create a commission for achieving this aim. Göran Persson appreciated highly the President's contribution and the work of the Latvian Historians' Commission in assessing the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. The President informed the Prime Minister of Sweden about the current developments in the work of the Commission.
President's Chancery (26.01.2004)
Address by the President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, at the International Forum Preventing Genocide: Threats and Responsibilities, Stockholm, 26 January 2004
Stockholm International Forum: Preventing Genocide: Threats and Responsibilities, 26-28 January 2004 http://www.preventinggenocide.com/
Declaration by the Stockholm International Forum 2004
New on-line resource on research into the Holocaust
Reports of an International Conference "The Issues of the Holocaust Research in Latvia", held on 16 and 17 October 2000 in Riga, and reports under the title Holocaust Studies in Latvia, previously published by Latvia's History Commission in its Symposium series (Volume II, 2001), are posted at the address: http://www.president.lv/index.php?pid=22862 (President's Chancery).
Film about the Holocaust helps to learn history
A premiere of a documentary Jelgava, Summer of the 1941: the Holocaust (directed by historian Andris Tomasuns) was screened at Spidola Gymnasium in the town of Jelgava this week.
The shooting of the film was financially supported by the US Embassy to Latvia. The documentary has been already demonstrated to various audiences in Germany, Great Britain, and Luxembourg.
An episode from today' s life showing school children cleaning paint-splashed gravestones at the burial place of the Jews killed during World War II in the suburbs of Jelgava, and expressing their condemnation over the recent act of vandalism is a recurrent motif of the film.
The rather scarce historical evidence of the events of the summer of 1941 in Jelgava, found at the Gederts Eliass Museum of History and Art, as well as photographs, facts and commentaries from archives and periodicals of the time were used in the film-making process.
The most vivid episodes of the film are those where the elderly townspeople of Jelgava share their memories about the capture and murder of their acquaintances - respected Jewish doctors, teachers, and tradesmen.
According to the historians' estimation, around 1 500 Jewish people were killed in Jelgava during World War II.
It is planned to release the documentary in a CD format and distribute it as a teaching aid on the Holocaust together with an informative brochure to schools throughout Latvia.
Newsletter "Latvia's History: Education, Remembrance, Research" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the media and official sources.