LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH
September - November 2005 (33)
- Israeli President expresses gratitude to Latvia for promoting humanistic values
- Presidents of Latvia and Israel visit Holocaust victims' memorial sites
- Israeli President: antisemitism in Latvija only a marginal phenomenon
- Documentary film being produced on Jewish people living in Latvia
- The seminar "Rainis and the Holy Land" reflects cooperation between Latvia and Israel over long period
- Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks meets with Latvia's Honorary Consul in Israel, Assaph Caspi
Israeli President expresses gratitude to Latvia for promoting humanistic values
The President of Israel, Moshe Katsav, was in Latvia on a State visit between 20-21 September.
During his official meeting with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the Israeli President expressed gratitude for the stance of Latvia and its President in promoting humanistic values and their understanding in society and in assessing the past. He noted the importance of teaching history so as never to allow the Holocaust and other similar crimes to be repeated. He said the leaders of democratic countries had to imbue new generations with humaneness, emphasising that anti-semitism is impermissible and adding that all these things were already being done by the Latvian Government, and that as a result antisemitism here was only a marginal phenomenon" The Latvian President also apprised the Israeli President of the work of the Latvian Commission of Historians in researching the Holocaust.
Extract from the address by H.E. Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of the Republic of Latvia, at the state dinner in honour of H.E. Mr. Moshe Katsav, President of the State of Israel, Riga, September 20, 2005
(Full text http://www.president.lv/index.php?pid=2220&id=29)
We are proud that the largest Jewish community in the Baltic countries is located here, in a Latvia that has recovered its freedom following five decades of foreign occupation. With the support of the Latvian state, the Jewish community in Latvia is maintaining and reinforcing its Jewish traditions. It is actively helping to strengthen Latvia as a full member of the European Union and the NATO alliance. We are very proud of our Jewish community and support it in full, for the Jewish community is a natural and historical component of the Latvian nation. Latvia is the place where, back in 1989, the first Jewish school in the Soviet Union opened its doors, at a time when both Latvians and Jews were working successfully together to topple that totalitarian, communist empire.
Now plans are under way to build a new, modern Jewish school in Riga, which without a doubt will be one of the best provided schools in Europe. Latvia is currently home to 24 Jewish social organizations and associations, as well as 13 Jewish religious organizations. I should mention that this year the Riga Synagogue on Peitavas iela will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and that these celebrations will be a major event for all of Latvia. We can also be pleased that the Association of Estonian and Latvian Jews is successfully operating in Israel, and that it is actively cooperating with, and receiving informative support from the Embassy of Latvia in Tel Aviv.
Latvia and Israel share a long history of suffering and loss, and we are united in the conviction that the tragic events of the Second World War, including the Shoah, must never be forgotten. During the late 1930s, when Latvia was still independent, my country implemented an open-door policy and provided sanctuary for Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. But in 1941, Latvia itself fell under German occupation, and became a killing ground of the innocent. As the Nazis and their local accomplices murdered tens of thousands of Jews on Latvian soil, we, as a nation, were no longer able to act. We could only act as individuals.
Unfortunately, Latvia had its share of individuals who became consumed by the hatred and intolerance of the Nazi occupation regime, and who participated in the murder of innocent civilians.
But Latvia also had its share of righteous gentiles, such as Zanis Lipke, who risked their lives to save more than 300 Latvian Jews from certain death. Among those Latvians who had the courage to act as saviours of persecuted Jews were the Rozentals, Enins, Sedulis and Pukis families, Elvira Rone, Arturs Motmillers, Pauls Krumins and Anna Alma Pole. A number of those who provided shelter to their Jewish friends and acquaintances were discovered and executed for their defiance of Nazi ordinances.
Now, with its independence once again restored, Latvia unequivocally denounces the mass murders of the Shoah as particularly heinous crimes against humanity. We are determined to work together with Israel and other freedom-loving nations to ensure that such terrible events never happen again.
I would like to continue with a quote from Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, who was born in Latvia and who grew up here:
"The truly righteous do not complain about evil, they propagate justice;
They do not complain about blasphemy, they propagate faith;
They do not complain about ignorance, they propagate wisdom."
Latvia believes that it is important for both state and non-government institutions to continue their cooperative efforts in the research and remembrance of the Shoah, and in the education of the public. In 2004 Latvia was admitted as a permanent member state in the Task Force For International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. This year, the Latvian Ministry of Education and Science, in cooperation with various US state and educational institutions, has released new teaching methods and materials for school teachers in the teaching of the Shoah as a subject matter. Latvian researchers and history teachers have developed close cooperative ties with the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.
Extremely important work is being carried out by the museum Jews in Latvia, which, with the support of the Latvian state, will soon obtain new and larger premises. The international Latvian Historical Commission has already published 14 volumes and scientific studies in six years' time, and will continue its endeavours to evaluate the events of the past as honestly and objectively as possible.
President's Chancery (20.09.2005)
Presidents of Latvia and Israel visit Holocaust victims' memorial sites
On 21 September, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Israeli President Moshe Katsav took part in a Moment of Remembrance in Rumbula. While also visiting the ruins of the Great Choral Synagogue destroyed by fire in Gogola Street, they placed a time capsule in the base stone of the memorial being erected there to the memory of Zanis Lipke and all the other persons involved in saving Jewish people during the Holocaust. Before leaving Riga, the Israeli President also visited the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.
Extract from the address of the President of Latvia at the Rumbula Memorial Site, 21 September 2005
(Full text: http://www.president.lv/index.php?pid=2220&id=28)
Mr President, your presence here today in Latvia on Latvian soil and in this particular place of remembrance is a sign of the difference between the past and the present, it is a sign of our determination to build together, as partners, the future where the tragic events of the past must never occur again.
As President of Latvia in name of the Latvian nation I express my deepest sympathies and sorrow to the Jewish people for the enormous inhuman losses that they endured during the Shoa.
I stand here as President of my nation and condemn here and wherever I get the chance to do so the inhumanity of an ideology that will set some parts of the human race as being better than others. And particularly the inhumanity of any ideology – the Nazi ideology of Arian superiority or indeed any other that imitates or resembles it. We reject this premise of inequality among human beings. We reject the premise of scape-goating, we reject the premise of making some identifiable group guilty for all ills and deficiencies which we ourselves have created in our society. Scape-goating is not acceptable, finger pointing is not acceptable, tragedies is not acceptable, anti-Semitism is not acceptable. We shall not accept them here on our land and on our soil and we shall be vigilant to ensure that as much of the world as possible will follow these ideals of humanism.
As we stand here today I pledge that we must all work together and I very relinquish our efforts for ensuring that inhumanity does not prevail in our relations one with another, be it among groups in society, be it among individuals, be it among nations. The Latvian nation was not able to protect its members – either the Jews or the others because it had already been destroyed in 1940 by the invasion of the Red Army. When the army of Nazi Germany invaded Latvia the country was already in ruins, it had not governance, it had not legal representation. And it is on these ruins that the crimes, the mass crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity could be perpetuated. As President of Latvia I pledge that Latvia must never again allow itself to lose the instruments of an independent state, that Latvia must see to its defence, that Latvia must seek allies that are able to protect it so that our statehood can stand strong against any ideology that we deem inhuman and unacceptable.
We must be strong, we must have strong allies, we must be strong in defence of our independence and our sovereignty, we must be strong in defence of our principles. And Mr President, your presence here today I take as a sign of the work that we have to do together – you and I as Presidents of nations, our two nations as representatives of humanity, to remind the whole world that we are children of one God, of one common ancestor that makes us all sisters and brothers and as such we must labour and work to ensure that the world we live in is one that is fit for human beings, not monsters.
President's Chancery (22.09.2005)
Documentary film being produced on Jewish people living in Latvia
A documentary film about Jewish people living in Latvia is being produced, with the financial assistance of the EU Commission's PHARE Programme.
Its aim is to provide the public with a deeper understanding of unorthodox ethnic community life and reduce prejudices, says producer Andris Gauja. The production will show how the Jewish people have managed to preserve their religion and everyday customs, while living in Latvian society.
The film will depict both religious and prophane Jewish rhythms of life, and the attitude of society towards them.
The film is intended for a wide audience, and its producers think it particularly important to address young people – students of secondary schools and universities. Once the project is completed, copies of the film will be presented to all secondary schools and universities in DVD or VHS format, and according to educators, will be viewable during lessons. It is also planned to screen the film on television.
The film will run for approximately one hour and is being produced under the PHARE grant programme Promotion of Social Integration in Latvia announced by the Society Integration Foundation.
The project "A Documentary Film about Latvian Jews. The Role Of Tradition And Singularity In Today's Latvia" is being implemented by the association "Multimedia Projects of Historical Places" in collaboration with the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, in consultation with associated partners – the Centre for Judaic Studies at the University of Latvia and the Council of Latvian Jewish Communities and Congregations.
To conclude the project, five seminars are planned in Latvian regions, specifically targeting young people in schools and universities, who will not only have the opportunity to see the film, but will also be invited to involve themselves in post screening dialogues, to promote understanding and tolerance in society towards the Jewish people.
Total cost of the project is EUR 104,098 EUR (LVL 73,160), consisting of 81% from an EU PHARE grant, 9% allocated from the Latvian State budget, and 10% from the association "Multimedia Projects of Historical Places".
The seminar "Rainis and the Holy Land" reflects cooperation between Latvia and Israel over long period
On 3 November, a seminar entitled "Rainis and the Holy Land" was held in the Latvian National Theatre. The project was supported by the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Latvian Ministry of Culture, the Embassy of Israel in Latvia, the Latvian National Theatre, the National Library of Latvia, and the Latvian Literature, Theatre and Music Museum.
The idea to organise a seminar about one of Latvia's best known writers came to the Ambassador of Israel to Latvia, Gary Koren, when theatrical producer Mara Kimele, working on a new production of Rainis' play Joseph and his Brothers, travelled to Israel in search of inspiration. As part of the project, an exhibition was created of Rainis' visit to Israel in 1929, which at that time was part of Palestine. Rainis was visiting the then Honorary Consul of Latvia in Israel, Mordechai Caspi, grandfather of the present Honorary Consul, Assaph Caspi. Anda Lamasa from the National Library of Latvia writes of the occasion: "In the spring of 1929 Rainis spent three weeks in the Holy Land (Palestine). Significantly, this was to be his final journey to a foreign land. Travelling with Rainis were Dr Boris Livschitz and his wife Eleonora. Rainis had said "To allow me to work, I need new impressions. I am convinced these can only be provided by the multicoloured orient, rich in historical events. Besides that, I want to see the land and place which provided the storyline for my work Joseph and His Brothers. I wish to see how people work there, their way of life, and their standard of living."
He arrived at Tel Aviv, his first stop in Palestine, on 17 April 1929. Rainis and his travelling companions had prepared a very extensive programme of events including visits to the Histradut Cultural Committee, a health insurance company, and cooperative printing-house Hapoel – Hocair. They also visited several rural workers' organisations and kibbutzes.
As part of the project implementation, it was decided to hold a seminar, the aim of which would be to create an impression of the time Rainis spent in the Holy Land. Wide-ranging discussions were held during the seminar, beginning with the opening ceremony of the exhibition "Rainis in the Holy Land" and its formal addresses, containing topics such as: "Sketch: The Land of Israel in the 1920s" (David Levi, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Israel in Latvia), "Rainis in the Holy Land: 1929" (Prof. Aivars Stranga, Dr. habil. hist., University of Latvia), "The Work of Latvia's Honorary Consul in Jerusalem, Mordechai Caspi. 1928 – 1947." (Silvija Krizevica, Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Archive Division), "Memories of Grandfather Mordechai Caspi, Latvia's Honorary Consul in Jerusalem in the 1920s" (Assaph Caspi, Present Latvian Honorary Consul in Jerusalem), "'Joseph and His brothers'. Early Judean and Christian Legends" (Valts Apinis, Mag. theol., University of Latvia Centre for Judaic Studies), "Searching for the Unity of Opposites in Rainis' Tragedy 'Joseph and His Brothers'", (Ilona Miezite, the Latvian Literature, Theatre and Music Museum), "Productions in Latvia of the play 'Joseph and his Brothers'" (Prof. Viktors Hausmanis, Dr.phil. Latvian Academy of Sciences Institute of Literature, Folklore, and Art) and "Sketches about Rainis. Motivations for further research" (Gundega Grinuma, Dr.phil., Latvian Academy of Sciences Institute of Literature, Folklore, and Art).
The project as such is characterised not only by the continuing desire to become more aware of our cultural heritage, but also the mutual cooperation between Latvia and Israel over a considerable period of time.
Sinda Saulkalne, "Izglitiba un Kultura" (03.11.2005)
Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks meets with Latvia's Honorary Consul in Israel, Assaph Caspi
On 4 November 2005, as part of the festival Rainis and the Holy Land, Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks met with Latvia's Honorary Consul in Israel Assaph Caspi and discussed relations between Latvia and Israel.
The Minister and Consul agreed that the seminar was a unique opportunity to learn more about the Latvian and Jewish cultures; besides, it showed the close relations between politics and culture in everyday life.
Artis Pabriks and Assaph Caspi concluded that Latvia and Israel, as small countries, frequently encounter similar problems, i.e., they have to voice their interests more convincingly and seek allies, so that they are heard by the international community.
Minister Pabriks condemned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remark that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and said that such remarks are inadmissible in modern society. The Minister informed the Consul about his meeting with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to Latvia, Gary Koren, and said that he will inform other EU Ministers about the issues discussed with the Ambassador at the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council scheduled for 7 November in Brussels.
The Minister emphasized that it is in Latvia's interests that the EU adhere to a joint foreign policy that would allow it to represent the interests of Europeans internationally more successfully.
Minister Pabriks thanked Mr Assaph Caspi for his contributions as the representative of Latvia's interests in Israel.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (04.11.2005)
Extract from the address of Latvian Foreign Minister, Artis Pabriks, at the seminar "Rainis and the Holy Land", Latvian National Theatre, 3 November 2005
The Seminar title leads one to think not only about Rainis and the Holy Land, but also about peoples, living far from one another, but who are nevertheless connected by close historical ties, in turn leading one to think about history, today, and mistakes from which we can learn.
Rainis and the Holy Land - that is a very philosophical question. In Rainis' place we can imagine any one of us, and in place of the Holy Land – Latvia. It contains a spiritual element, leading one to think about relations among people and countries. Rainis was an outstanding personality. He was a politician, a playwright, poet and thinker. Politics, art and everyday life are with us every step, and they are all woven together in this seminar.
Latvijas Vestnesis (04.11.2005)
Newsletter "Latvia's History: Education, Remembrance, Research" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the media and official sources.