Address of 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

24.03.2004. 14:57

Address of 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

 

Excellencies,
Rabbi,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

We have gathered here to dedicate a memorial to more than 25,000 persons who were killed here on 30 November and 8 December 1941. 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. They had faithfully served their god and maintained the traditions of their forefathers.

The Holocaust, in its many forms, has painfully struck Latvia. Here in Rumbula where the earthly remains of Latvia's Jews rest, we have come to honour and remember them. I wish therefore to extend a special greeting to the representatives of Latvia's Jewish community for whom this is special day of mourning, all the more so since here lie their loved ones, relatives, and members of their faith.

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. We know that this collective madness was organised by Himmler in Berlin who called Friedrich Jaeckeln to come to Riga from Kiev since he had already finished the monstrous massacre at Babij Yar. Tasked with the liquidation of the Riga Ghetto, Jaeckeln personally selected the murderers, riflemen from his staff, Germans whom he trusted and who were given the choice of taking part or not taking part in this action. But Jaeckeln also mobilized all of the SS and SD occupation forces, as well as members of the Riga police, to surround the ghetto, vacate it, drive the people on an eight-kilometre march to Rumbula, and then along the path of death, which we have also walked today, to the big trenches that had been dug by Russian prisoners of war.

This is an atrocious act of violence, an atrocious massacre. And it is our duty, the duty of those of us who have survived, to pass on the commemoration of these innocent victims to future generations, to remember with compassion, sorrow and reverence. Our duty is to teach our children and children's children about it, our duty is to seek out the survivors and record their recollections, but, above all, our duty is to see that this will never happen again.

All of us, throughout the world, must be on guard against manifestations of enmity between nations and religions; we must be on guard against intolerance, signs and activities of seeking a scapegoat. We must be on guard against people who blame their suffering, disappointment and complications, on some other, any other easily identifiable group, and believe that with its annihilation the world will be in order. That is not just discrimination and hatred, but insanity. What the men of the Nazi occupation forces did here was insane: motivated by paranoia; these people came here with weapons and tanks to seize power. In the future every one of us must see that in no country can power be seized by the insane, paranoid, those who are ready for massacres. Today we have all come here to commemorate innocent victims, to recall their names - we don't even know all of them but we shall try to find them - to remember their suffering, and to bend our heads in the face of their suffering.