RIGA—Text of the letter released today follows (background here).
To the President of the Republic of Latvia Mr. Berzins
Copy to: Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development Mr. Sprudzhs
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing you on behalf of the Jews of Latvia regarding the events in Bauska, where a monument, as is known to you, has been erected and opened.
I am not going to repeat the position of the Jewish community concerning the attempt to justify and make heroes out of the native-born citizens of Latvia who participated in World War II on the side of Nazi Germany, as well as concerning the local supporters of Nazism. This is a joint stance adopted by Jewish communities worldwide, a stance that will always oppose any attempts to justify, interpret, rehabilitate and attempt to arouse sympathy for those who due to any circumstances supported the Nazi regime.
Our position is well-known and shall always remain inviolable. It is therefore absolutely evident why the Latvian Jewish communities censure the establishment of the monument “To Bauska’s Defenders Against the Second Soviet Occupation.” In this instance, it is not important who initiated it and at whose expense it was made. We believe that this situation is insulting both to the victims of Nazism and to those still alive.
Nevertheless, the above circumstances are not the major topic of this letter. I would like to draw your attention, Mr. President, to one more aspect of the “Bauska” issue, which possibly might be unknown to you. About ten years ago, a group of Jews, former-inhabitants of Bauska currently residing outside Latvia, came up with a proposal to establish a memorial on the site of the synagogue that was burnt down in July 1941. Among these people was Professor E. Faitelson who miraculously survived the Holocaust in Latvia, and at present resides in Israel. The intention to establish a monument was supported by the former president of Latvia Mrs. Vike-Freiberga. It was foreseen that the memorial would be established at private expense via collection of donations.
The main goal of the proposed monument is to memorialize numerous victims of Nazi crimes and the large and prominent Jewish community that lived in this city before the Second World War. Currently only a small exhibition in the city museum informs visitors about this part of the city’s history.
The initiators of the monument developed a comprehensive project (its creator, Sergey Ryzh, is widely known for his monuments in Rumbula and in the Bikernieki Woods near Riga) and presented it to the Municipality of Bauska.
Further events unfolded as follows:
From the very beginning the idea in general and the project in particular were met very negatively. Under various pretexts, with diverse arguments and for the most unexpected reasons, the initiators received a negative response, despite the support of the Jewish communities of Latvia, international Jewish organizations, the State of Israel and the US Department of State.
Since then, the composition of Bauska City Council has changed three times and the city has had two mayors. Over the years, the ambassadors of Israel and three ambassadors of the United States were among those who asked for approval to erect this monument during their visits to Bauska. The Jewish Community of Latvia also applied to the presidents of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberg and Valdis Zatlers. But nothing had any effect on the authorities of Bauska, specifically – on the leaders of the city and its chief architect, Alexander Paklonsa, who now heads the local opposition to the Jewish memorial.
I believe that in context of the solid and consistent anti-Jewish position of Bauska’s authorities, the inscription on the monument honoring the Waffen SS, “to the Defenders against Soviet Occupation” and “Latvia should be a Latvian country” can be perceived as a contemporary interpretation of the notorious inscription “Judenfrei” that appeared in cities of Latvia in the summer and autumn of 1941.
In politics as in life, there is little as eloquent as facts. Frequently the facts speak for themselves, even when the responsible persons keep silent. Seven years have passed since the Jewish Community initiated vain attempts to get the approval for establishing a memorial for the Holocaust victims in Bauska, and for all these years this proposal has been declined. At the same time a very provocative and disreputable idea of the monument “To Defenders Against the Second Soviet Occupation” has received full support from the local authorities, and without any problems overcome all bureaucracy.
Today, when the monument aimed at glorifying Waffen SS supporters has appeared in Bauska with private funds and on a particular initiative, we have no further doubts about the authorities, whose position and views we most certainly criticize. And we are not going to hide our conclusions and assessments from the international community and international Jewish organizations.
I hereby address you as Latvia’s Head of State, with a pressing request not only to evaluate the situation in Bauska, but also to use your presidential powers and your authority to prevent both the display of antisemitism and the lack of respect towards Holocaust victims in general.
I truly hope that you will intervene directly in the case of creating a memorial for the Jewish people who were victims of SS atrocities, so that the issue could be resolved successfully.
Chairman of the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities