OPINION | LATVIA | BELGIUM | COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED | HISTORY | POLITICS OF MEMORY | LEGACY OF JUNE 23rd 1941
Authorities in Riga, Latvia, who tolerate marches and memorials for the nation’s Waffen SS, that fought for Hitler and swore an oath to him, are nonetheless careful not to allow an overt monument to Nazi forces in Riga. How is it that modern-day glorifiers of the Waffen SS have managed to persuade a town in Belgium to host just such a monument (pictured in both images above)? The monument stands at the “Brivibaplin” in Zedelgem, a town situated in the province of West-Vlaanderen (West Flanders) in Belgium; GPS coordinate’s are 51.15 lat. 3.1333 long, some 20 kilometres west of Bruges.
What does Latvia have in common with Flanders in Belgium? Believe it or not: a monument in honor of Latvian Waffen SS on Flemish soil in Belgium, a country in the heart of the European Union and prime home of the European Parliament. The Latvian Waffen SS was part of Adolf Hitler’s forces in wartime, Holocaust-era Eastern Europe and its member all swore an oath to Hitler. So how could this be? This is how the official press release put it on the day:
“On 23 September 2018, in the Belgian town of Zedelgem, the ‘Monument to Freedom’ sculpted by Latvian sculptor Kristaps Gulbis was unveiled. The monument is dedicated to the Latvian Legionnaires, who did not lose faith in freedom for the Latvian State, during the winter of 1945 to 1946 when they were held in Zedelgem prisoner of war camp.”
As excerpt from Mr. Valters Nollendsorf’s speech on the occasion:
June 2020. I go to buy some food in the supermarket near where I live. Passing by the display-stand of the “Jānis Roze” bookstore featuring its proud new titles I was shocked to see My flight to Japan (Mans lidojums uz Japānu) by Herberts Cukurs (pronounced [tsú-kurs]). The book was just published, not by some private publisher, but by the Latvian Museum of Aviation in Spilve. Description of the new title on the website Janisroze.lv presents Herberts Cukurs as “the aviator, traveler and man of courage.” No mention of his involvement in the Holocaust.
Since I became interested in the fate of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Latvia, rather late (2009), I never failed to buy books when I visited that country, first and foremost written by Jewish survivors of these terrible times, but, also, some books written by non-Jewish Latvians in order to see how they perceived these tragic events, how they related to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and how they presented the history of the German occupation and the mass slaughter of more than 95% of the Jewish population of their country (using the figures of Jews on site at the time of the Nazi invasion as the basis for historians’ estimates).
Isee two new important social and political trends now that have a direct bearing, first on the memory of what happened in Europe and the USSR during the Holocaust and other massacres and, secondly, on the life of the Jews presently living in Europe.
REACTIONS & REPORTS:
From Jerusalem: EFRAIM ZUROFF IN I24; IN THE JERUSALEM POST; IN THE LONDON JEWISH CHRONICLE
From Riga: ALEKSANDRS FEIGMANIS IN DEFENDING HISTORY
From Liepaja: MIKE COLLIER REVIEWS PREMIERE IN LSM.LV
ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS
Herberts Cukurs (1900-1965) had been an officer and a famous aviator during the years of the interwar Latvian Republic (1918-1940). After Nazi Germany’s 1941 occupation of Latvia, he became a significant figure in the infamous Arājs Kommando (or Sonderkommando Arajs), a notorious killing unit during the Latvian Holocaust. The Arājs group consisted of about 1,200 people, mostly local Latvians. It was established at the beginning of July 1941 within the German security services.
The Arājs Kommando carried out the killing of at least 30,000 Jews in numerous cities and towns in Latvia. The toll included the family of my grandfather in Vilani (in Yiddish Vilon), which occurred at dawn on August 4, 1941. The victims were his parents, and his sisters and their husbands and young children.