E Y E W I T N E S S R E P O R T / O P I N I O N
by Roland Binet (Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium)
RIGA—The day is a festive one despite the gray and low sky. Young pretty girls have bunches of roses which they soon distribute to elderly and solemn gentlemen arriving, row upon row in an interminable procession. Numerous national flags are held in a heraldic and staid way by young men forming a kind of double guard of honor.
Posted in Antisemitism & Bias, Celebrations of Fascism, Collaborators Glorified, Events, Human Rights, Latvia, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Riga's Waffen SS Marches, Roland Binet
Tagged Holocaust in Latvia, Holocaust in the Baltics
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:
LONDON—Latvia’s ambassador to the UK has responded to a UK Conservative Party MP’s question about the Waffen SS events held in the center of Latvia’s capital, Riga, on March 16th each year. The office of UK Parliament MP David Amess, who represents Southend West, released the response dated 1 March 2013, which he received from the Latvian ambassador to the UK, HE Eduards Stiprais. It is reproduced in full below (as PDF here), courtesy of the office of Monica Lowenberg in London, whose petition and media guide have brought the Latvian SS marches to increased international scrutiny.
See also Monica Lowenberg’s 2012 exchange of ideas with the Latvian ambassador to the UK. More in Defending History’s Latvia section.
Ambassador Stiprais’s letter to MP Amess:
Posted in Celebrations of Fascism, Collaborators Glorified, Documents, Double Genocide, History, Latvia, Monica Lowenberg, Neo-Nazi & Fascist Marches, News & Views, Riga's Waffen SS Marches, United Kingdom
Tagged Davis Amess MP, March 16th in Latvia, Waffen SS in Latvia
O P I N I O N
by Monica Lowenberg
If you walked through a busy EU city today and came across Eichmann Allee, Hitler Strasse or even Goebbels Gasse you would initially think that someone was pulling your leg or you would start to raise, and rightly so, serious questions regarding the ruling government that would allow such blatant glorification of mass murderers to take place. You can therefore imagine how I felt, the daughter of a German Jewish refugee whose paternal Latvian Jewish family had all been brutally murdered in the Libau massacres of 1941 and Riga ghetto, to discover in 2011, that each and every 16 March, since 1998, SS veterans are glorified in the capital city of Riga in Latvia an EU and NATO country since 2004.
My name is Monica Lowenberg; I was born on a cold winter’s day in 1964, in ear shot of Bow Bells.
On January 20, 2012, I set up a petition to stop the 16th March marches in Riga, ninety years to the day from the date of birth of my uncle Paul Theodor Loewenberg who at age 19 was sent to the Riga Ghetto on 4 October 1941. The petition is as much an act of commemoration of the victims of Nazism as it is a tribute to the European parliamentarians, including a number from Latvia, who wisely and courageously signed on the 20 January last year 2012, the Seventy Years Declaration, commemorating Wannsee, a declaration which specifically rejects glorification of Latvia’s Waffen SS, along with Estonia’s Waffen SS and the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) in Lithuania.
Posted in Aleksandrs Feigmanis, Celebrations of Fascism, EU, Events, Latvia, Monica Lowenberg, Neo-Nazi & Fascist Marches, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Riga's Waffen SS Marches, United Kingdom
One of the last photos of Dr. Marina Solodkin, who came to protest the Waffen SS march in Riga on March 16th 2013, shortly before her sudden death in her hotel room. Photo by Juris Kaža.
Marina Solodkin (1952 — 2013)
Dr. Marina Solodkin, 60, a Moscow native and former member of the Israeli Knesset, died in her hotel room, of an apparent heart attack or stroke, in Riga, the capital of Latvia, on March 16th. She had come to join activities to protest this year’s Waffen SS march earlier that day. [UPDATE: See now reports in Arutz Sheva, Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, Jewish Press, JTA, The Times of Israel, YNet; a brief biography appears on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website.]
A screen-capture of Dr. Solodkin’s final Facebook posting, from Israel on March 15th before setting off for Riga, appears below. It translates:
by Monica Lowenberg
Riga, 1943: Latvian soldiers proudly march with a Latvian flag and a Nazi flag. Some of the men were conscripted into the Waffen SS, but a number were volunteers.
Since 2010, when a Lithuanian court proclaimed public swastikas legal and included in its ruling the “historical wisdom” that it only a harmless ancient Baltic symbol, swastikas have proliferated at public events sponsored by the far right, with police looking on listlessly. Most painfully for the dwindling numbers of Holocaust survivors here and abroad, swastikas and other fascist symbols, along with glorification of local Holocaust collaborators, have figured in sanctioned independence day marches in Kaunas on February 16th each year, and in the capital city Vilnius, each March 11th.
In 2012, the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee commented publicly.
The half-page article on the “Business” page of the Baltic Times (dated 4-17 April 2013 but widely available this week here in Vilnius) carries at its end the words “This is a paid advertisement.”
But these words do not succeed in mitigating the moral responsibility of the increasingly ultranationalist, far-right newspaper in disseminating hate material against any minority, least of all of in an EU / NATO member state. The inherent equality of peoples and their races and languages and national and personal identities are an inseparable component of what the European Union and NATO are all about.
British Foreign Office on Latvia’s National Waffen SS Fest:
BACKGROUND: DAVID CESARANI IN THE GUARDIAN
B O O K S
by Roland Binet (Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium)
I became interested in the Holocaust in Latvia during my first visit there in 2009 and, above all, after having visited the Museum of the Jews in Latvia with its detailed exhibition of the tragedy that befell the Jewish population of that country. I had earlier read some books about the massacres that took place in Latvia between 1 July 1941 and the re-conquest of that country by the Red Army in 1944. Books written by survivors depicted a horrific environment including mass slayings, pogroms, denunciations, refusal of help for someone still alive. For those few who survived as slaves (roughly one out of ninety), there were living conditions far worse than what Dante could ever have imagined in his own time.
Thus, after a number of years, it was with great expectations that I began to read Andrew Ezergailis’s renowned book, The Holocaust in Latvia (first edition, 1996).
INTERVIEW WITH RIGA HISTORIAN MEYER MELLER (MELERS)
The great Russian author Lev Tolstoy wrote in his story “From the Notebook of Prince D. Nekhlyudov. Luzern.”
“Seventh July 1857 in Luzern in front of the Schweizerhof Hotel, where most rich people would stay the itinerant beggar-singer sings songs for half an hour and plays his guitar. About a hundred people heard him. Three times the singer asked the crowd to give him some money or food. Nobody gave him anything and many laughed at him.” […] This is the event which the historian of our times should write about with fiery irascible letters. This event is much more important and serious and has much more sense than the facts written in newspapers and history books. […] This is not a fact for the history of human acts, but for the history of progress and civilization.”
All that marks this major Holocaust mass grave in Riga, the Latvian capital, is a plastic bucket of flowers near the empty frame of a long-destroyed Soviet-era tin sign.
If you wish to see the mass grave take number 13 bus from the central station headed for Plavnieki and get off at the stop called Darzenu baze (roughly a half-hour ride). When you get off, turn from Lubanas street to the right until you come to Darzenu baze (“warehouse for vegetables”). In the pine woods some 300 meters from the warehouse you will see a little hill, without any mark, inscription or tombstone. Just a few primitive buckets of plastic flowers mark the site. They are placed near a wood frame stand that once, in Soviet times, held within it a bilingual tin sign about the site, that has long been destroyed and removed. The site is about 600 meters from the nine-floor apartment houses in Riga’s Plavnieki district.
JERUSALEM—The Simon Wiesenthal Center today denounced the commemoration of the “liberation” of the Latvian city of Limbazi, sponsored by the Visu Latvija political party, a member of the ruling coalition in the nation’s parliament in Riga.
by Monica Lowenberg
In 2011, I made my first journey to Riga, the capital city of Latvia.
A few months before, I had been tracked down by two distant cousins on a genealogy site, quite out of the blue. I remember the strange feeling I had when one of them asked me if I felt “Latvian.” Latvian? German Christian, German Jewish, British, yes — but Latvian Jewish? No.
Posted in Latvia, Memoirs, Monica Lowenberg, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Riga's Waffen SS Marches, United Kingdom
Tagged Holocaust in Latvia, Holocaust in the Baltics, Monica Lowenberg, Paul Lovenbergs, Riga Ghetto
Last May, this journal reported on a full page of racial hate directed at Latvia’s “Russians” (a cover term for Russian-speakers of a multitude of backgrounds). It had appeared in the Baltic Times, under cover of the responsibility-shirking label “Advertisement.” Heaven help us all if the word advertisement can in European Union and NATO countries cover for spreads of hate and incitement to violation of human rights. In this case, the demand is for the veritable expulsion of a million peaceful, legal residents of a member state of these international alliances, both of which are based on the shared commitment to uphold the human rights of all.
Rather than repeat the commentary offered at the page’s earlier appearance, we refer back to it here on the occasion of its reappearance in this month’s Baltic Times (dated 31 October — 27 November 2013), that occupies all of page 5 in the main news (!) section.