Enticing invitations often result in whitewashing local complicity in Holocaust crimes

By Dr. Efraim Zuroff

An ostensibly innocuous article with a very upbeat title (“Riga: A Baltic gem with more than a dash of Jewish history”), which took up almost an entire page of the August 13th issue of The Jerusalem Post, aroused my attention, and raised a serious question about journalistic ethics. Written by David Zev Harris and Mark Gordon, the hosts of the Travel Edition of The Jerusalem Post Podcast, the article was a very  positive portrayal of contemporary Latvia, and especially its capital Riga, as an interesting and pleasant tourist destination.

Alongside their article was a sidebar with an interview with Linda Ozola, the Deputy Chairman of the Riga City Council, under the heading “A proud people with nothing to hide.” The “nothing” in this case, is of course the Holocaust. “It is absolutely okay to talk about [the Holocaust],” she says.

“We’ve never wanted to tear out any pages of our history. We have to accept the history as it is. And we have to learn from history. We really regretfully admit that during the Second World War we lost so many Jewish people who were part of our society, who were co-creators of what Latvia was at that time.”

How interesting! Of course, these proud people have nothing to hide, because they simply created a false narrative of the Shoah in Latvia, which omitted the massive participation of Latvians in the mass murder of Jews, and not only local Jews, but also 96% of the 30,000 Jews deported to Riga from Germany, Austria and the Protektorat (today the Czech Republic), and many thousands of Jews in Belarus. So if the Latvians had no role in the mass murders, it’s no problem for the locals to speak about the Holocaust. How convenient.

Misguided Museum. While Riga’s Museum of the Occupation of Latvia 1940-1991 reminds the world of the crimes committed by foreign powers against the state and the people of Latvia, it fails to remind of the many Latvian killers of Jews during the Holocaust, preferring to highlight the few local Righteous Among the Nations.

In fact, while the text of  Harris and Gordon’s article does mention the Holocaust several times, there is no mention whatsoever of the highly significant role played by Latvians in the implementation of the Final Solution, not only in Latvia, but also in Belarus. (Half of the notorious Latvian murder squad, the Arajs Kommando was sent to Minsk to help liquidate the local ghetto.)

Exposing Latvian Heroes as Killers. Dr. Efraim Zuroff  (center with scarf) at a protest in Riga against the march honoring the veterans of the Latvian SS on March 15, 2015.

Interestingly, Harris and Gordon visited the local Holocaust museum established by Rabbi Barkan, which does not dwell (at least when I visited it several years ago) on Latvian participation in Holocaust crimes, but did not see fit to go to the local Museum of the Occupation. That site is a model of Holocaust distortion, which promotes the canard of equivalence between Nazi and Communist crimes, and overlooks the very numerous Latvian
killers, while focusing on the few local Righteous Among the Nations.

Honouring Nazis. The march in Latvia is currently the only public event in Europe and beyond honoring people who fought under the banner of SS, Nazi Germany’s elite security force. Seen here on March 16, 2019, are veterans of the Latvian Legion that was commanded by the German Nazi Waffen-SS during WWII, and their sympathizers as they walk carrying flags and posters to the Monument of Freedom in Riga. (Ilmars ZNOTINS / AFP)

In Latvia, the real heroes are not the Righteous, but those who served in the Latvian Legion, which was part of the Waffen-S.S., which fought against the Red Army for a victory of the Third Reich, the most murderous regime in human history. Every March 16, a march is held in the center of Riga to honor Legion’s veterans, among them many who served in the Latvian
Sicherheitsdienst, which played a major role in the annihilation of Latvian Jewry. The locals justify their adulation for these misguided “patriots” by claiming that they paved the way for Latvian independence, but the Nazis had no intention to ever grant Latvia its independence.

Proud of their Past. Latvians participate in the annual march to honor troops who fought alongside Nazis on March 16, 2019 in Riga. Notice the swastikas on the upper left shoulders of these men taking part to honor members of the Latvian Legion SS units in Riga. (Courtesy: JFDA e.V. / Grischa Stanjek)

Ultimately, I found the explanation for the seriously distorted narrative of the Holocaust in the article. The authors were the guests of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia, Radisson Blu Ridzene, and the local airline AirBaltic. And that’s what happens when journalists get free junkets to interesting destinations. The question is, given the lies promoted by the
host government, can a journalist with principles, accept what ultimately becomes a bribe?

A unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police, the Arajs Kommando led by SS commander and Nazi collaborator Viktors Arājs, was a notorious killing unit during the Holocaust. The Kommando is estimated to have killed around 26,000 of Latvia’s Jews.  In the final phases of the war, the unit was disbanded, and its personnel transferred to the Latvian Legion that holds annual memorial marches in Riga.

About the writer:

Dr. Efraim Zuroff. Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center – Israel office and Eastern European Affairs. Coordinator, SWC Nazi war crimes research worldwide
1 Mendele Street
Jerusalem, Israel 92147
Tel: 972.2.563.1273/4/5
Fax: 972.2.563.1276
www.swcjerusalem.org <http://www.swcjerusalem.org

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  1. this of course is the new rewriting of history, and now lithuania is the new go to vacation destination for israelis thereby supporting the lie of the genocide and resistance center that only germans murdered jews.

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