Latvian Jews mark 80 years since first day of Holocaust
Riga, Latvia, Jul 4 (EFE).- Latvia’s Jewish community marked on Monday 80 years since the first day of the Holocaust in Latvia after a one year delay due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Some 300 members of the small and aging Jewish community gathered together with Latvian government officials and some parliamentarians at the site of Riga’s Great Choral Synagogue.
The synagogue was burned down by the Nazis, and some Latvian sympathizers, on July 4, 1941, in an attack that cost the lives of several people and is considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust in Latvia.
Latvian president Egils Levits, who is of Jewish descent, said that the Holocaust must never be forgotten and warned against using misrepresentations of history to justify current crimes.
That warning has been interpreted as an allusion to Russia and its aggression against Ukraine that the Kremlin has justified as an “anti-Nazi operation.”
The deputy head of the Jewish community, Dmitrijs Krupnikovs, praised the efforts of non-Jewish Latvians to research and document the Holocaust in Latvia, citing two men who discovered a mass grave of about 100 Jews from the town of Baldone, which led to the partial identification and burial of the victims of the massacre in a local cemetery.
In the town of Cesis, a student of Jewish descent together with local activists created a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
The memorial consists of an installation of shoes in front of buildings where Jews lived. In front of each building the number of pairs of shoes matches the number of murdered Jews and there are children’s shoes to remember the children who were victims of the Holocaust.
Latvian defense minister Artis Pabriks and parliament speaker Inara Murniece also participated in the ceremony, as did the ambassadors of Israel and Germany.
The ceremony ended with two Latvian rabbis reciting a Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, after which wreaths were placed on a stone with the inscription “1941”, the year the massacre of Jews in Latvia began.
Prior to the memorial gathering by the synagogue ruins, many of the attendees marched through the nearby area where the Nazi occupation authorities had organized a Jewish ghetto.
Before World War II, some 90,000 Jews lived in Latvia, and an estimated 80 to 95% were killed in the Holocaust.
Weeks before the synagogue bombing, the Soviet Union, which occupied Latvia at the time, deported some 15,000 people on June 13-14, of whom just over 11% were Latvian Jews, selected for their “bourgeois” status, political affiliation, membership in academic fraternities or military rank.EFE