Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Riga, designated European Capital for Culture for 2014, reaches a new low note

The musical rehabilitation of a Latvian mass murderer

A new play in Latvia portrays Herberts Cukurs as a national hero - not the cruel killer of Jews that he was

http://www.i24news.tv/en/opinion/46304-141007-a-latvian-new-musical-or-the-tale-of-a-latvian-mass-murderer-s-rehabilitation  (Article first published by I24 News  7.10.2014  and republished here with kind permission of its author  Dr Efraim Zuroff)

This coming Saturday night, October 11 2014, a new musical premieres in the Latvian port city of Liepaja, the first stop on a nationwide tour. Such an event would hardly be news worthy were it not for the fact that rather than simple entertainment, the play is a brazen attempt to rehabilitate the image of one of the most notorious mass murderers of Jews in the Baltics during the Holocaust.
"Herberts Cukurs, member of the infamous Latvian Arajs Commando unit, in 1937."
The subject of the play is Herberts Cukurs, the deputy commander of the infamous Arajs Kommando, which played a leading role in the mass annihilation of the Jews in Riga and throughout the country in the year following the Nazi invasion of Latvia, and later was an active participant in the killing of Jews in Belarus (most notably from the Minsk Ghetto).

Although Cukurs' role in the atrocities was well-known, like many Baltic Nazi war criminals he was able to escape justice by fleeing overseas, in his case to Brazil. Once discovered there, the Soviets asked for his extradition to face war crimes charges, but the Brazilians refused, claiming that they would only send him back to the country in which he committed his crimes. Latvia, however, no longer existed. The resulting legal limbo which prevented Cukurs' prosecution and punishment, and an impending possible statute of limitations on the cases of Nazi war criminals in Germany, prompted an uncharacteristic response from Israel, which sent a team of Mossad operatives to execute him. Ironically, it was this act of retribution, which took place in Montevideo in 1965, which paved the way for recent attempts by Cukurs' family and Latvian ultra-nationalists to whitewash his crimes.
This campaign began several years ago with the issuing of envelopes carrying Cukurs' likeness, an exhibition entitled "Herberts Cukurs: The Presumption of Innocence," and a documentary film which sought to promote his innocence. To understand it one must be aware of Cukurs' status as a Latvian national hero during the thirties.
He earned his fame as a bold aviator, who built several airplanes of his own design, and flew solo to exotic destinations in Africa (Gambia) and the Far East (Tokyo). He even flew to Palestine and later lectured in Riga to Jewish audiences. It is this fame, paired with the fact that Cukurs had never been convicted in a court of law for his Holocaust crimes, which forms the basis for the campaign to restore him to national glory in Latvia. Along with the current efforts to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust in the Baltics, it aims to minimize the highly significant role of local collaborators in the murders, and focus more attention on Baltic victimhood under the Communists.
The most powerful arguments against these attempts to restore a mass murderer like Cukurs to the status of a national hero are the numerous testimonies of Jewish survivors, many which were recorded shortly after the end of the war, but in this respect Cukurs' pre-war fame worked against him. Unlike the large majority of the other Latvian Nazi collaborators, Cukurs was well-known, and hence easily identifiable by quite a few of his erstwhile victims. Thus, for example, Rafael Shub related in a testimony I found in the Yad Vashem Archives, that on July 2, 1941, Cukurs had burned to death eight Jews in the new [Jewish] cemetery in Riga, even identifying his victims - synagogue sexton Feldheim, his wife and four children, and Cantor Mintz and his wife.
Another survivor, Abraham Shapiro, who was interned at the Arajs Kommando headquarters at Valdamaras St. 19, testified that Cukurs had personally murdered two Jews, who failed to follow his orders, and later witnessed Cukurs and other Latvian officers sexually molest and torture a young Jewish girl, while Shapiro was ordered to play the piano. The most damning evidence came from Max Tukacier, who told members of the Legal Department of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Germany in 1948 that Cukurs had beaten and executed men, women, and children who could not keep pace when the Jews of Riga were force-marched to be murdered at Rumbula Forest outside the city, in the mass executions of November 30 and December 8, 1941. He also recalled how the famous aviator had ordered an elderly Jew to rape a twenty year old Jewess in front of a crowd of Latvian police and prisoners at Arajs headquarters and when he failed to do so, ordered him to kiss the girl all over her naked body again and again. About 10-15 of the male and female prisoners who could not bear the sight of this humiliation were beaten to death by Cukurs.

Needless to say, such testimonies will not be part of the musical, which begins its run this Saturday night. A YouTube trailer for the play, featuring the noted Latvian singer Juris Miller, has elicited enthusiastic responses, but apparently no protests. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsdwCXVJwUc today's Latvia, for far too many Latvians, it is Cukurs who earns their sympathy, while his Jewish victims are forgotten, or even worse, erased from the historical record.

Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office. His most recent book is "Operation Last Chance; One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice." His website is: www.operationlastchance.org and he can be followed on Twitter @EZuroff

See also Dr Aleksandrs Feigmanis' excellent article on Cukurs  Aleksandrs Feigmanis, at:


Riga, Roots and Reflections  http://defendinghistory.com/riga-roots-and-reflections/60217
By Monica Lowenberg, published by Defending History.com 28.10.2013

Latvian state dance troupe displays Nazi swastika by Graeme Atkinson, International Editor Hope Not Hate and Monica Lowenberg published by Hope Not Hate, 24 November 2013
http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/news/world/article/1579/lartvian-state-dance-t roupe-displays-nazi-swastika

Riga, Capital of European Culture: Waffen SS, Stags and Silence?
By Monica Lowenberg, published by DefendingHistory.com 4 February 2014
'Repentance' from Germany offers new hope for justice

By Efraim Zuroff, October 7, 2014

Isaac Kram, a native of Riga in a sworn statement to  Yad Vashem investigators:
"In March 1942 when I was living in Ludza Street in the Jewish quarter in Riga, I suddenly saw hundreds of people savagely chased and beaten by Nazi soldiers led by Herbert Cukurs. I was standing close by to him when an old woman, who had been dumped into a truck, began shouting at the top of her voice, beseeching Cukurs to let her be put in another truck where she had spotted her daughter.
Cukurs replied by killing the woman with a single shot fired with his big revolver. A few minutes later he shot and killed a small child, just because he annoyed him standing the street and crying for his mother."
Cukurs was assassinated in Montevideo in February 1965 by a group of Jews, who were led by Anton Kunzle, and one of the Jews who called himself Oswald Taussig, who like Cukurs came from Riga.

12 October 2014

And now for a hit from Mel!

24 October 2014

http://www.rubaltic.ru/article/kultura-i-istoriya/24102014-Cukurs/  Interview with Dr Efraim Zuroff regarding the musical rehabilitation of a mass murderer in Latvia today

On October 25th 1941 the gates of the Riga ghetto were locked, 29,602 Jews were driven together under strict custody behind barbed wire in the area where about 13,000 people had lived before. Among them 5,652 children, 8.300 invalids, 9,507 women, 6,143 men.

30 October 2014


Boris Maftsir, a Latvian-born Israeli film-maker, saw the musical during a recent visit to Riga, and said he was disturbed by the reaction of the crowd.
"What shocked me was that after the show, they all gave it standing ovations. Hundreds of people, they applauded," said Maftsir, whose maternal grandparents were killed in Riga during the Nazi occupation. "Suddenly this Nazi officer can be a national hero. For me it was shocking

Read more here: http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2014/10/30/3929540_latvian-musical-on-nazi-collaborator.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

18 November 2014

BRAVO to LatviaNews.lv for publishing some common sense on the Cukurs affair in Latvia: http://www.latviannews.lv/news/6232/
As ever, it is the FRIENDS of a country who point out that glorification of Nazi collaborators is wrong and damaging. The more local residents who speak up on these things the better...

30 December 2014

Collaborator. (No longer a dirty word?)

The crisis in Ukraine has revealed to the world the divisions that exist throughout Europe about how the Second World War is remembered.

An important article from this month's HISTORY TODAY on the historical revisionism sweeping Europe. The SEVENTY YEARS DECLARATION (http://www.seventyyearsdeclaration.org) featured in Danny Ben Moshe's documentary 'Rewriting History' is discussed on the last page and SS marches and glorification in Latvia p13.


The Board of Deputies of British Jews has just become a signatory to the Seventy Years Declaration, endorsing the campaign against double genocide.Other major UK organisations, including the European Union for Progressive Judaism and the United Synagogue of Great Britain have also joined the campaign.

You can add your voice to the various campaigns against historical revisionism  here:

1.  Petitioning HE President Dalia Grybauskaitė , President of Lithuania
Abandon defamation of Holocaust survivors and glorification of Holocaust perpetrators


20 January 2015

Seventy three years after the Wannsee conference and on the anniversaries of the petition Stop the 16th March marches and Latvians revising history and The Seventy Years Declaration Latvia's permanent UNESCO delegation vetoes Holocaust exhibition in Paris.  The exhibition showing the crimes the Nazis committed in Salaspils  was cancelled out of fears that it will place Latvia in a bad light whilst they hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union until July 2015.

How can recounting the crimes of the Nazis and their allies  harm the image of modern-day Latvia? It is only possible if Latvia treats Nazi crimes as its own.

Salaspils concentration camp was established in 1941, some 11 miles southeast of the Latvian capital Riga. According to protocols from the Nuremberg trials, more than 100,000 people died at the camp.

 Maybe some institution in the UK, France or Germany WOULD now take the 'rejected exhibition' ? ?

22 January 2015

Double genocide has become the deadliest form of denial
by Dovid Katz  in  The Jewish Chronicle

The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz approaches amid a disturbing new cover-up of Holocaust history. Across Eastern Europe, the notion of a "Double Genocide" - the idea that there were two equal holocausts, Soviet and Nazi - has been pushed by governments and nationalist elites in the media and arts.  http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/analysis/128663/double-genocide-has-become-deadliest-form-denial

27 January 2015

Lest we forget

Original film footage done by a Russian camera man filming the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army in 1945


and here original film footage of the mass murder of Jews in Liepaja, Latvia, 1941

New documentary on The Riga Ghetto out soon


15 February 2015

Four Baltic marches, one dangerous racist trend

You can sign petitions against these marches here:

1.  Petitioning HE President Dalia Grybauskaitė , President of Lithuania
Abandon defamation of Holocaust survivors and glorification of Holocaust perpetrators

To find out more about the situation in Lithuania see:   http://defendinghistory.com/?p=47128

2.  Stop the 16 March marches in Riga, Latvia!
1.  Add your voice to this petition here:  http://www.petitions24.com/stop_the_16_march_marches_and_latvians_revising_history

3. For more information regarding previous marches see following interviews and you tube clips: 
3.1 Monday 8 July 2013,  'Jewish Hour' on Salford City Radio  94.4FM
Interview with Monica Lowenberg speaking about her trip to Latvia and the annual SS marches that take place in the capital of Riga.
3.2  Nazi Heroes-  Waffen SS hailed in Latvia  2012
VIEWS:  over 120,000 as of February 2015
3.3  You Tube clip with Dr Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Israel  2014
Photo reportage covering all three Baltic Neo-Nazi marches last year.  The reportage is accompanied by an interview with Dr Efraim Zuroff on Salford City Radio, 24 March 2014 and MEP Richard Howitt's speech condemning the SS march in Riga, read out on Salford City radio station,17 March 2014. 

16  February 2015

Defending History Musters 12 Protesters at Kaunas Independence Day Neo-Nazi March on Feb. 16th

Dozen protesters are led by Wiesenthal Center’s Dr. Efraim Zuroff, and include five members of Lithuanian Jewish community (in private capacity). Effort is a partnership of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel Office and the Vilnius-based Defending History team.

Media Coverage:

AFTER THE EVENT:  JTA; Newsru.com;  15min.lt;  Alfa.lt;  Balsas.lt;  Delfi.lt;  Faktai.lt;  FB;  Info.smi; Interfax;  Jerusalem Post;  Lrt.lt (+video); Lrytas.lt;  Obzor;  Newsru.co.il;  Simon Wiesenthal Center;  Stormfront;  RUN-UP TO THE EVENT: i24; Defending History (+correspondence with mayor’s office);

The Photo shoots Hague would rather forget

 first published by Hope not Hate  5 April 2013

By Monica Lowenberg
Not every day that one sees William Hague courting photo shoots with Hollywood A lister Angelina Jolie, who is also a noted human rights activist. ‘Human rights’ is the buzz word this week. When I got up Saturday morning and found a letter from Hague’s office, in response to mine about British silence in the face of EU partner Latvia’s honouring the Hitlerist Waffen SS with official support, it looked promising.

In February, I had asked PM Cameron to write a simple letter to the Latvian president Andris Berzins who has proclaimed publicly that Latvian SS veterans should be ‘bowed down to’. I asked Cameron, an heir of Churchill, to ask for a halt to the glorification of SS veterans in an EU and NATO country. This glorification includes annual state-blessed marches in the centre of the capital city that are riddled with pro-Nazi sentiment.

The SS veterans are seen by a growing number of Latvian nationalists as ‘freedom fighters’ who fought against the Soviet Union. Of course we should all condemn Soviet evils separately, but that is not the point here.

Today’s letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office tells me:
I understand that this is an emotive issue for all those involved. I am pleased to note that this year’s events passed off safely. The history of the Latvian Legion is complex and one which historians are best placed fully to understand. The UK believes that the abolition of Legionnaires Day is essentially a matter for the Latvian Government and I hope that you understand that this is not a matter in which the UK government has any locus to become involved’. Letter dated 27th March 2013, signed by Dave Naylor, Northern and Central Europe Team, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Bearing in mind that Mr Naylor’s boss had had since 2009 rather close contact with the Latvian government, to the extent that he was prepared to support them to the hilt, it does seem strange that three years on when Latvia’s ugly past rears its head they are unable to intervene. What on earth is the British government afraid of? Or maybe getting into bed with SS lovers is not an ‘emotive’ or hot enough topic for senior Tories? Was standing up to Hitler and his cronies an abject waste of time by Britain and her allies?
Back on October 1st 2009 Hague said of then foreign secretary David Milliband:

David Miliband's smears are disgraceful and represent a failure of his duty to promote Britain's interests as foreign secretary…He has just insulted the Latvian Government, most of whose member parties have attended the commemoration of Latvia's war dead.’ Hague virulently retorted when Miliband correctly characterised the British Conservatives alliance with Latvian MEP Robert Zile as ‘not leadership but pandering, not judgement but dogma, not patriotic defence of national interest but the white flag of surrender to euro-extremists in his own party." Merkel ,Sarkozy and even true blue conservative Yorkshire MEP Edward Macmillan Scott , who was duly sacked for daring to state that ‘Cameron was flirting with respectable fascism’, were all equally incensed at Cameron’s Latvian liaison. But Hague, Callanan, Hannan and Pickles continued to state with almost religious fervour that the Latvian SS veterans ‘were only following orders’. A special kind of blindness had and does clearly afflict them, one that the Latvian PR team, full of hack historians (from east and west alike!) paid to sanitise and distort Latvia’s ugly past work day and night at,have given them.

Let me reiterate, wrote Latvian Ambassador Stiprais to concerned conservative MP David Amess less than one month ago: ‘Latvia has always condemned the crimes

committed during World War II – the crimes of Nazism and Stalinism. Latvia is committed to the values of democratic and open society and we will endeavour to facilitate true consolidation of the people and countries who suffered under totalitarian regimes during World War II.’ TRANSLATION: In other words we will revise history, we will not deny the Holocaust but we will dismiss it nevertheless, we will do so by making a false symmetry and equalisation between the crimes of Communism and Nazis. We will ensure that the world sees us as victims of two genocides, Nazism and Communism. Really Ambassador Stiprais, where was it written that Stalin intended to kill all Latvians? When did he try to do that? Different evils deserve different commemorations, not the glorification of fascism. Latvia, like Lithuania, Estonia, has been among the staunchest supporters of the 2008 Prague Declaration that would write the Holocaust out of history with its far-right red-equals-brown demands.

Ambassador Stiprais and other Latvian apologists need to be reminded that the Allies consisted of American and British troops and yes, Soviet troops who enabled the world to be free of the greatest genocidal force the world has ever known. Waffen SS lovers seem to have forgotten that if Hitler had been victorious it would have, ironically, been a disaster for Latvia since the Nazis had no intention or plan to grant Latvia independence. Historians know very well of the Nazis’ plans to do away with the Latvian (and other regional) peoples after the planned-for victory. There would have been no Latvia to become independent in 1991 or Monument of Freedom for Latvian apologists to lay wreaths down to for Latvian SS veterans who collaborated with Hitler. On the eastern front, it was only the Soviets fighting Hitler, enabling the Allies to free Europe.

Incidentally this year’s march was not as peaceful as the FCO would maintain: riot police were active, anti-fascists such as Joel Rubinfeld co-president of the Jewish parliament in Brussels were dragged away, four people were detained by police and after giving an interview with a TV news network, Yaniz Kuzins, chairman of Latvian alliance against Nazism and Riga city council member, was physically assaulted by a neo Nazi. Many others were roughed up and harassed.

The attendees some as young as three, walked alongside neo-Nazis such as Ričardas Čekutis from neighbouring Lithuania, laying flowers at the monument of freedom in central Riga, an EU capital, and strew flowers across a photo of notorious Latvian Nazi collaborator Robert Ancāns whilst the wreaths to the victims of Nazism were once again desecrated by Latvian youth.
Whether Hague accepts this fact or not it is incumbent upon the international community, the UK government, the European Union and NATO to condemn today all Nazi events in clear terms if they sincerely wish to curb the rise of neo Nazism and right extremism currently sweeping Europe.

As Mr Hague contemplates his joint campaign with Jolie for international action against mass rape in conflicts, and the ‘hope and dream that it's known that if you abuse the women, if you rape the women, you will be held accountable for your actions’, Hague will hopefully become aware that politics is about taking responsibility, about taking action not saying some resurgent evil should be left to historians to debate. The banalisation of the Holocaust, its reduction to just another historical event is a huge danger and the fact that the British conservatives, are linked with Latvians who glorify the Waffen SS makes a complete mockery of Jolie’s good work but also of the huge sacrifice millions of people across the world made to fight Nazism. I am certain that Jolie is absolutely clear on the following fact that one cannot be committed to human rights and adulate Hitler’s forces at the same time. It is scandalous and shameful that Mr Hague is not.

As photo shoots are currently on the FCO’s mind it is perhaps appropriate to end with an image.

The photo below is of a group of naked Jewish women and girls walking to their place of execution on a beach near Liepaja, Latvia. Their fate? A mass pit where they were piled up alive and then mowed down by the fire of rifles or a machine gun salvo. They were victims of a regime that raped and pillaged before MURDERING ALL, those whom it raped and those who it did not. Should that regime, and its local henchmen and fighters such as the Waffen SS today be glorified to the tune of "None of our business" from Mr Hague’s Foreign Office?

The above massacre was perpetrated by the Einsatzgruppe A and aided by Latvian antisemitic and pro-Nazi militias who willingly participated. Around 95% of Latvian Jewry was murdered by the Nazis and their enthusiastic volunteer Latvian collaborators, many of whom later joined the 15th and 19th divisions of the Waffen SS.

Freedom fighters for whom, Mr. Hague?

Source:DefendingHistory.com Wednesday, 12 March 2014, 14:45

By Monica Lowenberg Defendinghistory.com

Since 1998 on the 16 March and every year, in the very centre of Riga, Latvia, marches have been regularly held to praise the ‘heroism’ of the former Latvian Legion, i.e.Waffen SS veterans in their combat against the allies during the Second World War.

Each year these events have received tacit (and sometimes very explicit and public) support from state authorities, in 2012 by Latvian president Andris Berzins himself who stated we should ‘bow our heads’ down to the SS.

The march has even been condoned by senior British Tories in alliance with the Latvian MEP Robert Zile who is connected with the ‘Fatherland and Freedom party’/ LNNK, LNNK being a party that actively supports the marches.

Over the years the marches have been attended in increasing numbers by deputies of the Latvian Parliament, members of the Riga City Council and officials of the Ministry of Defence but perhaps not this year.

At the beginning of February, the Latvian Environmental Protection and Regional Development Minister Einars Cilninskis (VL-TB/LNNK) announced that he would be attending the march.

This despite the ongoing tensions in Ukraine and belief that this year’s march could possibly be a powder keg situation ready to erupt; provoking ethnic Russians living in Riga and attracting high profile anti-fascist protesters such as the eminent historians Dr Hans Coppi from Germany and the Nazi hunter Dr Efraim Zuroff from Israel.

On 7 March, Riga announced the march was to take place. Clearly, the Russian mayor who always allows the wreath to the victims of Nazism be placed at the Monument of Freedom and who last year, was told by the high court that the march must take place and that he must apologise for all the years he had banned it, now has felt forced to allow it. However, the Latvian government suddenly voted on the 11 March 2014 to forbid government ministers from attending the march.

This is certainly a step in the right direction and the parliamentarians who have made this decision are to be commended.

Yet, the question remains, why have a march that glorifies the SS in the centre of an EU capital, the current European capital for culture, in the first place?