Nezavisimaya gazeta: Latvia Paid Attention to the Holocaust

Baltic schoolchildren will be taught tolerance
The Holocaust horrors touched many European states, including Baltic countries. And in connection with the attempts made today to rehabilitate Nazism and xenophobia manifestations, including in some Baltic states, the importance to teach the history of the Holocaust, whose victims became six million people, seems especially topical.

The other day during the meeting with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), President of the World Holocaust Forum foundation Moshe Kantor President of the Latvian Republic Vaira Vike-Freiberga acknowledged the necessity to introduce changes and additions to history schoolbooks in order to learn the Holocaust lessons. “Latvia is determined to remember the crimes against humanity committed by the totalitarian regimes on the Latvian soil during the 20 th century,” – she said. The head of state also supported the initiative to establish the World Holocaust Forum foundation, having expressed “strong interest of Latvia in working together with the Foundation”.

The World Holocaust Forum foundation was established this year immediately after the first Holocaust Forum “Let My People Live!” in commemoration of the 60 th anniversary of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation was held in Krakow (Poland). Accepting the final document, heads of 24 countries and governments, including Russia, Israel, Poland, the United States of America and others, committed to establishing a regular World Holocaust Forum so that, as the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the EJC Moshe Kantor said, to support with their authority the all-European educational program on the Holocaust and its lessons in every European country.

International forums provide for direct participation of heads of states, who by demonstrating their political will remind the world community of the most horrible tragedy of the Second World War. But the most important thing is that the world leaders contribute to the fact that the reminders of the Holocaust horrors would be eternalized on the pages of the history schoolbooks.

According to Mr. Kantor who initiated convening in January of the international forum of world leaders in commemoration of the 60 th anniversary of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation, education of tolerance towards “others” is one of the most important problems in the XXI century. If this feeling is not cultivated in grassroots, a series of insoluble conflicts is waiting for our civilization, in conditions of an inevitable and ever-growing medley of nations.

And therefore, he thinks, one of the main tasks on the agenda is dissemination of the Holocaust knowledge among European nations and education of the Holocaust lessons for the youth using their native language. According to the President of the Latvian Republic, it is difficult to imagine without the long-lasting support of the International Task Force on the Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, the European Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations.

The EJC Board of Governors headed by Mr. Moshe Kantor carries out this educational work. And today the Board of Governors faces a rather clear task to popularize the European Education Program for Teachers on the Holocaust an its Lessons, which was prepared earlier by the EJC and The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem – Yad Vashem.

According to the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the EJC and the President of the World Holocaust Forum foundation Moshe Kantor, the program is aimed at supporting teachers from European countries in this initiative, contributing to their commitment to revive and support the memory of these horrible events of the world history.

It is noteworthy that the meeting of the President of the Latvian Republic with the President of the World Holocaust Forum foundation took place on the eve of a new school year, which, like in Russia, begins on September 01. The “school” problem in this country once again proves how acutely the problem of the fight against anti-Semitism and xenophobia manifestations still faces the Latvian society. And the task of the state is to educate in its citizens from their childhood a tolerant attitude towards people of another race, skin colour, language and religion.

In addition, Latvia already officially apologized before the Holocaust victims. Speaking this year in Rumbula at the events in commemoration of the 60 th anniversary of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Artis Pabriks on behalf of the government expressed regret that “Latvia could not manage to save people who died in this land during the Holocaust”. Thereat the Minister stated bitterly that “Latvia turned out to be unable to educate its citizens to be tolerant enough and with right morals”.

The tragedy horrors are remembered not only in Rumbula or Salaspils. Elderly Riga citizens remember up to present the tragedy of 1941, when Nazis burned people alive who were in a Riga choral synagogue. This merciless crime became the prologue to the Holocaust horrors in Latvia.

Heads of both local and Russian Jewish organizations repeatedly criticized Latvian authorities that they do not hurry to act against those who call for anti-Semitism and xenophobia in their country. It is known that during the war around one hundred thousand Jews lived in Latvia, and almost all of them were killed by local collaborationists. Many people are alarmed and worried that Latvian veterans – SS officers still hold demonstrations with pomp, as well as that there are people among Latvian political elite who think that the Holocaust should be forgotten.

But yet, it would be unfair to deny the fact that Latvian authorities are willing to give a single-value estimate of those horrible events, which took place in the country and in which its citizens were involved. Although they acknowledge that the Holocaust research is a “hard and painful process”.

The President of the Latvian Republic in this investigation of a state scale expects receiving help from the Jewish community, whose role both in the life of the European community, as a whole, and in the life of Latvia, in particular, she highly estimated during the meeting with Mr. Moshe Kantor. The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the EJC was convinced of the sincerity of her words during the meetings with the management of the Jewish community in Latvia, at which the position of Jews in this Baltic country was discussed.

According to the results of the conversation between Mrs. Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Mr. Moshe Kantor, it became also known that the next International Forum following the Forum in Krakow would be held in Ukraine. Mr. Kantor said that its choice is not accidental at all. Everyone knows of the end of the Holocaust after KL Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation, but very few people know that it started with massacre in September 1941 in Babyn Yar near Kyiv. During two days more than 33,000 people were executed there, and facts of this tragedy were kept secret in the Soviet Union for decades.

Today nothing should be kept secret. On the contrary, it is necessary to remind diligently and explain to people what such widely spread phenomena as “kitchen” anti-Semitism and xenophobia can turn out to be for them and their relatives. Only so one can avoid such tragedy as the Holocaust in the future.

Nezavisimaya gazeta (“The Independent newspaper”)
Nikolay Razborov