Four Who Saved Jews Receive Highest
By Sandra L. Medearis
RIGA - Four Latvians received the country's highest award, the Order of
Three Stars, for saving Jews during Holocaust on July 4, observed in
Latvia as a day of memorial to Jewish victims of genocide.
Receiving awards at Riga Palace were Bruno Rozentals, 74, Olga Kruzmane,
83, Juris Berzins, 74, and Yadviga Ocehovska, 76.
Rozentals said although he had received honors from a number of
countries, this honor from Latvia meant the most.
"It is this decoration, the Order of Three Stars, that I will
always appreciate most highly," he told President Vaira
Each of the four received a medal, a certificate tied with a ribbon in
Latvian red and white and a bouquet of red roses with stems a meter long.
Vike-Freiberga handed off the decorations, helped by community leaders
and a soloist who presented patriotic songs about Latvia as a motherland.
Vike-Freiberga noted that there has been evil in the "mother land."
"For the evil is, has been and always will be with us. We are not
always able to escape and to avoid it, but what we can do is to fight
against it with all our might," she said, adding now that
independence has been regained, Latvia can follow the ideals upon which
it was founded: "respect for the human being, for human life as
being sacred, for human life that must not be annihilated."
Desecrations of two memorial monuments marking sites where Jews were
persecuted and killed in the Riga area were found July 3 and 4.
Vike-Freiberga said memorials should be held sacred as reminders. About
95 percent of Latvia's Jewish population of about 70,000 were killed
during the Nazi occupation, sometimes with collaboration of local people.
Grigory Krupnikov, a leader in the Jewish community thanked the four for
"We fully understand the risks to their lives and their families to
help our people," Krupnikov said. This is real heroism, different
even than that at the front lines which perhaps was momentary. This risk
was everyday, 24 hours a day, for months. No scales or financial
instruments can weigh human relations Š can weigh the risks these [men
and women] took."
Hiding and saving Jews during World War II required not only great
bravery, but also stealth and cunning. Rozentals hid 36 Jews beneath a
barn with stairs concealed under a stove. He even built beds in the
hideaway. The State of Israel has decorated about 25 Latvians and
Lithuanians during the past year for saving Jews, designating the
saviors as Righteous Among Nations, Israel's highest honor for non-Jews.
The Baltic Times - 07.06.02