Latvia donates $25,000 for Holocaust research
Sandra L. Medearis

RIGA – Latvia has promised to give $25,000 to the London-based Holocaust victim organization, the Nazi Persecutee Relief Fund.

The government has not cut the check yet, but upon the suggestion of the Foreign Ministry, has approved the donation.

Estimates of the death toll of Jews during the Holocaust run between 84 percent and 98 percent of a population in the hundreds of thousands. Some Latvians assisted in the killings.

“We are of the opinion that this step will contribute to the understanding that Latvia wants to help those who were injured by the Holocaust and the tragedies that took place during World War II,” said Toms Baumanis, Latvian Foreign Ministry press secretary.

Half the contribution will go to the Museum and Documentation Center “Jews in Latvia” display to expand research on the Holocaust in Latvia, with the remainder is reserved for the fund managers to set up other projects.

The United States and the United Kingdom set up the fund with heavy donations following the Nazi Gold Conference in London in 1997. Sweden, France, the Czech Republic and other countries have already contributed. The fund is to assist victims of Nazism who to date have received no such assistance or very little, chiefly elderly people in Central and Eastern Europe.

A second target is to support projects in communities most grievously affected by Nazi persecution or projects that aim to prevent the occurrence of similar outrages in the future.

Addressing Jewish youth leaders in 1998, a U.S. envoy for Jewish property restitution in Central and Eastern Europe, Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat said people in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union had been “double victims” of both fascism and communism.

The donation from the Latvian government comes during controversy over activities planned for March 16, the day marking conscription of Latvians into the Latvian Legion, a Waffen SS unit forced to serve the Nazi army in World War II.

“The government of Latvia is committed to continue examination of the tragic events that took place in Latvia during World War II, including the Holocaust, and to raise public awareness and understanding of the most tragic and painful chapters of world history,” said a March 2 release from the Foreign Ministry.

Latvia’s current Jewish population numbers about 16,000. According to the Web site, Jewish Communities of The World (wwww.virtual.co/communities/), some 3,000 Holocaust survivors returned to Latvia, but the majority of Jews in Latvia today came to the country from parts of the Soviet Union after the war.

The Chabad movement is active in promoting Jewish observance. There is a Jewish school attended by about 500 children who study in both Hebrew and Yiddish. Because the majority of Latvian Jews are not descended from prewar residents, most are non-citizens who cannot vote, serve in the military or hold certain jobs. 

04.03.1999.

© The Baltic Times