The Holocaust in Latvia is notable for several reasons, beyond the obvious issues of being one of the first major massacres of Jews early in the war.
Due to the fact that Latvia was not a country per se at the time, and that the Soviet Union had invaded Latvia in 1940, just before it was over run by Nazi (German) forces, Latvia was effectively in political limbo relative to accountability on the issue of the Nazi Holocaust until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. During the time between the end of WW II (1945) and the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, many people directly involved with the extermination of the Jews and Gypsies (Romani) not only were not brought to justice for their crimes, they held positions in the Latvian Government and some were even considered Heroes in the war.
Holocaust Research in Latvia
There was no Holocaust research during Soviet rule in Latvia (1944–91). The victims of the Holocaust were subsumed under the rubric “Nazi murder of peaceful Soviet citizens,” usually with unsubstantiated and highly inflated numbers. Research in the West was mainly based on accounts of survivors and court cases against Nazi criminals. http://www.li.lv/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=141&Itemid=1100
Rumbula Massacre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumbula_massacre
The Rumbula massacre was the two-day (November 30, 1941 and December 8, 1941) killing of about 25,000 Jews in and on the way to Rumbula forest near Riga, Latvia, during the Holocaust. Save only the Babi Yar massacre in Ukraine, this was the biggest two-day Holocaust atrocity until the operation of the death camps.
Kaufmann, Max, Die Vernichtung des Judens Lettlands (The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia) http://www.jewsoflatvia.com/
English translation of the original publication in its entirety, a well-documented and erudite testimonial of the horrors that took place in Latvia during the Holocaust.
The Holocaust in Latvia by Andrew Ezergailis http://vip.latnet.lv/lpra/ezergailis.htm
PDF Review Excerpt of Book http://www.jstor.org/pss/3020959
Historians of the Holocaust in Latvia face two formidable barriers. They need to break through the fog that the propaganda agencies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union created. Both, for their own reasons, were intent on misleading the world about the killing of the Jews in Latvia.
The judges of Nuremberg failed to see that a significant role in the murder of Jews also was played by Eastern European natives (the Einheimische as the Nazis called them). Ezergailis, In his detailed work. fills in this hiatus left by the Nuremberg judgments. He argues that the killing of the Jews of Latvia was done in an organized, even over-organized manner. Documents show that Heydrich ordered Stahlecker to create pogrom conditions, to give an impression that the natives were wreaking revenge against the “Jew-Bolsheviks.” After the failure of the pogrom policy. Ezergailis shows, the Germans had no alternative but to rely on propaganda and organization.
The central part of Ezergailis’ work details the activities of the Arajs SD Commando, the Latvian unit that Brigadefuhrer Stahlecker organized for the killing of the Jews of Latvia. Although numerous other Latvian auxiliary police units played a role in the killing of the Jews, the major murderers were the men of the Arajs unit.
Latvia does not owe anything to Holocaust victims? 01.27.2011 http://english.pravda.ru/history/27-01-2011/116690-holocaust-0/
Over 100,000 Jews were exterminated in Latvia during WWII, which was equal to 90 percent of the Jews, who lived in Latvia before the war broke out. Many of them were killed in Salaspils concentration camp. Latvian nationalists destroyed the majority of the Jews in the summer of 1941, before the country was occupied by German Nazis. Needless to say that the victims of Nazism were deprived of all their possessions.
It is an open secret that Latvia glorifies Nazi criminals. It is not only Russia and Latvian Russian-speaking politicians, but also international Jewish organizations that bring this issue to public attention. More than three years ago, Efraim Zuroff, an Israeli historian of American origin, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Jerusalem, criticized the Latvian authorities for their attitude to Nazi criminals.
Viktors Arajs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktors_Ar%C4%81js
Victors Arajs (13 January 1910 – 13 January 1988) was a Latvian collaborator and Nazi SS officer, who took part in the Holocaust during the German occupation of Latvia and Belarus (then called White Russia or White Ruthenia) as the leader of the Arajs Kommando. The Arajs Kommando murdered about half of Latvia’s Jews.
Herberts Cukurs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herberts_Cukurs
Since the fall of Communism, there have been efforts in Latvia to rehabilitate Cukurs. For example, an exhibition was held in Riga in honour of the ‘national hero’ Herberts Cukurs, in which his work in the Arajs Commando was portrayed as having been harmless.
The Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks condemned the issuance of postal envelopes dedicated to Cukurs in 2004. In a statement, Pabriks said that “those who produced such envelopes in Latvia evidently do not understand the tragic history of World War II in Latvia or in Europe.” The foreign ministry stated that Cukurs was “guilty of war crimes,” and that he “took part in the activities of the notorious Arajs Commando, which participated in the Holocaust and was responsible for the killing of innocent civilians. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Latvia has twice rejected the exoneration of Herberts Cukurs.”[13 (May 17, 1900, in Liep?ja, Courland Governorate, Russian Empire – February 23, 1965, in Montevideo, Uruguay) was a Latvian aviator and Nazi war criminal. He was a member of the notorious Arajs Kommando and was involved in murders of Latvian Jews as part of the Holocaust but he never stood trial. There are eyewitness accounts linking Cukurs to war crimes. He was shot dead by Mossad agents in 1965.
The Latvian Holocaust Stats + Summary http://www.holocaustrevealed.org/_domain/holocaustrevealed.org/Latvia/Latvian_Holocaust.htm