Latvian whitewash spawns anti-Semitic uproar


Israeli responses to a prominent Latvian newspaper's whitewashing of the history of national hero Herberts Cukurs, whom the Mossad liquidated in the 1960s for his part in the murder of Jews, has triggered an anti-Semitic outpouring on the Internet and in the local press.

The daily Latvijas Avize published a piece in February on the anniversary of Cukurs's death acknowledging that the famed aviator had "sullied his reputation" by serving as the deputy commandant of Latvia's Arajs Kommando, which murdered tens of thousands of Jews, but claiming that no evidence existed of his "direct participation in the executions."

The Israeli Embassy in Latvia issued a statement that it "refutes with indignation [the] attempt to rehabilitate the name of war criminal Heberts Cukurs," pointing out that he volunteered to participate in the Nazis' campaign against the Jews and "personally participated in murder operations" in Riga's ghetto and other places.

"The publication in one of the leading newspapers in Latvia raises concerns regarding the motives of those who try to revive Cukurs's spirit, thus insulting not only the memory of almost 80,000 Latvian Jews, who perished in the Holocaust, but also harms Latvia's image, raising doubts about Latvia's commitment to cope with the Holocaust."

Additionally, Efraim Zuroff of Israel's Simon Wiesenthal Center, wrote a column setting the record straight in the Baltic Times. The article has since received more than 700 comments posted on the Internet, of which many attack Jews, Israel, and Zuroff personally.

Some speak of "disgusting Jews, the personification of evil" and that, "it's the fault of the Jews that there is such an attitude towards them," while others singled out the Jewish state: "Israel violates international laws and with the support of its government organizes and carries out murders in the whole world, basing them on revenge for World War II."

Israeli Ambassador to Latvia Gary Koren said that he considered whether criticizing the article might invite a backlash, but felt it was something that "couldn't be ignored."

He added that it was "encouraging" that several Internet comments had also been positive.
For instance, some people thanked Zuroff for his article. One wrote, "We should feel ashamed for those Latvians who call Cukurs a hero. We are ashamed that in today's Latvia there are such people who fan the flames of national hatred."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also recently announced that Hungary had issued an international arrest warrant for alleged Nazi war criminal Charles Zentai, now living in Australia, who was identified as part of the "Operation: Last Chance" hunt for those who murdered Jews during World War II.

In addition, the center received word from the Romanian authorities that they will be setting up a committee to investigate four suspects also uncovered as part of the Last Chance campaign.

URL: The Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2005

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