HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
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
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
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.
Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2005
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