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July 30, 2013 4:45 pm

New Holocaust Museum Honors Couple that Hid Jews in Latvia

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Israeli President Shimon Peres. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Israeli President Shimon Peres attended a ceremony marking the opening of a museum honoring a couple that saved 50 Jews during the Nazi occupation of Latvia in World War II.

The museum, located in Latvia’s capital of Riga, honors Zanis Lipke and his wife Johana, who hid Jews in a 90-square foot-underground pit. Yad Vashem honored Zanis and Johana in 1966 as “Righteous Among the Nations,” Israel’s official recognition for non-Jews who helped save Jews during the Holocaust.

Latvia had a thriving Jewish community prior to the Holocaust. Jews were represented in Latvia’s parliament during its period of independence between World War I and World War II.

“The Jews of Latvia invested a lot in Latvia’s prosperity, but the Holocaust destroyed them,” Peres said at a state dinner hosted by Latvian President Andris Berzins before the ceremony, The Baltic Course reported.

At the dinner, Peres spoke about the Rumbula Massacre, in which a Nazi SS unit killed about 25,000 Jews with the help of local collaborators. But Peres also mentioned that many Latvians, including Zanis Lipke, worked to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

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