Tuesday, April 23rd | 15 Nisan 5784

February 10, 2022 2:28 pm

Latvian Parliament Approves $46 Million to Jewish Community in Compensation for Ravages of Nazi Holocaust

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German Jews being deported by train to Latvia in 1941. Photo: courtesy of USHMM

Latvia’s parliament on Thursday passed legislation to compensate the Baltic state’s Jewish community for the ravages of the Nazi Holocaust.

The new law authorizes 40 million euros (approximately $46 million) to be spent over a period of ten years on Jewish community institutions. Almost 100,000 Jews lived in Latvia prior to Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), Latvia’s Jewish community was decimated by the Nazis, with only a few hundred Jews remaining in the country when the Red Army drove out the Nazi occupiers in 1944.

The law stated that the modern state of Latvia was not responsible for either the Holocaust or the actions of the Soviet regime following the war, when Latvia was incorporated into the USSR as a constituent republic. The funding provided in the legislation was “Latvia’s goodwill compensation” for unrecovered Jewish properties, a press release announcing the law’s passage stated.

“The purpose of the law is to restore justice and provide support for the Latvian Jewish community by compensating in good faith the cadastral value of property not recovered by the community, in order to eliminate the historical consequences of the Holocaust by the Nazi totalitarian regime and the Soviet totalitarian regime’s actions,” it stated.

Jewish groups warmly welcomed the Latvian announcement.

“The legislation adopted today is a meaningful acknowledgement of the unique tragedy that befell Latvian Jewry, and a powerful statement of Latvia’s abiding goodwill to its Jewish Community and to Latvian Holocaust survivors,” said Gideon Taylor, Chair of Operations at the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). The WJRO added that it would now “urge other countries who have not yet done so to follow Latvia’s lead in upholding commitments made under the 2009 Terezin Declaration.”

The non-binding Terezin Declaration was agreed upon by 47 countries, including Latvia, in 2009. Its goal is to right the economic and financial aspects of the Holocaust, reflected in the seizure of property belonging to Jews and other minorities targeted by the Nazis.

The Latvian parliament’s decision stands in marked contrast to legislation passed last June by the parliament in Poland — another Terezin signatory — that effectively closes off Jewish restitution claims related to Nazi-era persecution. At the time, Poland’s nationalist Prime Minister Mateusz Marowiecki insisted that “Poland will not pay for German crimes.”

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