Latvian Holocaust survivors urge restitution of confiscated communal property

The New York-based organization Jewish Survivors of Latvia has urged the Baltic country’s President Andris Berzins “to return without further delay the communal property that legitimately, legally, and morally belong to the Jewish community of Latvia”.

The group’s Acting President David Silberman wrote in a December 2013 letter to Berzins that Latvia had endorsed the 2009 Terezin Declaration on Holocaust-Era Assets and Related Issues and was therefore obliged to right this historical injustice once and for all.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization and other bodies have also pressing Latvia to return looted Jewish communal property.

In 1935, 94,000 Jews lived in Latvia, making up about 5 percent of the total population. There was a well-developed network of Jewish schools, with over 100 institutions.

The Soviet Union occupied Latvia in June 1940 and annexed the country in August 1940. In June and July 1941, following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the German troops occupied Latvia. Detachments of German Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), together with Latvian and Lithuanian auxiliaries, massacred most Latvian Jews. Ghettos were established in the larger cities of Riga, Dvinsk, and Liepaja.

In 1944 the Soviet army reentered Latvia, which again became a Soviet republic. Only a few hundred Jews remained in Latvia. About 1,000 Latvian Jews returned to Latvia from the Nazi concentration camps; several thousand others who had escaped to the Soviet Union during the war also survived. In 1991, Latvia became an independent country again and it joined the European Union in 2004.

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