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Latvia, Estonia to join Holocaust memorial program in Los Angeles

The two countries are coming to terms with their respective histories against Jews and now publicly acknowledging it.

Narrator Dudu Fisher in what was the Riga Ghetto, during the filming of the documentary “Baltic Truth.” Photo by Eugene Levin.
Narrator Dudu Fisher in what was the Riga Ghetto, during the filming of the documentary “Baltic Truth.” Photo by Eugene Levin.

The Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia have chosen to join a memorial to address their countries’ history against Jews during World War II and the Holocaust.

The two nations plan to show the documentary “Baltic Truth,” rejecting previous governments’ obfuscation of their respective historical records, as part of a program on Jan. 28 in Los Angeles, timed to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place annually on Jan. 27.

Lithuania, another Baltic state, is not joining them. Yad Vashem has previously confronted the Lithuanian government for its systematic revisionism and denial of its citizens’ role in the Holocaust.

“Baltic Truth” Poster
The film poster of the documentary “Baltic Truth.” Credit: Courtesy.

“Yes, during the Soviet invasion, a number of Latvian citizens willfully collaborated with the Soviets and helped doom the lives of many of their Latvian co-citizens,” said Juris Bunkis, the consul for Latvia. “And exactly the same thing happened when the Nazis arrived; volunteer collaborators helped round up and dispose of our Jewish neighbors.”

Jaak Treiman, the honorary consul for Estonia in Los Angeles, said there was “little awareness, let alone discussion,” regarding his country’s role in the Holocaust. “This event is an opportunity to open a broader discussion—not in terms of advocacy but in terms of truth-seeking that attempts to capture the total picture.”

Grant Gochin, the honorary consul for the Republic of Togo who has worked with both Estonia and Latvia on Holocaust issues, said he finds them “to be forthright, honest and receptive. We will never reach a state of perfection; however, I find both of these governments open to factual information, and I take pride in working with both governments on positive progress.” 

As for Lithuania, Lauren Gross, director at the Gross Family Center for the Study of Antisemitism and the Holocaust, told JNS that its “refusal to participate with their Baltic neighbors in a Holocaust commemoration begs the question: Do they not regret the murders of 220,000 Jews on their own soil, primarily by their own citizens? What are they attempting to hide by not participating?”

Gochin described himself as one of “the most hated men in Lithuania” for his efforts to push the state to acknowledge its role in the Holocaust. “Lithuania has tied itself into a Gordian knot. They have lied so much, for so long, on so many different subjects, that they find themselves backed into a corner with no viable exit path,” he said. “They probably cannot participate in this event because they would open themselves to questions. Their only means of communication now is issuing talking points into a vacuum.”

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