Latvia

1 Recognition of the Genocide

1.1 Recognition, official texts

As per OSCE report, “Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism”, page 94, in Latvia, the Holocaust is defined as the extermination of six million Jews during the years of Nazi power (1933-1945) in Europe, due to the implementation of the Nazi race theory. There is no information whether Roma Genocide is officially recognised.

Following the United Nations resolution designating 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2005, the Latvian authorities, in co-operation with civil society representatives, organise special remembrance events on that day.

1.2 Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)

The Roma and Sinti genocide is officially commemorated on 27th January and on 8th May.

On 27th January 2013, the Minister of Foreign Affairs delivered an address to open the commemorative event dedicated to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Victims of the Holocaust are remembered in commemorations taking place on 8th May – the day that marks the anniversary of the end of World War II. Since 1995, this date has been observed as the “Day of the Defeat of Nazism and Commemoration Day of Victims of World War II”. The commemoration reflects the enormous destruction and suffering that World War II brought to Latvia. Approximately one-third of the country’s population was murdered in the Holocaust, allowed to die by deprivation in prison camps, deported to the Soviet Union and Germany or scattered in prisoner of war and refugee camps. The day is observed with a wreath laying ceremony at the Brothers Cemetery in Riga, with the participation of the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and other representatives.

Latvia observes 4th July as the “Commemoration Day of Genocide against the Jews” since 1990. The event addresses the twentieth century as one of unprecedented terror and violence. The genocide against the Jewish people is remembered as the culmination point of evil, emphasising that the mass killings during the Holocaust caused irreversible changes in Latvia and left deep scars on the collective memory. The official commemoration event takes place in Riga, at the memorial site of the synagogue that was burned to the ground during World War II. The President gives the opening speech during the event, followed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs or another high ranking government representative. The event is attended by ambassadors and government officials.

It is estimated that about 5 000 Jews perished from Liepāja and its vicinity. Among the victims were also many Roma, however, their exact number is not known. A memorial wall, containing the names of several thousand victims from the city, was inaugurated on 9th June 2004 on the Jewish cemetery in Liepāja.

Around 300 Jewish men, women and children and 30 Roma died in the mass shootings in the forest close to Viļāni. In the 1950s, the Soviet administration of Viļāni set up a memorial at the site of the shootings. A separate plaque dedicated to the murdered Roma was added to the memorial. Each year on 4th August, the day of the mass shooting, a commemorative ceremony takes place here.

1.3 Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue

According to the available information, there is no specialised institution, commission or research centre specifically dealing with the issue of the Genocide of the Roma.

Raiņa bulvāris 7
Rīga LV-1050
Latvija
Telephone: (+371) 67 212715
Fax: (+371) 67 229255
E-mail: omf@latnet.lv

1.4 Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)

The year 2011 marked the 70th anniversary of the tragic events of the year 1941. The Museum of Occupation of Latvia, in co-operation with the Museum “Jews in Latvia”, organised two commemorative exhibitions within the framework of the larger project “The Tragedy of Latvia, 1941”.

The first exhibition, devoted to deportations on 14 June 1941, was unveiled by the President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers; other senior officials also participated in the ceremony.

The second exhibition opened on 30 November to commemorate Holocaust crimes of 30 November and 8 December 1941 in Rumbula. The main goal of the project was to reinforce remembrance of the Holocaust in Latvian society, to reduce prejudices and to educate the younger generation.

The project received financial support from the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the European Commission Representation in Latvia

Exhibitions on the Holocaust are presented in the Museum “Jews in Latvia”, the “Museum of the Occupation of Latvia: 1940-1991”, the Museum of Latvian History and the War Museum. Moreover, there are many local and municipal museums outside of the capital as well as travelling exhibitions that are open to viewing throughout the country.

2 Teaching about the Genocide of the Roma

2.1 Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum

As per OSCE report “Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism”, page 94, Latvia's compulsory curricula make the Holocaust a part of the basic education standard in history. Order No. 98/56, of 12 August 1998, forms the legal basis for this.

The Holocaust is taught primarily within the framework of history, but is also integrated through its ethical aspects in social sciences courses. In Grade 9 (age 14), pupils receive approximately 4-5 lessons allocated to the basic facts of the Holocaust. In Grade 12 (age 17-18), pupils receive approximately three lessons that approach the Holocaust topic in a more scientific and theoretical way. Questions on the topic are included in the final primary school examinations and in the history examination at the end of secondary school.

2.2 Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks

Teaching materials, including textbooks, cover Jewish history and the Holocaust in Latvia as well as the topic of the Holocaust in the context of general European history. Finally, references to the Holocaust are sometimes made in the study of literature.

2.3 Training of teachers and education professionals

Regular in-service training courses on the Holocaust are organised for history teachers across Latvia. History teachers also receive initial training in this area at the University of Latvia. Teacher training courses have also taken place in Israel and at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. A series of workshops on this topic have also taken place in Latvia.

Latvian Association of History Teachers (LAHT) organises regular seminars on Holocaust education in collaboration with the Swedish Institute and the Embassy of the United States. It also coordinates a teacher training programme, for which Latvian teachers visit the United States. For a number of years, the Latvian Ministry of Education has been sending teachers to Yad Vashem centre in Jerusalem. In 2014, 25 teachers participated in courses offered by Yad Vashem. (See OSCE report “Holocaust Memorial Days: An overview of remembrance and education in the OSCE region”, page 65)

2.4 Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions

Latvian Association of History Teachers (LAHT) participates in constructive cooperation with Latvia's History Commission through the organisation of joint seminars on the teaching the history of World War II in schools. The Commission contributed to the organisation of the seminar in October 2002. Run by specialists from Latvia and Sweden, the goal of the seminar was to share the experience of teaching about the Holocaust between several schools in Latvia and Sweden, develop practical approaches to teaching the subject matter, inform of recent developments in Holocaust research in Latvia, and show participants the memorials erected in memory of the Holocaust in Liepaja.

Practical initiatives include workshops and visits to memorial sites and travelling exhibitions.

2.5 Remembrance day

In Latvia, the Roma and Sinti genocide is officially commemorated on 27 January and on 8 May. For a complete overview of Latvia’s initiatives related to Roma and Sinti genocide remembrance and education, please see “Teaching about and Commemorating the Roma and Sinti Genocide: Practices within the OSCE Area”.

3 Official contacts and resource persons

3.1 Responsible person in the Ministry of Education

According to the available information, there is no designated responsible person in the Ministry of Education.

3.2 Resource persons - list of experts and historians

RUDĒVIČS Normunds, deputy president of the International Roma Union, Latvia

4 Initiatives of the civil society

4.1 Relevant projects having a real impact on the people and/or the wide public

The exhibition "Holocaust Commemoration in Latvia in the Course of Times 1945-2015" was opened on the eve of the official Holocaust Remembrance Day in Latvia, 3 July 2015. The exhibition will be open until 15 October 2015 at the museum “Jews in Latvia” and after that it will travel to different places in Latvia and abroad.

The international symposium "Holocaust Commemoration in Latvian and International Context”, that took place the same day, featured research on Holocaust commemoration, commemoration of Soviet terror, the genocide of the Roma and other genocides. The presentations were given by local researchers – the representatives of the museum “Jews in Latvia” and the University of Latvia, and by the international guests from the “Yad Vashem” institute (Israel), “Mémorial de la Shoah” (France), and the NGO centre “Dokumenta” (Croatia).

The exhibition and the symposium were supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Claims Conference, the Latvian State Culture Foundation, the Embassy of Germany and the Embassy of Hungary.

Union of Latvia's Roma “Nevo Drom” is a member of European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) from 31 European countries and it participated in the 2013 Roma Pride event organised on 6 October 2013 in Riga. The participation for Latvia was signed by Anatolijs Berezovskis, Member of the Board of Nevo Drom, and Sigita Zankovska-Odina, Researcher for the Latvian Centre for Human Rights.

5 Point of view of the Roma community - including survivors' testimonies

A report on “Racist violence in Latvia” produced by the Latvian Centre for Human

Rights for the European Network against Racism (ENAR) in 2011 states that  Union of Latvia's Roma “Nevo Drom” and CJCL (Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia) screen the articles in newspapers to identify racially motivated crimes and even communicate with the police and other governmental and municipal bodies regarding specific cases of racist violence and monitor anti-Semitic incidents, which included hate speech on the internet and in the media, desecration of cemeteries and holocaust memorial sites.