The Many Lives, and the Just Death, of the “Butcher of Riga”

Known as “the Latvian Lindbergh,” Herberts Cukurs was, in the 1930s, a hero in the young country of Latvia for his daring aeronautical exploits, at least one of which suggested that he did not share the original Lindbergh’s attitude towards Jews. Robert Philpot writes:

[I]n December 1939, [Cukurs] returned from . . . a 2,900-mile flight to Palestine, to enthrall Riga’s Jewish Club with a talk, complete with photographs, describing the sights, sounds, and smells of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Petaḥ Tikva, and Rishon Letzion. . . . This was not the only indication that, his fierce nationalism and occasional anti-Semitic remarks aside, Cukurs was, as one Latvian Jew later put it, “not really considered a Jew-hater.” He was, for instance, often seen with Jewish intellectuals in Riga’s cafes.

Yet his activities following the Nazi conquest of Latvia in 1941 belied this picture:

Cukurs . . . became second-in-command of the notorious Arājs Kommando, a 300-strong Latvian paramilitary group which enthusiastically participated in the murder of the country’s Jews. . . . Max Tukacier, a young Jew who had known Cukurs for over a decade, . . . saw the aviator “beat to death ten to fifteen people.” And Cukurs was recorded giving orders to his commandos at the scenes of the Judenaktionen. . . on November 30 and December 8, 1941, when roughly 25,000 Jews were murdered in or near the Rumbula forest.

After participating in the bloodletting of Riga’s killing fields, Cukurs and his men traveled around Latvia’s villages, towns, and small cities, helping round up and murder Jews. Within five months, 60,000 Latvian Jews had perished.

But the most extraordinary—perhaps unique—aspect of Cukurs’s story was what happened next. Like many other war criminals, the Latvian . . . escaped to South America after the war. But, unlike his fellow killers, Cukurs arrived in Brazil under his own name—and then almost immediately began seeking out members of the country’s Jewish community. Cukurs portrayed himself as both a political exile who had been targeted by the Communists and a man who had rescued Jews during the Shoah.

Several survivors in Israel knew the truth however, leading the Mossad—in an episode Philpot describes as worthy of the best of spy thrillers—to track down and kill Cukurs in 1965.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Brazil, Holocaust, Latvia, Mossad


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University