Latvia’s Parliament Approves $46 Million in Holocaust and Soviet Reparations

In 1940, the Soviets occupied Latvia and nationalized private property. Nazi Germany invaded shortly thereafter, killing, with local assistance, 90 percent of Latvia’s 93,000 Jews—many in a two-day mass shooting in the Rumbula forest. When the country became independent in 1991, following the fall of the Soviet Union, property was denationalized and Latvians reclaimed it. But, as Emma Bubola writes, “most Jewish owners had been killed in the Holocaust, and many of their homes, baths, slaughterhouses, orphanages, and synagogues became state property.” Now, following years of negotiations, the Jewish community of Latvia will receive compensation.

The 19th-century synagogue in the southern Latvian town of Akniste has become a firefighting depot. An older synagogue, with wooden vaulted ceilings, is now a community center. One has been turned into a church. After the Latvian Jews who owned, managed. and frequented the buildings were killed during the Holocaust, the state took them over.

On Thursday, the Latvian Parliament gave its final approval to a law that awards 40 million euros, about $46 million, to the Latvian Jewish community “to eliminate the historical unjust consequences” resulting from the Holocaust and activities under Soviet rule.

“This law cannot bring back a destroyed community or a destroyed synagogue,” said Gideon Taylor, a chairman of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, one of the main promoters of the bill. “But what it can do is recognize what happened, and this is why it is important.”

Bubola also acknowledges the controversy surrounding the bill:

Opponents of the legislation had argued that if Jews received compensation, it should also be given to all of the other communities affected. But to the supporters of the legislation, which included the American and the Israeli governments, the bill was not a statement about their suffering but a reimbursement for property that belonged to them.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Holocaust, Holocaust restitution, Latvia, Soviet Jewry, World War II

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship