President: Rumbula massacre a warning from history

Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis gave a powerful and moving speech November 29 at the site where tens of thousands of Latvian citizens, and others from across Europe, were massacred 75 years ago.

In the Rumbula forest, where an estimated 25,000 Jews were murdered by occupying Nazi forces with the assistance of local collaborators, Vejonis gave perhaps the most powerful speech of his presidency thus far.

Alongside other state officials and members of the public, Vejonis paid tributes to the victims, the memorial shrouded in a fresh covering of snow.

"It's 75 years since shots rang out in this quiet place of pine trees, and the sounds of human screams and groans was heard - 75 years since an unprecedented crime was perpetrated against Latvian citizens and people from elsewhere." 

"Today we remember the 25,000 Jews, who were brutally murdered in the Rumbula Forest on 30 November and 8 December 1941 in a Nazi-organized operation. Unfortunately, local auxiliary units were also involved in carrying it out."

"For a long time these tragic events in Latvian history have been glossed over and hidden from the general public. During the Soviet occupation, it was only after great efforts that Jewish community activists succeeded in installing a meorial stone with the inscription 'in memory of the victims of fascism.' 

"With the restoration of Latvia's independence, a memorial was erected to Holocaust victims. Today the history of the Holocaust is taught in Latvia's schools."

"However, no studies, descriptions or statistics can fully convey the horror of this inhuman event. Winter days in Latvia are short - only 7 hours... so it seems incomprehensible that in two short winter days, this this small piece could see the methodical execution of as many of our fellow citizens as live in  medium-sized Latvian city.

All Latvians should pause to consider the fate of their fellow-citizens killed at Rumbula, Vejonis said, before adding that such reflections should serve to guide our future conduct.

"Today, when the values of liberal democracy are being questioned in many parts of the world, it is time to think about the Latvian society and the country in which we live. Everyone in our society needs to feel safe and secure. It is guaranteed by our Constitution... I urge you to remember these awful events from the past. May they never happen again in the human history."

 

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