The most sensitive question in the history of Latvia is the Holocaust. A lot of discussions is going on and the style of them is mainly very far from the scientific type. I would be very happy to avoid the theme on this Site, but it can not be ignored, because without any doubt the Holocaust events are extremely important for genealogy and family histories.
Some of the investigators and the politicians attribute the Holocaust in the region of Latvia to the cruel and inhumane nature of the Latvians, not some of them but all of them. Quite happily for the advocates of the Latvians one year before the beginning of the Holocaust the Soviets committed serious injustice against Latvians, against some of them, not all of them, and in some cases, not all of them, Jews, some of them, not all of them, were active. These facts are used to explain the participation of Latvians in the Holocaust events.
So now exists two prevailing theories - Beasts theory and Idiots theory that I named in another Page which you are offered to visit if you have not come of it.
As for me, I am not going to start the discussion with adepts of these theories. My understanding is that the theories are too general and do not reach individuals in the street or in the farmhouses. This understanding is based evidently on the information I got in my childhood about the events. Not so much of it, only some episodes, but I hope they reveal the real attitude of some social groups in Latvia's eastern part - Latgale to the Holocaust.
I do not remember my grandmother Marija Martuzāns b. Razumovskis very much. Just some sparks in the memory. Here is one of them. My grandmother knew I would have to go to school and would be taught there that the God did not exist. She wanted to prevent my becoming an atheist and told me a story about a neighbor who shot Jews and thereafter his legs had rotted off. You see, sonny - said she - the God does exist. My grandmother was not educated very much, her schooling lasted some weeks, yes, yes, some weeks, do not speak about a year, you highly educated folk. As the result, she could read her book of prayers, but she never read anything about the Jews in NKVD, in the world bank system, in the top of the communist party and so on. For this or for other reasons she could not accept the killing of any person for crimes committed by another person and could not imagine that the God accepted it. By the way, as an atheist I have become, I clearly see that He did accept the Holocaust quite easy, to be honest.
It could happen in the summer or maybe in the autumn 1941. The Jews of the places near Viļaka were gathered in the town. It was done without any secrecy and the passersby could observe how the Jews were brought by trucks and loaded out. Perhaps the Jews were told they were gathered for moving them to Palestine, but I understand that neither the Jews nor the observers did believe it was truth, they simply did not allow themselves to think much about the coming reality.
It happened that my father was in this crowd when Jews from Kuprava, where he used to live, were got to Viļaka. In the load of the truck also his good acquaintance Frīdis was together with his family. The Jew was active in forest business, and my father worked for him and learned the fundamentals of this business. Frīdis was the nickname of the Jew. In the prewar telephone directory for Kuprava I found the name - Fried, a shopkeeper, that could be the real name of this family. Frīdis spotted my father in the publics and waved farewells to him. My mother, who heard the story at the same day, had a bit different interpretation. She knew that Frīdis was aware that my father was in hide during the Soviet period in 1941, and therefore Frīdis could assume that now my father might have got a good position in the Nazi system, my mother thought. So, when he took notice of my father, a hope arose in his mind that he could be saved by his friend Martuzans. But this lasted just a moment, he understood quite soon that nobody would help him. So his waving expressed more than only farewells. As for me, I do not believe very much in the theory of my mother, but who knows the exact thoughts of Frīdis.
My father remembered this scene quite well all his life. He was better educated than his mother and had interest in political processes and for sure had some information about the role of Jews in the Soviet regime, but I swear he never accepted neither the murder of Frīdis, nor the Holocaust in general, and, by the way, neither did the people, who happened to be around him in the crowd then in Viļaka.
Not many Jews married Latvians in prewar Latvia. But it happened. It happened also in Viļaka vicinity. A Jew (I do not know his name) felt in love with a Latvian girl and married her. Because it happened in Latgale, where Catholic traditions were rather strong, the Jewish guy converted to Christianity and the young couple was wedded in a church. I do not know anything about their further life except a girl was born in this marriage. My mother, who told me the story, stressed that this family were good Catholics - they regularly went to church, confessed, prayed and obeyed all the rules of Catholicism.
In the fall 1941 the Sonderkommando came to this family and the father and his daughter - at that time she was about 7 years old - were taken away for the execution. There was nothing the mother could do, she just fainted at the spot. The case became widely known. There lived different people and I admit that somebody could accept the extermination of Jews, but nobody could imagine that a fellow Catholic may be killed just for nothing, well, for the crimes of the Bolsheviks not being a Bolshevik.
By the way, the murder of the kid was against the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany that defined who should be recognized as a Jew, but maybe these Laws were not observed in Ostland.
© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002