MP Edvīns Šnore: The deal led by the Jewish community and Development/For is illegal

"It's not about restoring historical justice - as Jewish activists are trying to tell everyone - but about enriching one group and it has nothing to do with today's justice. Because Latvian citizens who are not responsible for the Holocaust are forced to "compensate" the injustices of totalitarian regimes to those who have not suffered from these injustices themselves," said Saeima MP Edvīns Šnore (National Alliance, Nacionālā apvienība).
30.09.2021. Elita Veidemane
 
©Vladislavs PROŠKINS, F64 Photo Agency

In the ReTV program "Aklā zona", you spoke with Dmitrijs Krupņikovs, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia, mentioning what he said about the amount of Jewish compensation, which has already doubled compared to the previous time when this issue was raised. I'm afraid to even ask - does that mean the timer is on?

Krupņikovs said this six years ago on Latvian Radio.

At the time, the question was asked: what is the amount you want to receive? He replied that there were more than 200 properties, the amount was calculated at 45 million euros, but the Jewish community would demand less than half of that amount. Now when there was a discussion in the ReTV studio, I asked him this question: why are you now asking for 40 million euros instead of 20, as was said six years ago? He replied: that was a price then, you did not agree, now there is a different price.

For some reason, it reminds me of the banditry of the nineties...

In any case, the amount has doubled, but no justification is provided. Cadastral values ​​have not doubled. Anyway, I understand them very well: their organization is just looking after itself. But I do not understand the others who agree with this idea and push it forwards.

It is pushed by the political party Development/For (Attīstībai/Par!), submitted by the activist of this group Mārtiņš Bondars... Will NA maintain its refusal regarding the so-called compensations?

NA has always voted against these compensations, we will try to convince the coalition partners of this position as well.

I doubt that you will be able to convince them... New Unity (Jaunā Vienotība) will say whatever Development/For will ask them to, while JKP's (New Conservative Party, Jaunā konservatīvā partija) signature was only "technical". But what are the National Alliance's arguments against a bill that would provide the Jewish community with 40 million euros in compensation for property lost as a result of the Holocaust? It is known, after all, that no one lost any property during the Holocaust: it had already been taken away by the Soviet occupiers.

First of all, this deal, which is proposed by the initiators, namely, the Jewish community and the party association Development/For, is contrary to Latvian law. What they are asking is illegal! The lost property could be applied for until 1994. That's the legal side, but it is also a moral one. Latvian citizens are not collectively to blame for what happened in the Holocaust. Mr Krupņikovs also emphasizes this, saying that this amount of money should not be called restitution or recompense, but compensation. But - despite these reservations - let the citizens of Latvia pay this compensation! And to whom? To people who are neither heirs nor relatives of those who were deprived of these properties by the USSR. The state will pay compensation and health care to them. Maybe they would do better to compensate health care to those who were in the gulag and suffered from totalitarian regimes?

In my opinion, it is immoral to use the victims of the Holocaust for their own needs... In addition, what does Arkādijs Suharenko, co-owner of Rietumu Bank and Chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia, have to do with the Jewish community in Latvia before the Second World War? On what basis is a council founded in 2003 trying to "regulate" something in Latvia, the majority of whose members are people who came to Latvia during the USSR from Russia, Belarus and other "fraternal republics"?

Recently, there was a discussion in the Saeima in which the conditions for receiving the status of a member of a resistance movement were discussed. And then Andrejs Judins (New Unity) emphasized the importance of meeting certain conditions so that only people who deserve it could apply. There were also some material benefits that came with this status. MPs then took great care to ensure that public money was spent fairly and that any member of the resistance movement, God forbid, did not receive a single euro more than they deserved. But how is it in this case? Anyone who belongs to a particular nationality but has not suffered repressions can receive material benefits. On the other hand, those who have suffered must sit in long queues to doctors, they do not deserve anything.

The legislators refer to the Terezin Declaration.

The Terezin Declaration does not apply in this case. This declaration refers to property confiscated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. In our case, it is property that was taken away by the allies, the Soviet Union. This bill is inciting the public, and if it is a matter of some kind of cohesion - by the way, the annotation of this bill really talks about that - who will promote it?

Did I understand correctly: the drafters of the bill believe that it will promote social cohesion? Are they making fun of us?

I fear that cohesion may falter after health care based on ethnicity is promoted, forcing some to pay for others. In addition, this bill also deals with private property, but in the past, it was said that it would not be included in the claims.

Latvia has already returned more than 30 properties. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Jewish Cultural Society was given a building at Skolas Street 6. In Daugavpils, Jewish public organizations recovered three buildings. In Liepāja, a congregation regained a pre-war building on Kungu Street. In 1992, the medical care association Bikur Holim was restored, to which the Riga City Council gave back its pre-war hospital. Its branch of the Merciful Sisters (Žēlsirdīgās māsas) was given back the building of the former women's hospital. The state also undertook to fund Jewish religious education and the Jewish community's efforts to study its history. In addition to the existing Simon Dubnov Secondary School, the state-funded Chabad Lubavitch Primary School was opened in Riga in 1995. In 2001, the museum "Jews in Latvia" was accredited, which began to receive state funding.

Yes, all that has been given back. I assume that the requested compensation is constantly increasing, and now it has already doubled because the costs of lobbying this bill have obviously increased significantly...

This is probably why they are now demanding compensation not only for Jewish public and religious property, but also for private property. If the Latvian state agrees to this, catastrophic legal consequences may occur. Here's what will happen: Suharenko's association will get the private property of the deceased. Since there are several hundred properties, there is a very real possibility that one of them may still have an heir, for example, in Israel or the United States, who, after reading in the newspaper that his ancestors' private property was given to Suharenko's association, will also apply for compensation. The heir will insist on his own, direct heir's priority and legitimate expectations. What will the Latvian state tell him? The fact that he missed the application deadline? But Suharenko's association also missed it! However, for some reason it receives not even its own, but the third party's private property!

In such a situation, we may also have to pay the direct heir. And what happens if one individual who misses the application deadline is paid this compensation? It will be a precedent and we will have to pay everyone... Is Latvia ready to do that?

By the way, the bill attempts to separate the Jewish community from the Latvian state. It says that when the real estate became the property of the Latvian state, the Latvian state benefited, but not the Jewish community. As far as we know, the Latvian state has seriously supported the Jewish community.

Yes, I just mentioned that.

That is why it is strange to read such wordings in the bill. By the way, when the Holocaust broke out in Europe in 1938 and the Jewish people fled Nazi Germany, they were rejected by European countries and America. One of the few countries that accepted them was Latvia. That is why in Israel today there is an initiative to name one of the streets in the name of the then President of Latvia Ulmanis. This perfectly illustrates the attitude of the free state of Latvia, its government and citizens towards the Holocaust when it started.

The Saeima rejected this bill last time, and now it is being pushed for the second time in this term. This is unprecedented.

The political arrangement has not changed, but the applicants hope that this time it will be a success. In the 2019 debate, I pointed out that there was a publication in the Israeli press stating that one of the leaders of this initiative, Gita Umanovska, had cooperated with the KGB.

Yes, there was such a publication. Israel Hayom, the largest newspaper in Israel with an audience of about two million readers, found the name of Gita Umanovska, Executive Director of the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia, in KGB archives.

In the debate, I emphasized that it was immoral: a person who had cooperated with the repressive USSR occupation regime was applying for property that this occupation regime had taken away from other people. I hoped that there would be some reflection on this fact that I mentioned and that there would be a response from someone from the Jewish community. I reminded Mr Krupņikovs of this in the aforementioned ReTV show. However, he replied that all sorts of people, not just Jewish, worked with the KGB! Of course, but they do not claim foreign property, especially property confiscated by the KGB-based USSR. If the Saeima supports this bill, it will be spitting in the face of those people who have suffered from the Soviet regime.

The so-called Western partners will also encourage this spitting. At one time, an American commissioner had come to us to shame the wicked "anti-Semites" who do not want to compensate for the suffering of those who have not suffered.

Yes, the United States has a special envoy for the questions of the Holocaust. But that is why we need to explain our position. And our Ministry of Foreign Affairs must do this most actively. However, it does not do so, on the contrary - its representatives come to the house of the Saeima committee and say the opposite. However, we must stand by our position, namely that the law is the same for everyone. However, everything shows that it is not about restoring historical justice - as Jewish activists are trying to tell everyone - but about enriching one group and it has nothing to do with today's justice. Because Latvian citizens who are not responsible for the Holocaust are forced to "compensate" the injustices of totalitarian regimes to those who have not suffered from these injustices themselves.

In addition, it is not the members of the Saeima who will pay this compensation. The salary of MPs will remain the same and even increase - in accordance with the law. Some, I think, will also receive an extra reward for their efforts in pushing the bill... Ordinary taxpayers - police officers, teachers, everyone else - will pay for everything. We are fighting for every euro when it comes to, for example, teachers' salaries. But in this case, 40 million euros will be grabbed in one grand sweep and simply given away! For the size, population and economic circumstances of our country, this amount is huge.

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