On September 30, the Saeima, Parliament of the Republic of Latvia, in its first readings has considered and conceptually supported the draft law “Law of Goodwill Reimbursement to the Jewish Community of Latvia”.
The Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia applauds this important step in resolving the issue of the restitution and reimbursement of pre-war Jewish community property.
Immediately after the restoration of independence, a process of denationalisation and property restitution was initiated in Latvia, extending to the real estate of private individuals and religious organisations. Unfortunately, the Jewish community due to various reasons was unable to recover most of the property that had been nationalised by the Soviet occupation authorities in 1940 and remained in state ownership as of 1991.
The Latvian Jewish community suffered great losses in the World War II: during the Nazi occupation over 90% of the community was murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Furthermore, many Jewish families were annihilated in all generations, and by the 1990s there were no direct heirs left to claim property that had once belonged to their families. The issue of restitution of property to cultural, social, educational and other Jewish organisations of pre-war Latvia has also not been resolved to date.
The Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia has for several years repeatedly appealed to Latvian legislators and government to restore justice, both historical and human, by suggesting that the state reimburses to the Jewish community a part of the value of the property nationalized in the 1940s and not returned so far.
After lengthy public discussions, that have broadened and strengthened Latvia’s society understanding of this complicated issue, and consultations with international partners, on September 30, 2021, the Latvian Saeima conceptually supported the proposed reimbursement draft law, which opens a real path to resolving the issue of pre-war Jewish property in Latvia.
“This is a historic event for the Jewish community of Latvia, all European Jews, and our friends. We are grateful to the deputies who supported the draft law, and we hope it will pass the remaining parliamentary readings and will be approved by the end of this year. The funds granted will be used for the development and strengthening of our community, for the upbringing and education of the new generation, for charity, preservation of historical heritage, and for the development of Latvian society as a whole,” said Arkady Suharenko, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia.