The production in Latvia of a musical honoring the memory of a war criminal provoked condemnation from Israel and around the world.

Israel strongly condemned the production in Latvia of a musical that honors the memory of Latvian Nazi war criminal Herberts Cukurs.

Israel both welcomes and shares in the criticism issued by the Latvian authorities and the international community against the presentation of the musical,” a spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated to the media.

“There must be no tolerance for any attempt to turn a heinous criminal into a cultural hero. This is a cynical attempt to deny history and constitutes an insult to all victims of the Nazis and their collaborators. This is a cynical attempt to deny history and constitutes an insult to all victims of the Nazis and their collaborators.”

Titled Cukurs. Herberts Cukurs, the play premiered in the Latvian city of Liepaja, the protagonist’s hometown, on October 11 and in the capital city of Riga on the 16th. The Latvian Anti-Fascist Committee, local anti-Nazi and Jewish human rights groups, as well as organizations and national leaders around the world, condemned the production.

As explained in an article on 124 News by Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office, Cukurs was “the deputy commander of the infamous Arajs Kommando, which played a leading role in the mass annihilation of the Jews in Riga and throughout the country in the year following the Nazi invasion of Latvia, and later was an active participant in the killing of Jews in Belarus (most notably from the Minsk Ghetto).”

Zuroff said on Twitter that he was “utterly disgusted” by the portrayal of Cukurs in a positive light.

Russia Outraged by Glorification of Nazi War Criminal

“Russia is urging all international organizations concerned to express concerted condemnation of a controversial musical show in Latvia glorifying a Nazi war criminal,” Konstantin Dolgov, Russian Foreign Ministry Commissioner, wrote in a commentary, TASS Russian News Agency reports.

“One could not but feel outrage at the news about the showing of the musical titled Cukurs. Herberts Cukurs in the city of Liepaja. It glorifies a member of the Arajs Kommando, which during World War II gained notoriety by its role in the cruel extermination of Jews, including children,” Dolgov wrote. “We regard this latest disgusting event in Latvia glorifying a major war criminal as defilement of the memory of millions of people who fell victim to Cukurs. The free distribution of tickets to this musical show among local school students was just cynical.”

“We are urging international organizations concerned to strongly condemn this show. There should be no place for neo-Nazism in modern Europe,” he added.

Latvian Government Notes ‘Bad Taste’

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics criticized the show for “bad taste.”

“I maintain that the principles of the freedom of speech must be observed and each individual shall have the right to speak one’s mind, but at the same time I believe that whatever good things may be said about Cukurs’s activities in the 1930s his involvement in the Arajs Kommando gives no reasons for his glorification,” Rinkevics said. “I would say that such shows disagree with my ideas of good taste and I by no means share them,” the Foreign Ministry’s press-service quotes Rinkevics as saying. “Membership of the Arajs Kommando is not worthy of glorification. The audience is free to make its judgement, of course, but the government’s stance is it is bad taste.”

Similarly, the production of Death of Klinghoffer at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House provoked outrage for humanizing anti-Semitic terrorist murderers.

Author: Atara Beck
Senior Writer, United with Israel