The Following Survey Was Written By A Special Jewish Telegraphic Agency Correspondent Who Recently Visited Latvia.
The position of Latvian Jewry is an unhappy chapter in the world situation. Although the outlook for Jews in Latvia is as bad as in Hitlerite Germany, Europe and America have in the past been ignorant of the state affairs in the little nation which until recently was under the yoke of Russian Czar and German barons, and which today is strangling its few thousand Jews in the toils of a cold pogrom.
Jews have lived in Latvia for many centuries. Since most Latvians are peasants and since the latter class were slaves of the German barons, the country had no Jewish problem. Both the Germans and Russians left the Jews unmolested, because they always constituted a small percentage of the population and were not permitted to live in Kurland or Livland.
JEWS AIDED REVOLT
During the revolution of 1904 and 1905 the Jews assisted the Latvians, many of whom hold powerful positions today, in their struggle to throw off the yoke of Czarist Russia. In 1918 Latvia became an independent republic. One of the foremost fighters for independence was the statesman Meierowitz, son of a Jewish doctor.
When the country was involved in war, Jews fought and died in the Latvian ranks. Jewish money enabled the American Relief Association, which began its work in Latvia, to accomplish its work.
BROUGHT MONEY TO COUNTRY
Afterwards Jews organized the timber export industry, which placed the country in a position to obtain foreign currency and to stabilize the Lat, a move in which the Jewish Financier Friedman was the outstanding figure. The Jews, due to their foreign connections, were the first to bring money into the country, which had been impoverished by wars and internal troubles. Much of the Latvian Bank’s foreign currency is money which American, African and other Jews are sending their relatives who reside there.
The present Latvian government came into power by imprisoning the speaker and all opposition members of the Parliament.
Among the prisoners is a Jew who, despite the fact that he was a member of the Citizens Party, which now holds the reins of government, was thrown into jail for the sin of being Jewish. As the only Jewish council of a municipality he had played an important role in his town’s development.
The present government has dissolved all Jewish educational societies. It has discharged all Jewish officials in municipalities and has ousted all Jewish doctors from the panel institutions. In the Latgal district, where Jews constitute from fifty to sixty percent of the population, no Jewish physicians are available, since they have all been ejected from institutions supported by Jewish money.
The government, which is supposed to assist trade, closed a brick factory which had been operating for fifty years because the owner was a Jew.
Since Jews are not permitted to be town officials, professionals or workmen, they find themselves forced to become dealers. But the government is rapidly taking measures to shut off this last remaining source of income.
“QUOTA” SYSTEM IN FORCE
For instance, it decided to monopolize the grain trade, with the result that about 1,000 families were thrown out of business. Jews were importers of herring, salt and other similar commodities. The government ruled that importers must purchase special licenses, for which an excessive fee was charged.
Even those able to pay this price found themselves shut out of their businesses by a so-called “quota” system which was so enforced as to discriminate against Jewish importers but to leave non-Jews free to do business.
Censorship of the press is stringently maintained, Letters sent from foreign countries are closely scrutinized, Fines are administered at the least possible excuse. Concentration camps, modeled after those in Germany, are being established.
APE REICH NAZIS
According to recent reports, the German Ambassador in Riga has been responsible for much of Latvia’s wave of anti-Semitism. He it is, well-informed persons say, who is making suggestions to the government which are resulting in ever-increasing measures against the Jews.
Evidence that there is some truth in this theory is seen in the fact that Latvia’s racial drive is a miniature replica of the systematized Nazi anti-Jewish campaign in Germany.