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Latvian minister resigns in protest of Holocaust restitution plan

BRUSSELS (JTA) — Latvian Justice Minister Gaidis Berzins has resigned in protest of plans to offer restitution for Jewish property seized after the Holocaust.

Berzins, chair of the rightist All For Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom Party, announced his resignation on Wednesday, the country’s news agency Leta reported.

In 2006, the Latvian parliament blocked a bill proposing $55 million in restitution for property that once belonged to institutions of Latvia’s Jewish community. 

Berzins’ party believes that offering restitution would place the interests of one minority group over others.

Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis’ of the center-right Unity Party has “ignored” the justice minister’s opposition to restitution, Leta quoted the minister’s press secretary as saying. Earlier this week, President Andris Berzins in a television interview for the LTV network said he supported restitution. His post is largely ceremonial.

Ilja Lenskis, director of the Jews in Latvia Museum, said restitution was a “painful and harsh issue” in the public discourse in Latvia. The Jewish community broached the subject again in 2011 and this year, he said.

Latvia had a Jewish population of some 95,000 before the Holocaust. Nazi troops and local volunteers decimated the community.
 

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