Address by Ambassador of Latvia Kārlis Eihenbaums prior to the screening of the Latvian movie "THE MOVER" ("TĒVS NAKTS")
Ottawa Art Gallery
European Union Film Festival-Ottawa
24 November 2019
The Latvian historical drama “The Mover” (dir. Dāvis Sīmanis Jr.) tells the story of an ordinary Latvian: Jānis or Žanis Lipke and his family. He was a Latvian rescuer of Jews in Riga during World War II. Lipke witnessed the horrors of the war in full. This film irresistibly portrays the heart-breaking challenges of those who made history and saved dozens of their compatriots from a horrific fate. He smuggled Jewish workers out of the Riga ghetto and concealed them with the aid of his wife Johanna, his family, and other Latvian helpers.
Shortly after the war, Žanis was summoned to the Soviet repressive authorities several times and interrogated about the whereabouts of his son Alfrēds who, as many thousands of Latvians, was illegally conscripted to German occupational forces.
The chekists were also looking for the supposedly hidden gold and diamonds; they did not believe that Lipke had saved the Jews without any selfish motive. At some point, Lipke is said to have lost his patience and told the interrogating officer that the Communists were thugs no better than the Nazis.
Žanis himself thought that what he had done was simply the duty of any human being. If anyone asked him how many people he saved, he simply answered: "I never counted them. I saved whomever I could save, I did not count.”
When he died in 1987 in a still Soviet-occupied Latvia, compatriots arranged his funeral. It was what we would now call a mass demonstration.
Him and his wife Johanna are honoured by Yad Vashem in 1966 as the Righteous among the Nations.
In Latvia after the restoration of independence in the early nineties of the 20th century, a memorial to Žanis Lipke was built—opened by the President of the Republic of Latvia Andris Bērziņš and the President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres.
This and other museums are preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and constantly identifying and finding people who, notwithstanding real dangers to their own lives and those of their families, had demonstrated courage and heroism by saving their fellow human beings who were Jewish.
The commemoration and honouring of those individuals and their heroism is also a very important part for the overall integration processes in Latvia following the devastating occupations of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
According to the latest research data by Marģers Vestermanis—a historian, Holocaust survivor, and the founder and curator of the Museum “Jews in Latvia”—the actual number of rescuers is more than 600. The number of rescuers continues to grow as further research is conducted on this subject.
In conclusion, short fragment from poem by Ojārs Vācietis “Rumbula”.
So all forests aren't like this,
I stand and shriek in Rumbula-
A green crater in a midst of grainfields,
Every man who has entered me
Become my tongue,
You come in me