A book named “Flight to Japan” by Nazi criminal Herberts Cukurs have appeared on bookshelves in Riga. It was published in 2020 by the Latvian Aviation Museum. Historian Aleksandrs Feigmanis who saw the copy in a bookstore and had a chance to look through the pages, said there is no mentioning of Cukurs’ involvement in the Holocaust. Latvian online bookstores describe it as the recollections of an “aviator, traveler, and man of courage.”
In pre-war Latvia, Herberts Cukurs had a reputation of a successful pilot who carried out challenging distant flights to Gambia, Japan and Palestine. During WWII, Cukurs joined the collaborationist Arajs Kommando, an SD unit responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews, Belorussians and Latvians on the occupied Latvian and Belorussian territories. Like many other Nazi criminals, Cukurs managed to hide himself from justice after the war. He was later killed by Israeli secret agents in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1965.
The fact that Cukurs actively participated in the mass murder is confirmed by multiple documents as well as eyewitness evidence collected by the Jews in Latvia Museum. Eyewitness evidence of Cukurs’ crimes have been published so far, given by Holocaust survivors Aaron Barinbaum, Eliezer Karstadt, Isaac Kram, Ella Medalje and Aron Preil, as well as former members of Arajs’ punitive squad Genadijs Murnieks, Arnis Upmalis, and Roberts Purinš.
Despite the comprehensive evidence, attempts to whitewash the Hitlerite proxy still happen in Latvia. In the autumn of 2014, the biggest Latvian towns saw the first performance of a new musical, dedicated to Herberts Cukurs. In 2019, the Latvian general prosecutor’s office decided to close the Cukurs case regarding the involvement of the Latvian pilot in the mass murder of Jewish civilians. The decision, they explained, was made “due to the lack of corpus delicti in the actions of Mr. Cukurs.”
It is worth noting that no collaborator from the Latvian SD Auxiliary Security Police, Latvian police battalions or other units of the Latvian SS Legion was convicted in the country over the period from 1991 till 2020. Nowadays, former Latvian SS Legion servicemen receive state pensions and allowances as victims of Soviet political terror, as well as subsidies from the country’s ministry of defense. On May 8, 2020, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks laid flowers to the burial site of Latvian SS Legion members at the Cemetery of the Brethren in Lestene.
At present, there are around 400 former Latvian SS legionnaires still living in Latvia and other countries. At least part of them was possibly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity during World War II.