H o l o c a u s t   S u r v i v o r s '   N e t w o r k



Nikolai Zarenov of Latvia,
a Righteous Among Nations



Dated: April 8, 2004  

Latvian named Righteous Gentile by Israel


By Aaron Eglitis

RIGA - Latvian national Nikolai Zarenov was posthumously awarded the title of "righteous among the nations" by the Israel-based Holocaust remembrance organization Yad Vashem on April 4, 2004 for risking his life and saving Jews in Latvia during World War II.

Zarenov, who is credited with aiding a Jewish family that he had known since childhood, died in 1970. His daughter Vera Muraveynika was on hand at the ceremony to accept the award in his name.

According to accounts, Zarenov's neighbor Ilya had been deported to the Stuthof concentration camp in northern Poland. At this time Zarenov and his friends, working through a request, rescued Ilya's wife Marija, daughter Gita, 11, and nine-year-old son Ismael from Riga's Jewish ghetto.

Marija stayed in the Latvian countryside, while Ismael was left in the care of a Russian Orthodox church in the southeastern city of Daugavpils.

Gita stayed in secret with the Zarenov family until the end of the war.

After the war, Ilya returned home, miraculously surviving the concentration camp, and Marija was also reunited with her family. Ismael, however, was never heard from again.

Zarenov remained humble to the end.

"He never spoke about it and never bragged, because he considered one person helping another person to be normal," Muraveynika said of her father in the newspaper Diena.

To be awarded the title of "righteous among the nations" a survivor's testimony must be given. If the survivor has already passed away before giving the testimony, the title cannot be bestowed.

Since 1963 this particular honor has been given to "the righteous among the nations who risked their lives to save Jews," according to Yad Vashem's Web site.

In addition to a medal, the rescuer's name will be added to the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Over 19,000 people have been honored by Yad Vashem, including over 100 from Latvia.

The race to honor those living for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust is hampered by the age of the surviving rescuers.

"Time is not on our side," Israeli Ambassador to Latvia Gary Koren told The Baltic Times, adding that there were still many cases like Zarenov's that required recognition.

"These ceremonies started only after [Baltic] independence. They were not possible under the Soviets," the ambassador stressed.

The honoring of Zarenov coincided with a visit of 200 Israeli soldiers who came to Latvia to participate in a project on Holocaust education.

In previous years the Israeli defense force has sent soldiers mainly to Poland to learn about the Holocaust, but recently the countries have included Latvia and Lithuania.

The Holocaust in Latvia took the lives of 95 percent of the local Jewish community or almost 80,000 people during the Nazi occupation of the country, which began in 1941 and lasted until 1944.




Source: The Baltic Times - www.baltictimes.com/art.php?art_id=9786