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20May

Come to This Court and Cry by Linda Kinstler review – when Holocaust memories fade

What happens if Nazi butchers are ‘reassessed’ in the name of national pride?

In March 1965, the festering corpse of 64-year-old Herberts Cukurs was discovered stuffed into a trunk in a seaside bungalow in Montevideo, Uruguay. During the 1930s, Cukurs’ exploits as a dashing aviator had made him one of the most celebrated men in Latvia. Under the Nazi occupation, he found a new calling as a prominent member of the Arajs Kommando, the SS-affiliated killing unit responsible for the burning of the Riga ghetto and the massacre of around 25,000 Jews in Rumbula forest, among other barbarities.

Cukurs was contentedly operating a pedal-boat business in Brazil when allegations of his crimes became public knowledge and the Latvian Lindbergh mutated into the Latvian Eichmann. In fact, Yaakov Meidad, one of the Mossad agents who had helped kidnap Eichmann in Argentina five years earlier, led the mission to kill Cukurs. He left on the body a folder containing a passage from Sir Hartley Shawcross’s closing prosecution statement at the Nuremberg trials, which imagines that humanity itself “comes to this court and cries: ‘These are our laws – let them prevail!’”

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