"The Eagle of the Baltic Sea"
Herberts Cukurs in pre-World War II Latvian uniform
Born May 17, 1900(1900-05-17)
Liepāja, Courland Governorate, Latvia.
Died February 23, 1965 (aged 64)
Occupation -Military aviator, builder of airplanes, aeronautical engineer, journalist, writer.
Herberts Cukurs as a pioneering long-distance pilot, he won national acclaim for his international solo flights in the 1930s (Latvia-Gambia and Riga-Tokyo).
In Latvia Mr. Cukurs built at least 3 planes of his own design. In 1937 he made a 45,000 km tour visiting Japan, China, Indochina, India and Russia, flying a C.6 wooden monoplane (YL-ABA) of his own creation. The plane was powered by an 135 HP Gipsy engine. He was awarded the Harmon Trophy No. 6 for this tour. Trophy No. 2 was Santos Dumont, and Lindberg No. 3 or 4. This trophy, founded by Clifford Harmon, was issued by Ligue International d´Aviation (France).
What differentiates H. Cukurs other aviation pioneers, was the fact that he made cheap long distance aircraft designed and built by himself, and other airmen, aircraft and used the most modern equipment available at the time that someone had developed by this factor the deeds of Cukurs in the history of aviation are insurmountable.
Cukurs was born in Liepaja, some 170 km southwest of Riga, the capital of Latvia. He is famous worldwide for his Raids (long distance flights) in the 30s, where he wrote his name and his parents' in the history of world aviation. He became known worldwide as "The Latvian Lindenberg".
Herberts in his youth
At the centre: his mother
At different times in its history, Latvia was incorporated into more powerful countries such as Poland, Sweden and Russia. Only at the end of World War I (1914 - 1918) Latvia managed to proclaim its independence (from Russia). November 18, 1918 was the beginning of two years of struggle, which culminated in 1920 with the withdrawal of foreign troops and the country emerging as an independent nation. Herberts Cukurs had enlisted at age 17, volunteered and fought for the liberation of his country. By having demonstrated value in combat, Cukurs was promoted to sergeant and received several awards for acts of bravery.
In June of 1919, Latvia began to organize a group of army aviation, with aircraft Nieuport 24 Bis, which were taken from renegade Bolshevik pilots. As a national emblem, was adopted the 'Ugunskrusts' (Cross of Fire), a red swastika that had nothing to do with the Nazi swastika. This cross is an ancient symbol of the people of Latvia.
In 1920 came the Aviation Park with aircraft seized from the Russians, bought from the British or seized from Germany. On September 7th of 1921 , Cukurs, then a sergeant in the Army, entered the park and his talent as a pilot was revealed on September 26th of 1922 when he conducted a solo flight for four hours in a observation biplane, Albatross.
After the training period on January 13 of 1923, he was promoted to lieutenant, becoming a fighter pilot, flying the German aircraft Fokker DVII and Italian aircraft Balilla. Interested in aerodynamics, he deepened his knowledge in the newly formed School of Military Aviation in Riga, where he was promoted to first lieutenant.
In 1923 he began his own initiative to design a single-engine airplane. He used an engine Harley Davisson 8 HP, a motorcycle chain for the transmission of the propeller. The plane was named as C-1 (Cukurs-1) prefix YL-AAC, named after Auseklitis, featuring ingenious proposals, such as folding wings that allowed it out of the living room of his house and carry it to an airfield, ready on November 28th of 1925. The flight tests were successful, making at least 100 flights until 1926. On this plane there is a picturesque story that has become well known until today, when Cukurs passed under a bridge with the airplane and the vain of this bridge was practically equal to the wingspan of the aircraft. This bridge is located in the city of Karosta and many people call it "The Bridge of Cukurs" because this episode.
In 1929 he sold the C-1 to a friend, Karlis Konstants, also military pilot, adapting a more powerful engine, a 3 cylinder 25 HP Anzani. This plane came to be known as C-2, and nicknamed PEKAES-PEKAES. Later Konstants adapted another engine, 6 cylinder 34 HP Anzani. This plane due to its good performance flew until 1937.
In 1931, a revolutionary single-engine two-seater designed by Cukurs, the C-3, low-wing monoplane with inverted struts and carinated landing gear, engine powered by an old Renault 80 8 HDPE drums. Safe and reliable, among other flights it was used by Cukurs for air pamphleting services.
In 1930's, nationalist campaigns popped in Latvia and culminated in 1934 with the coup that consolidated the authoritarian regime of President Kārlis Ulmanis. One of these patriotic acts occurred in 1933 when a group of nationalists provided funds to Nikolajs Pulins, pilot of paramilitary Air Force Aizsargu Aviacija (Division Air National Guard), to make a raid in Riga to Gambia in West Africa, country where Duke Jacob Kettler, had founded a colony in the seventeenth century. On June 20th of 1933, along with Nikolajs Pulins R. Celms, took flight to Gambia, but shortly after it crashed in Germany, thus failing in their attempt. This gave a negative repercussion for aeronautical development in Latvia. To change this image, Herbert decided to try the same raid.
Getting a small sponsorship from the biggest local newspaper, Jaunakas Zinas (The Latest News) in exchange for exclusivity in the publication of accounts of the voyage, the C-3 prefix YL-AAB was adapted for the journey. The rear seat was removed to make room for an extra fuel tank, in August 28th of 1933 at 12 hours and 15 minutes he left for a solo flight of 19,342 km from the Latvian capital Riga for Bathrust capital of Gambia in Africa, that would enshrine him for life.
His talent was recognized worldwide, Clifford B. Harmon, president of the International League of Aviators, affiliated to the International League of Aviation, based in Paris, France, gave him the Harmon trouphy, the medal for best aviator of 1933 section of Latvia. For this flight was elected honorary member of the International League of Aviators , receiving the honorary plaque with the signature of the foremost aviators of the world, such as Santos Dumont, Charles Lindbergh, Arturo Ferrarini, Francesco de Pinedo, Clarence Duncan Chamberlin and others, making him thus part of this elite aviators.
The news of his prowess reached the four corners of the world. In 1936, he received an invitation from the Japanese government, to conduct a raid from Latvia up to Japan. At that time he had already designed another aircraft and two gliders, the C-4 and C-5.
With funding aggregating governmental assistance and support by the journal Jaunakas Zinas, Cukurs designed and built a completely original aircraft in just three months. The C-6 was a low-wing monoplane with a sleek silhouette and wheels keeled. All wood, if not for its underpowered engine (a De Havilland Gipsy Major 130 HP, and four cylinders), which had been taken from another plane, the C-3, could very well be mistaken for a fighter's time. O aparelho levou o nome de Tris Zvaigznes (Três Estrelas), alusão a condecoração recebida anteriormente. The unit took the name of Tris Zvaigzne (Three Star), allusion to previously received award. It received the prefix YL-ABA.
On October 20th of 1936, Cukurs takes off for his second long-distance flight, heading for Japan. After 227 hours and 45 minutes, flying 40,045 kilometers, a greater distance at 45 km, around the earth at the equator, using 7140 liters of gasoline and 272 gallons of oil, despite the unfavorable weather conditions, against strong winds, monsoons and dust storms, the plane had an excellent hourly average of 190km per hour.
The flight went straight for Tokyo, but with big turns, so in Europe as well as in Asia, because its purpose was not breaking records, but knowing the people and customs of different countries, proving the value of the aircraft and demonstrate the result of work in building airplanes Herberts Cukurs. The flight crossed the skies of Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, India, Burma, Siam, Indochina, China, Manchuria, Korea and Japan, totaling 21 countries. For the flight performed, the international press dubbed him The Latvian Lindergh (The Lindbergh Let Oniani.)
Alleged Holocaust perpetrator
After the occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany during the summer of 1941 Cukurs became a member the notorious Arajs Kommando, supposedly responsible for many of the crimes of the Holocaust in Latvia. Cukurs's membership in the Arajs Commando is proven. There is no doubt that was part of Cukurs Arajs command as head of maintenance of vehicles of this regiment. However this does not mean it was a criminal, and also were Jews who served in the German SS and Gestapo.
Cukurs true participation, was as boss of mechanical maintenance in the garages of the latvian polices. ONLY!
Historian Andrew Ezergailis said:
“MOSSAD killed an innocent man”.
To change the question from "how many Jews did Cukurs kill?", to "did he even kill one Jew?”
1- Even as I was writing my book about holocaust in Latvia, I noticed that there were many exaggerations as far as the question about holocaust, the matter of Cukurs did not seem like an important question. I could have looked as microcosm to a wider problem about exaggerations and untruth in literature about Holocaust in Latvia. If I had known ten years ago, that Massada’s version about Cukurs being the biggest mass killer of Hebrews in Latvia, who be assigned the destruction of 30 000 people, contains deep lack of knowledge, if not lies. Massada version not only contains simple falsehoods, but also shows a lack of knowledge about the system of destruction as such. Destruction system was brought to Latvia by and under Einsatzgrupe leadership, not one individual was given the opportunity to set records .
Ten years ago I did not have the opportunity to access materials which these days the movie makers were able to gather. A very important document which has come to light is that which Cukurs provided as testimony to the police in Brazil. To the film makers' credit is that they changed the questions, from how many Hebrews Cukurs killed, to did he kill any. What happened to the democratic system’ s presumption of innocence? If someone would ask me if there was a possibility while serving under Arajs command to kill a Hebrew in his home, I would say yes. In 1941, 300 men served under Arajs and his unit needed administrative people, who were responsible for maintaining modern inventory. Lieutenant Leimanis served as an officer for arms. He was still alive in the 70’/80’ and Eriks Parups testified in his behalf , he said that Latvian officers' resistance movement infiltrated into Arajs commando to spy on their activities. He cooperated with American judiciary instances thus no accusations were raised against him. Among many hundreds of Arajs’ former soldiers depositions, nowhere is Leimanis or Cukurs mentioned. When Arajs was tried in Hamburg (Germany) among his documents Cukurs was not mentioned.
2. The only accusations about Cukurs as “butcher” of Riga come from surviving Hebrews, who wanted to find explanation for the tragedy of their people, but there are multiple problems with their testimony. In first place they lack information about holocaust internal organization, and methods of destruction. They had no knowledge about the Latvians who did the shooting. Many of them think, that killing of Hebrews in Latvia were improvised on the spot and did not follow an organized plan. Majority of those who survived, could not name one shooter except Cukurs. We arrive at crass conflict of testimony: none of those who testified ,are able to place Cukurs at the edge of shooting pit, but the only Latvian, whom Hebrews were able to name was Cukurs. If I was given a choice of whom I would believe, I would lean towards the Latvian testifier, who was with Cukurs. At least those testimonies were given under oath. If Cukurs had participated, as an officer, he would have given orders and would not have participated as a shooter. The Latvian shooters would not have forgotten his name .
3. As far as testifiers testimony has been analyzed and examined, the coefficient of truth has been low and full of contradictions. As an examples we could mention SD officer Elke Scherwitz's, of Hebrew ancestry, trial, who was accused by survivors, especially Max Kaufman, and in his 1948 trial (Scherwitz) in Munich was found guilty of killing 30 000 Hebrews in Latvia. German historian Anita Kugler has made a study about Scherwitz and sees these accusations as exaggerated and false. Then follows the trial of captain Vilis Hazners, who was tried in the USA. He was accused of destroying 30 000 Hebrews in Latvia. Again, accusations were based by survivors testimony .These were full of contradictions and exaggerations. These evaporated in cross examinations by lawyers. Hazners was found not guilty. More than 70 000 Hebrews were exterminated in Latvia, but that did not happed the way testifiers gave depositions. The same 30 000 exterminated Hebrews in Latvia were assigned to Cukurs and on these same depositions of survivors, Massada overhastily killed Cukurs. This is not the time to analyze all of supposedly Cukurs' cruelty, yet we can without doubt affirm that during the first weeks of German occupation he was on his farm in Bukaisi village (might even have come under German arrest), arrived in Riga, as he states, only on July 14, 1941. Thus all the testimony (about 75%) about his cruelty before July 14th are nullifiable. That also means that all other testimony should be looked at through skeptical / rational grinding stones.
The fact that Cukurs was part of Arajs' unit as supervisor of a garage, is not deniable. In Cukurs’ book of life one should also note that he helped at least three Latvian Hebrews to survive holocaust, this fact in Massada's book about Cukurs was omitted. A girl named Miriam Kaizner, the family Cukurs hid in their farmstead in Bukaisi and later took her with them to Brazil; a youth named Abram Shapiro ( who to this day plays the violin in Las Vegas) was given working papers in the summer of 1941 and Lutrins, whom Cukurs' garage workers saved from shooting in Rumbula, hid him and brought him back to the garage on Valdemar street where he worked as a garage mechanic.
In summing up everything, one must say that testimony against Cukurs was exaggerated, even absurd. To find truth about this sinful man, the investigation should be started from point zero, which it seems the energetic film producer is doing.
Andrievs Ezergailis Professor of History at Ithaca College, NY, USA (Division of Social Sciences and Humanities) Foreign member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences
Probably the most-quoted authority on the Holocaust and related issues in Nazi-occupied Latvia.
To affirm that Herberts Cukurs is responsible for the deaths of 30.000 Jews is at least frivolous and irresponsible. Today satiated documentation exists that proves without a doubt some that Herberts Cukurs was innocent. Military archives, archives of international, responsible courts for selecting war crimes, prove this truth. Historians who had had access to this documentation, are unanimous in affirming quie in the case of Herberts Cukurs, a great one occurred I make a mistake, and an innocent was assassinated. The medias, must rethink the information that give its readers, under risk to have that to prove the true of its information before a court. The presumption of innocence, is well clear, and says, that " all man is innocent until if I oppose he proves it, in one court". Cukurs never was accused, judged or condemned. Therefore it is frivolous and irresponsible to publish such affirmation.
The alleged testimonies of Abraham Shapiro (Latvian: Abrahams Šapiro),
a Jewish Holocaust survivor, were widely believed to be crucial in accusing Cukurs of personally executing Jews in Riga. He was contacted in person by Latvian TV crew "Legend Hunters" (Latvian: Leģendu mednieki) in Las Vegas, where he is currently living under changed identity as a successful musician. Shapiro was amused and surprised to learn that he is believed (and claimed so by Mossad) to have provided testimony on Cukurs personally executing Jews. Shapiro claimed on record in front of video camera that he had never done so. It was found out by the TV crew that while Shapiro had never actually given such a testimony, it had been written down by a legal department of some "unidentified" "organization of Jews liberated in Germany", along with two other similar "testimonies" (also likely to be fabricated evidence) and used as a basis for false accusations against Cukurs which led to his death.
[GVIDEO=1983576701158305850]Legendu Mednieki- "Herberts Cukurs"[/GVIDEO]
After the war, Cukurs emigrated to Brazil via France. There, he established a business in São Paulo, flying Republic RC-3 Seabees on sightseeing flights.
He was assassinated by Mossad agents, who attracted him to Uruguay under a fake intention of starting an aviation business, after it was found out that he would not stand trial for his alleged participation in the Holocaust.
Accusations concerning Cukurs's participation in atrocities during World War II earned him the nickname "The Hangman of Riga" amongst Holocaust survivors.
None of these accusations regarding Cukurs's alleged participation in the Holocaust in Latvia have ever been tested in a court of law. Because of this, there are those who would argue that this Latvian hero has been wrongfully slandered.
In present-day Latvia, there is a certain degree of Latvian public opinion in favour of this drive to exonerate Cukurs. For example, an exhibition was held in Riga in honour of the 'national hero' Herberts Cukurs, in which his work in the Arajs Commando was portrayed as having been harmless.
Ezergailis also points out that much of the available literature suggests that Cukurs's main responsibility was working in the garages as a mechanic for the Arajs Commando. Attempts have been made to explain or excuse Cukurs's direct participation in killing of Jews, either by claiming the incompetency of post-war witnesses (i.e. Holocaust survivors), the lack of direct evidence of Cukurs's personal involvement in the killing of individual victims, or by the claim that he acted under duress.
All of the accusations against Herberts Cukurs, were lying and irresponsible. Some Israeli entities as the center Simon Wiesenthal, insist on maintaining that farce, because their highly lucrative negotiations depends on those lies. In the day in that they could not be used of those lies, with certainty they will go the bankruptcy.
One day, with certainty, the Jews will have to recognize that they committed a terrible mistake, when slandering and to murder an innocent one.
Simon Wiesenthal, the Liar
Some of the "six million" lies of Simon Wiesenthal "The Nazi hunter."
On June 14, 1967, the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo brought the following report: "Wiesenthal shows the guilt of Cukurs."
The content of the report was as follows:
Simon Wiesenthal, the man who caught Eichmann and greatest hunter of Nazi war criminals, said in Vienna that Herberts Cukurs was never acquitted by him. According to Wiesenthal, Cukurs played an important role in the final solution of the Jewish problem in your country, Latvia.
Final Solution meant complete extermination of Jews. Wiesenthal made this statement to the Jornal da Tarde, once informed of the desire of the son of Cukurs, who lives in Sao Paulo, to process the Barsa Encyclopedia for including in one of its volumes the following entry:
"Cukurs responsible for the deaths of 30,000 Jews during World War II."
In announcing his desire to sue Barsa, the son of Cukurs also stated that there was nothing against his father in the Nuremberg Tribunal and that he had been acquitted even by Simon Wiesenthal.
Note - Actually the Barsa Encyclopedia was processed, losing the lawsuit, and having to remove all Encyclopedias sold and replaced them by others which did not contain the name of Cukurs. As for Wiesenthal, it was never said he had acquitted Cukurs since Wiesenthal would not have any responsibility to absolve, let alone condemn, since this is an attribute of justice and only she has to decide the guilt or innocence of anyone be.
Again our journalists proved incompetent and ill-informed, if not "malicious", as was customary when the subject matter was Herberts Cukurs.
Wiesenthal said: "Cukurs was responsible for killing thousands of Jews in Latvia, especially in Riga". Cukurs was also denounced as a direct participant of executions of Jews in other parts of Latvia. Wiesenthal said he had located Cukurs in a concentration camp prisoner in U.S. Hanu, West Germany, in 1946. Before he could act Cukurs had disappeared. A year later, Wiesenthal located him in the São Paulo. His extradition was denied, for Cukurs had had a child, born in Brazil. Wiesenthal stated that the Brazilian police had a summary of the criminal activities of Cukurs.
About Cukurs death, murdered two years before in Uruguay, Wiesenthal said:
"He was killed because of rivalries among their own friends. They believed Cukurs was under the control of groups of Jews and worked as a spy against ex-Nazis."
On June 19, 1997, the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo published another report where Gunars Cukurs (Herberts' son) through lots of documents debunks the lies of that bandit, who became known as the greatest Nazi hunter, but was actually a merchant using the good faith of many Jews, and continues extorting them millions of dollars on the pretext of hunting innocent people by involving them in lies, slander, destroying lives, with the sole purpose of promoting and earning lots of money, thanks to the blood and suffering of his own people.
How many true Nazis this gangster hunted all these years, how many were tried and convicted for him to enjoy this reputation, one or two? The reporter for starters fell into serious contradiction, since the report began saying that Herberts Cukurs, Latvian who joined the Nazis, was considered minor figure among the killers of Jews mentioned in the Tribunal of Nuremberg (if a person allegedly directly responsible for death of more than 30,000 Jews was not considered important, then who would be?), was not prosecuted by the Allies because they did not know his whereabouts (there are visas of American and French authorities giving safe passage to the person of Herberts Cukurs, who even lived for certain period in France after the end of the war, where he was known and popular figure, hence there is no justification for he has not been located), and information about his crimes contained in the German (Which? where?) and Israeli archives, in private organizations like the Brazilian Israelite federations.
According to the Jewish Federation Cukurs locked 300 Jews in a synagogue and burned it in Riga, Latvia, on July 14, 1941. (This lie is unmasked, because, firstly, there is now extensive documentation that proves that the fires were organized with the sole responsibility of the Germans and NO Jew died of burns.)
Secondly, recently, there were found military archives which prove that in this period Herberts Cukurs was struggling with Partisans, 100 km away from Riga.
On November 30, 1941, Cukurs had drowned in 1200 jews in Kuldiga River and, according to "eyewitnesses", the Jews who did not poke their heads in the water to drown, were shot, and the river turned red with so much blood (the interesting thing about this is that there are no current records, anywhere in the world, proving that there have been deaths from drowning in Kuldiga, since this river despite wide in some stretches, has a maximum depth that does not reach a meter in deeper parts, so another lie from our Rio's Jews).
Returning to the subject Wiesenthal, the reporter interviewed the eldest son of Cukurs, Gunars Cukurs and asked about the assertions by Wiesenthal, published in the Afternoon of June 14, 1967, where the president of the Jewish Documentation Centre, Simon Wiesenthal, claimed Cukurs located in a prison camp in Hanu, West Germany in 1946. Gunars has evidence and documents against the claims by Wiesenthal - considered the greatest hunter of Nazi war criminals of WWII.
"In 1946, my father was still in France, from where he came to Brazil. He left Germany on May 13, 1945. That day he received a document of the Allied Forces guarding the border."
Gunars has other documents that contradict the statements of Wiesenthal. They follow:
16/05/1945 - Documents of Center for Control of Returnees and Refugees, proving that Cukurs had entered France with his wife, mother and three children.
From May to October 1945, the control of returnees provided several "Authorization of free transit," passed in the city of Dijon, allowing Cukurs and his family could move around by car on the region.
10/20/1945 - Letter sent to Cukurs by the Ministry of National Economy of France, excusing him from "licensing regulations for the import of two cars of German origin of his property."
12/17/1945 - The French government in Marseille, consigning the "safe passage" number 117, authorizing the trip Cukurs and his family to Brazil.
The next day, the Brazilian Consulate in Marseille, signs the safe conduct of Cukurs.
01/09/1946 - The Portuguese government authorizes Cukurs to bring 48.532 escudos to Brazil. On January 25, 1946, Cukurs gets the endorsement of the British forces occupying the port of Barcelona.
04/03/1946 - Landing visa forwarded by the National Department of Immigration at the Port of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
When Herberts Cukurs arrived in Brazil he had three children: Gunars, born August 7, 1931, Antinea, born April 28, 1934 and Herberts Cukurs Junior, born on 2 October 1942. According to Simon Wiesenthal, Cukurs was located by him in Brazil, a year after he disappeared from the prison camp in Hanu. At the time his extradition failed because Cukurs had a Brazilian born son at that time. Gunars belies Wiesenthal, once more:
"The only Brazilian son of my father, was born on July 11, 1955, several years after the arrival of my father to Brazil, and his name is Richard Cukurs. If Wiesenthal in 1947 presented concrete evidence to incriminate my father, extradition would be obtained easily". Reinforcing his documentation, Gunars shows the portfolio Model 19 of his father, dated April 2, 1946, furnished by the Foreign Registration. It is written:
"Date of landing, 03/04/1946".
Further evidence presented by the son of Cukurs, a statement from the Ministry of Justice, regarding the lawsuit filed by Brazilian Jews in 1951:
Says the statement:
"It is determined to archive the inquiries about the permanence of Herberts Cukurs in Brazil, since nothing positive left against the legality of his entry into the country."
The declaration of August 13, 1951, signed by J. Vieira Coelho - Director General, is closed with the statement that the Justice Department had only information that Cukurs could have been chief ghetto in Riga, but that does not mean he was a criminal.
Gunars Cukurs closes by saying:
"My father was never head of the ghetto."
Note - In fact, recently with the extensive documentation that exists today, after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was never proven that Cukurs also was chief of ghetto, much less was part of the management of the Gestapo or other departments of the German command.
As for Cukurs' death, Wiesenthal says that Cukurs would have been killed by the Nazis, which years later was denied, by the Israeli secret service, Mossad, which claimed responsibility for that. One lie more or less, what is the difference?