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At the end of World War I, aviator Cukurs fought alongside other Latvians for independence from the Russian Empire.He earned fame after building a single-engine plane, flying it to Gambia in the 1930s, and winning an international aviation prize.The EEC completed the semantic trick by arrogating to itself the unqualified title, “Europe.” In the last few years we have begun to talk again about Central Europe, and in the present tense.
Though Noreika was suspected by some of collaboration with the Nazis, those suspicions were largely discounted in Lithuania as Russian propaganda seeking to smear his memory.
Yet Noreika’s granddaughter, a Chicago journalist, has uncovered evidence that shows his complicity.
He has subsequently enjoyed some rehabilitation in Latvia. Herberts Cukurs debuted in his hometown of Liepāja.
The musical offered viewers a question—Hero or Murderer? Cukurs was presented as a courageous aviator and unfortunate victim of the chaos and violence of World War II.
Even in Austria, as ex-Chancellor Fred Sinowatz has remarked, “until ten years ago one was not permitted so much as to mention the word ‘Mitteleuropa.”‘ In Prague and Budapest the idea of Central Europe continued to be cherished between consenting adults in private, but from the public sphere it vanished as completely as it had in “the West.” The post-Yalta order dictated a strict and single dichotomy.
Western Europe implicitly accepted this dichotomy by subsuming under the label “Eastern Europe” all those parts of historic Central, East Central, and Southeastern Europe which after 1945 came under Soviet domination.The man who more than anyone else has given it currency in the West is a Czech, Milan Kundera.(See his now famous essay “The Tragedy of Central Europe” in The New York Review, April 26, 1984.) Subsequently, the Germans and the Austrians have gingerly begun to rehabilitate, in their different ways, a concept that was once so much their own.In Ukraine, members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), like Stepan Bandera, are hailed by nationalists as heroes, though the OUN has been implicated in mass killings of Poles, Jews, and Roma.The recent case of Lithuanian anti-communist hero, Jonas Noreika, whose name adorns a school and commemorative plaque in his hometown of Sukioniai, is also pertinent.As sociologists studying Central and Eastern Europe, we created the term “ghost hero,” to frame what we had come to recognize as a common practice in postcommunist societies.“Ghost heroes,” are historical figures whose past has been cleansed of significant transgressions.Some historians believe the Arajs Commando was responsible for the murder of as many as 60,000 Jews in and outside Latvia.After the war, Cukurs escaped the Allied zone in Europe and landed in South America; he was assassinated in Uruguay in 1965 by the Israeli Mossad.In Romania, there have been efforts to rehabilitate the memory of Marshal Ion Antonescu, the country’s Nazi-allied leader during World War II.Antonescu oversaw the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Roma to ghettoes in Transnistria, where many perished from violence, disease, and hunger.