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I have just arrived in Riga, Latvia, where Kalman Aron was born.

On , | One Comment | In Riga | By

November 17, 2014


Moscow Street Trolley Car, Riga, Latvia. Photo courtesy Jono David / HaChayim Ha Yehudim Jewish Photo Library

I have just arrived in Riga, Latvia, where Kalman Aron was born.

Ten years ago, I came to Riga to research Aron’s life here after he asked me to tell his story. Born in 1924, Aron grew up in a Jewish neighborhood on Maskavas Iela, and at age 13 he painted a portrait of the Latvian President Karl Ulmanis. So impressed by his talent, Ulmanis enrolled Aron in the Riga Fine Arts Academy in 1938.

On July 1, 1941 the German Nazis entered Riga and immediately took his uncle, David, and his father, Chaim. Aron, his brother, Henech, 5 years older, and his mother, Sonya, were ordered out of their home and marched into the Riga ghetto. Kalman and Henech would spend 2 ½ years imprisoned doing slave labor. His mother, a woman who believed in a world of beauty and love, would be killed in the Rumbula forest in the winter of 1941 along with 25,000 other Riga Jews.

As I drove into the city from the airport, I caught my breath as I looked at one of the old clapboard buildings so similar to those on the street where Kalman grew up. My heart paused as we passed the imposing red stone building where Kalman went to art school—the Riga Academy of Fine Arts.

In 2004, I was excited to find Kalman’s roots. I was searching for any evidence of his life here. I found the street where he lived, Maskavas Iela; I walked among the ruins of his neighborhood Chor Synagogue (burned down in 1941 by the Germans) to the streets of the ghetto where he was imprisoned. I also honored his parents by visiting the places they were killed and having a memorial stone placed at the killing fields in the Rumbula forest.

This visit, I know so much more. In addition to Kalman, I have interviewed 5 other Latvian survivors…3 of whom lived in Latvia: Max Kit who has since died, Aleksandrs Bergmannis and Dr. Margers Vestermanis whom I will interview again, this time on film.

I am subdued, reverent and quiet. Anti-semitism is still alive in Latvia. I have read about recent incidents, one involved damaging the memorial to Zanis Lipke, a docker at the Riga cargo port who saved over 50 Jews during the Holocaust. He simply knocked on the door of a friend and said: “Here, you take care of this man or this woman.” He didn’t give them a chance to say “no.”

This time, I am fully aware of what man is capable of doing to man. Evil is real, and it had its full run over Europe under Hitler. Hitler had many accomplices. He alone could not kill six million Jews and countless others without help from citizens in all the countries occupied. Certainly, some Latvians helped the Germans kill the Jews.

I know too much.


© copyright Susan Beilby Magee, 2014. 

In The Book



On , | In The Book | By


INTO THE LIGHT The Healing Art of Kalman Aron Exhibit
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
September 9 – October 4

EVENT ARCHIVE : Photos + Podcasts

Susan Beilby Magee & Kalman Aron
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
Sunday, March 1st, 2pm

9th Annual Conference “Jews in A Changing World,” Riga, Latvia

Cape May Stage, Cape May NJ

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Washington DC 

April 2014

Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute Lecture Series Group of 12 and Friends

Seattle Central Library

River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Glendale Central Library, Glendale CA

San Diego Jewish Book Festival
, San Diego CA

Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Washington DC

Pheo-Para Alliance / Katzen Arts Center, Washington DC
Healing Arts Panel, Dinner & Auction

The Center for Living Peace, Irvine CA

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC

Museum of Jewish Heritage, New York NY

Barnes & Noble, (86th & Lex), New York NY

Tolerance Education Center, Rancho Mirage CA

Herb Nathan Educators’ Conference on the Holocaust, Scottsdale AZ

Politics & Prose, Washington DC

Library of Congress, Washington DC

Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC
Crossroads Program

Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles CA

Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC


In The Book


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Glendale News Press

La Jolla Light

San Diego City Beat

Jewish Book World  Magazine

Jewish Book Council

The Healing Artwork of A Survivor  –

Hadassah Magazine

Moment Magazine  “Notable Book of the Year 2012.”

Jewish Book World Magazine “A Book of Note,” Spring 2013.

The Jewish Daily Forward

The Blog From Battery Place, Museum of Jewish Heritage

San Diego Jewish World

The Jewish Week

Intelligent Women Dialogue

Midwest Book Review

Pomona College Magazine

Wharton Magazine


The Record, KUOW, Seattle’s NPR station

The Halli Casser-Jayne Show

Talkline with Zev Brenner

The Paul Miller Morning Show, WPHM-AM

The Vic McCarty Show, 1270 WMKT

The Business of Wisdom with Dr. Alvin Jones

WDEV-AM & FM Burlington VT, 25 min, Live, with Mark Johnson Show

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