Stop the 16th March marches in Riga and Latvians revising history!
Since 1998, former Latvian SS have every year, on the 16th March, been marching in the capital city of Riga to commemorate and herald their fallen colleagues as war heroes. The marches have over the years increased in alarming numbers and are now even condoned by Latvian officials. On March 16th, 2011 in the heart of NATO, in Riga, more than 2,500 people, amongst them Latvian politicians, paid tribute to Latvians who fought on the side of Nazi Germany in Waffen SS detachments during World War II. The Latvian Prime Minister told local media he did not think March 16th had ,“a special significance.” Legionnaires’ Day is used by radicals on both sides, “to confront each other”. However, this petition believes Latvia, the international community, the UK government, the European Union and Nato should condemn the Nazi event in clearer terms, as Waffen SS veterans are not seen as legitimate “heroes” in any EU member state which Latvia has been granted status since 2004.
•See photo above from
For photo of members of Latvia's Parliament Dzintars Rasnacs (3-L), Raivis Dzintars (C) and other participants during parade close to Freedom Monument in Riga, 16 March 2011 commemorating those who fought in two German Waffen-SS divisions in World War II.
• You can add your voice to this petition by accessing the links directly below@
1.If you are a British citizen or normally live in the UK go to
2. If you are not a British citizen and live outside the UK go to
Остановить марш ветеранов Ваффен-СС и их сторонников 16 марта и пересмотр истории второй мировой войны в Латвии !
С 1998 года ветераны Латышских дивизий Ваффен-СС каждый год, 16 марта, маршируют в столице Латвии - в Риге, чтобы помянуть своих павших товарищей как героев войны. Количество участников этих маршей с каждым годом увеличивается с тревожным постоянством и в них участвуют представители Латвийских властей.
16 марта 2011 года в Риге, столице государства-члена НАТО, более 2500 человек, и в том числе латвийские политики, воздали честь латышам, боровшимся на стороне нацистской Германии в подразделениях Ваффен-СС во время второй мировой войны. Премьер министр Латвии сказал представителям местных средств массовой информации, что он не думает , что 16 марта имеет какое либо «особое значение». «День легионеров используется радикалами с обеих сторон, для конфронтации друг с другом». Однако авторы этой петиции уверены, что Латвия, международное сообщество, правительство Объединенного Королевства, Европейский Союз и НАТО должны резко осудить это, говоря ясным языком, про-нацистское мероприятие, так как ветераны Ваффен-СС не рассматриваются как законные «герои» ни в одной стране Европейского Союза, куда Латвия вступила в 2004 году.http://www.petitions24.com/stop_the_16_march_marches_and_latvians_revising_history
•According to 2010 official statistics The Republic of Latvia, with a population of approximately 2.2 million, is a multiparty parliamentary democracy. Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral Saeima (parliament)
•According to government statistics for the year 2010, Russians comprised 28 percent of the population, Belarusians 4 percent, Ukrainians 3 percent, Poles 2 percent, Lithuanians 1 percent, Jews 0.4 percent, and Roma 0.4 percent.
The UN Refugee Agency
•In May 2004 Latvia simultaneously joined NATO and the European Union.
•Already in a press release 16.03.1999 the Simon Wiesenthal centre in Jerusalem condemned the march of the legionaries and stated, ‘although these units were not involved in crimes against humanity, many of their soldiers had previously served in the Latvian security police and had actively participated in the mass murder of civilians, primarily Jews...The stubborn insistence of Latvia’s SS Legion veterans to conduct a public march to glorify their role as combatants on behalf of the Third Reich is a clear indication that many Latvians have still not internalised the lessons of WWII... not one of the numerous Latvian killers who collaborated with the Nazis has been brought to justice since Latvia obtained its independence, far too many Latvians feel free to identify with those who fought alongside the perpetrators of the Holocaust rather than with its victims’.
Background to the Latvian Legion and Latvia’s revising of history
•The Latvian legion consists of veterans of the Latvian SS Volunteer legion they claim they fought in German ranks to hold back a greater evil, the Soviet Union. They consider themselves as freedom fighters. Russian, Jewish organisations and even some Latvians believe that the veteran link with the Nazi SS-organisation is a national disgrace. They consider the veterans as Nazi sympathisers.
•During World War II, the Nazis created 37 divisions of Waffen Schutzstaffel (Waffen SS) of which only 12 were comprised exclusively by Germans. Most of the members of the divisions were recruited among the so-called «Aryan» populations of the occupied or annexed countries. Although the Latvians were not all considered «Aryan», they were massively recruited. Out of 900,000 Waffen SS, almost 150,000 were Latvians thus being the largest foreign contingent while their country, Latvia, only had two million inhabitants. The Latvians were mainly placed in the 15th Infantry Division, which was the most decorated non-German Waffen SS unit. It was the 15th infantry division who entrenched themselves in Berlin and engaged in the last military actions of the Third Reich.
•The Latvian legion was formed in the winter of 1943 however; March 16th 1944 is the day the Legion was founded when Hitler ordered it be established. All Latvian writers agree that the day marks the only time, the two Divisions of the Legion (15th and 19th) were fighting together against the Red Army. Therefore, by making the 16th March a day to remember war dead, Latvians, (despite Latvian official protestations to the contrary), are making the day when Latvian volunteers fought in the 15th and 19th divisions of the SS an act of commemoration. As Israeli/Jewish critics have commented even if one takes the stance that the Latvian legionnaires were not criminals and that they were forced to fight for the Nazis, to commemorate the Legion is far from being a positive act.
•It should be noted that nearly 130,000 other Latvians - enlisted to fight against the Axis (Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy and Japan). Most of them fought in the Red Army that liberated their country from Nazism. After the negotiations among the Allies, Latvia, like other Baltic states, was absorbed by the Soviet Union. Professor Vaira Vike-Freiberga sixth president of Latvia from 8 July 1999 – 8 July 2007 has described the men who joined the Red Army as traitors.
•Approximately 62,000 Jews, or 90 percent of Latvia’s pre-war Jewish population, were killed in 1941-42, two years before the formation of the Latvian Waffen SS unit — which some Latvians claim shows the unit could not have played a role in the Holocaust.
•But an unknown number of Latvian Waffen SS soldiers were involved in the murder of Jews as auxiliary police — years before they entered the front-line unit.
See: Einsatz Gruppen Mobile Killing Units
The Trial of Adolph Eichmann -Transcript Excerpt Session No. 29 19 Iyar 5721 (5 May 1961)
References to Latvia, Einsatzgruppen and participation of Latvian nationals
in executions http://rumbula.org/
Attorney General: I shall come to the German initiative right away. At the end of the paragraph Stahlecker says that, after the partisans had to be disarmed, the internal purging operations ceased in any case. It was much more difficult, he says, to organize purging operations and pogroms in Latvia. It is true that synagogues were burned, and that about 400 Jews were killed, but since the population was soon quietened down, further pogroms could not be organized. "As far as possible, it was documented, both in Kovno and in Riga, by means of films and photographs that the first spontaneous executions of Jews and communists were carried out by Lithuanians and Latvians."
20 June 2010 Telegraph Guy Walters
'At Bikernieki in southeastern Latvia, the Arājs Commando slaughtered four thousand Jews and a thousand communists between July and September 1941. The killings were carried out by groups of twenty men who would murder ten at a time, the victims simultaneously receiving a shot in the back and a shot in the head. Arājs himself was sometimes on hand to deliver "mercy" shots to those who had not died immediately.
The Arājs Commando also participated in the Rumbula Massacre held six miles south of Riga on November 30 and December 8 1941, during which some 25,000 Jews were killed. It was Arājs and his men who helped clear the Riga ghetto to provide the Einsatzgruppe with its victims, and the actions of the Latvians involved were despicable. Elderly women and babies were casually shot, and by the end of the clearance, one witness recalled how "corpses were scattered all over, rivulets of blood still oozing from the lifeless bodies. They were mostly old people, pregnant women, children, handicapped – all those who couldn’t keep up with the inhuman tempo of the march."
After being marched to Rumbula, the killings began. The Jews were forced into a gauntlet formed by a mixture of Germans and Latvians, who included members of the Arājs Commando. As the Jews progressed down the gauntlet, they were forced to surrender their valuables and remove their clothes and shoes. The final stage of the Jews’ journey was to lie down in one of three large pits, clutching their children and loved ones, and to receive a bullet in the back of the head. Subsequent victims were made to sprawl on top of the dead and those who were still struggling in their death throes; the pit reeked of excrement and brains. With the SS men fuelled by alcohol and hampered by the approaching darkness, their accuracy deteriorated, and many of the Jews died by being suffocated by the corpses that fell on top of them.'
90 percent of Latvia’s pre-war Jewish population, were killed in 1941-42, only one in ten survived. Approximately 67,000 Jews were living in Latvia at the time of the Nazi invasion in July 1941. Approximately 62,000 of them were killed during the Nazi occupation. About 30,000 Jews were killed already by mid-August 1941. The main agents of this murder were small German military units joined by the so-called Arājs Commando and assisted by Latvian auxiliary police, which consisted mainly of volunteers. In late 1941 approximately an additional 30,000 Latvian Jews were killed in a carefully organised execution also aided by Latvian police and Arājs Commando in Rumbula forest, just outside the capital city of Rīga. After this, about 25,000 European Jews were brought to the Riga Ghetto by train and at least half of them were murdered by mid-1942
On this see Andrew Ezergailis, The Holocaust in Latvia (Washington DC, 1996) and Leo Dribins, Ēbreji Latvijā (Rīga, 2002).
•From 1950-1980 various Latvian historians found themselves ostracised by a large part of the Latvian émigré community when writing, in particular, about the role of some members of the Arajs commando, members of the Latvian police and their role in the Holocaust. (Approximately 13,000 Jews were murdered by over 1,000 Arajs commando in the summer and fall of 1941.) As a consequence they found themselves having to diminish their crimes rather than expose them openly. One example being Herbert Cukurs who personally killed Jews , as Isaac Kram, a native of Riga testified to in a sworn statement to Yad Vashem investigators:
"In March 1942 when I was living in Ludza Street in the Jewish quarter in Riga, I suddenly saw hundreds of people savagely chased and beaten by Nazi soldiers led by Herbert Cukurs. I was standing close by to him when an old woman, who had been dumped into a truck, began shouting at the top of her voice, beseeching Cukurs to let her be put in another truck where she had spotted her daughter.
Cukurs replied by killing the woman with a single shot fired with his big revolver. A few minutes later he shot and killed a small child, just because he annoyed him standing the street and crying for his mother."
Cukurs was assassinated in Montevideo in February 1965 by a group of Jews, who were led by Anton Kunzle, and one of the Jews who called himself Oswald Taussig, who like Cukurs came from Riga.
Professor Vaira Vike-Freiberga sixth president of Latvia from 8 July 1999 – 8 July 2007 has stated that Latvia was successively occupied by the Soviets, the Germans and again by the Soviets. The Latvians who joined the SS did it only to find an ally to liberate their country. In short, their crimes were comparable. For that, she has based her reasoning on an interpretation of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact being the result of the totalitarian nature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Therefore, today's Germany could not be held responsible for the Nazi crimes but today's Russia would always be responsible for crimes of Stalinism. However, this interpretation does not reflect reality: the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact is, above all, an extension of the Munich Accords (Germany, France, Italy, and United Kingdom) to determine the areas of influence in the East after the distribution of Czechoslovakia among Germany, Poland and Hungary. In addition, it is necessary to integrate the role of Latvia itself during that period. She has ignored the role of the Red Army in the liberation of Europe from the dun plague (the Fascists wore dun and black shirts), and described as traitors those Latvians who joined the Red Army.
•In January 2005, the Latvian government published a work entitled History of Latvia: 20th Century; the book openly says that it was printed with the financial assistance of the US Embassy and its launching took place during a press conference of the president of the Republic. The book states that the camp of Salaspils, where the Nazis carried out medical experiments with children and 90,000 people were killed, was simply a «corrective working camp» and that the Waffen SS were heroes of the struggle against the Soviet occupying forces.
•On 23 December 2011, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs met with the Chairman of Latvian Council of Jewish Communities Arkady Suharenko.
During the meeting, the parties discussed the current issues of the Jewish community, the cooperation to date between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities, as well as plans for the coming year.
'The year 2011 is significant in the history of Latvia’s Jewish community: it marks 450 years of the Jewish community in Latvia and commemorates the beginning of the tragic Holocaust events 70 years ago. In this context, a number of notable events have taken place in Latvia in 2011, including the Fifth World Reunion of Latvian Jewry and the Eighth International Conference Jews in a Changing World. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia and Jews in Latvia Museum with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have carried out a joint project, titled 'The Tragedy of Latvia. 1941'.
•It should be noted that the exhibition in the Museum of Occupation 'The Tragedy of Latvia', devoted in October 2011 only a couple of stands to the Holocaust, the lack there of suggesting that the Holocaust was not the greatest atrocity that occurred in Latvia. As Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former Latvian president has stated, many Latvians suffered and died in Soviet gulags and their deaths should not be forgotten but the greatest number of killings in Latvian history actually took place during the Nazi regime, circa 25,000 Jews were killed alone over two weekends in Rumbula , by the middle of 1941 the Nazis had killed approximately 10,000 Latvians supposed communist sympathisers and by 1942 nearly 80,000 Jews had been brutally murdered in Latvia.
•In the same museum under a portrait of Gustavs Celmins the museum has named Celmins as the leader of ‘ The National Patriotic Organisation’. However, the reality is that he was the leader of the ‘Perkonkrusts’ an ultra nationalistic anti-Semitic organisation that in 1941 had many members actively kill Jews. Celmins died in 1967 in the USA, he had been professor of Russian at San Antonio Catholic University. In 1944 the Nazis had put him into a concentration camp for being a Latvian nationalist but this does not diminish the role members of his organisation played in the killing of Jews, a fact the Museum of Occupation has omitted.
History to the 16th March marches
•Latvia gained independence from Soviet rule on August 21, 1991
•The first march of the Latvian SS Volunteer Legion took place on March 16 1998 on the initiative of the Nazi association Club 415. ‘Approximately 500 demonstrators , of this the majority war veterans dressed in uniforms from the Latvian legion, participated in a commemoration in the Cathedral of Riga and afterwards marched to the Monument of Freedom, where flowers were laid’. From Baltic Defence review no.3, vol.2000. The debate on the Latvian SS Volunteer legion by Bjarke W.Botcher , post graduate student of east European Studies at the University of Copenhagen
•In 2004 and for the first time in the heart of NATO and the European Union, several hundreds of Waffen SS marched in the centre of the capital Riga. The demonstration, which was authorised by the municipal council of Riga, was protected by security forces, while people who were peacefully protesting against it were brutally repressed and some of them submitted to interrogation.
•March 2010 whilst in Riga, Dr Efraim Zuroff Israel director of the Wiesenthal Centre begged the Latvian authorities to stop the marches and in an article in 2011 pointed out that 600 Latvian intellectuals had signed a petition asking that the government halt the marches, they were not stopped and instead almost condoned. See
http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=213523 23.03.2011 Dr Efraim Zuroff Jerusalem Post
http://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/lifestyle-features/47023/where-hitlers-thugs-are-treated-heroes?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter Jewish Chronicle John Nathan 24.03.2011
http://clemensheni.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/riga-viktor-arajs-march-16-the-latvian-legion-and-the-holocaust/ Dr Clemens Heni 22.03.2010
www.operationlastchance.org Operation: Last Chance” is a joint project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Targum Shlishi Foundation of Miami, Florida designed to assist governments in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.
•On 10 November 2010 Roland Binet wrote an open letter to the president of the European commission Mr Jose Manuel Barroso regarding the Museum of Occupation in Riga, Latvia and the 16 March marches asking the European commission to intervene. See http://defendinghistory.com/
•In 2010 the papers reported an increase in anti-Semitism in Latvia and the Chairman of the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities Arkady Suharenko stated on 14.12.2010 The Latvian Jewish Community is shocked and dismayed at the desecration of the Riga Jewish cemetery on December 8, and the desecration of the monument to Janis Lipke and other saviours on December 13. These aggressive manifestations of anti-Semitism seem to indicate that this is not an isolated action by some miscreants but rather a system, a pattern that is of concern to us.
•March 16, 2011 Riga, Latvia - More than 2,500 people paid tribute to Latvians who fought on the side of Nazi Germany in Waffen SS detachments during World War II.
It was stated that 2011 would be the year that Latvia would commemorate 450 years of Jewish life in Latvia and 70 years since the Riga ghetto yet the Museum of Occupation in Riga only devoted a couple of stands to the Holocaust.
•In response to the marches The Latvian Prime Minister told local media he did not think March 16 had, “a special significance.” Legionnaires’ Day is used by radicals on both sides, “to confront each other,” he noted.
•January 2012 on the radio in Latvia three organisations have already declared their wish to have marches take place on March 16 2012:
1. All Latvia ‘Daugavas Vanagi’
2. ‘Daugavas Vanagi’ affiliation in the town of Limbazi
3. Igor Shishkin organisation ‘Club of Gustavs Celmins’ (Gustavs Celmins leader of the ‘Perkonkrusts’ an ultra nationalistic anti-Semitic organisation that in 1941 had many members actively kill Jews.)
The fact that Latvian politicians and historians have still not considered in more depth the dreadful fate of their Jewish compatriots suggests that Latvians have still not come to terms with their past . They have failed to acknowledge the active involvement of over 1,000 Arajs commandos in the guarding, robbing and brutal mass murder of 13,000 Jews in the summer and fall of 1941 alone. And lest we forget the murder of 90 percent of Latvia’s pre-war Jewish population, killed in 1941-42. Only one in ten survived. Approximately 67,000 Jews were living in Latvia at the time of the Nazi invasion in July 1941. Approximately 62,000 of them were killed during the Nazi occupation. About 30,000 Jews were killed already by mid-August 1941. The main agents of this murder were small German military units joined by the so-called Arājs Commando and assisted by Latvian auxiliary police, which consisted mainly of volunteers. In late 1941 approximately an additional 30,000 Latvian Jews were killed in a carefully organised execution also aided by Latvian police and Arājs Commando in Rumbula forest, just outside the capital city of Rīga. After this, about 25,000 European Jews were brought to the Riga Ghetto by train and at least half of them were murdered by mid-1942 When Latvian politicians and historians in an EU country and in the heart of NATO defend in 2012 the 16th March marches, when they herald Latvian SS men as freedom fighters and heroes, they fail to recognise that some of these ‘heroes’ were actually Arajs commandos and mass murderers who in 1943 joined 15th and 19th SS detachments . When Latvian politicians and historians state that they did not war against the democratic allies Britain and USA but only against the Soviet occupants they forget one unforgettable and important fact- the western allies fought with the USSR against the Nazis. Therefore, when Latvian SS killed Soviet soldiers they in turn allowed Nazis on the western front to kill British and American soldiers and in turn allowed Auschwitz and other concentration camps to continue their heinous crimes against humanity.
Monica Lowenberg MA, BA Hons 20.01.2012
(In the course of her DPhil studies at Sussex University and academic work at the Wiener Library, London, UK Monica has been published in the UK and Germany in Exile Studies. Publications have included Die Kindertransporte 1938/1939 Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag and The Education of the Cologne Jawne Gymnasium Children and the Berlin ORT School Boys in Germany and England Between 1933 and 1939 Rodopi)
My thanks to Dr Aleksandrs Feigmanis Historian in Riga, Latvia for devoting many hours informing myself of what is currently taking place in Latvia today and for proof reading this document, without him this document and petition would never have come about. I am also indebted to Dorothee Lottmann Kaeseler of the Aktives Museum in Wiesbaden, Germany and Dr Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Israel Office for the invaluable information they have given me. Dr Barry Gardiner MP for Brent North for supporting the petition, ‘Stop the 16th March marches in Riga and Latvians Revising History!’ and for being prepared to submit an Early day Motion to the House of Commons to coincide with the date of 16 March to draw attention to the issue.
In remembrance of the innocent voices who were brutally silenced and my uncle Paul Lowenberg 20.01.1922 who at the age of 19 was sent to the Riga ghetto on the 4 October 1941.
You can add your voice to this petition by accessing the links directly below
1.If you are a British citizen or normally live in the UK go to
2. If you are not a British citizen and live outside the UK go to
Остановить марш ветеранов Ваффен-СС и их сторонников 16 марта и пересмотр истории второй мировой войны в Латвии !
С 1998 года ветераны Латышских дивизий Ваффен-СС каждый год, 16 марта, маршируют в столице Латвии - в Риге, чтобы помянуть своих павших товарищей как героев войны. Количество участников этих маршей с каждым годом увеличивается с тревожным постоянством и в них участвуют представители Латвийских властей.
16 марта 2011 года в Риге, столице государства-члена НАТО, более 2500 человек, и в том числе латвийские политики, воздали честь латышам, боровшимся на стороне нацистской Германии в подразделениях Ваффен-СС во время второй мировой войны. Премьер министр Латвии сказал представителям местных средств массовой информации, что он не думает , что 16 марта имеет какое либо «особое значение». «День легионеров используется радикалами с обеих сторон, для конфронтации друг с другом». Однако авторы этой петиции уверены, что Латвия, международное сообщество, правительство Объединенного Королевства, Европейский Союз и НАТО должны резко осудить это, говоря ясным языком, про-нацистское мероприятие, так как ветераны Ваффен-СС не рассматриваются как законные «герои» ни в одной стране Европейского Союза, куда Латвия вступила в 2004 году.
OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION,
Mr JOSÉ MANUEL BARROSO, RELATED TO THE “OCCUPATION MUSEUM” OF RIGA IN LATVIA
Dear Mr Barroso,
I recently visited the “
” in Riga/Latvia where I had the opportunity to see your picture -
taken during your visit of that museum in 2008 - displayed on one wall of the
entrance hall. Occupation Museum
That museum prides itself on having thus welcomed a number of well-known symbolic personalities. Your persona grata is all the more important now that the EU has become an unavoidable partner in the world and, furthermore, now that
has become a full Member-State
of the European Union. Latvia
This small museum is indeed remarkable. It depicts and illustrates, sometimes in a most harrowing manner, what the Soviet terror must have been like for the inhabitants of that country invaded by the USSR in June 1940, then, reinvaded by the “liberating forces” of the Red Army after the defeat of the Germans. Without any shadow of a doubt, hundreds of thousands of Latvian patriots have known the anguish of repressive methods, slavery of the mind, deportation to the Gulag, forced exile in
or other inhospitable places, or even death.
An extremely reduced part of the permanent exhibition allows us to have a very vague representation of the Holocaust in
during World War II. On the sole and
tiny wall devoted to the Shoah, a gigantic picture of the
female members of a Jewish family partly undressed just before their execution by
bullet is prominently displayed. It is a terrifying picture. On the left one sees a little girl so afraid of
dying that she partly hides her face against the right arm and back of her
mother. This is a picture that is
well-known to historians, taken in Latvia
in the dunes of Šķēde, the place of a gigantic massacre. In that section of the museum devoted to the
Holocaust, one can also read the name of the Latvian SS leader of the
Arājs Commando. As no other
thorough information is displayed, one may and must infer that this man alone must
be one of the principal persons responsible for the massacre of the Jews in Liepāja . Latvia
I can understand that the part devoted to the Holocaust might be restricted compared to the decades of horror sustained by the Latvian people under Stalin, then Brezhnev, the NKVD, then the KGB. After all, the murder of the Jews of
only concerned 70,000
persons whereas the Museum states that hundreds of thousands of Latvian
citizens suffered under the Soviet yoke. Latvia
Except that in
, the Shoah
caused the death of 90 % of the autochthonous Jewish population. In
other words, only 1 Jew out of 100 survived WWII in that country! A fact that would deserve to be said and
repeated as that percentage of
massacre – chiefly by bullet and wilful sanitary neglect – is one of the
highest within Latvia Western Europe.
And, a bit naively, I ask myself the following question: would there be another underlying reason in what I consider – in proportion – such a modesty of display regarding the pain, losses and deaths that the Latvian Jews had to undergo during WWII? This renowned museum conceived for a broad public of visitors largely ignorant of the bare facts related to the war is a showcase of the two “occupations” in fact. But does it represent the reality in the matter of one of the most monstrous genocides ever committed? And I am speaking here of the extermination of the Jews in a global Nazi undertaking of murdering whole segments of populations, of a magnitude and purpose extremely abyssal. And another question: if the Occupation Museum in Riga were really a showcase aiming at giving an honest representation - to foreign visitors not really cognisant of the terror experienced by the Latvian people as a whole during the Soviet and Nazi years of occupation -, does it fulfil its purpose ?
In order to judge in an impartial manner, one has to go back to different sources, be they testimonial, historical or governmental, in order to understand fully what really happened to the Jews in
between 1941 and 1945, why and how they were exterminated? Latvia
The Latvijas Institūts of the
has this following statement
on its website with regard to the possible participation of Latvians in the
Nazi undertaking of massacring the Jews of Latvia: “The Latvian
Auxiliary Police Battalions and the Latvian Legion were involved in the
Holocaust. The murder of Latvian Jews was basically completed by the end
of 1941. The Schutzmannschaften Battalions were formed by the German
authorities in late 1941 and 1942. (…). It is also known that two
battalions were involved in guard duties at the Occupation Museum Ghetto.” [i] Warsaw
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia points out in a text available on its website, written by I. Feldmanis and K. Kangeris that: “No community can be judged on the basis of what individuals have done ». Furthermore, one can read the following assertion: “The last document, the 10th, is one, which is most familiar to historians. It has to do with the 1943 events in
, when the Jewish ghetto was
liquidated. That was an even, which had
nothing whatsoever to do with Latvians.”[ii] Warsaw
Raul Hilberg has this to say about the possible involvement of Latvians at the time of the first massive round-ups of Jews in the
ghetto: “One needed reinforcements and one got them. In July 1942, the 22nd and 272nd
battalions were imported from Warsaw Riga for the big
round-up in the
(Sir) Martin Gilbert: “That same day, July 22, the ghetto walls were surrounded by Ukrainian and Latvian guards, in SS uniforms, armed, and at twenty-yard intervals. The round-up and deportation of Jews from
now began.”[iv] Warsaw
Emmanuel Ringelblum: “Why could 50 SS (according to others even less) helped by some 200 Ukrainians and an even number of Latvians guards, proceed in such an easy way during that operation?”[v]
Hillel Seidman: “Thursday 23 July – Panic in the ghetto. Everyone is suffering from despair. The militia made up of Ukrainians, Latvians and Lithuanians encircle the housing blocks of the ghetto. One of the militiamen goes inside the courtyard and orders that all inhabitants come down. Then, the Jews are placed by groups and they are led to the goods’ loading and unloading station, the Umschlagplatz.”[vi]
Even more astonishing a website source entitled “Latvian Battalion in
Poland and White Russia”,
a site that glorifies the action of these Latvian battalions during WWII,
states the following: “272.
Daugavgrivas Battalion started to be formed by Pltn. K. Mangulis 1st
July 1942 in
Bolderaja (…) 25th of July, the battalion armed with Russian and
Canadian guns, together with the 22nd Daugavas Battalion left for
Warsaw where they arrived 31st of July. In Warsaw
the battalion was to fulfill guard duty and during free time finish training
(…) 26th of July 1942 at Warsaw
arrived the 22nd Daugavas Battalion (…) In the battalion filled guard duty until
6th of October Warsaw 1942.” [vii]
As one can immediately ascertain by beginning with a few selected sources, there is an acute controversy in reference to the exact role that other armed Latvians than those belonging to the Viktors Arājs Commando may have played in the Nazi undertaking of liquidating Jews, in Latvia as well as in other foreign countries . One can also note that official sources tend to “downplay” possible involvement. “Guard duties” when one is referring to innocent Jewish victims being driven by force to an “Umschlagplatz”, sometimes shot on the spot when refusing or unable to move, and then forcibly put into death trains to Treblinka, are these in fact mere guard duties?
In order to ascertain and understand the possible participation of Latvians in the murder of the Jews, one should, first and foremost, hark back to the past of
country that gained independence in 1919.
It was invaded by the Latvia USSR
in 1940 in
accordance to the secret clauses of the Non-Aggression Pact signed between (Nazi)
Germany and the ,
that infamous Agreement between two totalitarian states also called the “Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact”. Just a few weeks prior to the invasion of
Latvia by the Germans, the Soviet authorities began - in their own cruel and inimitable
manner – their game of political paranoia in Latvia too, deporting everyone
deemed, suspected, denounced, or who could constitute a threat to the integrity
of the communist party, to the Gulag and the exile villages in Siberia[viii]. And, it is needless to say that in a country already
heavily involved with USSR
as part of its own past, newly independent, one could in fact comb on a large
scale in search of real or so-called opposition to communism, the contestants did
not lack in number. The years after the “show
trials” in Russia
of 1937 were in fact years when paranoia was at its acutest not only Stalin’s but
also within the obedient corps of the NKVD in its entirety. Of course, this brutal repression, unfounded and
on a large-scale for such a small country as Moscow , became the present and
future seeds of a permanent discontentment among the suddenly enslaved
When the Germans invaded
in 1941, they were greeted there as “liberators”
by the local population. In fact a very
large picture of that kind is displayed on one of the walls of the Latvia , with a caption in the style of “After one year of terror, the
population greets the Germans as liberators.” For
visitors coming from Western-Europe this is a shocking picture. Yet, historically speaking, on the one hand Latvia
did have German roots stemming from the period of the “Hanse” and, on the other hand, rather irrationally, the non-Jewish
part of the Latvian population tended to be more lenient toward Germany than
the USSR, whereas Germany had also been one of the signatories of the infamous Pact
of August 1939, having thus allowed the Soviets free rein to take over that
country. A fact almost forgotten, historically speaking. Occupation Museum
Another source of discontent toward the Jews is that that oppressed minority welcomed the arrival of the Red Army. There had always been a kind of sympathy or leniency in relation to
Russia from that
side because some of the initial leaders of the Soviet revolution in were
Jewish: Trotsky, Kaganovitch, and Zinoviev, among others. And, in the mid-thirties when the Nazi
propaganda spoke more and more vehemently about the Jewish-Bolshevist conspiracy, one may understand that many
oppressed Jews looked toward Russia
with a kind of longing. Furthermore, for
adherents to movements such as Hashomer
Hatsair, the Bund, the left –
even the Stalinist version of communism – was by far preferable to a
dictatorship of the right practising discriminating rules with regard to their
community and vowing to exterminate them “in
case of a new world war” (cf. Hitler’s speech of January 1939 when he spoke
of “ausrotten” – exterminate - in
relation to the Jews). Russia
When the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, they rapidly progressed within the
Baltic States. Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled their homes
and took after the retreating Soviet soldiers.
They were lucky because immediately after the occupation of the main
towns and cities of Latvia, and in particular in Riga, the Germans appear to have
given a carte blanche to the local
population so that they might take revenge on the Jews who – for some gullible
persons – were held responsible for collaboration with the Soviets and for the
enforced deportation of thousands of innocent Latvians.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia claims that Soviet sources and present Russian authorities are responsible for having stated that Latvian SS units or other organisations were guilty of participating in the mass massacre of the Jews, in a text available on its website, written by I. Feldmanis and K. Kangeris: “The ministry's memorandum (i.e. the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department of Information and Press Relations) is yet another attempt to describe the history of Latvia, and particularly of the Latvian Legion, as an issue of "national chauvinism" and "collaborationism". The document speaks to the emergence of pro-Fascist organisations, which supposedly emerged after World War I. It says that the "Aizsargi" (Home Guard) organisation appeared and helped the leader of the Latvian Farmers
Kārlis Ulmanis, to stage his coup on May 15, 1934. In the late 1930s,
according to the authors of this document, the Home Guard, members of the
Pērkoņkrusts (Cross of Thunder) organisation and other nationalists began to
collaborate with ,
which in June 1941 led them to be active participants in the destruction of the
Latvian Jewish community. Later, claims the Foreign Ministry, Latvian
police battalions became involved in the slaughter of civilians, as did
Waffen-SS units of Latvians. Germany
These are claims that were made in the 1960s by Soviet propagandists, and today the Department of Information and Press Relations of the
Ministry is still trying to accuse the entire Latvian Legion of war crimes”[ix]. Russian Federation
Yet, numerous other sources contradict that official Latvian point of view.
Yet, there are pictures showing us that as soon as July 2, 1941, self-proclaimed self-defence bands (pašaizsardzības spēki) or mere groups of civilians arrested and escorted Jews.[x]
What do others have to say on that subject?
Elmar Rivosh: “Latvian volunteers materialized from somewhere, wearing armbands with the national colours. In groups of several men, sometimes accompanied by a German, they began to make rounds of people’s houses. The caretakers had to point out the Jewish homes. They came in, searched, beat the inhabitants, confiscated valuables, and took away most of the men.”[xi]
Bernhard Press: “Lithuanian Jews who had fled the Germans to
from Kaunas, , Panevezys, and other cities had
found shelter in the cellar of the Great Choral Synagogue on Siauliai Gogol Street. On July 4, 1941, Latvian policemen drove Jews
from the neighboring houses into this cellar as well and set the building on
fire. Holy writings were torn up and
thrown into the flames. Guards with
machine guns surrounded the synagogue and shot anyone who tried to escape.”[xii]
Ella Medalye (one of the few survivors from the
massacres): “On the first day of the occupation (i.e. July 1, 1941,
in ), late in the evening there was someone knocking at the door. I opened the door. In the corridor, there was a small band of
Latvians on the landing, some adolescents aged 16/17 years old. Our neighbour was leading them. Him, I knew quite well, as on the very first
day of our arrival in Riga ,
in that old house of 5 floors situated Riga 13 Tomson Street, he always greeted me
with great amiability, even removing his hat from far away. Now, without ceremony, he swarmed into our
apartment in a brutal and insolent manner, he ordered my husband to dress
immediately and to follow them, allegedly for a labour task. We said good-bye (…). I never saw him alive
again. After the war, I learned that my
husband – as so many other young Jews who could have been likely to put up a
resistance against the executioners – was led by the fascists to the Biķernieki
forest and executed that same night.”[xiii]
Iossif Rotchko about the murder of the Jews in the chapter “The Holocaust in Latgale: in Līvāni, Preiļi, Kārsava, Višķi, Dagda:
Pages 257/258: « On July 28, 1941 the first act of the tragedy befalling the Jews of Preiļi was initiated. During the morning, members from the self-defence militia gathered on the market place. They were given weapons to proceed with the execution of the Jews. The other armed policemen were in position to avoid that troubles might happen in the town, because all inhabitants were not in favour of that execution...”
Page 258: “The unfortunate (i.e. the Jews) were ordered to stop at a stone quarry. They were ordered to take off their clothes and remain in under-clothes, then they were led to the edge of the pit by groups of 8/10 persons. The executioners killed them by firing at their backs, as if they were afraid to look in their eyes a final time. After all, they were neighbours. The killers were conducted to the killing ground by carts driven by the
J. Litaunieks, as well as others…” [xiv] farmers I.
Why was it possible that there were spontaneous or induced pogroms committed by Latvian civilians, policemen or self-proclaimed militiamen at the very beginning of the occupation of
by the Germans, at the time when some kind of chaos or governmental vacuum was
reigning over that country? Was there
anti-Semitism in that country prior to the occupation by the Nazis, a
deep-rooted discontentment – or even hatred – that may have generated
spontaneous or induced acts of such barbarity?
And why was there a participation of Latvians in some pogroms or mass
killings even before the SS Latvian Legion was formed? Latvia
The « Latvijas Institūts » of the
states the following on its website: “There was widespread killing of Jews by the local
population without German involvement. There is no record of virulent
anti-Semitism before the arrival of Nazi Germans. The Nazi German policy
was to make it look like Latvians were spontaneously killing their own Jews;
they co-opted and manipulated individual Latvians to do so in their
stead. Jewish survivors, not knowing the command mechanism, oftentimes
assumed that the Latvian collaborators were acting on their own »[xv] Occupation Museum
What have other voices to say on that matter? Was there anti-Semitism in
prior to the war and how large was the possible Latvian participation in the
Bernhard Press: “In 1933, Hitler came to power. In
the leader of the Farmers’
Party, Karlis Ulmanis, became head of state in 1934 by means of a coup carried
out by the army and the Aiszargi, a paramilitary organization. He dissolved and banned all political
parties; His policy toward the Jews
cannot be called anti-Semitic in the conventional sense, but he was intent on
enriching the Latvians, especially the merchants, at the cost of the
minorities, primarily the Jews and the Germans.
Numerous Jewish and German banks were taken over by the Latvian Credit
Bank. Jewish companies – for example,
the Linen Manufacturing Company in Jelgava (Mitau) and the Latvia Buffalo
textile factory in
– were nationalized, and the import of gasoline and wheat was taken out of
Jewish hands and transferred to the state.
Import licences were now necessary to import goods from abroad, and
these were granted primarily to Latvian merchants, whereas Jewish merchants
were able to get them only at high prices or at second or third hand. Jewish physicians lost their positions in the
health-insurance companies. President
Ulmanis did not like the Latvian intelligentsia because it considered him a
mere peasant, and he did not encourage this group’s anti-Semitism. On the other hand, he did little to hinder it
and strongly stirred up the nationalism of young people in the rural areas.”[xvi] Riga
Boris Volkovitch in the part entitled “Anti-Semitism and the discrimination against the Jews” in the chapter entitled “The Jews of
period between the two wars”: Latvia
Page 20: “The Latvian government was never able to restrain the anti-Semitic manifestations. The anti-Semitic propaganda was spread by means of xenophobe press articles and the publication of anti-Jewish books and pamphlets. Rightist news papers as for example Tautas Balss (the People’s Voice), Latvijas Sargs (the Latvian Sentry), Latvis (the Latvian), Zemgalietis (Zemgalian), Pērkoņkrusts (Cross of Thunder), Zilais Erglis (the Blue Eagle), Tautas Vairogs (the People’s Shield) as well as others led a war of ideological terror against the Jews, generally, and most particularly against the Latvian Jews.
Page 33 (of the part entitled “Some conclusions” of the same chapter): “The policy of discrimination practised by the government with regard to the minorities (and more particularly against the Jews) had negative consequences in numerous fields. The discontent increased, among the younger generations chiefly (because of employment, career opportunities, the quotas in the higher educational establishments, etc.). The minorities retired more and more within themselves. As regards the Jews, some went back to their roots and prepared themselves to leave
Latvia for other countries (including ). Others placed their hopes in the Soviet Union,
seeing in that country a protection against anti-Semitism and, still more
important, against Nazi Palestine .”[xvii] Germany
(Sir) Martin Gilbert: “In the former Latvian city of
Dvinsk (i.e. ), more than sixteen thousand Jews had been trapped by the rapid German
advance. Hardly had German forces
occupied the city, than all Jewish males between the ages of sixteen and sixty
were ordered to report to the market place.
The Jews were then divided into groups, each with a German of a Latvian
overseer and taken to different parts of the city to clear rubble. Jews who tried to hide from these labour
tasks were rounded up by zealous Latvians, members of a pre-war Fascist
The “Shoah Resource Center” of Yad Vashem, (in a Reich Secret Document relating to the Einsatzgruppe A): « Even in Riga it proved possible by means of appropriate suggestions to the Latvian auxiliary police to get an anti-Jewish pogrom going, in the course of which all the synagogues were destroyed and about 400 Jews killed. As the population on the whole quietened down very quickly in
, it was not possible
to arrange further pogroms.»[xix] In the
same “Geheimbericht” (Secret
Document), one can read the following statement from an active German
source at the time of the killings, but
quoted by Léon Poliakov/Joseph Wulf: “After the terror
of the Jewish-Bolshevist hegemony – some 33,038 Latvians were deported, arrested
or murdered -, an extended pogrom by the
population would have been expected.
Indeed, only a few thousands Jews were spontaneously liquidated by the
local population. In Riga it was
necessary for the Sonderkommandos to execute cleansing actions helped by
selected personnel of the Latvian Hilfspolizei (mostly people belonging to
families that had suffered a deported or murdered member).”[xx] Latvia
Leni Yahil: “In the
Baltic states the SS availed themselves, intensively and
entirely in a conscious way, of the heavy anti-Semitism which could be found in
large strata of the population.”[xxi]
This view seems to be echoed in a passage taken from the “Anti-Semitism” chapter of Andrew Ezergailis’s monumental work on the annihilation of the Jews of Latvia: “One goal of the propaganda was to create a desire for revenge. A special effort was made by Stahlecker’s men to enlist relatives of victims of communism in the killing teams. For this purpose the propaganda apparatus was mobilized and agents were sent out to the countryside to find the kinsmen of the communist victims and cajole them into killing actions (…) the Einsatzgruppen leaders sought out the gravesites of victims of the communists as soon as they arrived in a locale; then they had the dead dug up and displayed the rotting corpses to the public. Digging up graves was the major news at the beginning of the occupation. An especially gruesome tale of an exhumation comes from Rēzekne. A week after the German arrival, the SD men assembled all Latvian local police guards at the edge of a gravesite, and local Jews were made to dig up the pit. They uncovered about thirty half-rotted corpses.”[xxii]
In an article published by the German weekly “Der Spiegel”, the author lets Margers Vestermanis - then aged 80 years old, one of the 30 survivors born in Latvia still living in that country –, the founder of the Museum of the Jews of Latvia – express himself about these times: “Who committed all these murders during the first two months at the time when the German police force was not yet organised? “ He adds: “35,000 Jews have been liquidated exclusively during the first 100 days after the German invasion, of these 30,000 are to be held to account of the Latvian murderers.” [xxiii]
Guido Knopp – a well-known German historian and author of historical documentaries on WWII – quotes what the Führer of the Polizei and Ordnungspolizei for Latvia had to say about the situation in that country, on December 23, 1941: “In
, the massive
massacres by bullets of the Jews of the ghetto are much talked about. The major part of the population of Riga expresses its
satisfaction and appeals to an uninterrupted liquidation of the Jews and, thus,
to a liberation of the ghetto so that they can go and live there.”[xxiv] Riga
There is also an astonishing document dated December 11, 1941, quoted by Christopher R. Browning and that one can find in a facsimile version on Internet. It refers to the written report that the German lieutenant Paul Salitter, a captain of the Schutzpolizei submitted to his hierarchy after having accompanied a train of Jewish deportees to
. What did he write exactly? : “In Riga ,
there were approximately 300,000 inhabitants of which about 35,000 Jews. The Jews were predominant in the field of
business. Their businesses were
nevertheless immediately closed and shut down after the arrival of the German
troops. The Jews themselves were
relocated in a ghetto on the Düna ( Riga Dvina) and
the place was secured by means of barbed wire.
At this time, only 2,500 male Jews employed at different labour tasks
are supposed to be in the ghetto. The
other Jews have either been sent elsewhere to accomplish similar tasks, or have
been shot by the Latvians. The Latvians
hate the Jews, particularly. Since the
liberation and until now, they participated massively in the extermination of
these parasites. Yet, they have trouble
understanding – as I had the opportunity to ascertain with the Latvian personnel
of the railways – why the Germans bring their Jews in instead
of exterminating them in their own country…”[xxv] Latvia
With regard to the tragic history of the annihilation of the Jews of Latvia, Andrew Ezergailis mentions – in the chapter entitled “Conclusions” - these two main points, among others: “The history of the Holocaust in
will not be complete until a
full accounting is made of the murder of Jews in the small towns. We still must determine how many killings
centers were in Vidzeme, for example (…) Finally, when the Germans entered Latvia on July 1, 1941, did
they make an exception to the standard practice of imposing a curfew and
martial law ? Did they in fact allow
armed Latvians to roam at will through the city? And if so, by what markings or other means of
recognition did the Germans distinguish friend from foe?”[xxvi] Riga
As one can ascertain when reading the different accounts from survivors from the Holocaust and historical works, not only did the Commando Viktors Arājs participate in the murder of the Latvian Jews and the Jews deported in
countries of Western Europe. There were thus pogroms, individual or mass
killings, perpetrated by groups of civilians or by self-defence militiamen, by members of paramilitary
organisations or movements close to the ideology of Fascism such as the Aizsargi (“defenders”, a nationalist-populist militia founded in 1919,
numbering 68,000 members from all strata of society, the principal source of
collaborators for the Nazis); there was also the Pērkoņkrusts organisation (strangely
enough, a Fascist organization forbidden by the Germans in August 1941 and
whose members merged with the Nazis).[xxvii] There were further the Latvian men belonging
to the Schutzmannschaften[xxviii] and, finally
the “Hiwis” (also called “Askaris”), these last being Soviet
soldiers prisoners of war recruited by the Nazis in camps - among whom were
Latvians POW’s - whose later military training took place in Trawniki in Poland (also a “KZ”, by the
way), and whose reputation for cruelty and savagery is quoted by all historians
or witnesses who ever had to deal with these “collaborators” bearing German
This is what some historians stated about the “Trawnikis” (another appellation for these “volunteer” troops): “Following the Nazi invasion of the
Soviet Union in June 1941, the Nazis encouraged Ukrainians,
who were former soldiers of the Red Army and who had been captured, to join
their cause. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians volunteered for service in the
German security services, as well as Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and
others (…) The volunteer units were called "Trawnikis" or
"Askaris" by the local population. The Germans called them
Hilfswillige or Hiwis for short, and the volunteers themselves Wachtmänner. In
Trawniki the Wachtmänner received abbreviated military training and exercises,
including training for the
deportation of the Jews. Approximately 2,000-3,000 guardsmen passed through the training camp
during the two and a half years of its activity. Some of them were organised
into two battalions with four companies each, about 1,000 men altogether. The
size of a company was 100-200 men.”[xxix]
As one can ascertain, the role of the Latvian collaborators in the undertaking of extermination of the Latvian Jews is at least controversial; a number of sources mention an active participation, others - Latvian essentially - deny it completely.
What has a well-known Nazi-hunter to say about the matter of collaboration? “The Germans would never have killed 6 million Jews without the help of hundreds of thousands of collaborators. The Holocaust cannot be summarised by the anti-Semitic madness of the sole Germans and Austrians. The whole continental
Europe was associated in the process. In all the countries that they invaded, the
Nazis found cruel and zealous volunteers. (…) An important part of the murdered
Jews in the three Baltic states were killed by Balts, not by Germans or
Austrians. Baltic citizens were by the
way sent to foreign countries to take part in the genocide. Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians went in
in order to kill Jews there. Jews from
central Europe were deported to the Byelorussia Baltic states
where they were murdered. These three
small countries have thus greatly contributed to the liquidation of the
On May 19,
2005, a text on the actual
situation in Latvia, written byVladimir Simonov, was made available
on Internet: “A short
excursion in Riga with a good guide will only increase the confusion that a
foreign observer might feel seeing the outburst of the Nazi spirit in that
Baltic state. Anti-Semitic inscriptions
sometimes appear on the monuments of Jewish graveyards. Carpets with swastikas are exhibited in shop
windows. One can see passers-by bearing
metallic swastikas on the chest. Demonstrating
an astonishing historical amnesia, Riga becomes
indignant with the alleged genocide committed in after the war and caused by
a “totalitarian foreign empire”, but keeps silent with regard to the ethnic
catastrophe in 1941. During the brief
period between the departure of the Soviet authorities and the arrival of the
Hitler units, the Latvian nationalists had ample time to exterminate and rob
thousands of Latvian Jews. A monstrous
genocide committed by citizens from Latvia Latvia
against other citizens of .”[xxxi] Latvia
What does the same Efraim Zuroff write regarding “the Nazi spirit” symbolised by the annual march held each year on March 16, near the Statue of Liberty in Riga, a march that honours the SS from the Latvian Legion, Latvian SS soldiers of whom some pictures are exhibited at the Occupation Museum (one can also buy a book on the Latvian Legion at the reception desk in the entrance hall). A sight which, to foreign visitors from Western-Europe who grew up with an ingrained hatred of the Wehrmacht and the SS, is and remains utterly shocking: “In reality, Tuesday’s ceremony was in certain respect only the tip of a very dangerous iceberg that is attempting to rewrite the history books and create a false symmetry or equalisation of Communist and Nazi crimes. And while the march was not organised by the government, it is obvious that there is strong support for its message among Latvian leaders. Thus, for example, yesterday
foreign minister Maris Riekstins issued an official statement in which he
attacked my criticism of the march and attempted to equate the suffering of all
the victims of the Second World War, as if there was no difference between
those supporting Nazism and those opposing it.[xxxii] Latvia
As for the Latvian SS Legion and the annual march on March
their honour, the present Latvian
authorities support the view that these SS units had nothing whatever to do
with the extermination of the Latvian Jews, because in fact when these SS units
were formed or conscribed according to the Latvian sources, most of the
killings of Jews in Latvia had been done.[xxxiii] Yes, but one may perhaps take the opposite
view. The Waffen SS units were elite troops that nearly always fought in a
harsh and organised manner and succeeded, very often, in containing the advance
of the Soviet Army. Might one,
therefore, not come to the conclusion that SS combat troops – among which
figures the Latvian SS Legion -, that did not kill any Jews directly, delayed
the defeat of Nazi Germany. And,
inevitably, allowed thus that more Jews in ghettoes, small communities, death
camps, in far-away countries ( Greece,
etc.) could be killed. One has only to
think of the extermination of the Hungarian Jews begun in 1944. Were the Latvians fighting under SS uniforms
against the Italy
in fact not helping Nazi Germany to go on killing, killing and killing the Jews
of Europe? USSR
It seems to me, thus, that after the fall of the Iron Curtain associated with the fall of Communism we are now witnessing another Iron Curtain being erected with the purpose of giving a minimalist representation of the horrors suffered by the 70,000 Jews of Latvia victims of the murders committed under the Nazi regime; a Manichean vision that forgets to refer to the possible social and political underlying context leading to the war, a silencing process that seems to attribute the major part of that unprecedented catastrophe which happened in Latvia between 1941 and 1945 only to the Viktors Arājs Commando or other militias, a terribly withering process which I think, within limits, smacks of history-rewriting as Efraim Zuroff stated, or, worse, revisionism. And, unfortunately, the Occupation Museum in Riga is part of the alleviating process as far as the exhibits it displays in its permanent exhibition are concerned.
May I therefore ask you to distance yourself from that kind of moral support? It concerns first and foremost, I think, our dignity as citizens of the European Union and our firm and enduring belief in humanistic values that cannot in whatever manner be muted as far as the crimes committed against humanity are concerned.
I thank you beforehand for your attention and kindness.
© Roland Binet –
– European Citizen of one
of the founding Member-States of the European Union. Belgium
As some of the witnesses’ accounts originate from authors who might be less known to readers experienced in matters relating to WWII, here are some clarifying biographical information about them:
« И ТЫ ЭТО ВИДЕЛ » (i ty eto videl/And You Saw It) by David Silberman, published by BOTA/Riga, ISBN 9984-19-970-3, can be bought at the Museum of the Jews of Latvia/Riga. David Silberman was born in Preiļi in
in 1934. His family fled the native town
just one day before the murder of nearly all its Jewish inhabitants. Around 1958, David Silberman decided to
collect testimonial material from survivors from the Holocaust. This was realised clandestinely because the
Soviet authorities frowned on activities and written works that made a
differentiation between Jewish and Soviet (i.e. non-Jews) victims. An activist for the right of Soviet Jews to
emigrate to Latvia Israel, David
Silberman was one of the leading persons to organise a hunger-strike in at the beginning of
the seventies. He underwent questioning
by the KGB, a search of his apartment.
Finally, after the hunger-strike he was granted permission to emigrate
to Moscow . He is now an American citizen and has many
other books in Russian and English. One
of these - entitled “Like a Star in the Darkness”, ISBN
979-9984-280-6 – describes the story of Janis (Zhan) Lipke, a Latvian patriot
who helped and saved around 50 Jews from certain death during WWII. This
righteous man was honoured in Jerusalem where his name was inscribed in the
“Golden Book” of the Jewish nation as Righteous among the Nations (from the cover of his book and my personal contacts with him: Roland
« THE MURDER OF THE JEWS IN
1941-1945 », by Bernhard Press, Nothwestern
University Press, ISBN 0-8101-1729-0, can be bought on Internet. According to the short biographical
information on the back cover, Bernhard Press was born in LATVIA in
1917. He studied in Latvia Florence
because of covert anti-Semitism in . In 1951, he was accused of high treason and
sentenced to 25 years in an arctic labour camp.
After being released in 1956, he emigrated to West-Germany. He was an Honorary Professor of Pathology at
the Free University of Berlin. Latvia
« MEMOIRS » by Elmar Rivosh, ISBN 978-9984-39-515-9; this book can be bought at the Museum of the Jews of Latvia in
. According to the short biographical information
on the back cover and footnote ˡ page 7 of his memoirs, Elmar Rivosh was born
in Kreuzburg (Krustpils) in 1906, studies in Riga Riga,
later . He was imprisoned in the Paris ghetto, and he was the only one from his
family to escape when he went into hiding with the help of Latvian
benevolents. Excerpts from the chapters
“The Beginning of the End” and “It Begins” have been translated into
several languages and widely circulated.
They are acknowledged as a remarkable testament to WWII. The bulk of the text was written in hiding
during the war and completed after liberation.
These chapters were sent to Soviet writers (V. Grossman and I. Ehrenburg)
in order to be included in the “Black Book”. The manuscript featured at the Nuremberg
Trials of the key Nazi criminals. The
entire edition of the already typeset of the “Black Book” was never published
at that time, it was destroyed when the Anti-Fascist Committee (in the Riga ) was liquidated by the Stalinist regime. (as is well-known, the “Black Book”
was later published in Western-European countries and translated into many
languages: Roland Binet). USSR
« L’EXTERMINATION DES JUIFS EN LETTONIE 1941-1945 » (The Extermination of the Jews in Latvia 1941-1945), a conferences’ cycle, director of publication Rabbin Ménachem Barkahan, ISBN 978-9984-9835-8-5, published by the « Shamir Association », Riga/Latvia; translated from the original Russian but available in French at the Museum of the Jews of Latvia; this book received the support of the “Agence Exécutive” (Éducation, audiovisuel et culture – EACEA) from the EU. This remarkable book describes in a very thorough manner the social and political context in
prior to WWII. It details methodically, village after
village, town after town, city after city, ghetto after ghetto, killing ground
after killing ground, what really happened in Latvia and how the Latvian Jews
were exterminated during WWII. (for anyone really interested
in knowing the horrifying reality of the Holocaust in Latvia , this is an absolute must,
and it is a pity it is not yet available in English or German: Roland Binet). Latvia
[iii] « La Destruction des Juifs d’Europe Tome II », by Raul Hilberg, translated from the French version, page 417. The author refers to G. Tessin’s « Zur Geschichte der Ordnungspolizei », the footnote on page 417 states, too, that after the roundup, the battalions were transferred in October.
[iv] « The Holocaust – The Jewish Tragedy », by Martin Gilbert, page 388; the author founds this assertion on Stanislaw Adler’s « In the
Ghetto 1940-1943: an Account of a Witness », 1982, page 270. Jerusalem
[v] « Chronique du ghetto de Varsovie » (Diary from the
ghetto) by Emmanuel Ringelblum, page322 Warsaw
[vi] « Du fond de l’abîme – Journal du ghetto de Varsovie» (‘from the depth of the chasm – diary from the
ghetto’) by Hillel Seidman,
translated from the Hebrew and Yiddish by Nathan
[vii] Can be consulted on Google under « Latvian Battalion in
Poland and White Russia »
[viii] In « The murder of the Jews in
1941-1945 », Bernhard Press writes the following on page 37: « in mid-June the KGB began a
large-scale deportation action (…) 20,000 innocent victims from Latvia (…) were sent to Siberia, including about
5,000 Jews from … »
[ix] See footnote 2
[x] Pictures at the Museum of the Latvian Jews in
and pictures (between pages 280 and 281) in « L’Extermination des Juifs en Lettonie 1941-1945 »,
conferences’ cycle, publishing director Rabbi Menachem Barkahan. Riga
[xi] « Memoirs » by Elmar Rivosh, Riga 2008, pages 21/22
[xii] Ibid footnote ‘6’ (Bernhard Press), pages 45/46
[xiii] « и ты это видел » (i ty eto videl- And you Saw It), by David Silberman, Bota/Riga, page 38
[xiv] « L’Extermination des Juifs en Lettonie 1941-1945 » (the Extermination of the Jews in
1941-1945), conferences’ cycle, publishing director Rabbi
Menachem Barkahan Latvia
[xv] Ibid footnote ‘1’
[xvi] Ibid footnote ‘6’ (Bernhard Press), pages 29/30
[xvii] Ibid footnote 11
[xviii] « The Holocaust – The Jewish Tragedy », by Martin Gilbert, pages 157/158
[xx] « Das dritte Reich und die Juden » (the Third Reich and the Jews) by Léon Poliakov/Joseph Wulf, page 148
[xxi] « Die Shoah » (the Shoah) by Leni Yahil, pages 792/793
[xxii] « The Holocaust in Latvia » by Andrew Ezergailis, page 104
[xxiii] “Der Spiegel”, 17/2005 dated 25/04/2005, an article by Walter von Mayr.
[xxiv] « Holokaust », by Guido Knopp, page 62
[xxv] Paul Salitter’s report, quoted in page 90 of « Des hommes ordinaires » (“Ordinary Men”) by Christopher R. Browning ; the original facsimile report can be consulted on Internet under the search words « Düsseldorfer Polizeigeschichte – Deportation von jüdischen Menschen” , and under http://www.yadvashem.org/ where under the heading “The International School for Holocaust Studies” there is a subject matter entitled “The Transport” Lesson Plan”, where in the text by clicking on “documents” of the “start by reading the documents”, one can access the English translation of the original German report by Lieutenant Paul Salitter. I made a translation from my French version of that report
[xxvi] See footnote 22, page 376
[xxvii] Cf. Glossary in « L’Extermination des Juifs en Lettonie 1941-1945 », cycle of conferences, publishing director Rabbi Menachem Barkahan, written by Grigory Smirine, Doctor in History
[xxviii] Cf. footnote 1
. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust , Gutman, Israel , Yitzhak. Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka,
Dr. Robert Kuwalek, Majdanek Memorial ,Jewish Historical Institute,
Warsaw ; can be consulted on Internet under the search word
« Trawniki », © ARC 2005, can also be consulted under http://www.deathcamps.org/ , then under
the heading “Aktion Reinhard Camp”, subheading “overview”, then at last
“Volunteer Auxiliaries” Arad
[xxx] « Chasseur de nazis » by Efraim Zuroff with Alexandre Duyck, pages 86/87
[xxxii] Efraim Zuroff’s article in The Guardian » of March 18, 2010, entitled « Dangerous history-rewriting in
». Efraim Zuroff is the Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office Latvia
[xxxiii] An extended explanation can be read on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the
, see URL footnote 2 Republic of Latvia