Riga, Capital of European Culture: Waffen SS, Stags and Silence?
O P I N I O N
The Jobbik party is notorious for its antisemitic, anti-Roma, anti-immigrant views to the extent that in 2012 Marton Gyongyosi, Jobbik’s deputy leader, a man who in the same year was guest of honor of the Lithuanian Order and Justice Party’s president, Rolandas Paksas (a former president of Lithuania) requested that residents of Jewish origin be listed for security! However, one day before Holocaust Memorial Day the Jobbik party’s plethora of outrageous views and comments were not perceived as unacceptable enough to ban entry into the UK.
Could the Conservatives overall aim to win over BNP and UKIP voters, to be seen to be tough on immigrants have had anything to do with the decision to allow Gabor Vona entry? Unfortunately, the British conservatives have, under the leadership of David Cameron, developed in recent years a very special kind of blindness when it comes to right wing extremists from former Communist countries to the point that nothing is sacred when it comes to securing votes, not even the Holocaust one day before Holocaust Memorial Day. In response to Martin Bright’s article supporting my campaign against the annual glorification of the SS in Riga, the capital of Latvia (an EU, OSCE and NATO ally), Conservative MP Daniel Hannan probably won top spot for making the most glib comment of all time when he publicly defended, in the Jewish Chronicle of all papers, the SS and those who commemorate its evil. He wrote:
Europe Minister David Lidington when asked to try to at least speak out with credibility, maintained that it (“it” being the condemnation of Hitlerist worship) is “not a matter in which the UK has any locus to become involved.”
In a similar vein, Eric Pickles and William Hague believe the Latvian SS were only wearing Nazi uniforms and following orders. Martin Callanan former Conservative chief whip in the European Parliament, who oddly (and admirably!) enough signed the Seventy Years Declaration that opposes the Prague Declaration (a declaration that Baltic governments have on an industrial level been steamrolling through corridors of power since 2008 with the intent to equate Soviet crimes with Nazi crimes) very aggressively refused to sign the petition against the Latvian SS being annually honored each and every March 16 since 1998, on the pretext that the petition against the march and now signed by over 7,000 people worldwide is, “very unfortunate as it does not honor victims of the Genocide against the Jewish population” completely ignoring the ERCI’s recommendation of 21 Feb 2012:
“All attempts to commemorate persons who fought in the Waffen SS and collaborate with the Nazis should be condemned. Any gathering or march legitimizing in any way Nazism should be banned.”
So, why such bafflingly contradictory behavior? The answer is simple: uncomfortable historical facts. The brutal mass murder of 95.6% of Latvian Jewry in 1941, the second worst percentage of Jewish citizens killed in the Holocaust but to date little known or reported, an atrocity committed by German Nazis and Latvians, many of whom would go on to join the Latvian SS in 1943, has over the years been repeatedly and conveniently forgotten and excused by Baltic PR teams and politicians when the issue of votes come into the equation. The most notable excuse banded around since the 1950s being one the Americans drew up to, in many respects, excuse their integration of a number of former Latvian SS into the CIA to help fight the cold war against Russia, “The Baltic Waffen SS Units (Baltic Legions) are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose.” Why was the Latvian SS to be seen as separate? They were to be seen as separate as the Latvian SS per se had not as yet been formed when Latvian Jewry were murdered in 1941 and therefore could not be held account for the murders.
A morally reprehensible loophole that conveniently forgets that many of the Latvian men who brutally committed the mass murders of Jews in 1941, later joined the Latvian SS in 1943, forgetting that the Latvian SS 15th and 19th divisions fought for the most genocidal killing machine the world has ever known. Millions of people across the world lost their lives because of that regime. Whatever the reasons for conscription there should be no honoring of such men in the twenty-first century. That anyone has to spell this out shows to what extent certain politicians for their own political ends, and historians seeking trinkets and junkets, have lost their moral compass. Glorification of pro-Nazi armed forces during World War II has no place in a European Union / NATO / OSCE capital which on 17 January 2014 became of all things cultural capital of Europe. Yes, you heard right. Cultural Capital of Europe!
Up until the Holocaust, Riga was a thriving hub for artists and musicians, composer Oscar Strok, violinist Sarah Rashin, the famous historian, Professor Simon Dubnow and even Wagner worked there. Due to its art nouveau architecture USA today readers named it Europe’s “prettiest city” but something the travel blogs won’t state is that only last November at a hockey match in Riga stadium, a Latvian state dance troupe took up the whole arena to perform a Swastika dance. The excuse for such a manifestation was that the Swastika is apparently an ancient Baltic symbol… The Latvian side Dinamo Riga were fined by the Russians the equivalent of one million rubles ($30,300 dollars) but what has Cameron and other senior Tories and the EU for that matter said to oppose such a blatant, provocative honoring of Nazism in an EU country. Nothing. And then of course is Riga’s reputation as the stags capital of Europe, voted by UK readers of FHM Magazine already in 2006 as the number one stag party destination in Europe. In 2009 the special relationship between Great Britain and Latvia was firmly and formally cemented in 2009 when the Conservatives ditched their more conservative allies in Europe and looked instead to Latvia for a liaison. Forever keen to position Britain as hostile to European integration (to further European Union integration) the Conservatives looked for parties who don’t like Brussels, and ended up in the case of Latvia with Robert Zile a party with just one MP in the European Parliament who associate themselves with anti-Stalinism, anti–Sovietism but also the Waffen SS. The depth of devotion between Cameron and Latvia was further noted at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral last year when Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis was one of only four currently serving prime ministers to attend the funeral, a man whose colleague President Berzins stated to world press in 2012,
No, it is a calendar that depicts the glories of the Latvian SS. Fortunately, the Latvian tourist board web site doesn’t offer the unsuspecting visitor an opportunity to purchase the calendar via paypal but rather in the first few lines states that to celebrate becoming cultural capital of Europe there will be in Riga “a human book chain transferring books from hand to hand, from the old National Library of Latvia Building to the new ‘Gaismas Pils’ (Palace of Light) National Library Building.” In the same paragraph there is a link to the Latvian Jewish community’s website that lists a remembrance service in Rumbula but not a link to a more telling statement on the same site:
And in the midst of this economic turmoil, as in Greece, ultra-nationalism and the rise of the right has been allowed to flourish to enable forgetting about the real problems at hand. Simple economics at work? In little over a month on March 16, 2014, the Latvian SS will undoubtedly, with military precision, march down the center of Riga from Cathedral Square to the Monument of Freedom. The courageous mayor of Riga will be prosecuted if this year he attempts to ban the march, as he has, unsuccessfully, attempted in previous years. Thousands of young people will with blind adoration line the SS’ path with flowers, desecrate the wreath to the victims of Nazism and declare that the protesters are KGB agents. And what will the EU and senior British Tories once more do? probably turn a polite blind eye to such an abomination because it is more “diplomatic” and suits their own political games, but if they do then please excuse me from quoting Woody Allen when I think of them. The seemingly inexhaustible spate of literature on the Third Reich continues unabated with the soon to be published Memoirs of Friedrich Schmeed. Schmeed, the best-known barber in wartime Germany, provided tonsorial services for Hitler and many highly placed government and military officials. As was noted during the Nuremberg Trials, Schmeed not only seemed to be always at the right place at the right time but possessed “more than total recall,” and was thus uniquely qualified to write this incisive guide to innermost Nazi Germany. Following is a brief excerpt.
- Nazi Heroes- Waffen SS hailed in Latvia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ-DNbz3wmA Television Interview with Monica Lowenberg, Joel Rubinfeld and Glyn Ford MEP, 16 March 2012 VIEWS: over 103,000 as of Jan 2014
- Salford City Radio 94.4FM Interview in 2013 with Monica Lowenberg speaking about her trip to Latvia and the annual SS marches that take place in the capital of Riga. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTCjdF_TNzA
Donnerstag, 20. Februar 2014, 19.00 Uhr
SS-Männer sind Verbrecher, keine Helden!
„Tag der Legionäre“ - Waffen-SS-Marsch in Riga
16. März, Riga: Internationale Proteste gegen den Waffen-SS-Aufmarsch. Gegen Geschichtsrevisionismus und die Rehabilitierung des Naziterrors!
Auf der Veranstaltung werden wir die Optionen vorstellen, gemeinsam mit einem gecharterten Reisebus oder individuell mit dem Flugzeug nach Riga zu reisen.
1. February 5 2014 Latvian minister on regional policy Mr. Cilinskis announces he will be attending the march
2. Despite problems in Ukraine 7 March 2014 the march is to go ahead
Hope Not Hate 9 March 2014 'Riga permits march to honor SS veterans'
3. However, by 11 March 2014 Latvian cabinet ministers are told not to attend...
Glyn Ford, UK Labour Party, Brussels states, 'Any government that endorses this kind of action is cause for concern'. (Russia Today upload)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPjjhl_8a6A&feature=youtube_gdata_player An international delegation place a wreath for the victims of Nazism down at the Monument of Freedom, Riga, Latvia, March 16 2012
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-6UVNI2Or4The wreath is desecrated with Latvian police and army standing by and in some cases with their explicit consent
- http://defendinghistory.com/1500-honor-the-waffen-ss-at-rigas-liberty-monumuent-event-is-praised-by-latvias-president-condemned-by-the-european-commission/32654 Eye Witness report of March 16, 2012 with photographs, and links to a selection of articles that covered the march in various broadsheets
stop_the_16_march_marches_and_ latvians_revising_history and UK Petition: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/27795
- http://www.telegraf.lv/news/internet-protiv-legionerov Monica Lowenberg’s international petition is advertised in The Telegraf, the Russian Broadsheet in Latvia, 24 February, 2012
- http://rus.delfi.lv/news/daily/latvia/v-internete-sobirayut-podpisi-protiv-shestvij-16-marta.d?id=42160454 International Petition makes front cover news in Latvia’s main broadsheet Delfi, 25 February, 2012
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2108789/Youre-trying-justify-crimes-Nazis-Russias-fury-neighbour-Latvia-plans-hold-rally-commemorate-SS.html In response to media coverage of Monica Lowenberg’s petition, President Berzin stated to world media that it is ridiculous to see the SS as criminals rather we should ’bow our heads’ to them. Report in Daily Mail 1 March , 2012
- http://defendinghistory.com/monica-lowenberg-in-dialogue-with-latvias-ambassador-to-the-uk/32025#more-32025). Monica Lowenberg in dialogue with Latvia’s ambassador in London, March 2012
- http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/2866 EDM set up by Dr Barry Gardiner MP February 2012
- http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2010-12/2750 EDM set up by Bob Blackman MP February 2012
- http://dipbt.bundestag.de/dip21/btd/17/093/1709384.pdf Report by Dr Gregor Gysi in the Bundestag 24.04.2012 reporting on Monica Lowenberg’s work and the situation within Latvia
- http://www.antisemitism.org.uk/press/press-releases/year-2012/latviamarch PCAA foundation” (UK) - Calls to ban the Baltic’s neo-Nazi marches
- http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2012/03/latvia-riga-waffen-european by Dr Denis MacShane
- http://defendinghistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Dovid-Katz-op-ed-in-London-Jewish-News-13-Dec-2012.pdf by Prof Dovid Katz
- http://www.ajr.org.uk/journalpdf/2012_April.pdfAJR Journal (Association of Jewish Refugees, UK), Volume 12, April 2012 page 4 'Latvia: A Personal March Through History ‘by Monica Lowenberg
- http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/85902/the-little-european-problem-conservatives-would-prefer-forget By Martin Bright, Political Editor of the JC October 11, 2012
- http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/88135/eu-real-problem-not-latvia by Daniel Hannan MP October 26, 2012
- http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/europe/waffen-ss-commemoration-riga-latvia Waffen SS commemoration in Riga, Latvia by Michael Goldfarb in Global Post 16 March , 2012
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/14/conservatives-poland-right-wing Eastern Europe’s long-buried truths by Efraim Zuroff published in The Guardian 14 October, 2009
- For a complete list of world wide media covering the 2012 Latvian Waffen SS Gala see:
- http://stop16marchinriga.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/worldwide-media-coverage-of-latvian-ss.html and other posts in 2012 section
- Report on Latvia by the ECRI calling a halt to all forms of Nazi glorification February 21,2012: