Vilis Arveds HāznersSovietized Holocaust Serves Politics

There were a number of accusations against Hāzners, none more damning than the contention he led other Latvian collaborators herding Jews into the Gogol street synagogue in Rīga and then burned them alive. Moreover, Israeli authorities conducting a highly public campaign soliciting witnesses to sift through piles of photographs, introducing each as a confirmed war criminal and asking if anyone looked familiar, had produced a witness to the event, Ber Mandelkorn. Mandelkorn testified that in July, 1941, Hāzners beat him so hard that two or three of his teeth fell out days later, and that from an apartment across the street he had seen Hāzners, in military uniform and with a side-arm, pushing and yelling at Jews, shoving them into the burning synagogue.

Schneider describes the Nazi invasion and immediate horror in her thesis and in Journey. We have highlighted passages in her more recent Journey and analyse these further following our paragraph-by-paragraph comparison across the decades:

Thesis — 1973 versus Journey into Terror — 2001

On July 1, 1941, the Germans entered Riga. The final chapter of its Jewish community, numbering 40,000 men, women, and children, began. The Latvians made the Germans' job an easy one, by committing unbelievable atrocities against the Jews. Many Latvians joined the SS, in order to be part of the German machine.

On July 1, 1941, the Germans marched into Riga, the capital of Latvia, and the final chapter of Riga's Jewish community, numbering forty thousand men, women, and children, began. 1Many Latvians helped the German invaders by committing unbelievable atrocities against the Jews and even joined the SS in order to be part of the Nazi hierarchy.

On July 7, only one week after having come to the city, Einsatzgruppe A, one of the four main groups employed in effecting a final solution in the eastern territories, organized a pogrom in Riga, and reported that 400 Jews were killed. Pictures were taken to show how the natives took "self-cleansing action." In a report to Himmler, Dr. Franz Stahlecker, the official in charge of Einsatzgruppe A. stated that no other outbursts took place in the Baltic states.[a]

[a]Reichssicherheitshauptamt IV-A-1, Operational Report U.S.S.R. 15, July 7, 1941, No. 2935. Stahlecker to Himmler, October 15, 1941, L 180.

On July 7, less than a week after their arrival in the city, Einsatzgruppe A organized a pogrom in Riga and reported that four hundred Jews had been killed. 2As evidenced by photographs, the actual slaying was done by Latvians and not Germans. The 3Nazis described this outrage as a “self-cleansing” operation. In his report to SS Chief Heinrich Himmler, Dr. Stahlecker, the head of the group, stated that no other operation of that nature had taken place in his domain.

He may not have known about conditions in the Central Jail, the site of brutal murders, or the Riga Police Prefecture, presided over by Roberts Stiglics. It is possible also that he forgot about the Perkonkrusti, the Latvian fascist organization, who, under the able leadership of Sturmbannfuehrer Victor Arajs, a Latvian, murdered at least two-thousand Jews during July alone, concentrating on the well-to-do, so as to confiscate their property.[a] In the Great Synagogue of Riga, a gang led "by that same Victor Arajs and Herbert Cukurs, burnt alive several hundred Jews, chiefly women and children.[b]

[a]J. Silabriedis & B. Arklans, Political Refugees Unmasked (Riga, 1965) p. 21.
[b]Ibid.. pp. 49 - 56.

4Stahlecker must have been referring only to operations organized by the Germans. As it turned out, 5they did not have to make an extra effort, considering the conditions that normally prevailed at Riga's Central Prison, called Zentralka, a site of the most brutal murders, or at the Riga Police Prefecture, which was presided over by Roberts Stiglics. Stahlecker might have 6overlooked the Perkonkrusts. The Latvian Fascists, who, under the able leadership of Sturmbannfuehrer Victors Arajs, a Latvian, murdered at least two thousand Jews during July and August 1941 alone. The Perkonkrusts looked for and concentrated on the well-to-do, in order to be able to confiscate their property. In the Great Synagogue of Riga, a gang led by that same Victors Arajs, 7aided by Herbert Cukurs and Vilis Hazners, incinerated alive several hundred Jews, chiefly women and children.[a]

[a]Victors Arajs, who is no longer alive, was awaiting trial at the time the first edition of Journey into Terror was published. For more than three decades he lived under his wife's maiden name in Germany. Cukurs was executed in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1965, by a detachment of Israelis who called themselves "The Avengers." 8Hazners lived in baronial splendor near Albany, New York, insisting that the charges against him were part of a communist-inspired plot.

The Riga press did its best to encourage the populace in their hatred against Jews. Articles appeared such as one printed July 11, 1941, aptly titled "The Jew - Our Destroyer." It ended: "The sins of the Jews are great. They wanted to destroy our nation - therefore, as a nation of culture, they must die."[a]

[a]Tevija, the main Latvian newspaper, issue of July 11, 1941. The editor was Pauls Kovalevskis, vice manager was Arturs Kroders. The owner of the paper met Himmler in Berlin, in 1942, and assured him that there was no longer a Jewish problem in Latvia. Quoted in Daugavas Vanagi. p. 21.

The 9Riga press did its best to fan the hatred of the Latvian populace for the Jews. Articles appeared such as that printed on 10July 11, 1941, most fittingly entitled “The Jews-Source of our Destruction.” The article ended with the statement that because the Jews had sought to destroy the Latvian nation, they could not be permitted to survive as a national or a cultural entity; therefore, all the Jews would have to die.[a]

[a]11Tevija, the main Latvian newspaper, July 11, 1941. Its editor was Pauls Kovalivskis [sic.]; Arturs Kroders was the manager. The 12owner of the paper met Himmler in Berlin in 1942, and assured him that there was no longer a "Jewish Problem" in Latvia.

Except for Stahlecker's report, every other citation in Schneider's thesis—citations removed in her book—references a work of Soviet KGB propaganda. A more complex issue is that Stahlecker's report itself was a cornerstone of the theatre he himself organized, complete with German cameras to record the "spontaneous" slaughter by locals.[1] This charade of the "Germanless Holocaust" had already been planned and discussed in May, 1941:

  • one month prior to Germany's invasion of the U.S.S.R.;
  • two months prior to Göring's request to Heydrich for a plan for a "total solution of the Jewish question" in Nazi-controlled territories; and
  • eight months prior to the Wannsee Conference.

Personal German correspondence back to Berlin confirmed, for example, that it was a unit of a dozen German police that cleansed the Lithuanian countryside of Jewry, not Lithuanian locals. Regarding German newsreels of the "Germanless" Holocaust unfolding in Rīga, we can quote from Joseph Grigg's news report published in London, June 1, 1942 (our emphasis):

This slaughter went on for days and there was even an official German newsreel of squads shooting Jews in the streets of Riga. The Nazi commentator describes the scenes as the vengeance of “the infuriated Latvian populace against the Jews,” but a remarkable feature was that the “Latvians” all wore German army helmets.


Contention versus Fact

No one was assisting in the Holocaust during the Nazi invasion. Furthermore, the first thing the Nazis did was to immediately disarm the population. There is absolutely no dispute over the collaborators the Nazis subsequently organized, the notorious Arājs Kommando. However, the most frequent accusation, that Latvians spontaneously killed their Jewish neighbours before the Nazis even arrived is a complete fabrication. No Latvian, not even the Nazis' criminal collaborators, joined or could join any "Nazi hierarchy": neither Nazi party nor Allgemeine-SS.

Regardless of illegally conscripted[2] or volunteering, the two Eastern Front Latvian Waffen-SS divisions were front-line military units formed in 1943, swore no allegiance to Nazism, and had no role in the Holocaust.

A typical German-staged photo, here, purportedly a Lithuanian standing before the bodies of all those who he brutally beat to death.
The Holocaust in eastern Europe is documented to have been planned—prior to the Nazi invasion of the U.S.S.R.—to appear spontaneous and Germanless. That included staging "locals" standing by stacks of bodies, portraying them as having, typically, bludgeoned men, women, children, and infants to death in the most horrific manner. Fortunately for historians, some of these photos accidentally include showing the Germans managing their Holocaust theatre production, including hiring and dressing in uniforms local drunks as stooges. How naive—or blinded by bias—does one have to be to trust the veracity of Nazi photographs and "newsreels" purporting to prove that the Nazis were bystanders to the Holocaust?

Stahlecker confirms the charade in his very same report of October 15th:

"It had to appear to the outside that the indigenous population itself reacted naturally against the decades of oppression by the Jews and against the terror created by the communists in its recent history, and that the indigenous population carried out these first measures of its own accord."

Horrific mass slaughters, such as those at Rumbula, were methodically executed by Jeckeln's hand-picked men. The Germans entrusted industrialized human extermination only to themselves.

There was no "self-cleansing." This portrayal was the hallmark of Berlin's plan to mask German responsibility for the genocide of the Jews. Indeed, in Lithuania, where similar accounts were circulated, a witness confirmed in a letter to Berlin that it was a squad of 12 German policemen who slaughtered Jews village to village, and not the local Lithuanians as the witness had been informed earlier, via official reports, in Berlin. The witness wrote it would look very bad for Berlin's image if the truth—apparently widely known locally—were to surface.

As compared to her thesis, Schneider adds the meme of the Germanless Holocaust, that the Germans controlled only their own actions, that they allowed armed Latvians to roam free on their own to perpetrate anti-Jewish actions. There was no independent Latvian action. Even the notorious Nazi-organized Arājs Kommando had to check their non-automatic arms out in the morning and check them back in at night—or risk being shot by their German masters.

Schneider continues with the myth that Latvians were in charge even while Latvia was occupied, having just suggested Stahlecker spoke only for German actions and not those at the Central Prison under Roberts Štiglics, the Rīga prefect. She appears unaware that Stahlecker himself brought Štiglics to Rīga and installed him as prefect. Štiglics was no more than another "Sicherheitsdienst" ("SD") operative. There was no aspect of the Holocaust that took place at the Rīga Central Prison which did not report directly to Stahlecker from the start. Schneider echoes the factually unfounded contentions of Messrs. Press and Kaufman, who relate there was a central Latvian authority independently organized and operating in Rīga. As contended even by the U.S. government in its brief against Hāzners, this supposed authority was organized within hours of the Soviet departure, preceded by a call to arms on the radio by Voldermars Veiss and the killing of Jews before the Germans arrived—all a complete fiction, including the alleged "broadcast." That fictional storyline includes the additional allegation that the Nazis permitted the Latvian authority to continue operating after the occupation was established because Nazi and Latvian aims—the wholesale murder of Jews—were the same. Alan A. Ryan, Jr. has vehemently insisted that the Justice Department did not use unsolicited Soviet materials—despite parroting Soviet propaganda verbatim in briefs and introducing propaganda pamphlets as evidence via the witnesses possessing them. Hopefully Professor Ezergailis will some day release Ducmanis' bequeathed personal list of duped Nazi-hunters.

"Political Refugees Unmasked," cited, is another KGB propaganda tome, similar to "Daugavas Vanagi—Who Are They?".

Involvement of the Pērkonkrusts in the Holocaust is hearsay. Even KGB records—documented to contain fabricated anti-Latvian show trial evidence such as word-for-word identical "testimonies" from multiple witnesses—indicate that only perhaps four individuals of Arājs unit, 300-500 during the Holocaust, were former members of the fascist Pērkonkrusts. The Ulmanis regime had jailed the Latvian fascists and exiled their leader Gustavs Celmiņš before the war. As Latvian ultra-nationalists, former Pērkonkrusts members represented a threat to the prior invading Soviet regime. Most were hunted down and killed or deported to Siberia. Nor were relations with the invading Nazis much better. Celmiņš did return to Latvia, accompanying the Germans as a translator, and there were some Pērkonkrusts members who aided the occupation authoring propaganda. However, their organization was already outlawed by August, 1941 for their nationalist—including anti-German—views. Tellingly, rather than organize to kill Jews, Celmiņš petitioned the occupational authorities for the right to organize armed Latvian units to pursue the Russians on the Eastern Front.[3] So, during the Nazi occupation, even the leader of the pre-war Latvian fascist Pērkonkrusts cared only about securing the Eastern Front against the Soviets. The Nazis eventually jailed Celmiņš for his pro-Latvian nationalism.

Regarding Arājs' "leadership," we have mentioned the checking out and in of arms—the Germans directly supervised all actions by their criminal collaborators. No collaborators organized or operated independently. Indeed, all offers of "collaboration" were refused; the Germans managed collaborators only on their own terms.

Schneider adds Hāzners' name to the list of Holocaust perpetrators, being his primary accuser precipitating the "hunt" for witnesses.

Witnesses coached by the Israeli authorities to identify "the war criminal Hāzners" had been shown numerous photos. As mentioned, one witness identified Hāzners as the man who both beat him and herded Jews into a burning synagogue. Had there been any doubt, that would have been erased knowing they would be testifying to put away someone identified to them as a known "war criminal." That appears to have been the case, as Hāzners' deportation hearing proved he could not have been there, having been dispatched to intercept retreating Red Army in coastal suburb of Rīga.

Schneider's denunciation of Hāzners long after Hāzners' vindication indicates she remains fully vested in the KGB propaganda and bogus show trial materials she brought back from the U.S.S.R..

With regard to the Pērkonkrusts, in addition to the Soviets' own records disproving their subsequent propaganda, Pērkonkrusts' non-involvement in Holocaust actions was fully confirmed at the Arājs trial, including Arājs' own testimony that he was not a member.

Lastly, we would add that Cukurs, assassinated by the Mossad as the alleged "Butcher of Riga" was not in Riga, either, when the Gogol Street synagogue was burned (July 4th), having arrived only on the 14th of July.

As CIA documents show, the Soviets launched a concerted campaign to discredit Hāzners and other prominent Latvian émigrés, Daugavas Vanagi—Who Are They? and a full length "documentary" film about their atrocities both being released in 1963—followed by the KGB's specific mention of Hāzners, by name, to Schneider in 1971, launching the Latvian Nazi witch-hunt. Moreover, the author of the allegations and the KGB agent who handed the allegations to Schneider both subsequently and independently confirmed the Soviet plot and fabrications. Lastly, Hāzners lived in a modest farm-house with a view of Lake Champlain—Schneider's evocation of "baronial splendor" appears meant only to incense.

There was no "Rīga press." The only "press" published was that produced, controlled, and censored by the Nazi authorities and their quislings. Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda was on the whole a failure in its attempt to incite the Latvians. That Latvia had been the only European country in which anti-Semitic literature was banned, that pre-war Latvia had been a welcoming transit point for Jews escaping Hitler, are far more accurate measures of Latvian attitudes. Indeed, as preserved in Nuremberg trials records, reports back to Berlin after the invasion bemoaned the Latvians' apathy to the Nazi's anti-Semitic agitations.

The conclusion of the article mentioned, facsimile.

Anti-Semitic articles appeared starting with the very first issue of the occupational Nazi newspaper Tēvija ("Fatherland"), published the same day the Germans entered Rīga with Red Army still retreating. Jews, "bastards," the English, the French, were all denounced. The article mentioned was written as a first-person opinion piece, signed "Albatross," believed to have been the paper's first "editor," Arturs Kroders. Kroders was a historian and political activist. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, his memoirs conclude before the events of the war, so the true nature of Kroders' relationship with Tēvija is likely to never be known, however, we do know his fiery nationalism brought him into conflict with the Germans, who dismissed him.[4]

As to the article content, the representation quoted per Daugavas Vanagi: Who Are They? and cited in Schneider's thesis, is nearly accurate (our translation follows, our emphasis):

"He [the Jew] will earn [his] bread in the same manner as have our labourers. The sins of the Jews are overly grievous: they wished to annihilate our nation, therefore they must die as a cultural nation. [That is, Judaism can no longer exist as a culture and Jews must be assimilated into the secular working class.—Editor]

"So states and testifies a person, who, hair now turned grey, had not cared in the least regarding the Jewish question. Now he comprehends the nature of the Jew, and that there must be no Latvian compassion. Albatross."

Schneider's relates the passage as written in her thesis, while subsequently in Journey she removes the quotation and purports it called for killing all Jews which, while grossly anti-Semitic, it clearly did not. The dead cannot continue to earn their daily bread.

Tēvija ("Fatherland") was a Nazi occupational authority newspaper published in the Latvian language. It arrived and departed with the Nazi occupation. It was no more the "main Latvian," meaning a Latvian enterprise, paper than was Cīņa (the proletarian "Struggle"), published under the Soviet occupation. Indeed, as soon as the Russians were gone, the Latvians launched the newspaper Brīvā Zeme ("Free Country"), which the Germans immediately shut down and replaced with Tēvija.

The notion that Tēvija, a newspaper created and run by the Nazi occupational authorities, was "owned" by a Latvian, as implied, is fantastical. The paper was produced by the Nazi Reichskommissariat Ostland propaganda department. The publisher was Ernests Kreišmanis. Tēvija listed a number of Latvian "editors" during the course of the Nazi occupation: Arturs Kroders, Andrejs Rudzis, Pauls Kovaļevskis, finally Jānis Vītols. Censorship duties, requiring German and Latvian fluency, were assigned to Ernst Eduard von Mensenkampff, editor of the former Rigasche Rundschau ("Rīga Observer"). Latvian authorities had shut the paper down in 1934 for having too many Nazi connections.[5]

It is worth noting that "there was open conflict between the Latvian editors and their [German] supervisors. On 5 February 1942, editor [sic.] Ernests Kreišmanis questioned the second-class status of Latvians, demanding to know why Latvians received fewer rations than Germans. LVVA/f. P-70, apr. 5, I. 3, 227.[6]"

The trip by Kreišmanis to Berlin is another Ducmanis fabrication.

After the collapse of the U.S.S.R., after the Soviet plot to discredit its most troublesome nationalities' émigré leadership has long since been laid bare, after scholarship has revealed the "Germanless" Holocaust to be a Nazi propaganda construct—Nazi documentation predating the Wannsee Conference confirms this[7]—what is the basis for Schneider's loyalty to a discredited history?

Those who survived to suffer unspeakable loss seek explanations, seek those responsible. There is no question over the responsibility or guilt of Nazi Germany, or of the guilt of their collaborators who were traitors to their country. But the notion that the Nazis were not in total control of every moment of the Holocaust—a fiction propagated in both Nazi and Soviet propaganda, each for their own purposes—is as flawed as it is widespread.

Schneider's embellishments over time of Latvian participation and anti-Semitism reflects a wider trend in Holocaust scholarship targeting the peoples of Eastern Europe as the "true" enablers and perpetrators of the Holocaust, worse than the Nazis themselves.[8] Alan A. Ryan, Jr.'s allegation of 10,000 Nazis hiding in the United States—long since been debunked in the OSI's own review of its past activities[9]—lives on as well. Disturbingly, even the OSI's disavowal states that if so many still believe the 10,000 number (for no other reason than to have heard it endlessly repeated because it came from Ryan in his widely acclaimed Quiet Neighbors), then there must be some basis belief persists.[10]

[1]Stahlecker certainly did not mention Hāzners, as Schneider's footnote implies.
[2]By the end of the war, the Nazis had forced every Latvian male less than 40 years old into military service.
[3]Kangeris, Kārlis. Latviešu leģions – vācu okupācijas varas politikas diktāts vai latviešu “cerību” piepildījums?, , BALTIJAS REĢIONA VĒSTURE 20. GADSIMTA 40.– 80. GADOS, page 68, accessed 13 July 2016. LINK
[4]The Nazis were strongly suspected of having assassinated Viktors Deglavs, one of the senior pre-war Latvian army officers (along with Aleksandrs Plensners who eventually was the senior officer of the Latvian Legion), who had come into direct conflict with Stahlecker shortly after the invasion. The Nazis cleaned house after Deglavs' murder; for Latvian efforts against the Soviets to continue, Plensners was forced to accede to how the Germans wished to organize. Kroders was fired after devoting too much space in Tēvija to Deglavs and Plensners, to Deglavs' funeral and to commemorative articles about him. The July 24th issue, including articles regarding Deglavs' funeral, was Kroders' last.
[5]Matthias Schröder, Deutschbaltische SS-Führer und Andrej Vlasov 1942–1945, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2001, pp. 80–4
[6]Wingfield, N.M. and Bucur, M.. Gender and War in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe, Indiana University Press, 2006, ISBN: 9780253111937. LINK
[7]"To prepare for the first steps of the killing of the Jews, prior to the Barborossa campaign, on May 29, 1941, Dr. Alfred Meyer, a NSDAP Aussenpolitisches Amt [National Socialist German Workers' Party Office of Foreign Affairs—Editor] official, convened a conference to work out public relations priorities. If the Wannsee conference of 1942 was convened to coordinate murder of West Europe’s Jews, then the May meeting was to do the same for the murder of East European ones." Ezergailis, at "Neighbors" Didn't Kill Jews
[8]Simon Wiesenthal described Eastern Europeans as more evil than the Nazis for having collaborated. “The guilt of the Nazi helpers in the occupied territories, especially the Eastern countries, is, in my opinion, greater than the guilt of the (German) Nazis,” Wiesenthal said.—Special to the JTA, Wiesenthal Says U.S. Had Names of Nazis Before They Entered Country, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 28 November 1978, accessed 15 January 2016. LINK
[9]Judy, Feigin. The Office of Special Investigations: Striving for Accountability in the Aftermath of the Holocaust, 2006, page v.
[10]"The 10,000 figure has enduring significance, however, because it has been widely reported, to the extent that people believe it, it unfortunately suggests that the number of cases handled by OSI — approximately 130 — is de minimus." ibid.

Updated: June, 2017

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