Two PowersThree Occupations

Imagine an occupation so murderous and brutal—culminating in the mass deportation of men, women, children, infants, Latvians, Russians, Jews, and Poles[1]—that for most, the German invasion a week later was seen as liberation. That was the legacy of just one year under the Bolshevik thumb.

The Latvians soon determined they weren't going to be liberated, although Berlin did dangle the prospects of restoring autonomy on the eve of the bombing of Dresden.[2] For Jews, those Stalin ripped from their homes were the lucky ones—they had the better chance for survival in the GULAG.

The Latvian WWII timeline, condensed

  • Great Britain and France recognize the Baltics are in the Soviet "sphere of influence" in ongoing security negotiations with the U.S.S.R..
  • Stalin signs up with Hitler instead.
  • Hitler invades Poland with Soviet assistance (radio signals guiding Luftwaffe) — WWII begins.
  • Latvia declares neutrality.
  • As the world focuses on the fall of Paris, 9½ months later,...
  • ...the U.S.S.R. invades ("compelled by 'provocations'", "liberates from bourgeoisie hands soaked in the blood of the working class"), occupies, annexes, murders, conducts mass deportations — stays for a year, "The Year of Terror", until...
  • ...Nazi Germany invades ("liberates"), occupies, establishes Ostland, murders generally, conducts genocide of Jewry — stays for three years, Holocaust is over in roughly six months, 300 to 500 Latvians, mostly members of Arājs Kommando, assist in Nazi genocide under close German instructions, Germans document "locals" as responsible including staging scenes to create illusion of popular support. Latvians resist the Soviet reinvasion, holding out in Courland until the end of the war, unaware that...
  • ...Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed[3] to recognize the bogus post-Soviet occupation elections of 1940 as "expressing the will of the people," thereby allowing the U.S.S.R. to not violate terms of the Atlantic Charter, affirmed in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942. The latter being the basis for the subsequent formation of the United Nations, the betrayal of the Baltics is the touchstone by which the United Nations was founded on a lie, however necessary that lie was to maintain the anti-Hitler alliance and preserve post-WWII peace.
  • U.S.S.R. re-occupies ("liberates") Latvia other than Courland.
  • WWII ends.
  • Latvians are forced to surrender Courland. Legionnaires are deported to the GULAG or simply shot as traitors. Those who escape continue a partisan resistance for another twenty years. Jānis Pīnups was the last Latvian partisan to come out of hiding—in 1995, after the U.S.S.R. disintegrated.
  • The U.S.S.R. resumes its campaigns of murder and mass deportation.
  • The Baltic States disappear off the the world map regardless of their status as occupied territory.

Stalin, Hitler, and Stalin again were only the latest in seven centuries of aggressors

"Civilized" Latvian history starts with German crusaders invading and launching seven centuries of hegemony, symbolized by the German "founding" of Riga in 1201. Successive centuries witnessed the ebb and flow of multiple empires across Latvian land.

Mēs esam kā starp vārtiem,
Starp vārtiem uzcēluši savas mājas
Kur tautām pāri staigāt.
    We are as if between gates,
    Between gates we have built our homes
    For peoples to trample over.
Anna Brigadere, Latvian poet

“The historical mission of the Baltic provinces is to serve as a battlefield for the problems of the highest politics in Europe.”
Count Shuvalov, Russian Governor-General of the Baltic Provinces

After Peter the Great completed his invasion of Latvia (then Livonia) in the Great Northern War, he ended what the Latvians still regard a "golden age" under Sweden, in the process massacring every man and beast in his path. Scholars estimate less than 20,000 Latvians remained alive. While this was far from the first Russian aggression, it is this brutal conquest which Russia today points to as Latvia "historically being part of Russia."

To those who did not live through it, the suggestion that the Soviets—Allies in the destruction of Nazism—were worse than the Nazis seems preposterous, even immoral. Yet, for the territories of central Europe and the Baltics, Eastern Europe in the post-WWII Cold War divide, this was indeed the case. Stalin and Hitler both wreaked genocide upon Eastern Europe. Hitler's industrialization of genocide set it apart from all others before or since. That Stalin and Hitler eventually wound up on opposite sides does not ameliorate Stalin's crimes against humanity. And to also accuse Stalin of genocide does not lessen Hitler's crimes. (Some prominent Holocaust activists denounce the demand for Stalin's genocide to also be condemned as "false equating," insisting Jews were the only people to suffer genocide in WWII.[4])

Moreover, one can argue that it was Stalin who made possible the completeness of Hitler's annihilation of the Jewish nation caught between Germany and Russia. In the Baltics, Stalin's mass deportations only a week before Operation Barbarossa decapitated Jewish civil society—its leadership and merchant middle class killed or swept away to the Gulag. As a percentage of their population (5%), Jews suffered the heaviest losses (12% of those deported) in Stalin's first deportation and were also sent to the harshest conditions.

Timeline:

  • 1960 — show trial of Latvian 18th Police Battalion, partially in absentia. Individuals documented to not have been present declared guilty and executed. Current scholarship still perpetuates the Soviet lie via bogus archival records, maintaining the battalion slaughtered all the inhabitants of Slonim, Belarus[5]; however, the battalion arrived after the Germans, per their own detailed documentation, had already exterminated Slonim's Jewry—the Latvians had not even been in Slonim when the slaughter was committed.
  • 1961 — Paulis Ducmanis authors the utterly fabricated by his own admission Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They? for the KGB.
  • 1963 — Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They? is published in English.
  • 1971 — the KGB hands Ducmanis' work, with its list of names, to Gertrude Schneider during her visit to Latvia, launching the hunt for Latvian Nazis. It becomes the handbook for an incensed Jewry having been told that Latvian Nazis "live among us." Per Holocaust scholar Prof. Andrew Ezergailis' reflections:
    The slate of Latvian suspects would have stayed on a slow boil, had it not been for the happenstance that a fellow historian, a Holocaust survivor, and a former friend, Prof. Gertrude Schneider, made a research trip to Riga in 1971. According to her own telling, in Riga she met “Latvia’s Cultural Minister” who showered her with Soviet publications, that included the baited brochure [the "bait" being its list of names which went on to become the Wiesenthal list], the one that has managed to overwhelm humanity’s resistance to falsehood, penetrated the shield that members of the legal profession are reputed to possess in double density. The pamphlet Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They? is a matchless work, in a class by itself. From the array of recovered addicts, I do not exempt myself.
    The "minister," later defector, was KGB Lieutenant Imants Lešinskis.

Case Files

There is no better crucible to refine the facts and burn off the dross of propaganda and outside agendas than to examine the specifics of charges brought against Latvians accused of Nazi allegiances and war crimes. We begin with the "case file" which galvanized U.S. "Latvian Nazi" hunting, that of former Latvian Legion officer and co-founder of Daugavas Vanagi, Vilis Arveds Hāzners.


[1]Most Germans had heeded Hitler's call home and were "repatriated" to Germany despite, in many cases, their families having lived in Latvia for centuries.
[2]Latvian representatives were scheduled to convene in Dresden. Their train stopped overnight some 20-30 kilometers from the city. That night, they could see Dresden in flames in the distance.
[3]Churchill's letter to Roosevelt of March 7, 1942: "[I] feel that the principle of the Atlantic Charter ought not to be constructed so as to deny Russia the frontiers she occupied when Germany attacked her. This was the basis on which Russia accepted the Charter, and I expect that a severe process of liquidating hostile elements in the Baltic States, etc., was employed by the Russians when they took these regions at the beginning of the war. I hope, therefore, that you will be able to give us a free hand to sign the treaty, which Stalin desires as soon as possible." Loewenheim, F.L., et al., (Eds), Roosevelt and Churchill: Secret Wartime Correspondence (N.Y.: Saturday Review Press / E.P. Dutton & Co., 1975), p 185.
[4]Efraim Zuroff denounces Latvia and Eastern Europe in general for their attempt to "promote the canard of equivalency between Nazi and Communist crimes (erroneously classified as genocide)", viz. One man's journey to the heartland of fascism, 29 March 2015. Zuroff is only technically correct on Communist crimes not being classified as genocide; Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term "genocide," included the murder of identifiable political and economic classes, these were removed from the U.N. declaration to avoid a Soviet veto.
[5]Slonim, Belarus, 1942, account by Alexander Statiev in The Soviet Counterinsurgency in the Western Borderlands.

Updated: October, 2016

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