Scott and Jon Lee AndersonInside the League: The Shocking Exposé of How Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League

Inside the League: The Shocking Exposé of how Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League
Anderson, S. and Anderson, J.L.
ISBN: 9780396085171
YEAR: 1986

Nazis Reinvent Themselves as Anti-Communist HeroesLatvians Among Them


In 1986, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson wrote that the participation of Eastern Europeans such as Latvians in the Holocaust was “one of the least-told stories in modern history”[a] because these people had been “recruited by American and British intelligence, brought into the United States and Canada, allowed to rise to prominent positions in their émigré communities, and ultimately to revise history.”[b]

[a]Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, Inside the League: The Shocking Expose of How Terrorists, Nazis, and Latin American Death Squads Have Infiltrated the World Anti-Communist League (New York: 1986), 12.
[b]Ibid, 13.

Inside the League is among the earliest “exposés” alleging British and American intelligence knowingly recruited confirmed former Nazis as Cold War agents and whitewashed their past. "Latvian Nazis" are a feature common in this conspiratorial narrative, including the allegation that Daugavas Vanagi ("Hawks of the River Daugava"), founded by Latvian Legion[1] veterans, is an organization of war criminals.

In checking to see where it might be cited, we found it has made its way into conspiracy-theory crackpot sites, scholarly papers, and university course plans and student papers. We also found it in the collection of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

Searching the title brought up multiple matches for “death squads.”

Even though Latvians comprise only a sliver of the Andersons' conspiratorial pie, given the recognition accorded Jon Lee Anderson for his journalism[2] and the legitimacy accorded the book, we examined its allegations regarding Latvians more closely.

[1]The Latvian Legion were Waffen-SS troops, functionally subordinate to the Wehrmacht structure, deployed on the Eastern Front against the Red Army.
[2]Scott Anderson is a novelist, and Jon Lee Anderson is an investigative journalist and long-time contributor to the New Yorker magazine, viz. The authors are brothers.

Updated: May, 2017

Nazis Among UsMore Dangerous than the German Original

The Andersons allege that a conspiracy by and of Nazis has infiltrated the fabric of American life:

When most people think of Nazis, two images are evoked: aging war criminals, the Josef Mengeles and Klaus Barbies living in frightened obscurity somewhere in South America, or else of disenchanted youths who, in brown shirts and jackboots, vandalize synagogues and march through city streets. But there is a 1third type of Nazi, who is far more powerful, public, and dangerous than the other two: these are the Croatians, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Latvians who carried out the German-dictated massacres, who never faced a Nuremberg, and who joined the World Anti-Communist League.

The participation of these Eastern Europeans in the Holocaust remains one of the least-told stories in modern history. The reason this is so is simple: 2many of them were recruited by American and British intelligence, brought into the United States and Canada, allowed to rise to prominent positions in their émigré communities, and ultimately to revise history.

Today, their rhetoric is different; they no longer talk very much about the 3“Communist, Jewish, Freemason conspiracy” for now they have allies who need them to be more discreet than that. 4In 1986, as in 1936, they hide behind the buzzwords anti-Bolshevism and anti-communism to further their goals and to forge links with others.

...Through their front groups and their 5involvement in American politics, the Nazi collaborators have blended in and become respectable.

Contention versus Fact
This echoes sentiments such as those expressed by Simon Wiesenthal, that the collaborators of the Nazis were more evil than the Nazis themselves. This book coming two years after Alan A. Ryan, Jr.'s influential (and uncontested) Quiet Neighbors, the Andersons subscribe to the meme of an escape from justice.[1] Moreover, the Cold War now provided these Nazis a safe haven and new mission: battling Communism.
There were indisputably numerous German scientists who were poached by both Western Allies and the USSR. The story of Werner von Braun, who with a large number of his team made it to Austria and surrendered to the Americans, is well known. However, those are not the individuals alluded to here, rather, the assertion is that the British and Americans recruited and supported known Nazi collaborators from now Soviet-controlled territories and facilitated their rise into leadership positions in their respective communities and their whitewashing their own personal Nazi involvement.

Declassified documents show that any Latvians who assisted the CIA were recruited as contacts only after they were already in the United States. Their function was mainly to gather information on current events and circumstances, to interview defectors and visitors in their native language, and to identify individuals willing to be sources of information from within the USSR.

The authors give too much credence to German propaganda infuencing Eastern Europe, whether Judeo-Boshevik or Judeo-Masonic conspiracies, certainly ones that scholars on the Holocaust in Latvia, such as Andrew Ezergailis, have documented gained little to no traction among the Latvian populace. That there were Latvian collaborators of the Nazis had very little to do with propaganda; German campaigns to incite Latvians against their Jewish neighbors were a failure.
Here we find echoes of other Nazis-among-us exposés, that post-war anti-Communist émigré groups were, in actuality, pre-war Nazi collaborationist organizations, already subservient to Hitler, operating in their native countries. The authors do not spell their contention out in this level of detail, however, the allegation of Nazi before, during, and after the war is clear.
Much was made of the infiltration of Republican politics by Nazi-infested émigré groups, among the more vociferous of accusers being Russ Bellant—whom the Andersons thank in their preface as a source—in his alarmist tome: The Old Nazis, the New Right and the Reagan Administration: The Role of Domestic Fascist Networks in the Republican Party and Their Effect on US Cold War Politics. Bellant's report (1991, with a draft released to the press in 1988) was published by the anti-right activist Cambridge-based Political Research Associates. Bellant alleged the Bush campaign’s ethnic outreach program was rooted in a pro-Nazi émigré network, and that the GOP's ethnic leaders were among thousands of Eastern European extremists welcomed by the US because of their anti-Communist stance.

Thus, we find this “exposé” steeped in the major myths of “Latvian Nazis among us”:

  1. émigré Nazis are a powerful force in their ethnic communities and national politics;
  2. émigré Nazis are more Nazi than the German Nazis, and have been Nazis all along: before, during, and after WWII and the Holocaust;
  3. the United States government actively and knowingly recruited émigré Nazis as front-line soldiers in the Cold War.

Other than the generic tarring of Latvians and all the rest, is there anything more specific that Anderson and Anderson have to offer?

[1]The theme of escape from justice gained momentum in the first major case the U.S. government brought against a Latvian, Vilis Hāzners, and lost spectacularly. Even though witnesses were conclusively proven to have misidentified Hāzners, activists and Ryan himself blamed the loss on prosecutorial incompetence. Hāzners continued to be convicted in the press and Holocaust literature.

Updated: May, 2017

Daugavas VanagiDemonized via Self-Evident Truth

The Daugavas Vanagi (DV), “Hawks of the River Daugava,” are our crucible for the Andersons' contentions.

The DV are a veterans' self-help welfare organization founded in Zedelgem POW Camp, where guards shot Latvians for live target practice until they were informed the Latvians weren't actually Nazis. The portrayal of the DV here, however, holds true to the “Latvians are Nazis” story line.

Much has been written about different Nazi networks—ODESSA, Kamaraden-werk, etc.—that were created after the war to enable war criminals to escape and work in exile toward the formation of a Fourth Reich. No other organization, however, approaches the scope, depth, or influence of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations. Since its inception, it has grown to become the largest and most important umbrella for Nazi collaborators in the world. The organizer and chairman of this “ex-Nazi International” is none other than Yaroslav Stetsko.

Though still largely controlled by the Ukrainians under Stetsko, the ABN now has chapters from other Soviet republics as well and from all of the Eastern European countries under Soviet control. A prime criterion for membership appears to be fealty to the cause of National Socialism; 6ABN officers constitute a virtual Who's Who of those responsible for the massacre of millions of civilians in the bloodiest war in history.

After Stetsko, the most important official of the Bloc in the 1940s was the chairman of its council of nations, 7Alfred Berzins. Described by Stetsko as “also a former prisoner of Nazi concentration camps,” Berzins was in reality a Latvian who volunteered to serve in a Nazi-sponsored police battalion responsible for the roundup and extermination of his nation's Jews and Communist Party members. In February 1942, he joined the Latvian SS and was awarded the German Iron Cross, First Grade. In exile, he was secretary of the Central Committee of the 8Dangavas [sic.] Vanagi (“Dangava [sic.] Hawks”), an organization composed of the Latvian SS officers and government ministers who oversaw the Final Solution in their country. Until his death, he lived under his own name in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

The Latvian chapter of the League is controlled by the Danagaus [sic.] Vanagi (“Danaga [sic.] Hawks”). Operating out of Munster, West Germany, and publishing a newspaper in Canada, the 9Hawks are a band of Latvian leaders who assisted the Nazis in exterminating the Jews of their Baltic homeland.

If one wants to find Nazi collaborators, it is only necessary to examine the European chapters of the World Anti-Communist League.

APPENDIX The League List


10Talivadis Zarins (Latvia): an official of the Daugavas Vanagi, a council of Latvian war criminals based in West Germany.

Spelling is the least of the Andersons' errors.

Contention versus Fact

The authors' hyperbole promulgates the myth of the Germanless Holocaust and absolves Nazi Germany for it responsibility for the Holocaust. No collaborator operated without German supervision.

Indicative of the authors' poor command of facts, they confuse:

  • Alfreds Jēkabs Bērziņš, Latvian politician and government minister under the Ulmanis regime, active after the war in preserving Latvian culture and advocating for Latvian independence, and
  • Alfrēds-Jānis Bērziņš, a Latvian Legionnaire active after the war in the Daugavas Vanagi.

Alfreds Jēkabs Bērziņš (1899–1977) fought in Latvia's War of Independence at the age of 19; as a Rīga Military School Cadet, he defended Rīga against the Bermontians. He joined the National Guard (Aizargi) in 1926, eventually rising to become its head. At the age of 32 he was voted into the Parliament (Saeima), three years later becoming a member of the administration. He became one of the youngest members of the Ulmanis regime after the May 15th, 1934 coup. Appointed as Minister of Public Affairs, Bērziņš was serving as Minister of the Interior when the Soviet occupation took place. With assistance, Bēŗziņš managed to escape a month after the Soviet invasion via Estonia and Finland to Sweden. In the summer or 1940, Bērziņš attended a Latvian conference in Geneva, Switzerland, then travelled on to Rome, Italy, where he attended a Baltic diplomatic conference until February, 1941. En route from Rome to Stockholm, the Gestapo arrested him as a British spy (meanwhile, the British considered him as an agent of either Germany or Japan), holding him in Berlin until July, 1941, then incarcerating him at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp for nearly three years. Bērziņš remained in Berlin upon his release. He fled the Soviet advance in early 1945, first to Nausnitz, then in July to Lübeck , where he entered a Displaced Persons ("DP") Camp. Bērziņš emigrated to the United States arriving in August, 1950, where he became active in the Free Europe Committee, a member of the Assembly of Captive European Nations (ACEN), and in 1951 founded the American Latvian Association (ALA), which supported organizations dedicated to cultural preservation in exile and groups devoted to restoring Latvia's freedom. We expect Bērziņš to have been involved in the “Visamerikas konferenci cīņai pret komunismu” (Pan-American Conference for the Struggle Against Communism), but can find virtually nothing regarding his relationship with the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN) other than mention he was among a number of “chairmen” of its “People's Council.” Bērziņš authored several books in Latvian and English on the Ulmanis regime and Sovietization of Latvia.

The contention that this Bērziņš was a Nazi concentration camp inmate, rather than being debunked, is true.[1]

Alfrēds-Jānis Bērziņš (1920-2011) was born into a family of municipal professionals (“ierēdņi” being a functionaries or office-holders). He enlisted in the army (mandatory service) in 1938, serving 18 months until being demobilized shortly before the Soviet occupation in 1940. When, after the Soviet retreat and German occupation, Bērziņš encountered the mass-grave exhumation of 30 corpses of Latvian prisoners maimed and killed by the Soviets, he voluntarily joined the police battalions which were already fighting as front-line units against the Red Army. In 1942 he was appointed unit commander on the Leningrad front. Bērziņš never participated in any collaborationist war crimes. Wounded in battle, Bērziņš returned to recuperate in Latvia for a number of months, then returned to the front in 1943 in the Latvian Legion (“Waffen-SS”, combat units whose members had no Nazi affiliation or allegiance), where he served bravely and with distinction.[2] Over the remainder of the war, he earned two Iron Crosses; holding off the re-invading Red Army in the Courland Pocket (the only part of Eastern Europe not “liberated” by the Soviets—Latvians hoped Courland could once again be their bridgehead to independence as it had been in their war of independence against the Russians and Germans a scant two decades earlier), he was gravely wounded. His sixth time wounded in battle, Bērziņš was evacuated first to Dundaga (still in Courland) where he had his leg amputated above the knee, then evacuated for further treatment and recovery to Bavaria, where he remained until taken prisoner in Marktredwitz by American forces. After the war, Bērziņš became active in the Daugavas Vanagi, rising to become its general-secretary. Bērziņš repatriated to his homeland in 2010 and passed away in 2011.[3]

There is no evidence to substantiate the authors' contention that this Bērziņš exterminated Latvian Jews and Communists or to question his service on the Eastern Front.[4][5]

We encounter the Germanless Holocaust again. There was no independent action by any of Hitler's collaborators, no “overseeing” of any part of the Holocaust. No Latvian was a member of the Nazi party or officer of the criminal Allgemeine SS. There was no such organization as a “Latvian SS” or officers thereof. The Germans entrusted industrialized genocide only to themselves, closely supervising their collaborators who, for the most part, had ancillary duties while the Germans did the killing. The Arājs Kommando collaborators, numbering 300-500 during the Holocaust, and other SD collaborators, were a notable exception in that they executed Jews, nevertheless, supervised at all times.[6] Beyond the authors' lack of understanding of the German execution of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, we have their baseless contention that the Daugavas Vanagi consists of Holocaust organizers and perpetrators.

Here the Daugavas Vanagi members are portrayed more as some lawless band. The authors repeat the accusation they led Holocaust collaborators.

Only at its last mention is Daugavas Vanagi spelled correctly. Yet, spelling accuracy is still denied its victory as the Andersons misspell TĀLIVALDIS Zariņš’ name. The authors falsely allege Daugavas Vanagi are a “council of Latvian war criminals”, likely tirelessly working toward the rise of (their words, earlier) the “Fourth Reich.”[7]

In all, a disturbingly inaccurate account.

Above: Central Prison courtyard following Soviet retreat. Below: Rows of murdered victims at Baltezers, a scene such as Alfrēds-Jānis Bērziņš might have encountered, motivating him to fight on the Eastern Front.
From These Names Accuse, Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm, Sweden.

[1]Londonas Avīze obituary; Latvian Wikipedia; declassified 1964 FBI report.
[2]No one has ever been accused of a war crime in the service of the Latvian Legion.
[3]Summarized from Latvian Wikipedia
[4]We should note that the Latvian Police Battalions were subjects of a number of show trials after the war. Soviet authorities routinely convicted and executed individuals who had not even been present to commit the crimes they were accused of. In some cases of show trials of Baltic individuals, trial transcripts were published accidentally before the trial took place.
[5]That Latvians were awarded Iron Crosses for their bravery was a measure of their dedication to save Latvia from Soviet re-invasion, not a measure of some blind allegiance to Nazism.
[6]Even then, the Germans trusted their collaborators only so far. Arājs' men did not have access to automatic weapons, and they had to check their weapons out for use. Violating the Germans' weapons curfew risked summary execution.
[7]“Even before the dust had settled on Hitler's shattered Third Reich, many of those responsible [for the “gas chambers, ovens, and mass graves of Treblinka and Auschwitz”] were escaping to work for the formation of a Fourth Reich. From their havens, they have nurtured their cause and kept it alive, they have recruited younger generations, and they have formed networks for safety and strength, bonds that remain to this day.”

Updated: May, 2017

Assessment | Chewing the Nazi Allegations Cud

Hopefully, the rest of the Andersons' work is more factual. As we mentioned at the outset, our only focus here is the portrayal of the émigré Latvian community and its leadership, particularly those who served in the Latvian Legion.

At best, the Andersons' contentions regarding alleged Latvian Nazis[1] cobbles together a cud-chewing re-mastication of contemporaneous accusations, including the as preposterous as it is both popular and prejudiced contention of a Germanless Holocaust.

Focusing on the Latvian Legion veterans and their post-war Daugavas Vanagi organization, they can't even correctly spell its name in their denouncements. They call the true assertion the Nazis imprisoned a prominent Latvian in a concentration camp a lie—because they confuse identities. They call Daugavas Vanagi a den of "war criminals," but provide no basis for their statement. In an otherwise copiously footnoted book, there is not a single citation for the accusations they level against Latvians.

Which begs the question: what was the Andersons' purpose in writing this book? If they had given the same care to their skewering of anti-Communists as Jon Lee Anderson devoted to his subsequent biography of Che Guevara[2], extensively interviewing relatives and compatriots, they would have surely produced a far more nuanced and informed work. Cold War "anti-Communism" was an amalgam opposing Eastern European[3] Soviet occupation and Soviet-supported expansionism elsewhere irrespective of legitimate indigenous grievances regarding social injustices. Rather than examine the complex dynamic which united former oppressors and oppressed in a common cause, the authors have declared anti-Communists—Latvians included—a menace to society.

Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea and continuing aggression in eastern Ukraine (2016) have validated the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations' Ukrainian founders' worst fears. Lies, murder, and territorial aggression have survived beyond the Soviet era, proving that whatever the Russian regimetsarist, Soviet, "democratic"—Russia's geopolitical intent regarding its neighbours remains immutable.—Editor

The Andersons fail basic fact checking catastrophically in their exposé of Latvian anti-Communists: misspellings; unattributed, false allegations of war crimes; mistaking identities and calling someone's imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp a lie.
Zero starsRegarding Latvian conduct during WWII and post-war anti-Soviet activities, ignorance is an improvement.

[1]No Latvian was ever a member of the Nazi party.
[2]Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life (1997)
[3]"Eastern Europe" and the three "Baltic States" are post-WWII artefacts. The historical configuration of Europe has been western (Germans and westward), central (peoples and their territories between the Germans and Russians), with eastern being "European Russia" aka "Russia in Europe," i.e., Russia west of the Urals continental divide from Asia. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania became a unified entity as the "Baltic States" during occupation; prior, as the former Russian Baltic provinces, that term had included Finland. Although the Lithuanians and Latvians are sister peoples, historical identities and experiences diverge: Lithuania following Poland, Estonia and Latvia following Germany and Sweden prior to Russia. With the advent of the European Union, maps now frequently omit the eastern third of the European continent altogether.
Latvia in the middle of historical Europe, highlight centered on its capital, Rīga. From A general descriptive Atlas of the Earth, containing separate maps of the various countries and states ... with a short account of each country, by William Mullinger Higgins, 1836.

Updated: May, 2017

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