Russ BellantOld Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party

Hitler's Henchmen | Fractured Bellantian History“THE HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICAN HERITAGE GROUPS COUNCIL”

A key component of Ballant's narrative emanates from his contention that all the Estonian and Latvian Legion (Waffen-SS) members had long-time ties to the Nazis before the war, and that a sinister government plot reversed their status as Nazis, war criminals, and inflictors of "cruel death"—thus allowing them to enter the United States. Smear Latvians to smear the Republicans they support.

The Displaced Persons Commission, which worked from 1948 to 1952, arranged for approximately 400,000 persons to come to the U.S.[a] 1Initially it sought to bar members of pro-Nazi groups, but in 1950 a dramatic reversal took place. The Commission declared “the Baltic Legion not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States .... ”[b] The Baltic Legion was also known as the Baltic Waffen 2(armed) SS.

The final report of the Commission noted that 3the decision “was the subject of considerable controversy.”[c] As well it 4should have been. The Waffen SS participated in the liquidation of Jews in the Baltic region because the SS units were comprised of Hitler's loyal henchmen, recruited from fascist political groups long tied to the German Nazi Party. Anyone opposed to the German occupation of the Baltic region (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) was likely to meet a cruel death at their hands. 5They were now considered qualified to come to the United States, to become American citizens. Further, pro-Nazi elements from other parts of Europe came to the U.S. through nominally private groups associated with the Commission.


[a]U.S., Displaced Persons Commission, Memo to America, The DP Story, The Final Report of the Displaced Persons Commission (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1952), p. v.
[b]Ibid., p. 101.
[c]Ibid.
Contention versus Fact  

Bellant's imagined drama is that the "reversal" in question was to now permit the Nazi Baltic, i.e., Estonian and Latvian, Legionnaires to enter the United States. In actuality, U.S. authorities in Germany undertook a thorough examination of the Latvian (and Estonian) Legion and, after due consideration, confirmed that they had no Nazi sympathies or affiliation and, aside from being largely conscripted, fought only on the Eastern Front, only against Soviet reoccupation. Rather than taking the Commission's declaration as legitimate, Bellant portrays it as an excuse and a lie which allowed Baltic Nazis to flood into the United States.

Our inference would be that the Legion are "general SS"—and more dangerous, being, as has been described, their "military wing."

Bellant would have us believe that the "controversy" is an argument over whether or not to let Nazi supporters and war crime participants come freely into the United States. We have a copy of the source Bellant cites; however, it offers no insight into what the "controversy" might have been. All we know is that the Commissioner, Harry N. Rosenfield, communicated to the Latvian Charge d'Affaires in a letter dated September 12, 1950 the adoption of the following motion: "That the Waffen SS Units (Baltic Legions) are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the government of the United Stated under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended." To this point, anyone who had been a member of any Waffen-SS unit had been barred from entry into the United States. Anyone accused of specific war crimes was still denied entry and subject to investigation.

All the Waffen-SS units were primarily combat units. Bellant's contention here is a complete lie. The German Allgemeine SS perpetrated and managed every aspect of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. The Latvian Waffen-SS was formed in 1943 and had no role in the Holocaust. (Additionally, the police battalions which originally formed the Waffen-SS core were not, as have been convicted in Soviet show trials, Holocaust perpetrators run amok of their German masters, but already front-line battle units on the Eastern Front.[1] There was no pre-war tie to Nazism except on the part of some Baltic Germans, which entire community Hitler repatriated en masse. There were Latvian fascists; however, as ultra-nationalists, they hated the Germans, who represented seven centuries of foreign domination, ever since the German "founding" of Riga in 1201. We should also mention the Ulmanis administration, while accused of being fascist, arrested the Latvian fascists, exiled their leader, welcomed Jews fleeing from Germany, and banned the publication of anti-Semitic literature. No Latvian had loyalty to Nazism.

Bellant states this qualification of the Legionnaires to come to the United States as a betrayal of democracy itself, when, instead, it was one of its most noble expressions. Bellant wraps up tossing in a mystery Nazi bogeyman, "moreover..." naming no group, no part of Europe.

We should mention that Latvian Legionnaires guarded the most notorious prisoners at the Nuremberg trials.

Bellant provides no sources for his fractured historical account.

...the foundation of the Republican Heritage Groups Council lay in Hitler's networks into East Europe before World War II. In each of those Eastern European countries, the 6German SS set up or funded political action organizations that helped form SS militias during the war. In Hungary, for example, the Arrow Cross was the Hungarian SS affiliate; in Romania, the Iron Guard. The Bulgarian Legion, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN ), 7the Latvian Legion, and the Byelorussian (White Russian) Belarus Brigade 8were all SS-linked. In each of their respective countries, they 9were expected to serve the interests of the German Nazi Party before and during the war.

Many of these groups formed SS divisions: the Ukrainian Nationalists formed the 14th Galician Division, Waffen SS; 10the Latvians formed the 15th and 19th Divisions, Waffen SS; etc.[a] These units and related German-controlled police units had several functions. 12The Ukrainian division unsuccessfully tried to impede the advance of the Soviet army against the Nazi army. Others hunted down those fellow countrymen who opposed the German occupation of Eastern Europe during World War II.

13More sadistically, many units rounded up hundreds of thousands of Jews, Poles, and others and conducted mass murders on the spot, sometimes decimating whole villages. 14They perfected “mobile killing teams” as efficient means of mass executions. Little is known about these units compared to the concentration camps, gas chambers, and ovens, but they were an integrated component of the "Final Solution." 15Approximately one-third of the victims of the Holocaust, perhaps as many as two million, died at the hands of these units.


[a]11For information on the Waffen SS, see George Stein, The Waffen SS: Hitler's Elite Guard at War: 1939-1945 (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1966); Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia, 1941-45: A Study of Occupation Policies (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1957).
Contention versus Fact  

The German SS was not active in Latvia before the war, there were no Nazi-aligned/funded organizations which assisted in forming militias, no Latvian in the Waffen-SS served Nazi interests before, during, or after the war.[2]

Bellant's grammar betrays his bias. The correct representation is that "the (occupying) Germans conscripted the Latvians into the 15th and 19th Divisions, Waffen SS, or, 1st and 2nd Latvian." It is preposterous to state the Latvians organized their own German military divisions.

More of Bellant's unsourced fantasy. The Latvian Legion actually held out in Courland until the end of the war, hoping to use it as a bridgehead against the Russians and Germans as they had less than a generation earlier in their war of independence against both Russians and Germans. The Legion were compelled to surrender along with the German forces at the end of the war. The Legion didn't "hunt" anyone.

Bellant just cited Alexander Dallin's seminal work on the German occupation on the Eastern Front for the role of the Waffen-SS, yet Dallin mentions none of the atrocities which Bellant alleges the Waffen-SS committed. Dallin makes clear that the Waffen-SS were combat units in active battle against the Red Army.

We were wondering how long it would take Bellant to get to the Germanless Holocaust. In the case of Lithuania, for example, official reports in Berlin indicated the Lithuanians were methodically eradicating the Jews. Meanwhile, someone who had read those reports and then travelled to Lithuania wrote back to Berlin that they (the Germans) needed to be more careful, as it was common local knowledge that it was a small German police mobile killing squad that was exterminating all the Jews, village by village.[3]

In that regard, executions of Jews were primarily carried out by special mobile “task forces” (Einsatzgruppen) of the Security Police and the Security Service (SD), German police battalions, and to a much lesser extent (German) Waffen-SS units during and directly after establishing German occupation. (Virtually all the foreign Waffen-SS units were formed after Germany's invasion of the USSR and its first wave of Holocaust mass executions.)

Which begs the question: why is all Nazi propaganda a lie and all Soviet propaganda a lie except that which promulgates the meme that it was the Eastern Europeans who were the real killers, more evil than the Nazis themselves, so much so that German "eyewitnesses" tell of Nazis officers saving Jews from Eastern European brutality?

Bellant's historical fabrication is not boundless, after all. It still leaves the Germans with responsibility for two thirds of the Holocaust.

Readers would expect that the works Bellant cites support his contentions. However, they do not. Bellant interprets, not investigates, sources to support his agenda. His resulting historical narrative is agitprop, not journalism.

Stein indicates that only a small portion of the German Waffen-SS, that is, organized prior to WWII as the military wing of the SS supporting the Nazi ideology, were involved in what would be termed war crimes. Stein further confirms that later Waffen-SS units such as the Latvian Legion were front-line combat units: "The field formations of the Waffen SS spent the entire war under the tactical command of the Army and this may be considered a de facto branch of the Wehrmacht." Specifically, regarding the three Baltic units: "All three Baltic divisions fought in the futile defense of their homelands during the Soviet advance of 1944." Stein also deals extensively with the post-war rehabilitation of the German Waffen-SS (that is, they were soldiers, not Allgemeine SS war criminals). Regarding the rampant war crimes Bellant alleges, Stein offers that there is "no work available at present which offers a meaningful and objective discussion of the criminal activities of the Waffen SS." Notably, Stein's own subsequent examination makes no mention of the Baltic Waffen SS in the context of any war crimes. Indeed, no one has ever been accused of a war crime in service of the Latvian Legion.

Dallin makes clear the "Eastern Waffen-SS" were front-line combat units under Wehrmacht command, fighting on the Eastern Front. Dallin's "German Rule in Russia" is a seminal and comprehensive work on German administration in the East—and contains nothing to support Bellant's contentions the Waffen-SS committed atrocities, least of all the Latvians.[4]

Once Bellant sees "SS," distinctions don't matter. Our initial reaction to Bellant's diatribe to this point was to ask, is he so driven to smear the Reagan administration, Republican Party, and Bush election campaign that he doesn't care if it means maligning the innocent in the process? We then realized the true danger—Bellant actually believes what he writes.


[1]The 18th Latvian Police Battalion, convicted in a Soviet show trial for Holocaust crimes at Slonim, Belarus did not exist during the first round of alleged slaughter and was not in Slonim at the second; one officer convicted and executed was hospitalized at the time.
[2]We should qualify this statement to note that the notorious Arājs Kommando was joined to the Latvian Legion late in the war as conditions deteriorated for the Germans on the Eastern Front. That joining has been falsely used to tar every member of the Latvian Legion with Holocaust crimes against humanity. Those in the Legion, the vast majority conscripted, numbered some 100,000 (the more recent the estimate, the higher) while Arājs Kommando numbered 300-500 during their participation in the Holocaust.
[3]Note that even Arājs Kommando, which killed tens of thousands of Jews under direct German supervision, had no automatic weapons, which would be essential to any "killing squad." The Germans trusted only themselves to carry out industrialized executions, such as those at Rumbula.
[4]As we note regarding another author citing Dallin, he concludes his chapter on the German occupation of the Baltic states noting that their only alternative to Nazi rule was Soviet reoccupation. We would only note the Latvians held out until the end of the war in Courland—the third alternative of restored independence was doomed not militarily, but diplomatically by Roosevelt and Churchill.

Updated: May, 2017

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