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

Coalition of American Nationalities (CAN) | Bush Campaign Under Fire“FORGIVE AND FORGET”

The heart of Bellant's exposé is the premise that the Bush campaign has been infiltrated by outright Nazis, if not former sympathizers, if not individuals of a "dubious" past. As soon as he had a draft completed, Bellant began to circulate it to stir the pot.

In 1988 many of the key figures in the Republican Heritage Groups Council were named as leaders of the George Bush presidential campaign's ethnic outreach arm, the Coalition of American Nationalities. These included Anna Chennault, Walter Melianovich, Laslo Pasztor, Frank Stella, Radi Slavoff, Philip A. Guarino, and Florian Galdau. 1Other persons on the Bush ethnic panel with questionable views or pasts were Bohdan Fedorak and Akselis Mangulis....

2In August of 1988 draft copies of the first version of this report were mailed to several journalists. At the same time a reporter for Washington Jewish Week began collecting information on the backgrounds of the Bush campaign's Coalition of American Nationalities (CAN) members after hearing criticisms of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations while covering the Republican Convention. Washington Jewish Week originally focused on CAN members Ignatius Billinsky and Jerome Brentar, but expanded the article after receiving documentation and background information on the Republican Heritage Groups Council from the author of this report. The Philadelphia Inquirer also began a substantial investigation of the charges in this report.

[After other CAN member resignations,] 3in early November [1988], the Philadelphia Inquirer raised questions about a Latvian member of CAN, which prompted the final resignation, that of Akselis Mangulis, charged with having belonged to the pro-Nazi Latvian Legion which had connections to the SS....

Yet no matter what the intent or goal, the 4Republican Heritage Groups Council has incorporated racist, anti-Semitic, and fascist forces, and even rehabilitated some Nazi collaborators; legitimized them as ethnic leaders in their own communities and in the press; and provided a vehicle for expanding their influence in the Executive branch and Congress, where they have played a role in shaping American foreign policy.

Contention versus Fact

Mangulis, a teenager at the time, was drafted (or be shot) by the Nazis into the Waffen-SS, had no Nazi sympathies, killed no Jews, and lost two fingers to a Russian machine-gunner in WWII. Bellant's self-serving partisan circulation to stir the pot against the Bush campaign [see next quotation] did so at the price of ruining the lives of innocent individuals. It wasn't enough that they had survived war, started life over again after losing their homeland, everything to Soviet occupation. Bellant and his ilk took it upon themselves to crucify them in the public eye. The Philadelphia Inquirer story which ran that November 4th[1]is a bit disjointed; however, we cannot blame the reporter, who, unfamiliar with the history, did his best to piece things together. The UPI newswire service carried a more cogent report the following day, also capturing the human impact (below).

Eastern European émigré leadership was the target of Soviet subterfuge and propaganda. Virtually all the names of Latvian Nazi suspects pursued by the INS and later OSI originated in Soviet propaganda. Moreover, the author of the propaganda later confirmed it to be so; and the KGB operative who delivered it into the hands of Holocaust activists confirmed the Soviet campaign to discredit the Soviet Union's most troublesome émigré nationalities: the Baltics and Ukraine heading that list. Opposition to Soviet evidence being used to discredit individuals was a legitimate expression of concern. Soviet witnesses included depositions by the dead; the accused included those who were only children at the time; and trial transcripts were published in newspapers prior to the trial taking place. Soviet show trials convicted and executed Latvians who were not present to commit the crimes they were accused of—however, Soviet "archives" proved them guilty.

Having read the Philadelphia Inquirer article, Bellant takes far too much self-congratulatory righteous credit. It is clear from the article that the Inquirer reached out for scholarly background; the article does not suggest Mangulis is a Nazi sympathizer. The UPI account the following day makes it clear the Bush campaign cut ties with Mangulis purely as damage control. That did not stop Bellant or those he had incensed over Nazis working for the GOP from continuing to pound the Nazi accusation hammer, that is, why aren't Mangulis and company being investigated further? Objectively, because they were never guilty in the first place; antagonistically, to cover up "pro-Nazi" Latvian Legion connected to SS et al. ties.

Bellant's conclusion is as flawed as it is partisan. His understanding and portrayal of history appears driven more by his desire to damn Eastern European GOP supporters as Nazis, and in doing so, strike a death blow to Bush's presidential campaign[2] than to pursue objective reporting. In Bellant's world, ruined reputations are collateral damage.

Suspended Bush campaign aide denies Nazi linkNovember 5, 1988

The Bush campaign Thursday suspended Mangulis, 67, who chairs Latvians for Bush and the American Latvian Association, so he and his family could deal—away from the campaign—with allegations he was linked to the Nazi SS, said Bush campaign spokesman Mark Goodin.

Mangulis was the only Latvian in the Bush campaign's Coalition of American Nationalities. Seven of the coalition's original 88 members resigned or were dropped in September following published reports linking them to fascist or anti-Semitic organizations.

“We decided it unilaterally. We informed him, and he and his family are in sync with the decision,” Goodin said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday that Mangulis, an architect, was a member of the Latvian Legion during WWII.

The newspaper said the Nazis organized the Latvian Legion in 1943 as an auxilary of the Waffen SS from police battalions in Latvia that had been under German command, according to Andrew Ezergailis, a history professor at Ithaca College and an expert on the subject.

Mangulis told the Eagle Tribune he was forced to join the Latvian Legion under threat of death.

“There was a great struggle at the time,” he told the newspaper. “All girls is taken against their will to labor in German if we don't fight. We say we will fight. The Latvian Legion was formed at that time.”

Mangulis said the Germans warned the Latvian men, “If you don't fight, if you run, you will be shot. If they couldn't find you, punish you, they shoot your family.”

He said he was drafted in 1943 at age 19, served as a radio operator and was sent to the Russian front. Mangulis said he lost two fingers of his left hand to a Russian machine gunner in 1945, adding, “that was the end of my war.”

Mangulis said he had little to do with the Nazis during his service because his unit was primarily made up of Latvians, and that he had no contact with the SS and saw no concentration camps.

He denied a New York Times report Friday that he had resigned as chairman of Latvians for Bush because of the Nazi allegations and said he would continue to campaign for Bush.

“Politics,” he said. “It is all politics.”[3]


[1]Preston, David Lee. Bush Backer Barred Over Nazi Links, Philadelphia Inquirer, accessed 1 July 2016. LINK
[2]Bellant's full page op-eds demanding the RNC investigate its Nazi supporters confirms his agenda.
[3]Unattributed. Suspended Bush Campaign Aide Denies Nazi Link, United Press International (UPI), 5 November 1988, accessed 1 July 2016. LINK

Updated: May, 2017

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