Christopher HaleHitler's Foreign Executioners: Europe's Dirty Secret
YEAR: 2011-10-01, earlier edition published in 2009
PUBLISHER: History Press
It's certainly difficult to miss Christopher Hale's book with its provocative title.
What drew us to it, on the one hand, was that in his introduction Hale named historians with whom he corresponded in the course of writing his book, for example, Andrew Ezergailis. Serious students of the Holocaust in Latvia would immediately recognize him as the foremost authority on the subject. We were also gratified to see mention of the new generation of respected scholars, such as Matthew Kott.
On the other hand, paging through for citations of Ezergailis' works, we found this caveat nestled among the book's endnotes (our emphasis):
Ezergailis (1996), pp. 242–3. The ‘Landgericht Hamburg’ holds records of a number of war crimes trials of German and Latvian SD recruits who served in Latvia, including testimony by Hemicker. StA Hamburg 141 Js 534/60 Anklageschrift vom 10.5.1976 gegen Viktors Arājs. I have made significant use of Ezergailis’ detailed account of the Latvian Holocaust throughout this chapter. I have, however, drawn different conclusions from his evidence.
Hence our curiosity. What different conclusions? On what basis? We page through Hale's narrative for clues.
Updated: May, 2017
Alleging (Alleging “Red Equals Brown”)Making genocide excusable?
There are many points of contention over the legacy of WWII in Eastern Europe. The Holocaust is a horrific, tragic, and uniquely defining piece of that history. Yet—without diluting the significance of the Holocaust in the least—it was neither the first, nor last, totalitarian-conducted genocide on that soil. The peoples of Timothy Snyder's "bloodlands" have been striving for 78 years, ever since Stalin partitioned Poland as Hitler's ally, for recognition of the war crimes and genocide—torture, murder, and mass deportations—the Soviets inflicted upon their peoples. Actions which continued well after WWII was over.
One of the great challenges of the post-Soviet era has been the continued rehabilitation of Stalin and his repressive state instruments, including the notorious NKVD, by Russian authorities. This has only moved the goal of united international recognition of Stalin's war crimes even further into the future.
The 1948 Genocide Convention defines genocide as follows:
"...genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Absent from these groups are those defined by classes, such as economic status, occupation, political affiliation, or civil service position—classes which defined the majority of the USSR's deportations and murders of Baltic and Eastern European citizenry. And why is the destruction of these groups not considered genocide? Because they were removed from the definition so as to prevent the USSR vetoing the entire proceedings. Twenty-five years since its formal dissolution, the USSR still stands squarely in the path of an honest reckoning of Soviet aggression against its neighbours and their citizenry. A pattern which the current Russian regime has carried on with its 2014 invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
There are those, however, that believe that any claims to genocide by Stalin on the part of the Baltic and Eastern Europeans is an attempt to pervert history to diminish the Holocaust and to rehabilitate those who supported its genocide of their neighbours, that the extermination of Eastern Europe's Jewry, in the words of Efraim Zuroff, was made possible by "fanatic support by the native population."—a history the Eastern Europeans are now attempting to white-wash and bury. Hale accepts this thesis in its totality in his preface.
1In 2008 many of the far-right parties of Europe backed the Prague Declaration on Conscience and Communism. This was hatched up by Baltic scholars and politicians. Its authors demand that the European Union ‘equally evaluate totalitarian regimes’. In other words, the crimes of the Soviet regime and the Nazi Holocaust should have equivalent moral status. This is often summed up by the slogan ‘red = brown’. The Prague Declaration proposes replacing Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January with a ‘Day of Remembrance’ to be held every 23 August, the day on which the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and his Soviet counterpart Vyacheslav Molotov signed the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact in 1939. 2This ‘equal evaluation’ may appear seductive. After all, how often does one hear that ‘Stalin was just as bad or worse than Hitler’. But the apparently reasonable claim that ‘there are substantial similarities between Nazism and Communism in terms of their horrific and appalling character and their crimes against humanity’ is not what it seems. 3The authors of the Prague Declaration grossly distort the historical record and seek ultimately to tear down the unique moral status of the Holocaust. The concept of ‘double genocide’ lumps together heinous Soviet practices such as summary execution, deportation, imprisonment and loss of employment with the deliberate and planned attempt to liquidate an entire human group. Soviet crimes should indeed be properly memorialised, but they are not equivalent either in intent or result to the ‘Final Solution’. The consequences of rendering the crimes of the Soviet Union equivalent to the German Holocaust are already becoming clear in many Eastern European nations. In the Baltic States, Hungary and Ukraine 4it is now commonplace to hear politicians imply that wartime collaboration with the Third Reich should no longer be regarded as a moral catastrophe – a stain on the nation. Instead collaboration is increasingly reinterpreted as a pragmatic means to oppose the destructive power of the Soviet Union. 5This inevitably means that the tens of thousands of men who volunteered to serve the German occupiers as policemen and soldiers can be reinvested as heroic nationalists – no longer vilified as collaborators in genocide. Compelling evidence that this historical lie has begun to take root in Europe can be observed every 16 March in the capital city of Latvia.
We have addressed elsewhere Efraim Zuroff's “canard of equivalency” and his advocacy that the Shoah was the sole genocide of WWII. Nevertheless, there are points to be made regarding Hale's version of the same and his narrative leading up to his protesting at the annual Latvian Legionnaire commemoration.
As before, Hale approaches the entire issue from the mistaken perspective that the argument is over the relative depravity of Hitler and Stalin at some conceptual immorality level disconnected from their victim, missing the key point: "Stalin was just as bad or worse than Hitler" for the victims who suffered at their hand. Stalin's goons came in the early morning of June 14, 1941 to take entire families away in the first large-scale single mass deportation in the Baltic States, ripping them apart, sending women and children—and infants—to labour camp settlements and men to GULAG camps even north of the Arctic circle. There are stories of those men packed standing-room-only in cattle cars, those dying on the way from lack of food and water having their bodies tossed out by the railway tracks, then, once arriving at the end of the line, being forced-marched to the camp. Of a cattle car-full of men at the outset, a single man left alive. Were those dead less deserving of life than Hitler's victims? Would Hale have us mourn them less?
Absent from the telling of the history of the genocide of Jewry in WWII is that Jews, proportionally, suffered greater losses than any other ethnic group in Stalin's deportations of the Baltic States' citizenry—leaving them unprepared to organize and respond to Hitler's invasion a week later of their countries in turmoil. Russo-Soviet history speaks only of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Hale appears to be arguing that
- calling anything else concurrent with the Holocaust a genocide could be taken to mean it, too, was a mass murder of an imagining and execution as horrific as Hitler's,
- therefore one can not name it so.
Hale would have the reader believe that one cannot raise Stalin's crimes against Eastern Europe and, by extension, Ukraine earlier, to a status of genocide without tearing down the unique status of the Holocaust. It is Hale who tarnishes the memory of the Holocaust by reducing it to a pawn in a contest of political name-calling, invoking its name to contend Stalin's crimes against humanity before during, and after WWII constitute some sort of junior varsity of moral corruption.
It is worth noting that Zuroff contends Stalin did not inflict genocide upon its western neighbours.
- The Soviets invade. They take over your parent's house as barracks. They shoot the postmaster and install a Soviet incompetent, your co-workers "disappear," and you are kept on and alive only because they need someone to run the place. You and the replacements (Jews, opening them to later charges of being Stalin's scab labour) work with Red Army rifles at your backs, listening in and reporting on every conversation. The day before the first mass deportation, word is overheard on a phone conversation, a (Jewish) replacement tells you to not go home that night. Early the next morning, your family is taken to Siberia.
- You and your husband hide in the woods and live off the land, unsure what to do. The Germans invade a week later. You return home, family gone. The first thing you did after returning home is to clean out your parent's house, shovelling piles of filth and human excrement out the windows. The Germans soon barrack themselves in your cleaned-out parent's house, but at least they are sanitary. You return to work. Your Jewish co-workers have disappeared but there is no word out in the countryside of what the Germans are actually doing. People "disappear" during occupations, this has already been the way of life for a year under the Soviets. Meanwhile, your name appears on a recovered list of future deportees.
Hale invents quotes from the Prague Declaration, wilfully ignores the work of historians when it runs counter to his prejudices, and denounces Latvians and others based on his personal inferences. Hale pursues an agenda, not scholarship.
Researching Hale further reveals he attended the 2010 Latvian Legion commemoration in Rīga as a protester:
Recently we have been in Riga, protesting against the march of former Waffen-SS men and their Neo-Nazi friends who annually commemorate their comrades who fought in the ‘Latvian Legion’ recruited by Heinrich Himmler. What is the German reaction to such a political demonstration in favor of the fight of Latvians side by side with Hitler’s Wehrmacht and SS against the Red Army?...
seeming to imply the Germans are being lax in denouncing the Latvians for their neo-Nazism and, by implication, for fighting against the Soviet anti-Nazi "liberators." Hale cannot claim to be a historian when he is blinded by the Waffen-SS Latvian Legionnaire uniform. Were Hale to look underneath, he would encounter the same Waffen-SS as Latvians guarding Allied POWs held in German camps. When the POWs expressed their surprise and thanks at being treated well, their guards identified themselves as Latvians, not Germans, and showed them the Latvian flags they wore under their uniform in hope of the day that Latvia would be free of both Russians and Germans.
Instead, Hale believes in complete Latvian loyalty to the Nazi cause; more importantly, any cooperation with the Germans is, as we quoted above, a "moral catastrophe." But Hale has gone even further in his denouncements and denigrations, viz. the opening of his opinion piece featured on the Defending History web site:
O P I N I O N
by Christopher Hale
In Latvia, many of the police auxiliaries like Viktors Arājs for example went on to join the Latvian SS divisions – now referred to as the ‘Latvian Legion’. 6Military historians and some Eastern European nationalists argue that the SS police units and the Waffen-SS divisions had different roles and should not be bracketed together.
This is a bogus argument. The German war in the East was conceived as a racial war of annihilation. Any German affiliated military units took part in this war. The role of the police auxiliaries is very well known – but what is sometimes forgotten is that the non-German units of the Waffen-SS took a leading role in what Himmler called ‘Anti Bandit warfare’. ‘Bandits’ was a pejorative term for partisans – but the doctrine of SS ‘bandit warfare’ necessitated the frequent murder of civilians and any Jews who had survived the first waves of mass killing unleashed after June, 1941. German military reports invariably log the number of Jews killed in an anti partisan ‘action’ in a special category.
7So what led a Latvian, Ukrainian or Frenchman for that matter to willingly participate in the German ‘war of annihilation’ by joining a police battalion or a Waffen-SS division? I realised, of course, that 8it would be impossible to explain the motivations of tens of thousands of young men who joined the collaborationist factions that played such a terrible role in the murder of millions of Jewish civilians. 9Many were no doubt restless adolescents, thieves or psychopaths or all three at once. In that sense alone, this was a war like any other. Such men have been the flotsam and jetsam of armies from the beginning of recorded history. But the mercenary mentality only solves part of the puzzle.
10The Germans required these volunteers to not only betray their own nation but to take part in daily mass shootings of unarmed men, women and children. It is hard to imagine that this was not a very turbulent Rubicon to cross for many of the volunteers. ...
This is a bogus argument. The German war in the East was conceived as a racial war of annihilation. Any German affiliated military units took part in this war. The role of the police auxiliaries is very well known – but what is sometimes forgotten is that the non-German units of the Waffen-SS took a leading role in what Himmler called ‘Anti Bandit warfare’.”
Hale wants us to judge the Latvian Legion by the aims of the Nazi German regime, not by the Latvians' hope to recreate the miracle of their War of Independence. The Latvian Waffen-SS were purely front-line units—Hale is wrong to contend they conducted any anti-partisan activities including the murder of Jews. Even with the Germans making Arajs's unit part of the Waffen-SS to bolster the front line late in the war, not a single individual has ever been accused of a war crime in the service of the Latvian Legion. No Latvian Legionnaire cared for or about Nazi aims. After a year of brutal Soviet occupation culminating in families: men, women, children, infants being ripped from their homes only a week before the German invasion, the Russians were the mortal enemy. Indeed, the Russians had been the mortal enemy for four centuries, ever since their first major invasion in the 16th century under Ivan the Terrible—a scorched earth campaign destroying everything and killing all living things in its path. A chronicle of the time records that "over great stretches of the land no human voice could be heard, nor even the barking of a dog." But returning to the point at hand, the real question is, why would Hale dispute the assessments of uninvolved and likely objective military historians that Holocaust collaborators and the Waffen-SS were not one and the same? Because they don't conform to Hale's prejudice?
Hale denounces the peoples of the Baltics and Eastern Europe for attempting to equate their (non-)genocide at Stalin's hand to Hitler's industrialized extermination of Europe's Jewry. However, a simple reading of the Prague Declaration reveals Hale invents text and then attacks its signatories for his own personal inferences and fabrications.
Hale's "opinion" confirms an agenda-driven narrative. He attributes false motivations to justify describing those who only fought against the re-invading Soviets as being among "tens of thousands" of mentally deranged Eastern European Hitlerites.
|After Poland was fully occupied, Stalin held 51% of Poland's territory to Hitler's 49%.|
|Efraim Zuroff, Beruf: Nazijäger. Die Suche mit dem langen Atem: Die Jagd nach den Tätern des Völkermordes, Ahriman, Freiburg 1996, p. 44 and following. (German edition of Occupation: Nazi Hunter)|
|Hale cites http://praguedeclaration.org/ here. That page is no longer available, we have retrieved it as the next page in this series.|
|1944 and 2010 – a Nazi historian and his student…, 1 April 2010, accessed 28 February 2016. LINK|
|Myth, Violence, Genocide, 1 June 2011, accessed 27 February 2016. LINK|
Updated: May, 2017
Prague Declaration on European Conscience and CommunismAdvocating for equal value of lives, or equal quantities of evil?
Before continuing our examination of Hale's preface, what does the Prague Declaration actually call for? Is it truly that "red = brown"? The praguedeclaration.org web page which Hale cites is no longer available. We have reproduced the declaration below, followed by our analysis of the declaration as compared to Hale's allegations.
June 3rd, 2008, Prague, Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic
Bearing in mind the dignified and democratic future of our European home,
- whereas societies that neglect the past have no future,
- whereas Europe will not be united unless it is able to reunite its history, recognize Communism and Nazism as a common legacy and bring about an honest and thorough debate on all the totalitarian crimes of the past century,
- whereas the Communist ideology is directly responsible for crimes against humanity,
- whereas a bad conscience stemming from the Communist past is a heavy burden for the future of Europe and for our children,
- whereas different valuations of the Communist past may still split Europe into "West" and "East",
- whereas European integration was a direct response to wars and violence provoked by totalitarian systems on the continent,
- whereas consciousness of the crimes against humanity committed by the Communist regimes throughout the continent must inform all European minds to the same extent as the Nazi regimes crimes did,
- whereas there are substantial similarities between Nazism and Communism in terms of their horrific and appalling character and their crimes against humanity,
- whereas the crimes of Communism still need to be assessed and judged from the legal, moral and political as well as the historical point of view,
- whereas the crimes were justified in the name of the class struggle theory and the principle of dictatorship of the "proletariat" using terror as a method to preserve the dictatorship,
- whereas Communist ideology has been used as a tool in the hands of empire builders in Europe and in Asia to reach their expansionist goals,
- whereas many of the perpetrators committing crimes in the name of Communism have not yet been brought to justice and their victims have not yet been compensated,
- whereas providing objective comprehensive information about the Communist totalitarian past leading to a deeper understanding and discussion is a necessary condition for sound future integration of all European nations,
- whereas the ultimate reconciliation of all European peoples is not possible without a concentrated and in depth effort to establish the truth and to restore the memory,
- whereas the Communist past of Europe must be dealt with thoroughly both in the academy and among the general public, and future generations should have ready access to information on Communism,
- whereas in different parts of the globe only a few totalitarian Communist regimes survive but, nevertheless, they control about one fifth of the world's population, and by still clinging to power they commit crimes and impose a high cost to the well-being of their people,
- whereas in many countries, even though Communist parties are not in power, they have not distanced themselves publicly from the crimes of Communist regimes nor condemned them,
- whereas Prague is one of the places that lived through the rule of both Nazism and Communism,
believing that millions of victims of Communism and their families are entitled to enjoy justice, sympathy, understanding and recognition for their sufferings in the same way as the victims of Nazism have been morally and politically recognized,
we, participants of the Prague Conference "European Conscience and Communism",
- having regard to the European Parliament resolution on the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe on 8 May 1945 of May 12th, 2005,
- having regard to Resolution 1481 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe of January 26th, 2006,
- having regard to the EPP XVIth Congress resolution of February 5th, 2004, calling for the creation of an independent expert body for the collection and assessment of information about violations of human rights under totalitarian Communism and urging the creation of a memorial museum of the victims of Communism,
- having regard to the resolutions on Communist crimes adopted by a number of national parliaments,
- having regard to the experience of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa,
- having regard to the experience of Institutes of Memory and memorials in Poland, Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the United States and the museums of occupation in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and the House of Terror in Hungary,
- having regard to present and upcoming presidencies in the EU and the Council of Europe
- having regard to the fact that 2009 is the 20th anniversary of the collapse of Communism in Eastern and Central Europe as well as the massacre in Tiananmen Square in Beijing,
- reaching an all-European understanding that both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes each to be judged by their own terrible merits to be destructive in their policies of systematically applying extreme forms of terror, suppressing all civic and human liberties, starting aggressive wars and, as an inseparable part of their ideologies, exterminating and deporting whole nations and groups of population; and that as such they should be considered to be the main disasters, which blighted the 20th century,
- recognition that many crimes committed in the name of Communism should be assessed as crimes against humanity serving as a warning for future generations, in the same way Nazi crimes were assessed by the Nuremberg Tribunal,
- formulation of a common approach regarding crimes of totalitarian regimes, inter alia Communist regimes, and raising a Europe-wide awareness of the Communist crimes in order to clearly define a common attitude towards the crimes of the Communist regimes,
- introduction of legislation that would enable courts of law to judge and sentence perpetrators of Communist crimes and to compensate victims of Communism,
- ensuring the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination of victims of all the totalitarian regimes,
- European and international pressure for effective condemnation of the past Communist crimes and for efficient fight against ongoing Communist crimes,
- recognition of Communism as an integral and horrific part of Europe’s common history
- acceptance of pan-European responsibility for crimes committed by Communism,
- establishment of 23rd August, the day of signing of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as a day of remembrance of the victims of both Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes, in the same way Europe remembers the victims of the Holocaust on January 27th,
- responsible attitudes of National Parliaments as regards acknowledgement of Communist crimes as crimes against humanity, leading to the appropriate legislation, and to the parliamentary monitoring of such legislation,
- effective public debate about the commercial and political misuse of Communist symbols,
- continuation of the European Commission hearings regarding victims of totalitarian regimes, with a view to the compilation of a Commission communication,
- establishment in European states, which had been ruled by totalitarian Communist regimes, of committees composed of independent experts with the task of collecting and assessing information on violations of human rights under totalitarian Communist regime at national level with a view to collaborating closely with a Council of Europe committee of experts;
- ensuring a clear international legal framework regarding a free and unrestricted access to the Archives containing the information on the crimes of Communism,
- establishment of an Institute of European Memory and Conscience which would be both - A) a European research institute for totalitarianism studies, developing scientific and educational projects and providing support to networking of national research institutes specialising in the subject of totalitarian experience, B) and a pan-European museum/memorial of victims of all totalitarian regimes, with an aim to memorialise victims of these regimes and raise awareness of the crimes committed by them,
- organising of an international conference on the crimes committed by totalitarian Communist regimes with the participation of representatives of governments, parliamentarians, academics, experts and NGOs, with the results to be largely publicised world-wide,
- adjustment and overhaul of European history textbooks so that children could learn and be warned about Communism and its crimes in the same way as they have been taught to assess the Nazi crimes
- the all-European extensive and thorough debate of Communist history and legacy,
- joint commemoration of next year’s 20th anniversaries of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the massacre in Tiananmen Square.
We, participants of the Prague Conference "European Conscience and Communism", address all peoples of Europe, all European political institutions including national governments, parliaments, European Parliament, European Commission, Council of Europe and other relevant international bodies, and call on them to embrace the ideas and appeals stipulated in this Prague Declaration and to implement them in practical steps and policies.
|Václav Havel, former dissident and President of Czechoslovakia / the Czech Republic, Czech Republic|
|Joachim Gauck, former Federal Commissioner for the Stasi archives, Germany|
|Göran Lindblad, Vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Member of Parliament, Sweden|
|Vytautas Landsbergis, Member of the European Parliament, former dissident and President of Lithuania, Lithuania|
|Jana Hybášková, Member of the European Parliament, Czech Republic|
|Christopher Beazley, Member of the European Parliament, United Kingdom|
|Tunne Kelam, Member of the European Parliament, former dissident, Estonia|
|Jiří Liška, Senator, Vice-chairman of the Senate, Parliament of the Czech Republic, Czech Republic|
|Martin Mejstřík, Senator, Parliament of the Czech Republic, Czech Republic|
|Jaromír Štětina, Senator, Parliament of the Czech Republic, Czech Republic|
|Emanuelis Zingeris, Member of Parliament, Lithuania, Chairman, International commission for the assessment of crimes of the Nazi and Soviet occupation regimes in Lithuania, Lithuania|
|Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geneva, Tibet, Switzerland|
|Ivonka Survilla, Exile President of Belorussia, Canada|
|Zianon Pazniak, Chairman of the People’s National Front of Belorussia, Chairman of the Belorussian Conservative Christian Party, United States|
|Růžena Krásná, former political prisoner, politician, Czech Republic|
|Jiří Stránský, former political prisoner, writer, former PEN club chairman, Czech Republic|
|Václav Vaško, former political prisoner, diplomat, catholic activist, Czech Republic|
|Alexandr Podrabinek, former dissident and political prisoner, journalist, Russian Federation|
|Pavel Žáček, Director, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Czech Republic|
|Miroslav Lehký, Vice-director, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Czech Republic|
|Łukasz Kamiński, Vice-director, Institue of National Remembrance, Poland|
|Michael Kißener, professor of history, Johann Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany|
|Eduard Stehlík, historian, Vice-director, Institute for Military History, Czech Republic|
|Karel Straka, historian, Institute for Military History, Czech Republic|
|Jan Urban, journalist, Czech Republic|
|Jaroslav Hutka, former dissident, songwriter, Czech Republic|
|Lukáš Pachta, political scientist and writer, Czech Republic|
A thorough reading of the declaration reveals neither "equating" nor any evidence that the "authors of the Prague Declaration grossly distort the historical record and seek ultimately to tear down the unique moral status of the Holocaust." There is no creation of "double genocide." Indeed, the resolution takes particular care to advocate that Hitler's and Stalin's crimes be judged independently: "both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes each to be judged by their own terrible merits."
Hale, who thanks Zuroff for his contributions, echoes Zuroff's position on the "canard of equivalency." However, Hale misquotes and misrepresents the Prague Declaration to make his case.
It is offensive to suggest Eastern Europeans seek to dilute the horror of Hitler's industrialized genocide. But if not "diluting" equivalence, as is alleged, then what does the Prague Declaration actually seek?
Hale demonizes the Baltic and Eastern European pweoples for colluding to white-wash their Nazi-embracing past, to paint Holocaust perpetrators as anti-Soviet patriots. But Hale is fundamentally mistaken, ascribing his personal interpretation to be Baltic and Eastern European motivation. The two narratives could not be more diametrically opposed.
One only has to examine popular culture in the post-Soviet era to see, clearly, the issue at hand. Hitler and Nazi Germany are an anathema, yet admiration and nostalgia for Soviet glory continues to thrive. Nazi memorabilia is spurned, its sale often prohibited, yet Soviet era mementos are more popular than ever, untainted by the deaths of millions. One need only check eBay for "nazi medal" and "soviet medal" listings—none for the former, hundreds upon hundreds for the latter.
Hitler's industrialization of human slaughter was unprecedented. Yet, when it comes to an innocent life brutally cut short, would anyone actually argue that riding to one's death in Stalin's cattle car is less tragic, less worthy of our commemoration than were it in Hitler's cattle car?
What the Baltic and Eastern European peoples plead for is recognizing and acknowledging the equal and universal worth of life of both Hitler's and Stalin's victims.
The Kremlin Agenda
We have mentioned World Without Nazism is a Russian front hijacking the cause of anti-Nazism to serve the Kremlin's agenda. And so, we wondered, what does the Kremlin say about the Prague Declaration?
The process that had developed after the Prague Declaration in 2008 declares the equal responsibility of the communist and the Nazi regime for crimes committed in the twentieth century (especially the outbreak of World War II), calls for recognition of August 23 as a European Day of Remembrance for the victims of totalitarian regimes.
11The equation [sic.] of the two totalitarian regimes - communist and Nazi is nothing more than an attempt of some countries of Eastern Europe to whitewash the criminal regimes who collaborated with Hitler, to shift responsibility for the genocide only to Germans, to present those by whose hands were committed the mass murder of thousand and millions innocent people as "fighters against the communist regime".
It is not difficult to see among those who called for "condemnation of communism" - right-wing political forces, social movements, pseudo-scientific research centers and museums, self-proclaimed spiritual and political successors of collaborators, 12Legionnaires' Waffen SS, Forest Brothers, Bandera, and other supporters of the Nazis.
It is no coincidence that the tendency to equate Soviet and the Nazi regime against a background of 13rapid nazification and radicalization of social consciousness in the former communist bloc. ...© 2011 Russian Embassy
As we have written, the issue is the equating of lives. Stalin's victims are no less worthy of our commemoration than Hitler's. No one seek to diminish the unique status of the Holocaust. But it is only political compromise that left mass extermination of political and social classes out of the official U.N. definition of "genocide" thus saving Stalin from guilt. That omission rendered Stalin's deportations and slaughter of Eastern Europeans including Jewry "not a genocide" based on a technicality.
The Waffen SS fought only against the reinvading Soviets. The Forest Brothers were partisans who fought against Soviet power in the Baltics for decades after WWII was over. And Stepan Bandera was jailed by the Nazis for his Ukrainian nationalism. None of those the Kremlin names supported Nazism.
We arrive at the heart of the Kremlin position. Anti-Sovietism in the former "communist bloc" and occupied Baltic states is an attack on the "history" of the Soviet "liberation" of eastern Europe from fascism. Anti-Soviet = anti-(anti-fascist heroes) = pro-fascist = Nazi. The more vociferous the denunciation of Soviet subjugation, the more vituperative the Kremlin's accusations of Nazism.
While science eventually proved the chicken came before the egg, in the case of alleged "equation [sic.]," who uttered the accusation first, whether activists, the Kremlin, or Hale himself, is not material. What matters is that every repetition of the lie that the Waffen-SS Latvian Legion supported Nazism is a new lie.
|viz. Hale's acknowledgements: "At a critical stage, Ephraim Zuroff and Dovid Katz made valuable contributions."|
|Archived content retrieved at webcitation.org, 14 March 2016. Note that laws, ordinances, official decrees and notices, constitutions, court decisions and grounds thereof, and other official works do not enjoy copyright protection under Russian copyright law.|
Updated: May, 2017
Für Den Führer NurFor the Fuhrer only
We resume with Hale's preface:
In spring 2010, I travelled to Riga to observe the annual ‘Legion Day’ – a parade by Latvian Second World War veterans. Nothing remarkable about that you might suppose. But you would be wrong; the veterans’ parade I witnessed commemorates the 14“Latvian Legion” recruited by Heinrich Himmler’s private army, the Waffen-SS, in 1943. Surviving members of this SS Legion mourn their fallen comrades in Riga’s cathedral, the Dom, then march to the ‘Freedom Monument’ that stands in central Riga close to the old town.
In 2009, the Latvian SS Legion was splashed across the front pages of British newspapers when 15David Miliband, then British Foreign Secretary, denounced the Conservative Party for forging links with far-right European parties – including the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom Party that, Miliband alleged, supported the Nazi Waffen-SS. Miliband’s speech provoked an international storm – from both the Conservative Party and the Latvian government. 16Timothy Garton Ash, the doyen of historians of Eastern Europe, weighed in: ‘How would you describe a British politician who prefers getting acquainted with the finer points of the history of the Waffen-SS in Latvia to maximising British influence with Barack Obama? An idiot? A madman? A nincompoop?’
William Hague, now Foreign Secretary, refused to back down. The ‘Latvian Legion’ had nothing to do with the Holocaust, he claimed. The old Legionaries had never been Nazis. Hague went on: ‘David Miliband’s smears are disgraceful and represent a failure of his duty to promote Britain’s interests as Foreign Secretary. He has failed to check his facts. He has just insulted the Latvian Government, most of whose member parties have attended the commemoration of Latvia’s war dead.’ 17Hague neglected to mention that the ‘Latvian Legion’ refers to two Waffen-SS divisions: the 15th Waffen-Grenadier-Division of the SS (1st Latvian) and the 19th Waffen-Grenadier-Division of the SS (2nd Latvian). These war dead sacrificed their lives for Hitler’s Reich – and its ‘war of annihilation’. Now their surviving comrades will 18commemorate the memory of the legion as national heroes.
Hale's premise and fatal flaw in all that follows. The Waffen-SS were front-line units operating under the Wehrmacht command structure. They had no relationship to Himmler's elite SS defending the Nazi ideal or protecting Hitler. Hale paints them as Himmler's personal lackeys. Nor were they "recruited." By the end of the war, the Nazis had conscripted every Latvian male born after 1905. Report for duty or be arrested and shot.
Miliband's politically motivated rhetoric would not be England's first disservice to Latvians, that would be providing arms to Ivan the Terrible in 1558 supporting his campaign against Sweden, laying waste to northern Latvia, destroying all in his path, leaving neither man nor beast alive. While the SS were "Nazi", no Latvian was a Nazi party member, the Waffen-SS had no Nazi party affiliation, and there was no oath to Nazi ideology.
Ash is also a columnist for the liberal Guardian, which revels in getting down into Britain's political gutter. More of Latvians being used as pawns in British political mud-slinging. Liberal Britain, starting in 2009, adopted Russia's version of Eastern European history and, particularly, its anti-Baltic stance and rhetoric. Hale anoints Ash as "doyen" to vindicate his own name-calling, exposing his ad hominem rhetoric for its political agenda.
Members of the Latvian Legion have been called everything from naive to Nazi. Naive for believing they could repeat the miracle of their war of independence. Nazis for wearing Waffen-SS uniforms—and exemplary Hitlerites for being awarded more Iron Crosses for bravery in battle than any other non-German nationality. That the Latvian Legion were Waffen-SS divisions was and is no secret. Hale repeats his mantra that Latvians died in Hitler's cause. In Hale's narrative, there is no room for the truth that Latvians were fighting for their homeland, or that they held out in Courland against the might of the Red Army until the end of the war. Only when their declaration of sovereignty at the end of the war was ignored by the Western Allies did they understand they had been abandoned to the Soviets.
Rightly so, although Hale sees nothing but Hitler's “war of annihilation.” Activists dismiss Latvian hopes to ultimately save their homeland from both Russians and Germans as everything from naive and hopeless—and therefore illegitimate, to a blatant lie concocted only to white-wash their siding with Hitler against the Allies. Yes, imagine how poorly armed, poorly equipped, poorly fed Latvians, often sent in as cannon fodder by Germans saving their own skins when a major Red Army offensive was anticipated, felt facing American-supplied tanks and finding American-supplied rations among Red Army casualties still dressed in their warm American-supplied winter camouflage uniforms. The Latvians' true naivete was believing that Roosevelt and Churchill hadn't already handed them over to Stalin.
The only official act by Latvia's legitimate sovereign authorities in WWII was to put Latvia's merchant marine at the service of the American and British Allies, where it served with distinction.
Hale recounts his experiences of his trip to Rīga. We've sifted through hundreds of commemoration images but have not been able to find any to confirm or deny Hale's contention of Lithuanian "thugs" attending wearing WWII "death squad" armbands. Hale predictably expresses his horror at seeing Latvian Legion memoirs on sale and dismisses any and all contentions that the Waffen-SS weren't Himmler's willing lackeys. We skip forward in his account:
A short distance behind the police lines stands a smaller, silent group of older men and women – Latvian Holocaust survivors. Standing with them today is 19Ephraim Zuroff, the Director of the Simon Weisenthal [sic.] Centre, who has fiercely denounced Legion Day, and 20Josef Koren, a former beekeeper and now leader of the LAK, Latvia’s Anti-Fascist Committee. When a Legion supporter screams at Koren that ‘A soldier is a soldier and all are equal!’ he turns away. Another mantra of Legion defenders is that the volunteers were conscripts – compelled to join. But as Koren points out to journalists, ‘21At least 25% of the “Latvian Legion” were volunteers, recruited from the Latvian police who were involved in the murder of Jews and other Latvians – and the SS Legion should not be permitted a celebration of itself in the centre of our city’. Midday. Sunlight glitters on the Pilsetas canal. The old Legionaries and their honour guard begin to disperse. Soon they have vanished – the mute ghosts of history. Now there is a carnival atmosphere. At the foot of the Freedom Monument, groups of young Latvians take pictures of each other beside the mass of wreaths and flowers. A young man tells a BBC reporter that for him the old Legionaries are heroes. They defended Latvia. Many thousands of Latvian SS men gave their lives for the freedom of Latvia. These young Latvians look prosperous and happy. They do not shave their heads or sport provocative armbands. But their enthusiasm for the legion is troubling – and unexpected. 22It would seem that the old Legionaries have become a symbol not of collusion with a murderous foreign occupier but of Latvian national freedom. It is an outcome that SS Chief Himmler, who was profoundly hostile to the national aspirations of Latvians, could never have foreseen.
We respect Zuroff's position regarding "zero tolerance" for Legionnaire veterans wearing their Waffen-SS uniforms. However, Zuroff has also crossed the line from principles and substance to outright name-calling, as when he intentionally by his own admission submitted Soviet era propaganda to the Swedish government to investigate the Nazis named, then vilified Swedish authorities after the commission they appointed to investigate recommended his charges be dismissed.
Hale would have us believe Koren is some simple soul of the earth, moved to oppose metastasising Latvian neo-Nazism. In truth, Koren is a member of the LAK's parent, "World Without Nazism" (WWN), a Kremlin-funded front hijacking the moral cause of anti-Nazism to attack Russia's neighbours as beds of fascism, and to advocate for a common history of Europe per the Soviet version, that is, liberators not subjugators. Koren is a professional nationalist pursuing the Kremlin's agenda on Latvian soil. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov—representing the regime which has invaded Ukraine and killed thousands including shooting down a civilian airliner, all under the guise of returning Crimea to its "roots" and protecting Russians from Ukrainian fascists—praised WWN in 2011 on its work to "counter attempts to rewrite and distort history, primarily the outcome of World War II."
As for "25%" and conscripted versus volunteered, the Legion was largely conscripted. Regardless, any who volunteered for the Legion did so only with the vision of the Legion becoming the basis for a new Latvian army in a Latvia with independence restored. While the Soviet Union fabricated evidence and conducted show trials of units such as the 18th Police Battalion, accused of slaughtering all the Jews of Slonim, Belarus, even the Soviets never accused anyone of a war crime in the service of the Legion. In fact, Soviet history books did not even mention that any Latvians fought against the Red Army in WWII—only for the liberation of the "Latvian SSR" from the Hitlerites.
This, and every mantra, of Latvians—and Estonians and Lithuanians—rushing into the arms of Hitler ignores the brutal year of Soviet occupation which preceded the Nazi invasion. Ignores the mass deportation only a week prior to Hitler's invasion, in which Jews, 5% of the population, constituted 12% of Stalin's victims. Ignores that Hitler interrupted Stalin's next deportation already in the works, that list having been left behind, intact, in the Red Army's haste to retreat. Ignores that the Russians, for the 95% of the population who were not Jews and victims of the Holocaust, were more brutal and arbitrary in their violence than the Germans. Do we really believe that the Red Army's mass rape of German women was the first such atrocity? Stalin's mass graves pre-dated Hitler's.
We only need to look to the turmoil in the Middle East to witness alliances of "necessity" between enemies being justified to fight ISIS. The Bolsheviks were the Baltics' ISIS. Why would Latvians have held out until the end of WWII in the only bit of Eastern Europe not "liberated" by Stalin if not in hopes of restoring their freedom?
|Тезисы выступления Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова на встрече с представителями российских неправительственных организаций международной специализации, Москва, 23 марта 2011 года — Summary of Remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov At A Meeting With Representatives Of Russian Non-Governmental Organizations of International Specialization, Moscow, March 23, 2011, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation web site, retrieved 16-Oct-2014|
|Soviet historiography indicates the Red Army bypassed Courland as non-strategic. But that was only because the Red Army failed to capture it after multiple personal assurances by Stalin to Churchill and Roosevelt of "any day now." Stalin threw in division after division to their slaughter—over 300,000 Red Army dead, wounded, or missing in six failed major offensives.|
Updated: May, 2017
The SS Plot to Rule the WorldThe Waffen-SS weren't recruited for the Eastern Front at all!
The majority of historians have explained SS recruitment strategy as an expediency that fatally compromised the elite status of the militarised SS. The most recent history of the SS by Adrian Weale asserts: "In 1940, [the Waffen-SS] had legitimately been able to claim that it was an elite ... 24by June 1944 ... in no military sense could [the bulk of the organisation's combat units] ever be described as a corps d'elite." This is the latest reformulation of a view that has been 23repeated ad nauseum by most historians of the SS. In short, they argue, Himmler simply needed bodies in SS uniforms to hurl at the advancing Soviet armies. It was a numbers game — a necessary evil.
In book I propose a different explanation. The recruitment of non-Germans not only complied with Nazi-sponsored race theory as it evolved during the course of the war, but was a vital component in a master plan hatched up by secretive SS "think tanks". Himmler was despised by many of the Nazi elite as an obsequious and petty-minded bureaucrat — a judgement echoed by many modern historians. This was a 25sham. Himmler's imagination was secretive, lethal and boundless. His covert master plan was to build a German empire dominated not by Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP), but the SS.
As we read this passage in context below, keep in mind, Hale indicates virtually unanimous agreement among military historians of the Waffen-SS.
In book I propose a different explanation.”
Hale makes it clear that his book is not about history, scholarship, or viewpoints. It is about a personal agenda. If it were true that the Nazis only needed individuals to fight against the Red Army on the Eastern Front, that being "against" the USSR did not mean being "for" Nazi Germany, then all we are left with is Hale's open admission, at the outset, that his role here is not one of historian.
Whether Himmler was a petty bureaucrat or evil genius has no bearing on the military role of the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front. But Himmler is essential to Hale's subsequent assigning of motivations. Hale ignores the clear consensus of historians to perpetrate his own sham.
Hale dismisses the conclusions of historians, preferring his own SS conspiracy theory. From a socio-political standpoint, the SS were certainly the carriers and protectors of the sacred ideals of national socialism. But, as historians rightly point out, that "SS" had nothing to do operationally with the "Waffen-SS" which served under the Wehrmacht, and which the Germans sent in as cannon fodder on the Eastern Front.
Far from joining in some sort of privileged Aryan Nazi elite, Latvian units were:
- ill-equipped, insufficiently armed, often running out of ammunition;
- had no decent uniforms—indeed, they slogged through snow drifts and swamps wearing boots with holes in them;
- were left defenceless when German artillery refused to fire on Red Army positions because they did not want to reveal their own position;
- and were sent in as cannon fodder to substitute for German units when it became known the Russians were about to launch a major offensive.
Hale ignores historical facts to link the Waffen-SS to Himmler's personal goals and aspirations, opening the door to ascribe the ideology and crimes of the Allgemeine SS to the eastern Waffen-SS combat units the Germans created later in WWII.
That Latvians earned more Iron Crosses for bravery and were the most effective foreign Waffen-SS unit speaks not of loyalty to Nazism but of the same loyalty that brought independence to Latvia a scant quarter century earlier as from a small enclave of territory Latvians battled back to drive out both Russians—with German assistance, backed by the Western Powers—and then the Germans. And of the same tenacity which empowered Latvian culture to survive and flourish on the Baltic Sea ever since the Egyptians erected their first obelisk.
Updated: May, 2017
Latvians Sided With the Red Army to Liberate Their Homeland of the Nazi PlagueBrother Kills Brother as the Red Army Anti-Fascist Heroes Sacrifice Themselves in Battle Against Hitler's Evil SS
Hale contends the Latvians were a microcosm of the life-and-death struggle on the Eastern Front — Latvians freely serving in the military instantiation of evil, Hitler-henchman-Himmler's SS, pitched in a battle against other Latvians siding with the Soviets to rid their homeland of the Brown Plague:
Tuesday, 16 March 2010. For Latvians, this has been the worst winter for thirty years and overnight temperatures have plummeted. Heavy snow falls and long lines of traffic crawl blindly across the Daugava bridges, generating a sickly yellow haze. A giant Baltic ferry squats in the iced-up river. Snow ploughs rumble through Riga’s old town towards the Dom, where the legion will begin its march to the Freedom Monument. Ice sheaths a red granite memorial to the Latvian 26‘Red Rifleman’, recruited by the Russians at the end of the First World War to fight the German Imperial Army – a reminder that 27many Latvians backed the Soviets and fought against the Latvian SS divisions.
The microcosm here is that of Hale's misinformed Latvian history.
The “Red Riflemen”
26 “‘Red Rifleman’, recruited by the Russians at the end of the First World War to fight the German Imperial Army”
Hale appears to labour under basic misunderstandings of the origin, role, and motivations, of the Latvian Red Riflemen ("Latviešu strēlnieki")—whom some even credit with saving the Russian Revolution.
Latvian nationalism at the dawn of the 20th century did not strive for freedom from the Russian empire but for increased autonomy within the empire. The Baltic provinces already had a significant degree of autonomy as compared to the rest of the empire. Within that paradigm:
- The Germans ("Balts") were seen as the major impediment to Latvian self-determination, having held the seats of influence and power regardless of empire.
For a time, the Russian Revolution was seen as the path to accelerate the road to self-determination. The Latvian communists—Rainis, the greatest of Latvian poets, was a champion of the working class and brother-in-law to Pēteris Stučka, a prominent Latvian communist—were "communists" in the European tradition, that is, Marxism, as opposed to Russian communism, born in the anti-Tsarist radical nihilism of the late 19th century. Rather than Russians recruiting Latvians for their cause:
- The Bolsheviks were highly distrustful of non-Russian units—far from being "recruited" the Latvians had to both volunteer and prove themselves, only for disillusion to set in later.
As fears crystallized that the Bolsheviks had no intention of granting autonomy, despite their promise of an independent Latvia, Latvian nationalism re-envisioned itself as casting off both German and Russian yokes. Latvians with a new mission to get out from under all foreign influences declared independence November 18, 1918. Bolshevik Russia, which controlled a majority of Latvian territory at that point, recognized the sovereignty of the "Soviet Republic of Latvia" on December 22nd—not of the entity which had declared independence a month earlier.
Hale fails to appreciate the separate origins of Latvian and Russian communism, and that widespread support for socialism among Latvians in the wake of the 1905 revolution did not equate to an embrace of Russian Bolshevism. Those who remained in Russia after the peace were later rewarded for their loyalty in the Great Purge of 1937–1938, during which merely being Latvian was a crime—eventually, anyone with Latvian nationality indicated in their passport was automatically branded a subversive. Punishment? Death. Death to the prime suspect, his wife, his children, his relatives. But not before being tortured to give up other "subversives."
“Latvians Backed the Soviets” Against the “SS”
Hale ignores his own early confirmation that both Germans and Russians were occupiers.
Nor does Hale's cited source, Geoffrey Swain, discuss the Waffen-SS as footnote placement implies. Latvian service in the Red Army was not "siding" with the Soviets. What Hale interprets as joining-with-Soviets Latvian motivation in battle was far more likely to be driven by their commanding officers having standing orders to shoot anyone who retreated than by Bolshevik sympathies. There were individual Latvians who survived being arrested by both sides and pressed into military service by both sides. Latvians did not support the Red Army or join to "fight the SS". Indeed, Latvians facing Latvians across the front line laid down their arms refused to engage. Eventually the Soviets learned to send "their" Latvians into action far from the Latvian Legion.
Hale wilfully ignores the elephant in the room. Latvians on the Eastern Front bore no allegiance to the armies they fought in or to the occupying regimes those armies served.
The Wrong Parallel
The question, then, is, where does Hale stand with his comparison of the Latvian War of Independence to WWII and his contention that that Latvians allied in both with Russians against Germans vis-à-vis historical facts?
The historical parallel is actually the opposite. Latvia achieved independence as Latvians first allied with the Germans against the Bolshevik Russians to drive them out, then turned on the German forces to free their homeland of both external powers. That was the historical parallel which the Latvian Legion hoped to repeat, to use German arms to fend off the Russians and then drive out the Germans.
The post-war division of Europe consigned 100,000,000 to Soviet brutality. Fighting on the Eastern Front against the re-invading Red Army was an act of patriotism and heroism irrespective of conscripted or volunteered. The Germans were the means to an end. No one fought "for" either Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. There is no dispute among reputable historians regarding these facts, yet Hale promulgates a blatant historical lie of Russian-Latvian unity against Germans across two wars.
|Sourced to "G. Swain, ‘The Disillusioning of the Revolution’s Praetorian Guard: the Latvian Riflemen, Summer–Autumn 1918’, in Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 51 No 4 (1999)"|
|"Balts" properly refers to Baltic German nobility and their descendants, not to the Baltic peoples, the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians.|
|We would add that after WWII, all Latvians were interrogated by the Soviet regime and asked a range of questions, including: "Name three [Nazi] collaborators."|
|"At the intersection [of the Freedom Boulevard and City Canal] stands the granite-clad Freedom Monument, built in 1935 to honour the soldiers killed fighting for Latvian independence in 1919. It is a potent symbol of nationhood which has withstood three foreign occupations."|
Updated: May, 2017
Waffen-SS Part of Himmler's “Genocidal Strategy”Historians have it all wrong
Hale categorically and repeatedly dismisses any notions that the Latvian Waffen-SS were simply front-line combat units whose assignments had nothing to do with the Holocaust—denouncing authorities and choosing "alternate" conclusions to those held by majorities of historians.
[F]rom the summer of 1942, Himmler simultaneously authorised recruitment of Waffen-SS non-German combat divisions in occupied Eastern Europe. Many of these Waffen-SS recruits had previously served in the Schuma units and now took part in so-called anti-bandit operations, which in many cases served to liquidate any Jews who had somehow survived the ‘Holocaust by bullets’. Since the recruitment of Schuma battalions and foreign Waffen-SS legions or divisions formed part of the same evolving genocidal strategy, it is quite wrong to argue, as Ezergailis and others have, that the combat divisions have no connection with the Holocaust.
Hale tars the Waffen-SS based on his imagining they are part of an "evolving genocidal strategy." We expect that "evolution" refers to Hale's allegation that Himmler was a mastermind with a race-based plot for the SS to rule the world. Hale ignores the simple historical fact that the Latvian Waffen-SS was solely a front-line combat unit organized in 1943 after the Holocaust. Moreover, he constructs the false paradigm that the Holocaust was somehow an ad hoc "evolving" crime. The Nazis meticulously planned the Holocaust in Eastern Europe before ever invading the USSR, and subsequently micro-managed every aspect of its execution.
Arājs Kommando directly participated in the killings of the Holocaust; some units served as guards and work details but not executioners. The Schuma battalions which initially populated the Waffen-SS were front-line units from their inception. Collaborator units such as Arājs' were joined to the Waffen-SS late in the war as conditions deteriorated at the Eastern Front. Hale uses these to smear the Waffen-SS as a whole.
Ezergailis is only one among numerous historians whose conclusions Hale dismisses because they fail to indict the Latvian Waffen-SS as the instruments of Himmler's "evolving genocidal strategy", as willing agents of Hitler's "war of annihilation," und so weiter.
Hale contends that:
- the entire Latvian Waffen-SS are guilty because Shuma units formed its core; there is no dispute over those subordinated to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) who collaborated; while the activities of the Shuma battalions sent to the front continue to be an area of contention, it is also true that they were victimized in Soviet show trials of "Latvian Nazis" whose fiction lives on;
- the entire Latvian Waffen-SS are guilty because SD collaborators were joined to it late in the war, regardless that the Waffen-SS was established after the Holocaust and no one has ever been accused of a war crime in service of the Waffen-SS; Hale specifically denounces contending such facts as a "callous argument";
- the entire Latvian Waffen-SS are guilty because Himmler had a secret plot which was race-based, genocidal, and anticipated a world run by the SS—a contention which Simpson himself confesses is dismissed by historians;
- the entire Latvian Waffen-SS are guilty because they are "SS," that is, identical in form, function, philosophy, and goals to the German Waffen-SS Himmler created at the start of the war; this contention is simply untrue as the Latvian and other foreign "armed" (Waffen)-SS were front-line units tactically under the Wehrmacht. While ostensibly under Himmler, these front line units reported to the Wehrmacht and were not politically or administratively affiliated with the "general" (Allgemeine) SS.
The simple fact is that both the Nazis and Bolsheviks had their collaborators, by that, meaning true traitors actively siding with the enemy against the well-being of their fellow citizens.
But this is not the tapestry Hale weaves. The more one delves into Hale, the more he reveals himself as Latvian-Nazi conspiracy theorist and patsy, unwitting or not, of Russian interests—astonishingly describing professional Kremlin "anti-Nazi" lackey Josef Koren as a humble "beekeeper." Why did Hale reach out to so many eminent historians only to disagree with their conclusions to substitute his own fiction?
Updated: May, 2017
“Deluded” LatviansIt's farcical to even contend a “Latvia” exists
So, what does Hale think of Latvians' defense of their homeland? Apparently that Latvians suffer from mass delusion that Latvia should even exist as a nation-state.
Before 1920, Latvia and Estonia had never existed as sovereign nations. When Latvians proclaimed independence in 1918, 28they had to set out their borders using the thirteenth-century defensive frontier drawn up by the Teutonic Knights as a bulwark against Russian incursion. 29Since the idea that Latvia was a nation state at all was a figment of deluded Latvian imaginations, the German occupiers assumed that it would evaporate along with its name. A German official put a mollifying gloss on this 30scam: ‘the times of political independence are in the past ... they have been exchanged for times of peace and prosperity under the protection of the German Reich.’ 31Ignorant of the long-term German master plan, many Latvians continued to bask in the glow of deliverance from Soviet tyranny – and there would be no shortage of eager collaborators.
Hale portrays Latvia's borders as some bogus construct drawn from medieval history. Latvia's borders closely flow those of the Baltic provinces, which in turn, followed closely the extent of Latvian ethnic settlement for millennia—long before the German crusaders arrived and set up defenses along the historical boundary of Latvian settlement against the Russian horde. Hale picks a 13th century manifestation—effect—of 4,000 years of historical Latvian habitation and substitutes it for the cause to contend it was the only way Latvians even knew how to pick a border.
Imagine the uproar which would erupt if just two words in that sentence were changed: "Since the idea that Israel was a nation state at all was a figment of deluded Jewish imaginations,..."
The very notion of a homeland is a Latvian "scam." Hale inarguably sums up his gross prejudice in a single word.
Hale would have us believe Latvians were too ignorant to figure out borders and had to resort to 13th century historical artefacts, too ignorant to understand they don't deserve their own country, too ignorant to understand when others are trying to take away the country they don't deserve in the first place.... As for basking in the glow of Nazi-delivered liberation and rushing to join the Nazi family, from the February, 1944 Statement by the Latvian Underground Central Council:
In burning indignation the Latvian people denounce the reprisals which the German occupying power is taking in Latvia. 5,000 Latvian citizens are languishing in concentration camps and prisons to which they have been sent without court or trial. German police officials apply torture as a method of examination. About 10,000 Latvians have been shot during the two dire years of German occupation and there is no end yet to the executions. Wholesale murders of Latvian citizens of Jewish race have also taken place. In September 1943 the German occupation authorities evicted more than 10,000 farmers in the Dundaga region in Northern Kurzeme. The persons concerned were robbed of all they had: land, houses and movable property. In the same month the Germans deported to Germany several thousands of people from Latgale, as politically unreliable. The Germans did not pay any attention to family ties—children were separated from their parents and wives from their husbands.
It's unclear whether Hale continues along "the Germans had it all along, there's no such thing as Latvia" line or insinuates that Germans are so comfortable in Rīga because it's a Nazi family affair:
Interwar Rīga was a cosmopolitan city. Its past mayors even included a Rīga-born Briton, George Armistead, whose hunting manor today is a popular tourist attraction. Street signs were trilingual: Russian, German, and Latvian, as were educated Latvians.
So, what is the true historical context for Rīga's German-ness? UNESCO has recognized it as a World Heritage Site for its collection of Jugendstil German Art Deco architecture. Hale mistakes the bricks of a city—the inheritance of seven centuries of Baltic German hegemony—for the hearts of its people.
"Telling" of what, exactly? That the Baltic Germans were all Nazis? Or that Rīga was Nord-Naziburg? Wittrock was viciously anti-Latvian,, there was certainly no implication of Latvian=German camaraderie in his installation by the occupying authorities. Nor did "German" imply anti-Semitic. Baltic Germans with family ties to Germany also included Paul Schiemann, a pioneer in human rights, posthumously recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
Latvia survived half a century of crushing Soviet occupation. Its era of post-Soviet freedom has eclipsed its first period of independence between WWI and WWII. These speak to the tenacity of the Latvian people, not to delusional dreams of self-determination.
|Dallin, A. German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945: A Study of Occupational Policies, page 190.|
Updated: May, 2017
Assessment | History serving systemic bias
The history of the Holocaust in the Baltics and Eastern Europe is not "fanatic support" by all the peoples lying between Russia and Germany for the extermination of their centuries-old Jewish neighbours. Nor did Eastern Europeans bludgeon their Jewish neighbours to death in the most horrific manner, then sit atop their piled-up still-warm bodies playing folk ditties. Nazi-manufactured accounts that the Eastern Europeans had an appetite for brutality that shocked even the Germans served both German and subsequent Soviet propaganda—and continue to do so today as both German and Russian historians fall over each other to advocate for the spontaneous "Germanless" Holocaust.
The true diminishing of the Holocaust is that Hitler's incomprehensible industrial eradication of Jewry has been a pawn in politics and regime-serving narratives from the very moment of its depraved envisioning. As soon as the Nazis invaded the USSR, they sent "news" out through their collaborators in Sweden reporting that all Eastern Europe had risen up spontaneously to murder the Jews. To report hundreds if not thousands of Lithuanians "cleansing" Jewry when, in fact, it was German police travelling the countryside making sure to slaughter Jews in every shtetl they encountered. (A letter back to Berlin explained how it would look bad for Germany if the truth got out, contradicting official reports.) Today, seventy-two years after the liberation of Auschwitz, Nazi-tarring rhetoric has only grown in stridency as Latvians, in particular, have become a tool exploited in Europe's cynical liberal-versus-conservative gutter politics and in Russia's ongoing campaign to destroy European unity.
The Latvian culture ranks among the oldest surviving Indo-European cultures. It has remained intact through a millennium of foreign incursions, conquests, and decimations through the tenacity of the Latvian people and their dedication to preserving their culture. The first Soviet occupation did more to destroy Latvian society and culture in one year than Baltic German hegemony had in the prior seven hundred. If survival hinged upon taking up German arms to save one's culture, so be it. That does not signify siding with Hitler or Himmler or supporting their genocide.
For those with a genuine interest in the Holocaust in Latvia, ready to move past the Nazi conspiracy mill, we recommend Professor Ezergailis' web site: The Holocaust Archives of Latvia in the USA.
Hale mistakes a fleeting—on a timeline spanning four millennia on the Baltic Sea—alliance with one enemy (Germans) against a centuries-old mortal enemy and recent brutal occupier (Russians) for deeply rooted Nazi sympathies and shared motivations. But it's not enough to suckle up to Kremlin-backed propagandists and to side with the anti-Latvian rhetoric of Kremlin denouncements. Hale derides Latvians as deluded for believing a Latvian state has ever existed—calling the very notion a scam. Hale's own creditable research clearly shows the Latvian Waffen-SS did not fight for the Nazi cause. Yet, that conclusion lies beyond his grasp. Hale's interpretations he self-identifies to be contrary to mainstream scholarship emanate from his personal dogma and prejudices—demonstrably immune to historical fact.
For the useful bits before Hale gets it all wrong.
Updated: May, 2017