The AccusersThe Fallacy That a Triple-Point of History Can Exist

One expects accusations of Nazi war crimes to carry with them appropriate evidentiary support—the accused have the right to face their accusers. Yet the disproved lie that hosts of Latvian Nazis found safe haven in the United States, that many were “protected by the CIA” for their assistance on Soviet intelligence—even transplanted to the United States, that their organizations were and continue to be hotbeds of anti-Semites and fascists live on long after the maligned have died.

Imants Lešinskis

In Lešinskis own words: “In May 1970 I was promoted to Chairman of the Presidium of the Latvian Committee for Cultural Relations with Latvians Abroad, a KGB front organization engaged in espionage, subversion and disinformation activities in countries with significant ethnic Latvian communities throughout the free world.”

Unfortunately, Lešinskis' testimony as the person who delivered the KGB-fabricated list of collaborators to the West, precipitating the hunt for Latvian and other Baltic Nazis by U.S. authorities, was not publicized for Lešinskis' safety as a defector.

If anything, the passing of the émigré generation, in lifting the possibility of libel, has precipitated a veritable renaissance of Nazis-among-us exposés, from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Lichtblau’s “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men” (2014) to retreads of prior classics, such as Christopher Simpson’s hailed “Blowback: The First Full Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Disastrous Effect on The Cold War, Our Domestic and Foreign Policy” first published in 1989 and re-released with a new foreword by Simpson in 2014.

Where Latvian “Nazis” are concerned, these works all owe a debt of gratitude to their most well-known progenitor, Rochelle Saidel’s “Outraged Conscience: Seekers of Justice for Nazi War Criminals in America,” published in 1985 by the State University of New York Press—a work whose accusations regarding Latvian Nazis stem in a direct line from Soviet propaganda.

There are those, Latvians included, who—under direct hands-on German supervision—collaborated with the Nazis in the industrialized extermination of Jewry. Our issue is that once the “Nazi!”-tar-brush is taken in hand, it tars indiscriminately whether rightly or wrongly accused. Entire peoples are declared complicit, even “enthusiastic”, in the extermination of Jewry. Anyone accused is summarily convicted in the press and popular opinion as a Nazi war criminal. Those defending them are labelled Nazi co-conspirators or obstructors of justice. The vindicated are defamed as escapees from justice, threatened with mob rule in the aftermath of “failed justice,” their names forever to be qualified with the phrase "accused of Nazi atrocities" regardless of the facts.

Elizabeth Holtzman circa her declaration
“All Latvians are Nazis.”
Original at Wikipedia, unattributed

Why the Latvians?

Surely, Elizabeth Holtzman must have had incontrovertible evidence to declare “all Latvians are Nazis.” In truth, when she uttered these words at the outset of the concerted hunt for Latvian “Nazis,”

  • all Elizabeth Holtzman had was...
  • ...all Rochelle Saidel had was...
  • ...all Gertrude Schneider had was...
  • ...all Imants Lešinskis gave her...

which was

  • ...the propaganda the Soviets fabricated: the Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They? pamphlet and other so-called evidence, and “Vilis Hāzners” mentioned by name, perhaps whispered in Schneider's ear as she and Lešinskis danced, per both their accounts of their encounter.

Indeed, the hold these lies took is so powerful that today’s Nazi hunters, such as Efraim Zuroff, have acknowledged the possibility of fabrication but proceed with them regardless, extolling their value as some sort of Nazi-hunting sourdough starter, meanwhile also widening the definition of criminal collaborator to officers who simply served in the Latvian Legion absent any implication in war crimes—Zuroff, for example, listing (2002) Aleksandrs Plensners, the senior Latvian officer of the Latvian Legion, as a Nazi collaborator to be brought to justice.[1]

Zuroff and the Swedes

The Wiesenthal Center accused twelve Baltic individuals in a list submitted to the Swedish Embassy in Washington in 1986, pointedly, on Latvian Independence Day. KGB propaganda sources included:

  1. E. Avotins, J. Dzirkalis, and V. Petersons, Daugavas Vanagi; Who are they? (Riga: Latvian State Publishing House 1963), pp. 14, 50, 54, 76-81, 142, 148;
  2. J. Silabriedis, and B. Arklans, Political Refugees Unmasked (Riga: Latvian State Publishing House, 1965), pp. 17, 20-21, 62, 67-69, 133, 134, 137-138, 156, 192, 194;
  3. I. Raul Kruus, People Be Watchful (Tallinn: Estonian State Publishing House, 1962);
  4. E. Rozauskas (ed.), B. Baranauskas and K. Rukenas, Documents Accuse (Vilnius: Mintis, 1970)

A fifth source, Yad Vashem, on further investigation contradicted the Wiesenthal materials, which were not deemed factual. For these and other reasons including legal precedents, upon completion of its investigation, the Swedish commission assembled to investigate the charges recommended (February, 1987) that the government disregard the allegations of the Wiesenthal Center. As a result, per Zuroff, "...the Wiesenthal Center was reduced to attempting to publicize Sweden's refusal in principle to prosecute and thinking of ways to convince the Swedish government to change its policies."[2] It appears that Zuroff interpreted the commission's recommendation as a policy decision, that is, Swedish authorities should have not discounted the allegations simply because they were propagandist fabrications. The bottom line is that the Swedish authorities thoroughly investigated Zuroff's allegations and found them to be unsubstantiated.

Nor are academics immune to KGB propaganda. British historian David Cesarani (1956–2015) wrote (2000) “much of the material it [Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They?] presents has been verified independently.”[3] This despite the pamphlet's KGB author Paulis Ducmanis himself unequivocally stating it was all a completely fabricated bald-faced lie.

     

What hope is there for the truth when the lie the liar confirms to be a lie is still declared to be true?

     

In the material world, the triple point is the temperature at which a substance coexists in all three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. Where the historical role of Latvians collaborating in the Holocaust is concerned, to the uninformed observer that too appears to exist in three different forms simultaneously:

  • Nazi “accounts” that the peoples of the Baltics were so ruthless even the Germans were shocked and found themselves rescuing Jews—the Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, “they” did it all (the Germans fastidiously staged and recorded atrocities to make them appear to be spontaneous acts of the local populace);
  • Soviet “accounts” that the Nazi propaganda is all true, plus show trials with fabricated evidence and witnesses, KGB fabricated and cleansed archives[4]; and, lastly,
  • historically verifiable accounts that 300 to 500 Latvians served in Arajs Kommando under direct German supervision at the time of the Holocaust; Arajs and his unit were convicted at Nuremberg; notably, the largest single slaughter of Jews in the Baltics, at Rumbula, was German-executed (the Latvian collaborators were not trusted with automatic weapons, nor to keep their weapons with them overnight—there was no point at which they were not under direct and constant German supervision).

Only the last account reflects historical facts. Meanwhile, both Nazi and Soviet accounts more than fulfilled their propagandistic purposes, that of history serving politics:

  • As soon as Nazis launched the Holocaust in the Baltics in tandem with their invasion of the USSR, they began "smuggling" reports to the West through collaborators in Sweden about the locals who were so vicious in bludgeoning Jews that Wehrmacht and SS officers had to intervene to stop it—if they weren't already all dead by the time the Nazis even arrived. Holocaust literature routinely and convincingly speaks of hordes of Lithuanian collaborators wiping out entire villages of Jews, leaving none alive—none to tell the truth, which would look very bad for the Germans if the truth got out, per a report back to Berlin, that a squad of a dozen German policemen had done the vast majority of killing.[5]
  • The Soviets first became interested in propagandistic denouncement as part of Khrushchev's organized program to discredit the émigré communities of his most troublesome and fervently anti-Soviet nationalities, those being the Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Ukrainians, while also keeping the locals in check with show trials such as that of the Latvian 18th Police Battalion. Defectors have more than adequately documented the existence and purpose of the program and the means employed. Today, the same propaganda serves the kleptocratic authoritarian Russian state to maintain pretences under which it might have to intervene in its neighbours to protect its ethnic Russian population. The Putin regime has hijacked the very cause of anti-Nazism itself[6], promoting the image of the Baltic peoples and Ukrainians as inveterate fascists. Russia's invasion of Ukraine and propaganda justifying the Kremlin's actions speak for themselves.

To dismiss propaganda is to not dismiss those who did criminally aid Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. However, the notions that everyone knew what the Germans were doing, that the Holocaust "succeeding" as thoroughly as it did proves widespread and enthusiastic local support, are gravely mistaken.

One would have hoped that 72 years since the end of WWII, 26 years since the dissolution of the USSR and restoration of Latvia’s sovereignty on her native soil, historical facts would trump all other pretenders to the Latvian historical narrative. Yet quite the opposite is the case. The most prevalent current incarnations of the aforementioned fictions are that:

  • the Latvian Legion (Waffen SS) were members of the criminal SS, convicted at Nuremberg, and that
  • commemoration of the Latvian Legion “glorifies Nazism.”

Equally damning is the false narrative that the Legion “fought for Nazi Germany” or “fought on the side of Nazi Germany”—never that it “fought against the re-invading Red Army.”

The Accusatory Narrative

If we search for Daugavas Vanagi, Hazners, and other prominent post-WWII Latvian émigré names, we quickly build up a list of “Nazis among us” reading by ostensibly credible authors, often incorporating “Latvian Nazis” in the context of deeper conspiracies.

We will focus our examination of allegations to those specific to the Latvian Legion and its members. Little could Count Shuvalov[7] have anticipated the unimaginable industrialized genocide to one day sweep through the provinces he governed, or that the Baltics would continue to be a battlefield over politics, history, and the truth long after the slaughter was over.


[1]viz. Zuroff’s lambasting Sweden for not pursuing Nazis in the list he provided, at Sweden’s Refusal to Prosecute Nazi War Criminals: 1986-2002, Jewish Political Studies Review 14:3-4 (Fall 2002), retrieved 14-January-2016.
[2]ibid.
[3]Justice Delayed, 2000, page 304
[4]Russian archives today indicate the Askari were Ukrainian and Baltic Nazi volunteers and collaborators. The fact that the Askari were Russians who fought against the Red Army has been expunged from the official record.
[5]“In the beginning the Jewish liquidation in some places was carried out by local Lithuanians, and as it was often told to me, on German orders. By far, most had been liquidated by a twelve-man commando of German policemen. As it was told to me, they traveled through the countryside killing Jews in specific towns. I will not evaluate this fact from a moral point of view, it is important to assess it from the political perspective, because this information is public knowledge not only among the Germans but also Lithuanians who often speak about the matter in all its unpleasant details. In any case the Jewish question already now casts a shadow over the German policy in Lithuania.” Consul Dr. Otto Eckert, Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes, XIII, Bd. 19.
[6]World Without Nazism, Мир без нацизма, is fundamentally dedicated to denouncing Russia's western neighbors as fascists and, through its local organizations operating in each country with direct Kremlin funding, to destabilizing social relations and preventing the integration of post-Soviet national identities. WWN was founded and is run by Putin insider Boris Spiegel.
[7]Shuvalov served as Governor General of the Baltic provinces from 1864 to 1866: "The historical mission of the Baltic provinces is to serve as a battlefield for the problems of the highest politics in Europe."

Updated: April, 2017

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