2016Frank Brendle and the “German anti-fascists”

New players—more correctly, players who prior had protested the annual Latvian Legion commemoration "under the radar"—came to the fore across multiple news channels in reports of the 2016 commemoration. Accordingly, we have conducted a more extensive investigation. We learned of the controversy surrounding German anti-fascists denied entry into Latvia from the following article carried in the Jerusalem Post.

German anti-fascists face down pro-Nazi Latvian demonstrators in RigaDiaspora - Jerusalem Post

Original posted at www.jpost.com, retrieved March 19, 2016 LINK

Several German anti-fascists were arrested in Latvia this week after arriving to protest an 1annual march by former Nazi collaborators and their supporters.

The marchers, whose ranks included a number parliamentarians, made their way through the capital city of Riga on Wednesday in an annual 2show of support for the anti-Soviet Latvian Legion – a locally raised unit of the Waffen-SS.

Five members of the Berlin-based Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime/ Federation of Anti-Fascists (VVN-BdA) – 3Thomas Willms, Markus Tervooren, Günther Hoppe, Lothar Eberhard and Werner Müller – were detained by Latvian officials after landing in Riga on Tuesday, the group claimed. In addition, the organization’s leader, Cornelia Kerth, was denied permission to enter the country and was prevented from boarding an Air Baltic flight from Germany.

People participate in the annual procession commemorating the Latvian Waffen-SS (Schutzstaffel) unit in Riga.
(photo credit:REUTERS via JERUSALEM POST online.)

In a statement released on the day prior to the march, the group accused Latvian authorities of “repression” against Latvian protesters.

4“For years, the march of Waffen-SS admirers enjoys the protection of the Latvian government. The few anti-fascists who protest against the right deployment will be handled by politicians and the media as enemies of the state,” the VVN-BdA accused, adding that the five detained protesters were given a choice of deportation or two-days incarceration.

Around 40 protesters were present at Wednesday’s march, according to local media and were prevented from coming within several hundred meters of 5the SS supporters.

6The Security Police has warned that provocations might be attempted by some persons who have arrived from abroad,” The Baltic Times reported.

Thirteen members of parliament were reported to have participated in the march.

Two years ago the country’s environmental minister was fired after disobeying a prime ministerial directive for cabinet members to refrain from participating.

7According to Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, while the Latvian Legion did not directly participate in Holocaust crimes, it did fight for the Germans and many off its members had previously taken part in the mass murder of Jews as part of the Latvian security police and the Arajs Kommando, a police unit connected to the German SD.

8“The organizers of the march are trying to present the members of the legion as freedom fighters who paved the way for Latvian independence but nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

9“The Nazis had absolutely no intention of granting independence to any of the Baltic countries and it is only because Nazi Germany lost the Second World War could Latvia regain its independence after the fall of the USSR. People who fought for victory of Third Reich should not be glorified as heroes – such a victory would have meant the end of Western civilization,” he said.

Calling the arrest of the German protesters “absurd,” Zuroff, who was present in Riga for the march, called the decision to keep protesters far from the Legion supporters “highly objectionable.”

10Last week Latvian parliamentarian Karlis Serzants made waves when he was reported as saying that “clever Jews” were responsible for several national problems.


Contention versus Fact  

There is no jack-booted goose-stepping "march," merely a procession of those commemorating the sacrifices of the Latvian Legion. Moreover, what did it mean in the context of the Legion to be a "Nazi collaborator"? Was it

  • "work together on a common enterprise of project," or
  • "cooperate as a traitor"?[1]

Certainly the Legion, in attempting to prevent the Soviet re-occupation of Latvia, were not acting as enemies of the Latvian state nor of its citizenry. The Latvian people have never supported the Nazi cause. Not in WWII, not now.

Given the Germans on the Eastern Front sent Latvians in as cannon fodder where they were too scared to go in themselves, we're not even sure "collaboration" applies—more the Legion being in a deal with the Devil for weapons against the Red Army.

Partially correct in describing the Latvian Legion/Waffen-SS as "anti-Soviet." Incorrect in "locally raised," as if the Latvians were good Nazis who mustered the Waffen-SS themselves in support of Hitler.

We will examine the VVN-BdA and its featured members later.

The VVN-BdA factually indicates that the government has issued permits to allow the commemoration to take place. However, the issue, of course, is that the VVN-BdA's accusation implies that the Latvian government protects Nazis. Moreover, they accuse the government outright of persecuting "anti-fascist protesters" who, in reality, are the Kremlin's lackeys, Koren & Company, which the Latvian state must constantly keep in check. Russia outlaws NGOs which are attempting to improve circumstances for the Russian people while it funds its own NGOs abroad seeking to destabilize civil society in their neighbours—that is, when they aren't invading as in Crimean and eastern Urkaine.

Denouncing supporters of the Latvian Legion as "SS supporters" is, frankly, libellous. Just as there has never been support for the Nazi cause, neither has there ever been support for the criminal SS convicted for war crimes. The Baltic Waffen-SS were specifically excluded from that conviction. Nothing has changed to invalidate that exclusion.

We translated a prior assessment of the "anti-fascists" who invited the VVN-BdA to attend in protest as part of our 2014 review. It is not unreasonable to be concerned about potential disturbances. LINK

The "indirect" participation in Holocaust crimes is the issue. Arājs Kommando was joined to the Waffen-SS late in the war as conditions deteriorated on the Eastern Front. The Arājs unit numbered 300-500 during the Holocaust, up to 1,200 later operating as an "anti-partisan" unit. Estimates of the conscripted Latvian Legion range from 100,000 to as many as 140,000. Reports from German commanders at the front back to Berlin clearly indicated that the Latvians bore no allegiance to the Germans. "For" implies support of the Nazi cause, whereas the Legionnaires wore Latvian flags under their uniforms in hopes of driving both Russians and Germans from their homeland.

As the Legion did not participate in the Holocaust, the controversy must come down to intent, that is, did the Legion "side" with Nazi Germany. Hindsight is 20:20. At the time, the Latvians' historical DNA was informed by their War of Independence, Brīvības Cīņas, where a Germany defeated on the Western front was allowed, indeed supported, against the Russians on the Eastern Front. Ultimately the Latvians prevailed in ejecting both Russians and Germans to secure their independence. Any "truth" here can only be measured in the hopes and aspirations of the Legion, who hoped to repeat the miracle of independence and foresaw themselves as the kernel of the Latvian Army in a Latvia restored to independence.

Only in Zuroff's perverse interpretation of Baltic history is half a century of brutal Soviet occupation, complete with murders and more mass deportations, the path to Latvian independence. Nazi victory was not required, only support for the restoration of Baltic independence from the Western allies. It was not unreasonable for Latvians to hope against hopeless odds. After all, Latvia's circumstances were so precarious after WWI during the Bolshevik occupation that its provisional government had to seek refuge on a British ship docked in Liepāja. The lesson learned was that there was no circumstance so dire that it could not be surmounted. It is disingenuous for Zuroff to state Latvians fought for Nazi victory. More disturbingly, Zuroff peddles the historical syllogism that the only two possibilities open to the Latvians were accept Soviet subjugation versus fight for the end of Western civilization—and then denounces them for choosing the latter by not choosing the former.

We are so befuddled by Zuroff's contention that Soviet subjugation empowered Latvian freedom that we have also examined his opinion piece published after this year's commemoration.

It's unfortunate to see the article end on a "and if you need evidence Latvians are all anti-Semites, here is a member of parliament denouncing 'clever Jews'" note, rather than sticking to the subject. The incident refers to Seržants complaining about Jewish lawyers operating on the "edge" of the law. A transcript of the interview, conducted in Russian, is available at the LV4 site. LINK. The BBC "documentary" referred to therein is a fictional dramatization of Russia invading Latvia, precipitating WWIII and nuclear destruction. This apparently pleased neither Latvians nor Russians. LINK

As the "German anti-fascists" never made it to the commemoration, no "facing down" confrontation took place. More a publicity piece than news?

[1]Definitions at www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/collaborate

Updated: May, 2017

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