2016Aleksandrs Feigmanis

Some High Latvian Politicians Think the Waffen-SS Fought for Freedom

Originally posted at www.defendinghistory.com, published 4 September 2016[1]

There are here in Latvia some high-ranking Latvian politicians who 1actually believe that the country’s Waffen-SS fighters fought for freedom of their country. Every year on the 16th of March Latvian nationalists gather at the Freedom Monument in the heart of Riga, the nation’s capital, and in the cemetery at Lestene, a village some seventy-two kilometers from Riga, to remember and 2honor (honor!) the living and dead veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS.

Dr. Aleksandrs Feigmanis (Rīga)

Established by order of Adolf Hitler on the 10th of February 1943, they fought 3for Nazi Germany 4against the Red Army on the Volkhov front near Leningrad, and later in Great River region, Kurzeme (Kurland), in Poland, Germany and elsewhere.

Although the 5alarming series of annual events commemorating and glorifying the Latvian SS Volunteer Legion events are now officially non-governmental, some MPs and even ministers do not hesitate to not only participate publicly, 6setting an example for the nation’s youth, but also to 7publicly refer to Waffen-SS legionnaires as heroes and national freedom fighters. 8Had Hitler won the war, there would have been no Latvia left to become free in 1991. By 9swearing an oath to Adolf Hitler’s genocidal regime, and then 10in fact delaying the liberation of the concentration camps by the Allies, they were 11pawns of the Nazis who do not deserve to be glorified by a modern, democratic member of the European Union and NATO.


Analysis | Exposition

We hope that some day the role of the Latvian Legion Waffen-SS will be the subject of historical analysis and not the target of polemics. However, even seventy-four years after the end of World War II, the polarized divide between, empirically, Jews and Latvians, remains a gulf waiting to be bridged. As some history is acknowledged, that is, fighting against Soviet reoccupation, it is nevertheless now being represented as a "choice" to fight for the Nazis.

As someone born, raised, and educated in Latvia, Dr. Feigmanis[2] is in a unique position to foster understanding and reconciliation of, and atonement for, the past. Thus we were all the more disappointed to find Feigmanis forfeiting his opportunity—and we would argue duty—to instead truck out the formulaic[3] and false "Latvians fought for Hitler's victory" script.

Contention versus Fact

Feigmanis' incredulity sets the tone for the rest of his opinion piece. Latvian Legionnaires wore the Latvian flag under their uniforms for the hope of a free Latvia. Latvia was caught between two occupiers. There was no choice against the Bolsheviks except Germany—just as after WWI. Feigmanis judges the Latvian Legion by the uniform they wore, not their hopes and dreams for Latvia, and tarnishes the memory of those who held out in Courland until the end of WWII in the only territory not captured by the Red Army.

Feigmanis literally doubles down on his derision of those honoring fallen and surviving Legionnaires.

Here we have the syllogistic history-denying foundation of Feigmanis' false narrative. Those in the Legion certainly knew the history of the Latvian war of independence—enshrined in Legion song, allying with Germans to drive out the Russians, then turning on and driving out the Germans to achieve victory and freedom—more than 700 years after the first time the Germans arrived to subjugate them.

Latvian independence at the end of WWII required only that Latvians not be forced to hand over the Courland pocket to the U.S.S.R.. Latvians battled for and achieved independence after WWI holding even less territory. Little did Latvians know that Roosevelt and Churchill had betrayed them to Stalin. Roosevelt had personally joked with Stalin over the notion the U.S. would resort to force to protect Baltic independence. And whereas the British had provided the fledgling Latvian government sanctuary on a ship in Liepāja during its war of independence, Churchill crafted the Western Allies' acceptance of the fraudulent Baltic Soviet "elections" and petition to join the U.S.S.R. as the will of the people. Not only did Churchill save Stalin from violating (on paper!) the Atlantic Charter, but as the Charter was the predecessor to the United Nations, Britain and 50 other nations founded the U.N. on the ashes of Baltic independence.

Latvian independence required neither Soviet nor Nazi victory as a prerequisite—nor did Latvians fight for anything other than Latvian independence.

Feigmanis' painting honoring of the Latvian Legion as cause for alarm denies Latvia's historical DNA. Members, survivors, and their families have reverently honored the Legion for sixty-seven years. It was only after Russia mounted a concerted propaganda campaign after commemoration was declared a national Latvian holiday that this new ahistorical narrative blossomed, including winning over Holocaust activists to its "anti-Nazi glorification" cause.

The example being "set" is to inculcate awareness and understanding of Latvia's history. Any understanding of Hitler's collaborators in the Holocaust begins with a factual accounting of who did, and did not, participate.

What is the alternative? Would Feigmanis have us denounce the Latvian Legion as Nazis? Feigmanis plays into the subtext that having fought against the Soviet Union brands one a Hitlerite, not someone defending one's homeland against reinvading Soviets. That we now know that the Legionnaire's hopes for freedom were doomed, that there was no scenario in which the other Allies had not already consigned Latvia to Soviet subjugation, does not give anyone the right to denounce those dreams as null and void or any less genuine.

The other bookend to the syllogistic binary Allied or Nazi victory only theorem, the historically fraudulent contention that Latvia's only path to restoring independence was through brutal Soviet reoccupation, that the only other possibility was a Nazi victory which would have spelled the end of Western civilization. That would have meant the end of Latvia as well, ergo, even if they weren't war criminals, the misguided Latvians were only fighting to accelerate their own demise. The Latvians' own War of Independence proved there was a third alternative, to drive out both Russian and German invaders.

Feigmanis ignores that by the end of the war the Nazis had forcibly conscripted every Latvian male born after 1905. Regardless, there was such outrage over the original Waffen-SS oath that the Legionnaire's oath to Germany was only to follow military orders. No allegiance to Nazism. No swearing to defend Nazi Germany. Taking an oath solely to fight against the Bolsheviks.

That the Legion prolonged the suffering of Hitler's concentration camp victims is the most immoral and outrageous of Feigmanis' contentions. Germany fielded some 3,500,000 servicemen on the Eastern Front. Latvians were a mere fraction in comparison. The Latvian tragedy of WWII, beyond the loss of independence, was that both Germans and Russians pressed Latvians into service, some 100,000 or more on each side. Hundreds of thousands of Latvians fought in the war suffering horrific levels of casualties, in the end, to no net effect.

Were Feigmanis truly interested in delays to Allied victory, he need only look to Stalin himself, who from October 1944 through March 1945 threw in division after division to their slaughter in Latvia's Courland—a totally non-strategic objective—in a doomed attempt to seize the last piece of Latvian-defended territory. The Red Army suffered some 300,000 dead, wounded, and missing in their Courland campaign. It was more important to Stalin that he exterminate the Latvians than pursue the Germans and defeat Hitler. That the Soviets subsequently "liberated" Hitler's death camps was, for Stalin, just more fodder for propaganda. Lastly, Feigmanis omits that the "liberators" of Hitler's death camps proportionally deported Jews more than any other group of Latvia's citizenry: 5% of the population but 12% of deportees. The Jewish community was still reeling from Stalin's beheading of its political and civic leadership when the Germans invaded a week later.

As the war drew to a close, the Germans were even prepared to possibly restore Latvia's sovereignty. The contention of "pawns" insults the struggle against Bolshevism which led to Latvia's independence and the struggle against Bolshevism which led to Latvians holding out to the end of the war in Courland.

Feigmanis conjures an image of the European Union and NATO consorting with Latvian Nazi-glorifiers. There has never been any Nazi allegiance or glorification. Even Gustavs Celmiņš, the exiled leader of the pre-war fascist Pērkonkrusts, upon his return to Latvia, lobbied the Germans to form Latvian military units to pursue retreating Red Army on the Eastern Front, not to kill Jews.

Feigmanis' piece continues...

[1]Dr. Aleksandrs Feigmanis' opinion piece is published at defendinghistory.com/some-highlatvian-politicians-think-that-waffen-ss-fought-for-freedom/83530, retrieved 7 September 2016
[2]Our research indicates Feigmanis received his doctorate from the University of Latvia Department of Theology, having defended his dissertation February 16, 2012, on "Rabīniskā literatūra Latvijā līdz 1940. gadam: virzieni un personības" (Rabbinical literature in Latvia prior to 1940, trends and personalities). At www.lu.lv/zinas/t/10271/, retrieved 7 September 2016.
[3]Compare Feigmanis' opinion piece with that of Efraim Zuroff earlier in 2016.

Updated: June, 2017

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