2014European Parliament, Spokesperson

British MEP Richard Howitt, European Parliament Spokesperson on Human Rights, Issues Statement on Riga Waffen SS March

Originally posted at defendinghistory.com on 13 March 2014[1]

Richard Howitt, British Labour Member of the European Parliament, and spokesperson for the European Parliament Human Rights Sub-Committee today issued the following text of his statement which will be read out in Riga this Sunday March 16th.

Today brings the seventeenth annual march in Riga, 1Latvia glorifying Waffen SS forces from the Nazi era which brought death and destruction to our continent and which today’s European Union was supposed to consign to history.

I am pleased to hear that the Latvian Government has forbidden Ministers from attending the march this year, but 2condemn the Latvian High Court’s decision of 2013, forcing the Riga Mayor to apologise for all the years of trying to ban it.

Coming from Britain, I am 3saddened that the governing Conservative Party from my country chooses to ally itself in a common European Group with the Latvian “For Fatherland and Freedom Party,” whose Member of the European Parliament is on record as supporting this sickening celebration, even supporting its previous status as a public holiday in the country.

I am also 4shocked at the report that the British Conservative MEP who was head of his European group in 2012, is reported to have personally refused to sign the petition against the celebration, despite 7,000 people worldwide having done so.

5The party of Government of my country should not sit with a party which has proposed the Waffen SS troops be renamed "liberation fighters."

They are a scar on my own country.

6What they should remember is that almost all of Latvia’s 70,000 Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.

7Whether local boys were forced to don the SS uniforms or were eager volunteers, celebration of their actions not only insults the memory of the victims but also honours Nazism itself.

8Today, the British Labour Party stands with all victims of the Second World War, all who condemn fascism, all who oppose antisemitism and other forms of racism, to express our horror at those who seek to rewrite history in order to justify those who would spread bitterness, hate and division in a new century.

This year sees the 100 years centenary since the beginning of the First World War, and people throughout Europe will come together to remember the horrors of both wars of the twentieth century and celebrate the fact fascism was defeated and not victorious.

9When survivors of Nazi concentration camps in 1945 stood holding signs saying “never again,” they could not have foreseen what is happening today in Riga. These are the people we should be commemorating and this is the message we should remember.

RICHARD HOWITT MEP

Analysis

Contention versus Fact
Whatever Waffen SS Howitt believes he is denouncing, they have no relationship to or bearing on the Latvian Waffen SS, aka Latvian Legion, who brought "death and destruction" only upon the re-invading Red Army.
Nils Užakovs, the mayor since July 1, 2009, has most recently supported Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea, indicating the issue is not glorification of Nazis, but, rather honouring anti-Soviet patriots.
"Sickening" is indicative of Howitt's escalating fulminations, appealing to the cultural revulsion against all things Nazi, again, baseless with regard to historical fact.
That 7,000 people worldwide are as ignorant as Howitt of historical circumstance neither validates nor sanctifies his revulsion.
We get to the heart of the matter, denial that Latvians were fighting to prevent the Soviet re-invasion of Latvia, instead, making them out to be Nazi criminals; Howitt defiles the memory of the Latvian Legionnaires who held out in Courland until the end of the war, hoping to repeat the original miracle of Latvian independence achieved against Russian and German forces—incidentally, awaiting the evacuation which the British radioed and promised, and then failed to show up, the last in a long line of betrayals.
No one denies the Holocaust. No one does not commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. Howitt's implicit—and false—contention is that the Latvian Legion was involved in the Holocaust. Moreover, the implication is that the Germans themselves did none of the killing.
Again, Howitt skates a fine line. He never denies the possibility that the Latvians might have been liberation fighters, he is only aghast at the contention. Nor does Howitt state that the Latvian Legion murdered Jews, he only condemns their "actions" without naming them. To our ear, well practised polemics capable of arousing indignation without violating Britain's stringent anti-libel laws—lest a former Legionnaire still alive in the U.K. bring legal proceedings against him for defamation.
The charge of "rewriting history" comes directly from Russian propaganda. Russia continues to insist that the Soviet Union "liberated" Eastern Europe, whereas the truth of the matter is that the USSR subjugated 100,000,000 innocent Eastern Europeans. Churchill's division of Europe with Stalin on a piece of paper is well known. Less well known are Roosevelt's comments already in 1943 to Cardinal Spellman that "Stalin would certainly receive: Finland, the Baltic States, the Eastern half of Poland, Bessarabia.... It is natural that the European countries will have to undergo tremendous changes in order to adapt to Russia, but he [FDR] hopes that in ten or twenty years the European influences would bring the Russians to become less barbarian. The European people will simply have to endure Russian domination, in the hope that in ten or twenty years they will be able to live well with the Russians.[2]" It is Howitt who sows the bitterness and hate he professes to detest.
The only event happening in Rīga is a remembrance of the sacrifices of more than 100,000 Latvians who fought against Soviet re-occupation and the 30,000 to 50,000 who died.

Investigation

The charge that commemorating the Latvian Legion glorifies Nazism is currently a common among Holocaust memory activists. When stated by individuals such as Efraim Zuroff, those unfamiliar with Latvia—its history, its brutal occupation and mass deportations under the Soviets before Nazi Germany ever invaded the USSR—accept those statements as true. Owing to repetition by reputable individuals and sloppy mass media, that charge has taken on increasing credibility.

More telling is Howitt's use of the phrase "rewriting history," which originates in Russian propaganda. In fact, it was the USSR which constantly rewrote history to serve politics. That practice continues in present-day Russia through the active defense of Soviet glory and rehabilitation of the worst of Stalin's genocidal rule. For example, 2014 also marks the year Vladimir Putin restored, by presidential decree, the title of "Dzerzhinsky Division" to the ODON (Отдельная дивизия оперативного назначения), an elite police unit which under the USSR carried the name of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the murderous founder of the Cheka Soviet secret police.[3] The event passed nearly unnoticed in the Western press. Nor have we been able to find a single denouncement of this manifest glorification of violent Soviet repression.

In looking for further information on the reading of Howitt's statement, we came across this report:

2014 News From Around The World as of 17.03.2014
ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENTS (in relation to previous years): Latvian Government advised people to stay away, forbade ministers from attending and sacked the one who did. Latvian MP Nikolajs Kabanovs and journalist Juris Kaža visited Latvia Without Nazism protest conference in gestures of dialogue and reconciliation. British MEP Richard Howitt’s statement was read out at the conference.[4]

The figures most closely linked to the self-described "Human Rights movement" Latvia without Nazism are Joseph Koren, chairman of the "Human Rights movement 'Latvia without Nazism'," and Viktor Gushchin, co-chair the Joint Congress of Russian Communities in Latvia. Both are best described as professional nationalists pursuing Russia's political agenda in Latvia. Gushchin was also a candidate in the 2014 12th Saiema Latvian parliamentary election running under the banner of the "Latvijas Krievu savienība" (Latvian Russian Union) party.

The 2013 annual report by Latvia's security services writes (our translation):

[Russian compatriot NGO] activities focused, as previously, on Latvian social cohesion and reducing Russian-speaking Latvian citizens' sense of belonging to Latvia. This is done to separate Latvian ethnic minorities from the rest of society, so that, by pretending to be their advocates, these organizations can exploit Latvia's inhabitants to further their personal interests and goals and those of the Russian state. Regardless of differences between them and competition for financial resources, the funds to support compatriots policy granted by Russia to these organizations in Latvia and their intensity of activity in 2013 was on par with the year prior. The best known of the so-called "professional nationalists nucleus" continued to strengthen their position amongst compatriot activists. These indivuals reap personal gains for their participation in compatriot politics, and their activities are subordinated to the pursuit of Russia's foreign policy interests in Latvia. The fact is that the time period covered by this summary [2013] was [also] characterized by a generational conflict between these professional nationalists—whose most visible representatives are Viktor Gushchin, Alexander Gaponenko[5], and Joseph Koren—and the new generation of political compatriot activists. Concurrently, in 2013, Valeriy Kravcov materially solidified his position, becoming head of the "Latvian Russian Union"[6]

Whether knowingly or unwittingly, or representing his own views or making and official statement on behalf of the European Parliament, Howitt has allied himself with "professional nationalists" pursuing the interests of Russian foreign policy on Latvian soil. "Latvia Without Nazism" are neither a human rights organization nor an anti-fascist movement, rather, they are documented to be financially supported agents of the Russian state.


[1]MEP Howitt's comments published at defendinghistory.com, retrieved 09-Sep-2014
[2]Gannon, Robert I., Cardinal Spellman Story (N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1962), pp. 222, 23.
[3]Putin Renames Police Unit After Bloody Cheka Founder Dzerzhinsky, at The Moscow Times, Sep. 23 2014, retrieved 16-Oct-2014
[4]At Stop the 16 March marches in Riga!, retrieved 16-Oct-2014
[5]We cannot let it pass without comment that in September 2014 Gaponenko filed a document with the OSCE maintaining that events in Ukraine were the spontaneous uprising of Russians against Ukrainian oppression and threatening the same scenario in Latvia. Danger implementation Ukrainian scenario in Latvia stamped "HDIM.NGO/0123/14/EN 24 September 2014", retrieved 16-Oct-2014. Both Gaponenko and Koren are on the governing board of "World Without Nazism", the parent NGO of "Latvia Without Nazism".
[6]DROŠĪBAS POLICIJA 2013.gada publiskais pārskats, dated May, 2014, retrieved 15-Oct-2014

Updated: May, 2017

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