2007Deutsche Welle, unattributed

Originally posted at www.dw.de, published Oct 11, 2007[1]

Putin Accuses Europe of Ignoring Nazism in the BalticsIn a speech to the European Jewish Congress on Wednesday, Oct. 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is dismayed by Estonia and Latvia's glorification of Nazism. Europe needs to take notice, Putin said.

Tensions between Russians and Estonians
escalated in April in Tallinn
Putin, speaking in Moscow to the European Jewish Congress, said he was shocked when an annual Waffen SS parade took place in Latvia in March. He added that it was disturbing that the European Union has largely ignored the problems of pro-Nazi groups in these countries. 1"Some facts which we come up against in several countries of eastern Europe have provoked open astonishment and incomprehension," Putin said. "The activities of the Latvian and Estonian authorities openly connive at the glorification of Nazis and their accomplices. But these facts remain unnoticed by the European Union." 2In 2006, Latvian officials banned an annual parade that glorifies the Latvian Waffen SS against Russia's Red Army. Some far right supporters marched anyway.
A controversial war memorial
Legacy of mistrust Putin's remarks are the latest volley in a political war of words between the Baltic countries and Russia. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined the European Union in 2004, in part to seek protection from their domineering former rulers in Moscow. Soviet forces annexed the Baltic countries during World War II. The war split the population between those who fought for Nazi Germany and those who supported Russia. In Russia's view, it liberated the countries from Nazi occupation in a victory that cost it 20 million lives. Germany's defeat is seen as an important historical event and it rejects the accusation that it occupied eastern European countries. But many people from the Baltic states see the Red Army's arrival as the beginning of five decades of Soviet rule. During that time, thousands of Estonians were deported to Soviet prison camps and Russians settled in the country. Strained relations continue

Paying respects
Animosity flared up again earlier this year when Estonian authorities moved a bronze statue of a Red Army soldier from a downtown Tallinn square and moved it to a military cemetery. Rioting caused by the decision to relocate the war memorial left one person dead and a dozen injured. Further protests by pro-Kremlin youths at the Estonian consulate in Moscow lead to scuffles with bodyguards. In June, Estonia buried the remains of eight Soviet soldiers who had been exhumed from the Tallinn war memorial. The soldiers were reburied in the Estonian defense forces' cemetery, the same place where the statue was relocated. A month before the reburial, Estonia came under massive cyber attacks, crippling government and corporate Web sites for nearly three weeks. The Estonian government suggested that Russia could have been behind the attacks and asked for help from NATO, which agreed to investigate the incident. Russia has denied any involvement in the cyber attacks. Germany has participated in some behind-the-scenes negotiating on various issues between Russia and the Baltic countries, but the EU has largely refrained from inserting itself in the disputes.
The Baltics have a large population
of Russian minorities
Russia wants an apology

3The situation in Estonia remains volatile. Russia's EU ambassador has said that Estonia still owes Russia an apology for moving the monument. Without an apology for moving the monument, protests could continue, he said. Putin brought up the war memorial issue Wednesday. "We are seeing a position on the limit of hypocrisy by certain European structures over the moving of the liberation soldier monument in Tallinn," Putin said. 4Putin noted that since Estonia's independence in 1991, "not a single Nazi criminal has been condemned." Putin admitted there were acts of anti-Semitism in Russia as well as "chauvinistic, xenophobic and nationalistic demonstrations." Moshe Kantor, head of the European Jewish Congress, asked Putin to recognize the International Holocaust Day, which was introduced by the United Nations in November 2005. Russia seemed to support the declaration but has not implemented it, Kantor said.

Analysis

Contention versus Fact  
We have to almost admire Putin's rhetoric—as baseless as it is bombastic.
The commemoration is neither parade nor march—common misrepresentations. It had been removed as an official state holiday in 2000 after mostly Russian agitation. In 2006, authorities had fenced off the Freedom Monument, site of the commemoration which took place regardless. Furthermore, the law allowing prohibition of assembly was subsequently declared unconstitutional.
Given 20:20 hindsight and thorough investigation, the violent demonstrations in reaction to moving the Bronze Soldier were Russian-organized—and this is little more than a thinly veiled threat that Kremlin-sponsored attacks upon Estonia would continue.
Putin plays to his audience. Jewish activists regularly condemn the Baltic states for not having condemned any Nazi collaborators since they restored independence. The notion that there were not as many collaborators as it is fashionable to allege—including neighbors killing neighbors with blunt instruments in the most barbaric manner possible[2]—is likely to find little support in Putin's audience.

Investigation

Putin

Putin's anti-Baltic agenda, particularly coming on the heels of the Bronze Soldier incident needs no examination. We are only surprised that the European Jewish Congress chose to convene in Moscow and invite Putin to speak, given that there had already been public concerns for a number of years over the rise of Russian fascism.

Regarding alleged Estonian war criminals, only one case was open at the time, against Mikhail Gorshkow; Estonian authorities eventually closed it as a case of mistaken identity. U.S. and Russian authorities and the Wiesenthal Centre all denounced that closure. However, it is quite possible the Estonian investigation is correct, as the most visible case brought against an alleged Latvian war criminal, Vilis Hāzners (head of the former Legionnaire's welfare organization), was rife with misidentification and coached "eye-witnesses" who placed the accused where he could not have been and wearing a military rank he attained only at the end of the war. When it comes to alleged Eastern European Nazi collaborators, the meme is that there was overwhelming support on the part of the local populace, seething with centuries-old virulent anti-Semitism, who embraced the Nazis and the opportunity to finally rid themselves of Jewry. Therefore anyone accused of being a Nazi and murdering Jews is automatically declared guilty. However, as the eminent Holocaust scholar Andrew Ezergailis has pointed out[3]:

  • "The population of Eastern Europe was too diverse to reach a consensus on the killing of the Jews. Humanity does not think by boilerplate. ...
  • "There is no reason to take Nazi prognostications about East Europeans as if they were the only true things that the Nazis proclaimed."

European Jewish Congress

As already mentioned, Moscow was a curious destination to meet given Russia's already poor human rights record. We wondered if there was some mutual sharing of perspective with regards to Latvia and the Latvian Legion. Browsing their web site, www.eurojewcong.org, we found this news snippet[4]:

Latvian nursery school posts "No Jews" sign
A German-language sign saying a nursery school was “Jew free” was placed at the entrance to the school. The posting of the sign, which reads “Judenfrei,” was revealed Monday by the Latvian daily Vesti Segodniya. The paper published a photo of the sign on the fence of the Pucite (“Owlet”) private school. The establishment is owned by Imants Paradnieks, an ultra-nationalist Latvian MP. On Tuesday, Twitter users confronted him to ask whether the sign was genuine or just “a provocation.” He provided no reply, but wrote: “The Kremlin is full of jackals.” The Riga-based school has a history involving Nazi sympathies. In 2012, Pucite hosted two men dressed in Waffen SS uniform, who held what they defined as “a lesson of patriotic upbringing” for the kindergarten department of the school. On its website, Pucite is described as a school based on “the Latvian national culture, Latvian wisdom and view of the world – where all children learn through play and hands-on experiences.” Click here to read the full article at The Forward
Monday, May 12, 2014.

This appears little more than a transparent attempt to foment outrage against Latvians, imagine, already Nazifying their children in nursery school.

  1. While the article indicates the "Judenfrei" sign was placed at the entrance, the headline accuses the nursery school itself of posting the sign.
  2. Clearly, Parādnieks did not post the sign. And how can he have not replied to inquiries when he wrote in reply that "The Kremlin is full of jackals." Parādnieks obviously holds Putin's provocateurs responsible.
  3. "History of Nazi sympathies" brands Latvian nationalism as Nazism. It is well established that no one has ever been accused of a war crime while serving in the Latvian Legion and that its members only hope—regardless of the vast majority being forcibly conscripted—was the restoration of Latvia's independence. Moreover, the majority looked upon the Legion as the progenitor of a restored Latvia's future army. Showing up in a uniform teaches history, not politics, and certainly not Nazism.
  4. The juxtaposition of Pucīte's mission of teaching Latvian values after denouncing it for inculcating Nazism speaks to the reporter's, not Parādnieks', bias.
This is typical of propaganda equating Latvian nationalism, patriotism, and cultural pride with Nazism. One expects this sort of abuse from Russia, but it is disappointing to see such narrative being promulgated by a respected pan-European Jewish organization.

The original source, The Forward, includes the following in its self-description: "The Forward delivers incisive coverage of the issues, ideas and institutions that matter to American Jews. Its rigorous reporting and balanced commentary [our emphasis—Editor] on politics, arts and culture have won numerous awards year after year, including repeated recognition by the Society of Professional Journalists."[5]


[1]DW report published at www.dw.de/putin-accuses-europe-of-ignoring-nazism-in-the-baltics/a-2817872, retrieved 11 June 2015.
[2]June 28th. The first public execution of Jews in Kaunas, in the Lietukis garage in the Vytauto street. Over forty Jews are beaten with shovels and with iron bars until they become unconscious. Then cold water is thrown on them and they are again (beaten), but this time they are beaten to death. A political prisoner released from prison by the insurgents seated himself on top of the heap of dead bodies and began to play a polonaise on the Harmonica. —in some cases, it is the Lithuanian anthem which is played. This is only one of many Nazi-originated accounts designed to project the illusion of a Germanless Holocaust.
[3]"Neighbors" Didn't Kill Jews, retrieved 12-June-2015
[4]Latvian nursery school posts "No Jews" sign retrieved 12-June-2015.
[5]Original article retrieved 11-June-2015.

Updated: May, 2017

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