Latvian LegionConclusion & Aftermath
Numerical strength of the Latvian Legion and other Latvian units.
Numerical strength of the Latvian Legion and other Latvian units.
According to data available to the Inspectorate General [of the Latvian Legion], on 1 July 1944, the following number of citizens of Latvia were under arms and fighting Bolshevism:
|Type of unit.||Number of Men.|
|(1)||In the Latvian Legion:|
|The five Frontier Guard regiments||12,118|
|Police regiments and gendarmerie battalions||14,884|
|On independent police duty||5,240|
|"C group" auxiliary police (aizsargi)||22,262|
|Aviation legion Latvija||628|
|Various other units||972|
|Total no. of men in Legion:|
|(2)||Outside the Latvian Legion:|
|German army auxiliaries (HiWi's||12,159|
|In units consisting of citizens of Latvia of Russian nationality||7,671|
|The German Navy||900|
|Todt organization, etc.||1,167|
|Total no. of men outside Legion:|
|(3)||Losses of the Legion to 1 July 1844:|
|Killed or died||3,367|
|Missing in action||2,417|
|(4)||Supplemental mobilization from 1 July to 18 August 1944:|
|For front-line service (mainly from categories previously exempted)||15,684|
|For airfield crews||3,543|
|For antiaircraft and searchlight crews||4,000|
|Total supplementary mobil.:|
Of course, the above data is only approximate. Actually, the above-mentioned total, constituting 8 percent of the population of Latvia of that time, should even be greater. This is because the. Inspectorate General had no data about the citizens who immediately after 1 July 1941 voluntarily joined German battle formations and other units of a military nature (for example, the so-called Brandenburg Regiment). As usual, the number of men who were killed in action cannot be accurately determined; another source gives it as 3,914 (to 1 July 1944). It should be remembered, that Latvian gendarmerie and police units were scattered all over Russia and attached to German units in small groups. It is impossible to determine the number of men killed, wounded, or missing from 1 July 1944 to 8 Kay 1945; that number is estimated to be around 50-60,000. The names of those killed in action appeared in the newspaper Nedelas Apskats [Weekly Roview], organ of the B[altic] C[entral] C[ouncil], which from 1946 to 1949 was published in Detmold, Germany.
Since May 1943, Karaviru Palidziba [Soldiers Aid] was the organization responsible for caring for the Latvian soldiers' cultural needs; it operated a front-line theater, arranged concerts, and financed the Legion's newspaper Daugavas Vanagi [The Falcons of Daugava]. Since 1944, the Inspectorate General published a monthly called Nakotne [Future]; it was financed by the main administration of the SS. During the battles in Kurzeme [reference to 19th Division's battles, not discussed here], Latvijas Kareivis [Soldier of Latvia], and other front-line materials were published. Since November, 1944 the LatViu administration in Berlin twice a week published a paper named Latvju Balss [Latvian Voice]. With the aid of the Ostministerium, in beginning of December, 1944 a theater troupe, consisting of 26 of the best actors of the "Naclonalais," "Dailes," and "Daugavpils" theaters, was set up; K. Veics was its director.
Next to these more or less officially sponsored agencies, cultural events were spontaneously organized In the separate units of the Legion, as soon as they were withdrawn from the battle lines. Thus, for example, the 1st ("Riga") Construction Regiment (stationed in barracks in Pozemsdorf, Germany in 1944) had an orchestra under the direction of Lt. P. Banders, and a men's choir conducted by R. Zuika—these two musical sections had been established while the Regiment was still in Latvia. The "Kurzeme" Construction Regiment, stationed in Torn, had a men's choir too (conductors: P. Dreimanls, A. Tulgis, T. Kenins). A. Lindbergs, the violinist, also gave performances. Moreover, the "Riga" regiment published a monthly Riga dimd [reference to Latvian folk song] (2 issues), and the "Kurzeme" Regiment—a weekly entitled Kurzemnieks [The Courlander], of which 6 issues appeared. On 20 January 1945, when the retreat battles began, these activities ceased.
They were again renewed in the prisoner-of-war camps. Already in the beginning of May 1945, a Culture and Educational Section of the 15th Division was established at Camp Hagenau; it was headed first by Rev. A. Kraulis, later by Capt. Vevers. Trade and language courses were set up in individual units, and a whole series of lectures on various questions were held.
Division-wide lectures were held in an open space (formerly a target practice area for tanks). There, issues of the day were discussed by Col. A. Kripens, Col. K. Lobe, P. Lazdins (a former lecturer at the Latvian State University), the writer K. Dzilleja, etc. The actors K. Dzelzitis and A. Mitrevics were guests at literary events. Wood carving, art, and fine arts were actively represented; a total of 7 shows, with over 100 art objects, 40 paintings and drawings, were exhibited.
When the 15th Division was transferred to [the prisoner-of-war area] in the hilly seashore forests near Putlos, the soldiers began to construct huts and entire villages from planks, branches, reeds, etc., the vicinity of which was decorated with seashells, stones, and so forth. In these camps, Lt. R. Zuika reestablished his choir, and gave 23 concerts. The choir took first place in the German divisional competition with J. Straune's song "By the Baltic Sea." In the German divisional competition for original works, the composer L. Bastiks took first place with 2 songs for men's choirs. The 15th Division also bad a 17-man brass band, conducted by Garoza; the band also had a group of 8 singers.
Moreover, musicians and soloists from nearby Latvian Displaced Persons camps often visited the Latvian soldiers (for example, L. Marsalka, K. Bidina, J. Franks, H. Luse, T. Brilts, 0. Ilzins, A. TeichmaniS, J. Medins, A. Kalnins); so did the "Kokle" choir from Luebeck (conductor, E. Marsans) and the choir from DP camp in Geesthacht (conductor: E. Brusubarda).
Already on 10 Kay 1945, an Information Bulletin began to appear in Camp Hagenau; with its 50th issue, it became a daily newspaper named Laika Griezos [In the Cross-Currents of Time]. This publication requested the soldiers to write diaries and send in information about those killed and wounded; in such a manner, a list of over 1,000 names was made up. Ten additional publications were issued by units of the 15th Division, two of which enjoyed division-wide distribution. One of these was Nameja Gredzens [symbolic reference to Latvian independence] the other—Sporta Vestnesls [Sports Hews]. In addition, the regiments, and even companies, issued a number of typewritten and handwritten publications: Saucejs [The Crier], Atskabarga [The Splinter], Staburags [The Cliff of Staburags], Trimdinieka Gaitas [ln Exile], Svesas Takas [Along Foreign Paths], Letins Gusta [The 0.1. Prisoner], Vecie Puikas [Old Boys], Pie Baltijas Juras [By the Baltic Sea], etc.; here, the young writers and artists found full expression for their talents. The 5th Regiment gathered the texts and melodies of 180 Latvian soldier songs; the committee which gathered them included R. Zuika, J. Sakss, R. Berzins, K. Skuja.
In September 1945, the soldiers of the 15th Division were transferred from Putlos to a prisoner-of-war camp in Zedelghem, Belgium; here, they were also joined by Col. Janums' group. 11,160 Latvians were interned in this camp; most of them came from the Riga, Valmiera, Valka, and Liepaja districts of Latvia; the smallest number was from Ilukste district. Since the supplementary mobilization for the 15th Division had taken place in July and August of 1944, at which time the Russians had already occupied Zemgale and Latgale provinces, then a smaller number of soldiers of the 15th Division stemmed from these two provinces. The supplementary mobilization of the summer of 1944 accounted for 30 percent of the interned soldiers; about 50 percent had been in the war since 1943. Most of the soldiers (4,934) were farmers and farm laborers; in addition, there were 1,776 craftsmen, 1,158 employees, 1,052 high school and college students, 1,144 workers. The main age groups were: 18-20 year olds—2,172; 21-25—3,639; 26-30—1,675; 31-35—1,984; 36-40—1,302. The relatives of a number of soldiers in Camp Zedelghem had remained in Latvia: For 8,759—their parents, for 2,259—their wives, and for 1,767—even their children. They could do nothing to save their relatives from abroad. This explains the circumstance why 218 of the soldiers in Zedelghem were repatriated to Soviet-occupied Latvia; the insufficient food handed out to the prisoners was also a contributing factor. In order to improve the situation, Latvian Red Cross sections in Brussels and Luebeck sent gift parcels and medicines to the sick and invalided soldiers, wbo [after capitulation] had been transferred fron the divisional reserve battalion in Denmark [to Zedelghem].
The daily newspaper Laika Griezos and the monthly Nameja Gredzens continued to appear, as did the satirical monthly Atskabarga. A men's choir (conducted by Mikelsons) was active, and a variety show gave about 50 performances. High school extension courses, headed by P. Kalnins, were set up: One section (250 participants) was for high school graduates, the other (450 participants)—for persons having a grade-school education. A college extension section and various language and trade courses also were conducted. Artists decorated the barracks with Latvian ornaments, maps of Latvia, and the coat of arms of Latvia. A shop section made furniture from wooden boxes.
The Latvian War Veterans society Daugavas Vanagi [The Falcons of Daugava] was founded in Zedelghem.
By order of the headquarters of the British Rhine Army, 8,500 of the Latvian soldiers interned in Camp Zedelghem were transferred to the British Zone of Germany (7-27 March 1946) and distributed among 8 military camps, while 156 ill soldiers were sent to German military hospitals. The remaining 3,000 soldiers were transferred from Belgium to Germany from 11-28 May 1946. The men were released from prisoner-of-war camps. All—with the exception of Baltic Germans—were given Displaced Persons status without individual screening. This was due to a cardinal decision of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Great Britain, to the effect, that "the soldiers of the Latvian Legion are not to be considered [Nazi] collaborators, except in cases where it can be proved that they had served voluntarily." All in all, British organizations dealt with the question of Baltic prisoners-of-war with a correct understanding of their tragic fate.
The freeing of Latvian soldiers from the American prisoner-of-war camps proved to be much more difficult; there, they were dispersed among the large (10,000-man) German camps, especially in Bavaria (Regensburg, Dachau, Babenhausen, Heilbronn, etc.). Latvian organizations had to first contact then, make up name lists, and then to try to have then assigned to separate Baltic units. The Americans first freed [the men serving in] units of the German Wehrmacht; however, they considered the soldiers of the Waffen SS as soldiers of the [Nazi] Party voluntary forces; therefore, they were classified as war. criminals. Later, the classification was made less stringent; however, it was added, that only the SS soldiers mobilized in 1944 would be freed; as for the rest, the NCO's (beginning with rank of sergeant) and all officers would remain for individual screening in civil internment. Following this decision, the camps holding SS men began to empty slowly. For example, from 26-29 June 1946, 641 Latvian soldiers were freed from Camp Regensburg, but 3O officers and NCO's were retained. Since the documents of the men freed were marked with the notice that they had been Waffen SS soldiers, then they automatically were excluded from Displaced Persons camps and care by UNRRA. Only after repeated explanatory memoranda forwarded to the headquarters of the American 3rd Army by the Latvian Red Cross, the Latvian Central Committee, and Archbishop T. Grinbergs [of the Lutheran Church of Latvia], did those headquarters in July and August 1946 order the documents of the released Latvian soldiers to be marked to the effect that they had been in "the Latvian Legion of the Wehrmacht." or simply Wehrmacht members. At the same time the release of Latvian officers held in civil internment (for the most part in Darmstadt), was begun. All in all, this action had ended by September, 1946.
In July of 1945, a total of about 20,750 Latvian soldiers were in British prisoner-of-war camps: In Putlos (Col. Kripens' group}—9,700; in Vesterboro (Col. Osis' group)—4,000; in the Heide-Hussum area (Lt.-Col. Viksnins' group)—2,500; in Neuengamm (Lt.-Col. Veckalnins' group)—1,200; in Belgium (Col. Janums' group)—1,550. When the soldiers held in American and French camps are added to the above number, the total number of Latvian soldiers in Western Europe at the time of [German] capitulation increases to about 25-30,000.
LIST OF PHOTOGRAPH CAPTIONS APPEARING IN THE SOURCE, BUT NOT REPRODUCED FOR THIS REPORT:
|Text of caption.|
|1289||"A Latvian police battalion leaves for the front, 1941.|
|1290||"The 10 February 1943 order, signed by Hitler and Himmler, concerning the formation of the Latvian Legion."|
|1292||"A Latvian legionnaire in Volkhov, October I943."|
|1293||"Latvian youths drafted in German army auxiliaries."|
|1294||"A flier of the Latvian Aviation Legion."|
|1294||"Machinegunners in street battles in Jelgava."|
|1295||"Street fighting in a city in Latgale province. A German tank moves through the rubble."|
|1295||"Men of the construction regiments digging a defensive position near Pozemsdorf (Torn), December 1944."|
|1296||"A bunker of the legionnaires of the 19th Division in Volkhov."|
|1296||"A group of Latvian Legionnaires in Volkhov, October 1943."|
|1297||"The funeral of the first Latvian Legionnaire killed in Volkhov, N. Mastickis, on 3 May 1943. Col. Veiss, commander of the 1st Regiment, stands at the grave."|
|1297||"Legionnaires being transported along narrow-gauge railroad, the Volkhov front."|
|1297||"The nain road (the so-called 'Erika' road) from the headquarters of the 19th Division to the forward positions."|
|1298||"Forward positions in Volkhov, August 1943."|
|1298||"In capt. Skrauja's advanced headquarters in Zaklinye village, 4 February 1944. From the left, Capt. Skrauja, Capt. Stipnieks, Col. Lobe."|
|1299||"The so-called 'Imanta house' in Volkhov, August . 1943. Third from the left—Col. Veiss; Fourth—Col. Lobe."|
|1299||"In an underground bunker in Volkhov, just before battle."|
|1300||"Command point of the 'Imanta' regiment on the banks of the Velikaya, March 1944. Regimental commader Col. Lobe and his aide-de-camp Capt. N."|
|1301||"Proceeding to forward positions with full battle equipment."|
|1301||"Col. Kocins walking along a timber-paved road, Volkhov."|
|1302||"The commander of the 19th Division,-general Streckenbach, and Col. Lobe—just having been decorated."|
|1302||"Observing new enemy positions in Russia."|
|1303||"The Inspector General visits the front (the Imanta regiment command point), June 1944. Left—Gen. Bangerskis; right—regimental commander Col. Plensners."|
|1303||"Col. A. Silgaills, chief of staff of the Inspector General of the Latvian Legion (right), in Hela peninsula, not far from Danzig. Fall, 1944."|
|1304||"3rd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of the Latvlan Legion, near Lake Kudevere."|
|1304||"On an improvised raft, across the 40 m wide Ushochka river. South of Vetrino, 19 April 1944."|
|1305||"Firing at Russian planes."|
|1306||"Assault on a height near the Latvian border."|
|1306||"15th Division's regimental coanander lt.-col. K. Aperats, recipient of the Knight's Cross."|
|1307||"A group of Latvian cadets of the Bad Toeltz military academy in Bavaria, leaving for ski training in the Alps, 8 March 1944."|
|1308||"An antitank gun being pulled into position."|
|1309 (map)||"The Dalgi-Aitkuja battles."|
|1310||"The 19th Division's company commander lt. Butkus, recipient of the Knight's Cross."|
|1311||"Ruins of the destroyed Ergli village."|
|1312||"Red Army prisoners digging a canal for floating timber, Ugale area, summer 1942."|
|1312 (map)||"The battle of More."|
|1313||"Riga on fire, 13 October 1944;. View from across Daugava."|
|1315||"Soldiers of the 15th Division near Tichow, Pomerania, being told that they are encircled by the enemy."|
|1316||"In Horst, near Swinemuende, under Russian artillery fire; the 15th Division is breaking through enemy encirclement on 10 Karch 1945. All around are seen men killed in action."|
|1317||"Latvian soldiers in Schwerin forest on 2 May 1945, one hour before becoming prisoners of war."|
|1318||"The Putlos prisoner of war camp, 27 July 1945. Col. Lobe is addressing the legionnaires; further back is seen R. Zuika'a choir."|
|1319/top left/||"Latvian soldiers surrendering to the British, Putlos."|
|1319/top right/||"The POW camp near Hagenau, beginning of May, 1945."|
|1319/mid. right/||"Prisoners receiving their daily rations."|
|1319/mid. right/||"Waiting for dinner, Danau village, Putlos."|
|1319/lower left/||"A house built by Latvian soldiers in Putlos, summer 1945."|
|"Food gathered by 'private enterprise' being prepared."|
|1320/left/||"A heatless and lightless barrack of the 'Ditch-diggers of Torn'; there, 30-40 Iatvian soldiers had to live in fall of 1944."|
|1320/right/||"A prisoner of war's hut, made from branches and reeds, Putlos."|
|1321/left/||"Gathering soldier songs, Putlos.*|
|132/right/||"A church built from ammunition boxes, in the upper floor of the Iatvian camp, summer 1946,"|
|As in the town crier.—Editor|
|Refers to photographs in the original encyclopedia article.—Editor|
Updated: August, 2015