Latvian Exhibit in Ottawa: Canadian War Museum should be condemned for falsifying what Canadians stand for

Exhibition at Canadian War Museum (Embassy of Latvia)

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is featuring a special exhibit titled “The Latvian Tragedy – 1941.” The exhibit coincides with Latvia’s use of March 16, to hail Nazi collaborators in that country as freedom fighters and to declare that in 1941 the Soviet Union, which was the first country to seriously prepare to counter the Nazi assault on itself and all of Europe, was the invader, not Hitler’s Germany. The exhibit runs from March 3-22, 2020.[1]

The exhibit, presented by the Embassy of Latvia, is a joint venture of Latvia’s Museum of the Occupation and the Museum of Jews in Latvia. In the promotional flyer, the Latvian historians who authored the exhibit claim that the main motivation for the exhibit is to declare that the “Republic of Latvia, restored in 1991, condemns all perpetrators of crimes against humanity in the tragic year 1941.” In fact, the exhibit is full of gross distortions and falsifications of the history of Latvia and the battles waged by the Soviet Union and the peoples of Eastern Europe against the German fascist aggressors. The dishonesty can be seen in the opportunistic use of the vicious persecution of Latvian Jews. More than 80 per cent of Latvian Jews were brutally murdered during this period but the exhibit purposely forgets to mention that as the German Nazis swept into Latvia in June 1941 they found willing accomplices in the rounding up and murdering of Jews by a Latvian organization called Arajs Kommando. This organization was led by Victor Arajs, a rabid anti-communist and anti-Semite who not only assisted the German fascists in the extermination of Jews, but was also responsible for the most brutal crimes against the Roma and mentally ill people.

A panel in the exhibit depicts the story of Frida Michelson, one of the a few survivors of the infamous Rumbula massacre. The exhibit bemoans the fact that more than 28,000 Jews were killed in the Rumbula Forest near Riga from November 30 to December 8, 1941, but it fails to explain that this mass extermination of Jews from Riga was carried out by members of the Arajs Kommando, in collaboration with the German Nazis. In her testimony as a witness in the trial of Karlis Detlays in New York City in 1979, Mrs. Michelson identified him as the Latvian and Nazi collaborator who ordered her to remove her clothes and valuables before she was driven to the ditch where the mass executions took place. In addition to the massacre at Rumbula Forest, the Arajs Komando were responsible for mass killings in Jelgava, Daugavpils, Liepaja, and Riga. None of this is brought out in the exhibit, which portrays Nazi collaborators as national heroes fighting for Latvian freedom against alleged Soviet aggression. Official Canadian liberal ideology is anti-communist and also spreads the misconception that Russia was an aggressor and collaborated with Hitler based on the non-aggression pact it signed with Germany in 1939, while remaining silent about the Anglo-French collaboration at Munich which betrayed the peoples of Europe and permitted the Nazi aggressions, occupations and murders to take place.

Latvian collaborators with the Nazis detain the Jewish population of Riga, before taking them to be executed and buried en masse, 1941.

In 1943, Arajs Kommando was incorporated into the Latvian Legion, which became known as the Latvian Waffen SS Legion. In July 1943 the Latvian Legion, in its mission “Winterzauber” (Wintercharm) together with seven Latvian police battalions were involved in destroying a swathe of countryside some 40 kilometres wide alongside the Latvian frontier. Several hundred villages were destroyed with tens of thousands of inhabitants killed. This was a crime of the Latvian Legion itself. For his many war crimes Arajs was captured, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.[2] The exhibit at the Canadian war museum fails to explain that this is the same Latvian Waffen SS Legion which is honoured every year on March 16 with a parade through the streets of Riga. Last year, Latvia’s Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks drew international scorn when he proclaimed the Latvian SS Legion to be heroes. Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, spoke out against the March 16 events in Riga. He said, “In reality the ceremony was in certain respects only the tip of a very dangerous iceberg that is attempting to rewrite the history books and create a false symmetry or equalization of communist and Nazi crimes. While the march was not organized by the government, it is obvious that there is a strong support for its message among Latvian leaders.”

Far from condemning these perpetrators of murderous crimes, the Canadian War Museum, in collaboration with the Latvian government, is participating in the falsification of history to cover up the crimes of Nazi collaborators, thus preparing for new crimes under the guise of defending the “independence of Latvia.”

Attempts to equate German fascism with the Soviet Union by accusing the Soviet Union of aggression and occupation of Latvia or anywhere else during World War II is to turn truth on its head. It was German fascism’s unbridled imperialism with the aim of world domination which posed the greatest threat to the peoples of Eastern Europe and it was the actions taken by the Soviet Union at that time which laid the foundation for defeating the Nazi invaders. Far from being an aggressor, as the exhibit falsely claims, the Soviet Union during the period of the non-aggression pact with Germany on September 3, 1939, moved Red Army troops into Poland, Western Byelorussia and Western Ukraine and established defences along this line. The Soviet Union also signed pacts of mutual assistance with the Baltic states and Soviet army garrisons were established on the territory of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

A pamphlet issued by the Soviet Information Bureau in February 1948 called Falsificators of History explained the importance of establishing the “Eastern front:” “it was not hard to see that the creation of an ‘Eastern’ front was an important contribution not only to the organization of the security of the USSR but to the common cause of the peace-loving states that were fighting against Hitler’s aggression. Nevertheless, the answer of Anglo-Franco-American circles in their overwhelming majority was to remain silent about their appeasement of Hitler in Munich and start a malicious anti-Soviet campaign describing the Soviet action as aggression.”[3]

Anyone who visits the exhibition in the war museum will see that the content is just the continuation of this malicious anti-Soviet campaign. In fact, the measures taken by the Soviet Union under the leadership of J.V. Stalin and the enormous sacrifices made by the Soviet Red Army – at all times facing 85 per cent of the elite German Wehrmacht – led to victory in liberating all of Eastern Europe and changed the course of world history. By hosting this exhibit and promoting the lies of the Latvian government, the government of Canada and the War Museum are openly promoting Nazism in the name of defending freedom and human rights. They condemn themselves as extremists and hate-mongers despite claims that they oppose all extremes. Theirs is a betrayal of all Canadians, especially Canada’s World War II anti-fascist veterans, along with all the Allied Armed Forces and resistance fighters who fought and died in the battle to defeat fascism. Most importantly, this is not about the past but the present. Today, Canada has about 540 Canadian Army members in Latvia as part of a NATO deployment who are made to participate in ceremonies honouring Nazi collaborators, with the claim that they were freedom fighters or that these are official duties. It must not pass!

The War Museum deserves to be condemned for this exhibit, which falsifies what Canadians stand for.


1. The War Museum has announced via its website, “Due to the COVID-19 virus, the national museums have made the decision to close the museums across Canada to visitors and all other groups, effective Saturday, March 14 and until further notice. […]”

2. “Riga,Viktor Arajs, March 16, the Latvian Legion and the Holocaust” by Clemens Heni, Wissenschaft und Publizistik als Kritik, March 22, 2010.

3. Falsificators of History – text of a communique issued by the Soviet Information Bureau, Moscow, February, 1948.

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 8 – March 14, 2020

Article Link:
Latvian Exhibit in Ottawa: Canadian War Museum Should Be Condemned for Falsifying What Canadians Stand For


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