Of perpetrators, victims and collaborators (III)

Eighty years ago, Nazi criminals and Nazi collaborators started the first pogroms and murders of Jews in the Baltic States. Baltic collaborators are hounored today as “freedom fighters”. This fascist glorification is enabled by Canada and the United States who present themselves as the greatest opponents of “anti-semitism”. Third in a series.

Rally in Riga, Latvia opposes the annual march to rehabilitate Latvian members of the Nazi’s Waffen SS, March 16, 2017.

BERLIN (german-foreign-policy.com) – In the shadow of the invading Wehrmacht, German Nazi criminals started the first pogroms and mass murders of the Soviet Union’s Jewish population exactly 80 years ago together with Central and Eastern European collaborators. On June 24, 80 years ago, for example, pogroms began in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas under the eyes of Wehrmacht soldiers, in which German and Lithuanian perpetrators fell victim to 3,800 Jews by June 29.

Only five per cent of the approximately 200,000 Lithuanian Jews survived the Shoah in Lithuania, during which the German human criminals had continuous support from Lithuanian accomplices. Estonia provided – with a pre-war population of around 1.2 million people – around 60,000 volunteers for the Nazi struggle against the Soviet Union, Latvia – with 1.8 million inhabitants – a good 100,000. Local Waffen SS men are honoured today in the Baltic States with monuments and memorial marches: as “freedom fighters” against Moscow. As in Ukraine, this corresponds to the West’s current front position against Russia.

Start of the war of extermination

Unit of the 15th Latvian SS Division marching in the city of Riga, summer 1943. Their Latvian arm flashes can be seen on their right hand sleeves. Huge numbers of Latvians volunteered for the German war effort against the Soviet Union – eventually some 148,000 Latvian men and women volunteered for all kinds of services, from military units to labor to auxiliary police units. This amounted to just over 12 per cent of the entire Latvian population – the most any nation can spare in times of war. Some of the Latvian SS men fought on against the Communists as partisans until the 1950s.

When the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union 80 years ago and started the war of annihilation, they could not only rely on willing collaborators in the Ukraine (german-foreign-policy.com reported [1]), but also in the Baltic States. Even before the attack, Berlin had recruited Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian exiles who were smuggled into their countries of origin at the time of the attack in order to establish contacts with anti-Soviet underground fighters. [2] They supported the Wehrmacht as best they could in the fight against the Soviet Union.

At the same time, the Baltic Nazi collaborators began the first mass murders of the Jewish population – in some cases even before the arrival of the German troops. In Kaunas (Lithuania) the acts of violence escalated as soon as the Wehrmacht marched in on June 24, 1941, 80 years ago yesterday; By June 29, 1941 alone, around 3,800 Jews had been murdered there. The massacre of June 27, 1941 in the courtyard of the Lietūkis garage on Vytautas Prospect, where Lithuanian Nazi collaborators killed up to 200 Jews in front of German soldiers, is documented in Wehrmacht photos. [3] Polish resistance fighters and Soviet prisoners of war were also murdered in the following weeks.

“No more Jews in Lithuania”

The extermination collaboration shaped the entire Baltic region in the summer of 1941. The historian Wolfram Wette states that Lithuania was “something of a test site.” There, “SS task forces, police units and civil administration in complicity with the Wehrmacht and local collaborators” tested “how quickly and thoroughly they proceed with their gruesome work of extermination.” could “. [4]

According to a Nazi document dated December 1, 1941 (“Jäger Report”), 137,346 Jews had been murdered by then. The author noted: “There are no more Jews in Lithuania, except for the working Jews including their families”. Overall, only five per cent of the approximately 200,000 Lithuanian Jews survived.

In Latvia, too, the first extermination operations began when the German troops marched in, with the participation of collaborators. The notorious Arājs Command, which was led by the former law student Viktors Arājs and comprised up to 1,200 members, is held responsible for nearly 30,000 murders of Latvian Jews. [5] Of the roughly 70,000 Latvian Jews, hardly more than 1,000 survived.

Jewish women humiliated before being shot by Latvian Nazi collaborators, war criminals that Tribute to Liberty in Ottawa describes as “victims of communism.” | defendinghistory.com
The biggest massacres took place in the forest of Ponary, a village just 3.7 miles outside Vilnius, and at Rumbula, near the Latvian capital Riga. Between late 1941 and September of 1943, when the Vilnius ghetto was closed down, as many as 100,000 civilians are believed to have been shot in the pine forest by Ponary. At Rumbula on 30 November and 8 December 1941, 12 German machine gunners shot about 25,000 Jews who were marched to their death from the Riga ghetto by Latvian police. Countless other sites have passed from memory and lie unmarked.
Memorial at the Ponary killing pits. Countless other sites have passed from memory and lie unmarked.

In Estonia, three quarters of the approximately 4,000 Jews were able to flee to the Soviet Union in time; the remaining 1,000 were murdered within a very short time by the Germans and their Estonian collaborators.

“Low fear of contact”

With the secession from the Soviet Union, the memory of those who fought against the Soviet army in the Second World War – the old Nazi collaborators – has been strengthened in the Baltic states. In Estonia, for example, a number of monuments have been erected since the 1990s to honour Estonian volunteers of the Waffen SS. In June 2018, international protests provoked that a memorial stone was erected in the Estonian village of Mustla for Alfons Rebane – an Estonian who rose to the rank of standard leader of the Waffen SS, then fought underground against the Soviet Union after the war and finally in 1961 the Federal Republic fled.

With a view to the protests against the honour of the man, the daily newspaper Die Welt stated that “in Estonia as in the two other Baltic states Lithuania and Latvia” the fear of contact with the Waffen-SS is low today “-” because it is much more important “ “many local activists seem to be turning against their large and aggressive neighbour Russia”. [6] During World War II, Estonia provided more volunteers for the war against the Soviet Union than most other countries – around 60,000 out of just 1.2 million inhabitants. [7]

“Freedom fighter”

In Latvia, too, the proportion of volunteers for the war of extermination against the Soviet Union was exceptionally high – with a good 100,000 out of around 1.8 million non-Jewish inhabitants. Every year on March 16, a memorial march is held in the Latvian capital of Riga in memory of the Latvian members of the Waffen SS, in which the last surviving veterans take part. As a study confirmed a few years ago, Waffen SS members in Latvia are “largely uncritically venerated as freedom fighters” – because they waged war against the Soviet Union. [8]

They are also presented in this sense in the official Riga “Occupation Museum”. According to a survey by the Latvijas Universitāte in Riga, “every second ethnic Latvian” – as opposed to the large Russian-speaking minority – would be in favour of making March 16 a memorial day; Support for this is strongest among young Latvians between the ages of 18 and 24. [9] The date of commemoration on March 16 was made in the 1950s by an organization called Daugavas Vanagi (“Hawks of the Daugava”); Daugavas Vanagi was an exile association of Latvian Waffen SS men founded in 1945.

“As long as they are against Russia, they are heroes”

In Lithuania, too, Nazi collaborators are honoured, for example with monuments and memorial plaques. One of them is Jonas Noreika, a Lithuanian officer who worked in the district administration in Šiauliai after the German invasion and was involved there among other things with the expropriation of Jews and signed murder orders. [10] Noreika is revered in Lithuania to this day because he fought underground against the Soviet Union after his country was liberated from Nazi rule. When public figures in 2015 petitioned for a plaque honouring him to be removed in Vilnius for his involvement in the Shoah, the state-funded Genocide and Resistance Research Center of Lithuania denounced the signatories by claiming that the “contempt” that is “shown to Lithuanian patriots” is “organized by neighbours from the east”; what was meant was Russia. [11]

An American author, Silvia Foti, Noreika’s granddaughter, recently published a book about his life in which she documents, among other things, his signature under more than a hundred deportation orders and an order to murder 2,000 Jews in the northwest of the country. Foti accuses the current Lithuanian government of “Holocaust denial and revisionism”. [12] There have been no reactions so far. As early as 2018, the last living Jew among those born in Vilnius before the German invasion in June 1941 stated with resignation: “Whatever someone says and does – as long as they are against Russia, they are heroes.” [13]

More on the topic: Of Perpetrators, Victims and Collaborators (I) and Of perpetrators, victims and collaborators (II)

Endnotes

[1] S. dazu Von Tätern, Opfern und Kollaborateuren (II).

[2] Rolf-Dieter Müller: An der Seite der Wehrmacht. Hitlers ausländische Helfer beim “Kreuzzug gegen den Bolschewismus” 1941-1945. Frankfurt am Main 2010.

[3] S. dazu Tote Erinnerung.

[4] Wolfram Wette: Karl Jäger. Mörder der litauischen Juden. Frankfurt am Main 2011.

[5] S. dazu “Freiheitskämpfer” in Riga.

[6] Sven Felix Kellerhoff: Darf ein estnischer SS-Offizier geehrt werden? welt.de 25.06.2018.

[7] Rolf-Dieter Müller: An der Seite der Wehrmacht. Hitlers ausländische Helfer beim “Kreuzzug gegen den Bolschewismus” 1941-1945. Frankfurt am Main 2010.

[8] Rebekka Blume: Das lettische Okkupationsmuseum. Das Geschichtsbild des Museums im Kontext der Diskussionen über die Okkupationszeit in der lettischen Öffentlichkeit. Arbeitspapiere und Materialien der Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, Bremen, Nr. 83. Juli 2007.

[9] S. dazu “Freiheitskämpfer” in Riga.

[10] Jonas Noreika (1910-1947). gedenkorte-europa.eu.

[11] Andrew Higgins: Nazi Collaborator or National Hero? A Test for Lithuania. nytimes.com 10.09.2018.

[12] Lithuanian Government Engaging in ‘Holocaust Denial,’ Says Author of Book Exposing Her Grandfather’s Past as Nazi Collaborator. algemeiner.com 21.06.2021.

[13] Andrew Higgins: Nazi Collaborator or National Hero? A Test for Lithuania. nytimes.com 10.09.2018.

More on this topic

Tribute to Liberty’s Definition of Victims of Communism

TML Weekly Information Project, March 18, 2017 – No. 9

War Criminals in Canada: Nazis in Nova Scotia

By ED STODDARD* with TONY SEED

Shunpiking Magazine, February-March 1998, Volume 3, Number 18

2 Comments

Filed under Europe, History

2 responses to “Of perpetrators, victims and collaborators (III)

  1. Pingback: Of perpetrators, victims and collaborators (II) | Tony Seed's Weblog

  2. Pingback: Of perpetrators, victims and collaborators (I) | Tony Seed's Weblog

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