Cameron’s Latvian Liaison, One Woman’s Petition and One SS March




O P I N I O N

by Monica Lowenberg

 

If you walked through a busy EU city today and came across Eichmann Allee, Hitler Strasse or even Goebbels Gasse you would initially think that someone was pulling your leg or you would start to raise, and rightly so, serious questions regarding the ruling government that would allow such blatant glorification of mass murderers to take place. You can therefore imagine how I felt, the daughter of a German Jewish refugee whose paternal Latvian Jewish family had all been brutally murdered in the Libau massacres of 1941 and Riga ghetto, to discover in 2011, that each and every 16 March, since 1998, SS veterans are glorified in the capital city of Riga in Latvia an EU and NATO country since 2004.

My name is Monica Lowenberg; I was born on a cold winter’s day in 1964, in ear shot of Bow Bells.

On January 20, 2012, I set up a petition to stop the 16th March marches in Riga, ninety years to the day from the date of birth of my uncle Paul Theodor Loewenberg who at age 19 was sent to the Riga Ghetto on 4 October 1941. The petition is as much an act of commemoration of the victims of Nazism as it is a tribute to the European parliamentarians, including a number from Latvia, who wisely and courageously signed on the 20 January last year 2012, the Seventy Years Declaration, commemorating Wannsee, a declaration which specifically rejects glorification of Latvia’s Waffen SS, along with Estonia’s Waffen SS and the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) in Lithuania.

In little over a month the petition gained from around the world over 5,800 votes, one year on it stands at just under 7,000 votes and the two early day motions by Dr. Barry Gardiner and Bob Blackman generated between them 34 supporters, 50% of them Labour, 5 conservatives, 5 liberal democrats and the rest other parties indicating that I am not alone in believing that such glorification is terribly wrong. One should also add that the ECRI, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance had already in 2008 explicitly stated,

“All attempts to commemorate persons who fought in the Waffen SS and collaborate with the Nazis should be condemned. Any gathering or march legitimizing in any way Nazism should be banned.”

The ECRI reiterated the same in their most recent report about Latvia released on the 21 February 2012. However, despite such support the March of the SS went on nevertheless, and so I flew to Riga last March 16 to protest.

On March 16th, 2012 in the heart of NATO, in an EU country, in Riga, more than 2,500 people, (75% of them under the age of 30), gathered to pay tribute to Latvians who fought on the side of Nazi Germany in Waffen SS detachments during World War II. Amongst them a large number of neo-Nazi activists from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, Norway and Denmark and Latvian officials and MEPs. Over the years the marches have been attended by the Latvian Chief-of-Staff, Secretary of Defense, members of the nation’s parliament and current and former ministers and officials. They herald the Latvian SS veterans as war heroes and freedom fighters as they claim they fought in German ranks to hold back a greater evil, the Soviet Union.

Each and every year these events have and are receiving tacit (and sometimes very explicit and public) support from state authorities (last year from the president himself) and are being attended in increasing numbers by deputies of the Latvian Parliament, members of the Riga City Council and officials of the Ministry of Defense. For example, the Latvian European MP Robert Zile who sits together with our British Conservatives in the European Parliament also supports the marches. Mr. Zile may have left the National Alliance, a party that is a result of two merging parties that both openly glorify Latvian SS veterans, “Fatherland and Freedom party” and “All for Latvia.” However, Mr. Zile is still connected with the “Fatherland and Freedom party” LNNK, a party that actively supports the marches.[1] It should also be noted that the party that Mr. Zile is connected to LNNK is the very same party that told the Latvian parliament that it has always been against the trial of Konrads Kalejs and other Latvians accused of Nazi crimes. Kalejs was a close assistant of Viktors Arajs, chief of the bloody Arajs Commando. He was an officer in one of the most notorious murder squads which assisted the Nazis in implementing the Final Solution and which actively participated in the mass murder of tens of thousands of Jews, primarily in Latvia but also in Belarus. (Kalejs was not sent to Belarus, but was involved in reprisals against civilians suspected of assisting Soviet anti-Nazi partisans.)

Aside from state and church officials supporting the marches, last year Archbishop Jānis Vanags officiated the proceedings and in a curiously detailed letter to myself the Latvian ambassador in London expressed his support for the events,

“In accordance with Latvia’s laws and regulations 16 March is not an official day of commemoration, however some former soldiers choose to pay their respects to their fallen comrades. Church services are held and people gather in cemeteries and lay flowers at the Monument of Freedom in Riga. I hope you will agree that church services and commemoration in cemeteries cannot be regarded as revision of history or glorification of Waffen SS. Even if some people regard Latvian legionnaires as war heroes, it is my sincere belief they do so because they fought, unfortunately in German, not Latvian uniforms against the Soviet Union.”

And once again he fervently supported the marches in his response of 1st March 2013 to David Amess Conservative MP, one of the five brave conservative MPs who signed the EDM against the marches, and who voiced serious concerns.

“If some former soldiers choose to pay their respects to their fallen comrades, they are entitled to do so… Let me reiterate, that Latvia has always condemned the crimes committed during World War II — the crimes of Nazism and Stalinism. Latvia is committed to the values of democratic and open society and we will endeavor to facilitate true consolidation of the people and countries who suffered under totalitarian regimes during World War II.”

Ambassador Stiprais fails to give the true picture, the marches are not only attended by a few soldiers but also as mentioned various politicians, thousands of misguided youth and various ultra-nationalist groups and factions that are Neo-Nazi in kind, originating from Latvia and neighboring European countries. For example, only last year on Latvian television Igor Shishkin, chair of the Gustavs Celmins society, claimed that according to the Geneva Convention, people who feel in danger have a right to armed resistance. As a consequence, he attended the 16 March march 2012 in Riga armed with a baton and invited skinheads and ultra-rights from Italy, Ukraine and Germany to join him. The harangue and calls made by such groups openly supports and promotes the “heroism” of SS veterans. However, more disturbing is that hundreds and thousands of youngsters and teenagers were and are asked to participate and march under Latvian state symbols and flags with officials and public state and church figures. Polite looking youth, looking up in absolute awe at the Waffen SS octogenarians, youth dressed in Armani and Hugo Boss. One would be excused for believing that times had not changed.

The Latvian legion of the Waffen SS was set up in the winter of 1943, only seventy years ago, under Hitler’s orders, and formally established on March 16th 1944. There is consensus amongst all Latvian historians that the day marks the only time that the two Divisions of the Legion (15th and 19th) fought together against the Red Army. Therefore, by making the 16th March a day to remember war dead, Latvians, (despite Latvian official protestations to the contrary), are making the day when Latvian volunteers fought in the 15th and 19th divisions of the SS an act of commemoration. As Israeli/Jewish critics have commented even if one takes the stance that the Latvian legionnaires were not criminals and that they were forced to fight for the Nazis, to honor the Legion is far from being a positive act and a far cry from a policy to publicly GLORIFY them. Glorification of pro-Nazi armed forces during World War II has no place in a European Union / NATO / OSCE country.

At the Monument of Freedom in the center of Riga where the SS lovers congregated last year, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one, I was jostled, harassed and made to feel unwelcome. I was told by a number of young Waffen SS supporters that even though my grandfather was born in Libau (Libava), Latvia and all of my Latvian Jewish family had lived for generations in Libau, until they were brutally murdered in the Libau massacres of 1941 and Riga Ghetto of the same year, I had no rights to be in Latvia as I was Jewish. The desire to equate Nazi crimes with Soviet became crucially apparent, when I was informed that I needed to be made aware that Latvians had suffered terribly under Stalin, Communism created by Jews was far worse than Nazism, how dare I tell them otherwise. One would be excused for believing that times have not moved on since 1941. And when Stiprais the Latvian ambassador in London publicly, without any shame, stated to a conservative MP David Amess in March 2013 that Latvia is committed to “facilitate true consolidation of the people and countries who suffered under totalitarian regimes during World War II” what he is really saying is “Hey, get Latvia off the hook, we were victims of Nazism and Stalinism, both were as bad as each other and we intend to change the history books to meet our ends.”

Yet, history shows that even though millions of people suffered under both regimes, they cannot be compared and nobody should be allowed to purposely muddy the historical record. If I look at just my own family, in total 35 members of my father’s family were brutally murdered in the Holocaust, 13 close members. However, only last September, I discovered that at the age of 66, my grandfather David Lowenberg/Levenbergs, an engineer in Berlin, unable to escape Nazi Germany left for Moscow in 1941 where he was falsely accused of being a spy, placed into the infamous Hotel Lux and sent to Siberia for five years. At 67, alone, he died in a freezing gulag somewhere in Novosibirsk. In 1989 his file was reviewed by a Moscow based Military Prosecutors office and his name rehabilitated. Yes, my family knows about the crimes of Stalin and the crimes of Hitler and we adulate neither of them or equate them as equal, no matter how terrible our loss has been, Ambassador Stiprais.

When fellow protester Joel Rubinfeld, co-president of the European Jewish Parliament in Brussels told the Latvian police and armed guards to ask the youngsters to stop desecrating the wreath we had placed down to the victims of Nazism, something we had been given legal permission to do by the mayor of Riga, he was ignored. When Rubinfeld gave during a TV interview a box of Belgian chocolates to a Latvian politician and asked him why the Latvians wouldn’t like to be famous for something pleasant that all can enjoy such as chocolates; something that has made Belgium world famous, rather than the Waffen SS, his chocolates were returned to him. You may laugh but in Latvia, contrary to what Latvian apologists may claim, the glorification of the Waffen SS is serious business. For let us not forget when questioned whether he thought the Latvian SS were criminals, Andris Berzins, Latvia’s President, stated to international uproar last year that it was ridiculous to see them as criminals but rather we should “bow our heads to them”!

One would be excused for believing that times have not changed since 1941. And the most popular selling calendar in Latvia last year was one that honored the bravery of the Latvian SS and in the capital Riga there may not be, as in Latvia’s neighbor Lithuania street names honoring mass murderers such as Juozas Ambrazevičius Brazaitis, the Nazi puppet prime minister of 1941 who signed papers confirming orders placing thousands of Jews into a ghetto (only last year this very same man was honored a full state-sponsored re-burial with honors which this year fascist youth groups emulated by having a picture of the very same man at the front of their march on February 16) or Škirpa (responsible for co-founding the Lithuanian Activist Front, which held deeply antisemitic and anti-Polish views and participated in the onset of the Holocaust in Lithuania) or Noreika, (who already in 1984 Der Spiegel had named responsible for the mass murder of the Jews of Plunge). However, in Latvia’s main military cemetery, the Brothers cemetery in Riga, a national Latvian monument in Bralu Kapi, located in the north eastern part of Riga, only five kilometers from the city center Voldemārs Veis is buried. Voldemars Veis (November 7, 1899 – April 17, 1944) was a lieutenant Colonel in the Latvian army and a prominent Nazi collaborator and chief of the auxiliary police. When Latvia fell to the Germans on July 1st 1941, he broadcasted a radio call for volunteers to enlist and rid Latvia of “traitors” that included Soviet functionaries, Communists and Jews. Many enlisted, and the “cleansing” began. Veis received from the Nazis an iron cross first class and was the first Latvian to receive the Knights cross; today he lies in a prime honored spot with a fresh red rose to boot. In 1995 the President of Latvia at the time Guntis Ulmanis presented Adolfs Shilde books to Latvian schools. Adolfs Shilde was one of the founders of the Perkonkrusts (the leader was Gustavs Celmins a man who is honored in the Museum of Occupation in Riga, a museum that curiously only devotes one small corner of its museum to the Latvian Jewish community and its extermination). An interesting fact that Latvian apologists like to overlook is that The Perkonkrusts already in 1930, eleven years before the Germans invaded expressed the desire to eliminate all Jews. Today Shilde’s books can be found in any serious public library in Latvia. Shilde, a great antisemite and Nazi collaborator called for the absolute annihilation of Jews. In 1942 in his annual review of events in Zemgalle, he stated,

“If we assess the most outstanding events of the past year, we cannot remain silent about the great joy we feel about the solution of the Jewish question in our country.”

By the close of 1942 the likes of Shilde and Veis had with the Germans successfully managed to murder, using the sardine method, close to 70,000 of Latvia’s Jews and by the level of support and almost idolatrous importance the Latvian SS veterans received from young Latvians in 2012, the reading of their books has indoctrinated them well. For despite condemnation from the international community and reports from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance that in 2008 explicitly stated and once again reiterated in February 2012:

“All attempts to commemorate persons who fought in the Waffen SS and collaborate with the Nazis should be condemned. Any gathering or march legitimizing in any way Nazism should be banned.”

The glorification of the Latvian SS took place on its usual date with alarming regularity, 16 March in 2012. Two months earlier, in January 2012 , many Latvian policymakers, had expressed their respect and admiration of former SS veterans. The political party “Visu Latviyyay!” announced that it was preparing a bill declaring the veterans of the SS Legion as national liberation movement fighters. Under the bill, former SS soldiers in Latvia would enjoy many benefits and advantages, in contrast to the veterans of the Allied forces who fought against Nazism. Yes, one could be excused for believing that times have not changed.

During World War II, the Nazis created 37 divisions of Waffen Schutzstaffel (Waffen SS) of which only 12 were comprised exclusively by Germans. Most of the members of the divisions were recruited among the so-called “Aryan” populations of the occupied or annexed countries. Although the Latvians were not all considered  “Aryan,” they were massively recruited. Out of 900,000 Waffen SS, almost 150,000 were Latvians thus being the largest foreign contingent while their country, Latvia, only had two million inhabitants. The Latvians were mainly placed in the 15th Infantry Division, which became the most decorated non-German Waffen SS unit receiving 13 Knight Crosses amongst them. Those Latvians of whom there were around 130,000 chose to fight for the Red army were described by Professor Vaira Vike-Freiberga sixth president of Latvia from 1999 to 2007 as “traitors.”

Many Latvians and Latvian apologists including tragically senior and eminent Conservatives such as Callanan, Hague, Hannan and Pickles have stated with almost religious fervor that the Latvian SS veterans “were only following orders” are suffering from what one can only term a special kind of blindness, one that the Latvian PR team has clearly afflicted them with. When Callanan in an email to myself towed the Latvian party line and forwarded to myself their historical narratives that maintain the Latvian Waffen SS legion could not have played a role in the Holocaust, as it was not officially formed until 1943 when nearly all of Latvian Jewry had already been murdered, Denis MacShane , former Europe minister was proved correct when he stated, in already 2009, that the Tories “dig ever-deeper the black hole that Tory European parliament policy has fallen into, as the spotlight shines on the banalization of Jew-killing in the second world war and the downplaying of contemporary antisemitism, the Conservatives will regret this alliance which shames British parliamentary democracy.” And as Peter Beaumont wrote in the Guardian in the same year,

“What is most shocking, perhaps, in this whole story is the intellectual and moral laziness of senior Tories. And the fact that they are so little troubled at being associated with a foreign party that associates itself – for whatever reason of nationalism and history – with Hitler’s Schutzstaffel: the SS.”

What Beaumont could not have been aware of was that not only do the senior Tories not care about the association they have made with Hitler’s SS but also what one can only surmise as a very close contact with the Latvian ambassador in London. For, coincidentally enough, on the very same day and within a few hours of receiving an email from the Latvian ambassador in London explaining why the march should go ahead, Mr. Martin Callanan, the chief whip, at the time, of the conservatives in the European Parliament, also wrote to me expressing very similar sentiments,

“It is very unfortunate that your purpose does not seem to be to clarify the historical facts about the Latvian Legion or to honor victims of the Genocide against the Jewish population, which is why I cannot sign your petition.”

A few hours after sending this email to myself Mr. Callanan publicly announced that he would be leaving his post as conservative chief whip,

“It has been a privilege to serve as Leader of Conservative MEPs for the last 16 months. It has been a tumultuous time for the EU and a fascinating time to lead the delegation. I am proud of the successes that Conservative MEPs are achieving and the hard work that we put in to defend the national interest. I would love to stay on but my commitment as the newly-elected chairman of our wider European grouping requires my full-time dedication. It was an enormous privilege to have been elected leader of the ECR last December.”

“There are no war crimes attributed to the Latvian units of the Waffen SS which was formed in 1943’, Ambassador Stiprais explained to myself on the same day (1 March 2012):

“Members of the notorious Arajs Komando constituted less than 1% of those enlisted and in most cases they were duly prosecuted after World War II. All the above mentioned was recognized by western allied authorities, including the UK government, when admitting former legionnaires to their territories. In a twist of irony, some were even enlisted by the US army to guard Nazi war criminals at the Nurnberg Tribunal… In light of the aforementioned I cannot see how your petition would help in bringing justice to the victims of war crimes or crimes against humanity, including the Holocaust. On the contrary, it would simply replicate some of the old but recently reheated Soviet propaganda about “those Fascist Latvians.” I can only regret that your research into the history of the Latvian legion was limited to communicating with Mr. Feigmanis (sic Mr. Feigmanis is actually a historian and has a PhD) and some left wing politicians in Latvia.” 

And in response to a very bold statement by Martin Bright, political editor of the Jewish Chronicle, who openly supported the campaign against the SS marches, Hannan in October 2012 chipped in,

“The charge, which had its origins in Soviet propaganda at the time when LNNK was leading the battle for independence from the USSR, is that party representatives attend an annual commemoration of the Latvian regiment of the Waffen-SS. The service is for those who fought against the Red Army, including, yes, those who volunteered to fight in German uniform. But it is attended by representatives of every party in Latvia except those which represent the Russian minority.”

A substantial amount of evidence including a series of personal accounts and confirmation received from the trial of German Nazi Adolph Eichmann, supports the contention that unknown numbers of Latvian Waffen SS soldiers had indeed been previously involved in the murder of Jews as auxiliary police between 1941 and 1942. 95.6 percent of Latvia’s pre-war Jewish population, were killed in 1941-42, just less than one in ten survived.

Approximately 67,000 Jews were living in Latvia at the time of the Nazi invasion in July 1941. Approximately 62,000 of them were killed during the Nazi occupation. About 30,000 Jews were killed already by mid-August 1941. The main agents of this murder were small German military units joined by the so-called Arājs Commando and assisted by Latvian auxiliary police, which consisted mainly of volunteers. In late 1941 approximately an additional 30,000 Latvian Jews were killed in a carefully organized execution using the “sardine method” also aided by Latvian police and Arājs Commando in Rumbula forest, just outside the capital city of Riga. After this, about 25,000 European Jews were brought to the Riga Ghetto by train and at least half of them were murdered by mid-1942. After this blood fest the murderers, Latvian Arajs commandos and auxiliary police, subsequently and freely then joined in 1943 and 1944 the Latvian SS Legion, the 15th and 19th divisions.

It truly does take a special kind of blindness for apologists to argue today that the Latvian Legion per se did not murder, virtually all of their Latvian compatriots; who happened to be Jewish as the Legion was formed in 1943 and 1944 and Latvian Jews were in the main murdered before the Legion was formed. Such an argument is simply an exercise in finding a loophole and a morally reprehensible one at that. It should be noted those very same executioners consisting of 16 battalions of Latvian police and the notorious Arajs Team” led by Viktor Arajs participated in 1941-1942 in the Holocaust in not only Latvia but also took an active part in the liquidating of ghettos in Belarus and Poland, as well as in the destruction of civilian villages in Belarus and Russia’s Pskov region. It is as Tony Patterson in an article in the Independent wrote, after attending the 2010 SS march, “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.” It is also a travesty of justice that these murderers should be honored today with the glib consent of some senior British conservatives. Not receiving proper initial rebuff from the Latvian authorities and the international community, the marches” organizers invited in 1998 heads of the diplomatic missions to attend. However, the German Ambassador to Latvia, Mr. Hurst Wiesel, indignantly rejected the invitation and Chancellor of Germany, Helmut Kohl, and French President, Jacques Chirac publicly condemned the event. Today, one needs to ask the question would the Latvian ambassador in London or President Berzins have been so outspoken of their support of the marches before 2009 and their alliance with Cameron?

Under international pressure, in 1999, the Latvian Saeima was forced to delete March 16th from the official calendar. Yet, ultra-radical, social and political organizations have started to place the date once more into the public arena. One also needs to point out that as much as the ambassador may not like to realize this ceremonies in churches and cemeteries are also forms of honoring the deceased (whether they deserve it or not). Witness the masses held in Zagreb and Split, Croatia in December 2011 in honor of the Croatian mass murderer and leader of the Ustashe Ante Pavelic.

On the 14 July 2009, a sort of summer Valentine’s day, perhaps as an antidote to the French revolution and certainly as a means of not having to sit at the same table as Sarkozy or Merkel, the traditional center right in the European union, the British conservatives and fortunately, not with the consent of all of their members, decided to get into bed with some strange allies, people who think that the Waffen SS and Jew killers are good bed pals. A party who are antisemitic, homophobic and xenophobic. Why would anyone wish to ally themselves with such a strange group of people? Short sighted political opportunism.

The Conservatives keen to position Britain as hostile to European integration (to further European Union integration) looked for parties who don’t like Brussels, and they ended up in the case of Latvia with Robert Zile a party with just one MP in the European parliament who associate themselves with anti-Stalinism, anti–Sovietism but also the Waffen SS. So why has there not been more uproar? Probably because the British public have been more concerned with domestic policies rather than foreign alliances. However, in a world today where the far right is rising the British public and Cameron can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to such links and close ears when Cameron is accused of being “untrustworthy” by Merkel, incenses Sarkozy or forget about the guillotine that fell on the head of Conservatives such as true blue Yorkshire MEP Edward Macmillan Scott who dared to state that “Cameron was flirting with respectable fascism.”

When Cameron’s Latvian liaison all kicked off David Miliband stated,

“David Cameron has shown not leadership but pandering, not judgment but dogma, not patriotic defense of national interest but the white flag of surrender to euro-extremists in his own party.”

In response to the speech Mr. Hague, shadow foreign secretary, said:

“David Miliband’s smears are disgraceful and represent a failure of his duty to promote Britain’s interests as foreign secretary. He has failed to check his facts. He has just insulted the Latvian Government, most of whose member parties have attended the commemoration of Latvia’s war dead.”

However, as we can see now it is William Hague and his epigones such as Daniel Hannan who have failed to check their facts. And to the world’s shame not one, not a single one of the numerous Latvian killers who collaborated with the Nazis has been brought to justice since Latvia obtained its independence. As Dr. Efraim Zuroff director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre stated in the Guardian already in 2009

“The results speak for themselves. Although there were numerous Nazi war criminals who could still be brought to trial, not a single one was ever punished in the Baltics, which had the worst record of local collaboration, and only two have been punished in democratic Eastern Europe. Although various leaders issued public apologies (usually in Israel, almost never at home), they failed to deliver in terms of prosecution, restitution, education and documentation. Even worse, Holocaust-related issues became the main cause of renewed local antisemitism, which threatened the minuscule remnant Jewish communities in these countries.  

“For some reason, these issues, which should have been highly significant in determining the candidacy of these countries for European Union and NATO membership, were apparently not taken into account. Suddenly, these countries have the legitimacy of those memberships without having fully internalized the concomitant values. Miliband is correct in pointing out the obvious flaws of the Conservatives’ new allies. But they are only the tip of the eastern European right wing, which is determined to rewrite the history of the Second World War in a way that no self-respecting European should accept. By joining forces with parties such as Fatherland and Freedom and Law and Justice, the Conservatives are granting important legitimacy to a false narrative that seeks to whitewash war crimes and erase the heroic victory of those who saved the world from Hitler and the Nazis.”

Latvian apologists who believe that it is insulting to taint the whole Latvian legion with the same brush as those who committed atrocities in 1941 and 1942 should note it was the 15th infantry division who entrenched themselves in Berlin and engaged in the last military actions of the Third Reich. It was Latvian legionnaires who participated in the defense of the Reich’s Chancellery in Berlin in April-May 1945, right next to their Fuhrer Hitler to whom they swore an allegiance, defending him from Soviet attacks. Now, if that is not collaboration what is? To maintain that as the Latvian Legion guarded at the Nurnberg trials they therefore must be “kosher” or if you prefer “legit” the reality is that only a third of them did so, in the exterior ring not because they were innocent of crimes but because they spoke good German! Other rings were composed of Americans, allied troops and police. They should also question the following: Ivan Demyanyuk, like the Latvian legionnaires, also worked for the Americans immediately after the war; does this mean he is not a criminal? Finally, can one truly make a distinction between good SS and bad Mr. Hague? But even those who for you are “better” are not appropriate objects of adulation and glorification in member states of the EU and NATO.

A return to nationalism, a rise of the right or as Denis MacShane former Europe minister has commented “a renationalism of Europe where material interests have become more important than creating a common European home” is now occurring. In Latvia today the Waffen SS marches, their glorification of Latvian SS veterans has one can conclude its roots in a desire to rebel against what they see as their oppressor Russia. Between 1939-1944 due to the Hitler Stalin pact, 1 in 20 Latvians were deported to Siberia, many ethnic Latvians suffered deeply but one must not forget that 95.6% of Latvian Jewry was murdered prior to 1944 by men who then later joined the Latvian legion. In a world, certainly not the same but reverberating echoes of 1929, it would be wise to remember the economic world crash. A time where in Germany alone there were six million unemployed coupled with a deeply insane need to find a scapegoat for economic suffering, the “Bolshevik, Marxist, greedy, Christian blood-sucking Jews” became that scapegoat within Europe. And if one cared to count the number of attacks on Jews across the world in recent years or simply browsed through the comments on You Tube pages one could be excused in concluding that the same sentiments are reoccurring again, in countries such as Latvia where ironically today hardly any Jews exist.

To avoid such inflammatory situations it is incumbent upon the EU to ensure that any form of glorification of Nazism is stamped down tightly. If such glorification has to take place then let it take place down a dark alley with no support from state officials rather than down the main streets of an EU capital aligned with patriotic youth and politicians who should know better. As Labour Glyn Ford MEP has said such marches attract the “fascist right and the fascist lite” both are dangerous particularly when we now consider the kind of right wing extremists that exist in the EU today the Jobbik party, BNP, Marie le Pen and Golden Dawn to name but a few. Parties that in the spirit of democracy are entitled to stay and gain disturbing momentum with disillusioned, unemployed youth who social networking savvy may not have economic know how and clout but certainly know how to rally their troops of hate.

The SS was the greatest Jew killing machine the world has ever known. It didn’t contain some ranks that could be seen as “good” and for anyone and for certainly public elected figures to state that they were simply obeying orders is quite frankly grossly irresponsible and naive. One cannot as Dovid Katz of Defending History.com has pointed out many times be committed to human rights and pluralism and adulate Hitler’s forces at the same time. As David Cesarani, former director of the Wiener Library and historian wrote in The Guardian in 2009:

“By  allying with right-wingers who propound this distorted view of the past, the Conservatives are implicitly giving legitimacy to their narrative. This is not just a matter of historical interpretation; it has implications for public policy today and in the future. It is a version of the past that justified discrimination against the Russian minority in post-independence Latvia. It is a national story that militates against cosmopolitanism and works, instead, in favor of an exclusive identity. To befriend these extremists is to betray the democrats and pluralists in Latvia who, since 1991, have worked so hard to tell the truth about their country’s tragic experiences under two totalitarian regimes.”

Along with the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury and the English common law finding its most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence, the UK has much to feel proud of. However, a little liaison with Latvia is not on that list. Would Churchill not be rolling in his grave if he knew that such public displays of Nazi glorification were being accepted by his political heirs?

When Churchill declared on the 13 May 1945, “Never before in the history of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,”  he did not in the same breath say “And let us not forget to commemorate Hitler’s forces as well .” No, he did not Mr. Cameron!

 


[1] see http://foto.delfi.lv/picture/2687824/ that shows the following members of the LNNK party attending the 2012 SS march: Raivis Dzintars (VL-TB/LNNK), Jānis Dombrava (VL-TB/LNNK), Inara Mūrniece (VL-TB/LNNK), Kārlis Kresliņš (VL-TB/LNNK), Dzintars Rasnačs (VL-TB/LNNK), Inese Laizāne (VL-TB/LNNK) , Vineta Poriņa (VL-TB/LNNK), Dzintars Kudums (VL-TB/LNNK) and Ilmārs Latkovskis (VL-TB/LNNK) and from Riga city council Jānis Atis Krūmiņš. For full details of all members of the 11th Latvian Saeima, see: http://titania.saeima.lv/personal/deputati/saeima11_depweb_public.nsf/deputies?openview&lang=EN&count=1000

This entry was posted in Aleksandrs Feigmanis, Celebrations of Fascism, EU, Events, Latvia, Monica Lowenberg, Neo-Nazi & Fascist Marches, News & Views, Opinion, Politics of Memory, Riga's Waffen SS Marches, United Kingdom. Bookmark the permalink.
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