Latvian Government Again Claims that Waffen SS Monument is “Not a Nazi Memorial”




OPINION  |  LATVIA  |  BELGIUM  |  COLLABORATORS GLORIFIED  |  HISTORY  |  POLITICS OF MEMORY  |  LEGACY OF JUNE 23rd 1941

by Roland Binet (De Panne, Belgium)

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…”  Above, some Latvian Waffen SS members fighting for Hitler during World War II. Now, a monument in Belgium honors them as supposed war heroes…

At a public event last month, speaking of the painfully disputed monument glorifying Latvian Waffen SS forces in the Belgian town of Zedelgem, the Latvian  Acting Under Secretary of State Atis Lots  proclaimed that ” an erroneous interpretation of those historical events has appeared in the Belgian media”, and he called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium to engage with the Zedelgem municipality in the resolution of the problem.” {cf. picture}. Although 4 leading Belgian French and Dutch-speaking newspapers and a weekly agreed that the “Zedelgem Beehive” is a prima facie monument to Nazi forces, the official statement from the MFA in Latvia implies that the monument will remain untouched.  It is, in fact, a tribute to the Waffen SS, considered to be war criminals  by the free world.

From left: Belgian Ambassador Hugo Brauwers and Latvian Under Secretary of State Atis Lots at the July 15, 2021 public event at which the Under Secretary extolled his nation’s Waffen SS.

There has been extensive PR hype from Latvian writers and historians in order to exculpate Latvia from all blame except for the villainous acts of the Arajs Kommando. Sometimes, these pseudo-historical demonstrations were not devoid of antisemitic slurs or bias {see ‘Holocaust folklorists’} as for example in this book published in 2005, of which Valters Nollendorfs was copy editor (the same Nollendorfs who gave the speech in Zedelgem in 2018!). Master doubletalk apologist historian Andrew Ezergailis denied “whitewashing Latvians” (page 195) but rejoiced in naming the true falsifiers of history, claiming as usual that any who state the known and accepted narrative must be KGB lackies of one sort or another.

One of the most disturbing aspects of present-day Latvia is that although many  Latvian Nazi collaborators espoused Hitler’s genocidal conflation of Bolshevism with the Jewish people Jewry, in Mein Kampf as well as in the infamous addressto the Reichstag on 30 January 1939), the conflation is one that continues to occur in twenty-first century Latvian (and other Baltic and East European historiography, often cleverly presented to appear neutral or mainstream.

Just a few facts on Latvian’s continued revisionism and palpable antisemitism:

  • In  his “Unpunished Crimes, Latvia under Three Occupations,” author Frank Gordon writes that “Stalin and Beria crowned all that with a Machiavellian decree, appointing a Russian Jew, Semion Shustin, as People’s Commissar for State Security in the Latvian SSR. Many of his assistants, especially in the KGB, were local Jews…” (in Daugavas Vanagi, 2003).  This seems to imply that there might have been a moral justification for the subsequent murder of close to one hundred percent of the Jews of Latvia. Representatives of this brotherhood of Latvian Waffen SS were present at the inauguration in Zedelgem monument in Belgium. Indeed, they organized the infamous March 16 marches in Latvia.

  • “Baigais Gads” (‘The Year of Horror’), an antisemitic pamphlet originally published in 1942, and displaying on its cover a picture of Latvian victims of the NKVD (hence the supposed responsibility of the Jews!) was republished in 1998. In 2003 it came out in Latvian, English and Russian.

Cover of the blatantly antisemitic pamphlet “Baigais Gads” of 1942, reprinted in 1998 and 2002 for modern audiences.

  • In my visits of the Latvia War Museum and the Museum of the Occupation in Riga in 2009, 2010, 2012, I have seen pictures displayed of Latvian Waffen SS men; books glorifying the “Latvian Legionnaires” were on sale in the entrance halls (cf. picture). It is though a known historical fact that a percentage of these Waffen SS men had previously been Jew-killers (Arajs Kommando and/or other fascist organizations) or had had guard duties at ghettos or camps in Latvia. Let us note, too, that the Museum of the Occupation is largely funded by the Latvian government.

  • Each year in Riga, on March 16, there is a march in honor of the Waffen SS. “In 2012, the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance published its report on Latvia…in which it condemned commemorations of persons who fought in the Waffen SS and collaborated with the Nazis.”  It is to be noted that although usually the Riga City municipality forbids the marches, the Latvian courts habitually overrule the multicultural city government and allow the glorifiers of Nazism to proceed in the cherished city center.

  • In the actual history book Extermination of the Jews in Latvia 1941-1945 (Riga, 2008), Myriam Zalmanovich, mentions some startling facts about present-day Latvia: (1) “…since regaining its independence, Latvia has ‘rehabilitated’ 41 people out of those sentenced during the post-war period for murdering Jews. These included members of the ‘self-defense’ units and the Arajs Commando” (2) “Konrad Kalejs was among the senior officers of the Arajs Commando”. He was convicted of false declarations and deported from the US in 1994, then later from Canada. He was allowed to stay in the UK until 2000. He later went back to Australia (in January 2000) as he was an Australian citizen. “Throughout this time, Latvia — the country where Kalejs had committed his atrocities — never requested his extradition for the purpose of prosecution.”

  • The Prosecutor General’s Office of Latvia has decided to end the investigation against famed pilot Herberts Cukurs, who during the World War II has joined the SD Latvian auxiliary police unit under Viktors Arājs, created by Nazi occupational authorities, that took part in murder of more than 30,000 Jews during the Holocaust. The case was opened in 2006 based on the Paragraph 71 (“Genocide”) of Latvia’s Criminal Law, and was terminated due to” absence of elements” of the crime. This has stimulated the relatives of Cukurs to renew the attempts to reinter his remains at the Brothers’ Cemetery in Riga.

Is it not high time that the European Commission investigate Latvia for its continuous public, state-sponsored worship of men who were deemed criminals of war by the Nuremberg Trials of 1945/1946, for allowing blatant antisemitic propaganda and Nazi-inspired rags to be published  in a form designed to deceive foreign readers, without ever holding their publishers and authors to account? And, indeed, for officially defending the idea of a Nazi monument in honor of convicted criminals of war to continue to stand in the heart of the European Union  in Belgium?

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