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Latvian Nazis

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Resurgence of fascism in the former Soviet Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia has been growing over the past decade. Regretfully, these deplorable actions by the governments and local authorities of the three Baltic States attracted little attention from the international community.

In September of 2003 a number of Latvians and foreign visitors attended the memorial ceremony for the Jewish-Latvian Holocaust victims in the Rumbula forest, where 25,000 Jews were massacred in late 1941 mostly by Latvian police and guards. Just a week later Latvian government unveiled another memorial – this one was dedicated to the memory of Latvian Waffen SS members.

During the same month Latvia managed to pacify its small remaining Jewish population while at the same time making itself feel better about its history of collaborating with Nazi Germany. Two weeks - two memorials: one is to the Holocaust victims and the other one to the Holocaust makers.

The SS memorial was unveiled in the Latvian town of Lestene. The event was attended by the country’s government, religious and military officials. Three military orchestras of the Latvian Defense Ministry provided musical background for commemorating 'accomplishments and sacrifices' of the SS and its Latvian division in the name of Führer and Fatherland.

With the exception of a few Russian and Israeli newspapers the world media remained oblivious to these events and silent.

Surviving members of the Latvian SS legion marched proudly in Lestene, their 'accomplishments' appreciated by their new government. Latvian SS exterminated tens of thousands of Jews, Slavs and fellow Latvians sixty years ago and today Latvian government considers the SS men war veterans, pays them military pensions, erects monuments in their name and celebrates their cause and bloody deeds with state-sponsored parades.

Schoolchildren in Latvia learn that the SS heroically defended their country against Bolshevik hordes and sought an appropriate place for the Latvian uberman in the bright future of the Thousand Year Reich.

Unable to accept the responsibility for its Nazi past Latvia is seeking to rewrite the bloody pages of its history. This is done quietly and gradually. The three military orchestras playing at the SS memorial ceremony in Latvia this September had to keep down their fortissimo so not to disturb the sleeping public opinion of the nations that sacrificed millions of lives to defeat the monster of fascism.

Today Latvia is not just rewriting its own history but ours as well. We make this possible by ignoring the SS marching in Lestene; by trying hard not to notice the memorials to Nazi murderers popping up here and there in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia; by closing our ears so not to hear the SS legions marching in Riga and Tallinn.

In 1946 the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg adjudged Waffen SS to be a criminal organization. Since 1997 thousands SS criminals living in the US, UK, Latvia and other countries collected a monthly military pension paid by Germany and by national governments, as is the case with Latvia.

This revolting historical revisionism rearing its ugly head with our silent approval is an insult to the memories of millions who gave their lives to save ours.


Latvia’s attempts at rewriting the history of the Second World War have been a subject of hundreds of news articles, books and public discussions. The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs called Latvia’s revisionist policies in regard to its wartime collaboration with Nazi Germany “one of the worst cases of falsification of history.” A number of countries have to deal with the problem of resurging fascism. What makes Latvian neo-nazism more frightening is the open official support it gets from the Latvian government.

During the war Waffen Schutzstaffel (Waffen SS) formed two divisions consisting of Latvian volunteers – the 15th and 19th Waffen Grenadier Divisions. At the peak of its power the SS grew from four all-German divisions to 41 divisions numbering 900,000 members from all occupied countries, including more than 150,000 volunteers from Latvia - the biggest contribution of SS volunteers of any nation occupied by Germany.

Unlike other volunteer Waffen SS divisions created during the war the Latvian divisions were known for their proficiency in combat and commitment to the standards of Nazism. In 1945, after being decimated by the advancing Soviet army, the remaining elements of the two Latvian SS divisions regrouped under the command of Waffen-Standartenführer Villus Janums for the defense of Berlin. They later surrendered to the Americans at Güterglück near the Elbe River.

In the Spring of 1998 the remainder of this force paraded through the streets of Latvia’s capital carrying banners with swastika and SS insignia. The march was authorized by the Latvian government and attended by the Chief of Staff of the Latvian Armed Forces despite protests from Russia, France and Israel.

Only two weeks before the Nazi parade in Riga Latvian police brutally dispersed a peaceful demonstration by Russian war veterans. A few days after the Nazi parade in Riga two bombs damaged a synagogue and the Russian embassy in Latvia's capital.

Later same year Russia threatened economic sanctions against Latvia in response to the country’s official support for surging neo-nazism but this threat never materialized.

Regretfully, Latvia’s official way of dealing with Nazi past remains to be through denial and historical revisionism.

In 1997 Germany revealed that up to 50,000 former SS members worldwide are receiving a monthly pension from the German government. This includes 3,377 Waffen SS men and their dependents in the US. Following this revelation US Rep. Gary L. Ackerman requested a list of the US recipients of these benefits. The list was sent by the German administration to the US Department of Justice but it was not made public as was demanded by various public and religious organizations.

Among the people who received monthly benefits for SS veterans is the widow of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich – the architect of the “Final Solution” - and the SS-Untersturmführer Heinz Barth, known in France as l'assassin d'Oradour-sur-Glane and sentenced to life imprisonment by an East German court for massacring hundreds of civilians in the French town of Oradour, qualified to receive a military pension following the reunification of Germany.

Kazys Ciurinskas, a former member of the Lithuanian SS division accused of killing Russian and Lithuanian Jews and POWs, lived in Indiana since the end of the war. Ciurinskas collected a $540 monthly pension from the German government since 1960 while living in the US and being a US citizen. In a 1995-97 United States of America v. Kazys Ciurinskas case the US District Court in Indiana stripped Ciurinskas of US citizenship.

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