Re: "Bush's Bitburg?"


Date: 5/14/05 10:38PM

The last blast from the past ir atrodams amerikāņu progresīvā žurnālā Nation.

Bush's Bitburg?


[from the May 23, 2005 issue]

Many analysts are saying that President Bush's decision to visit Latvia just two days before heading to Moscow to celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany was designed to "send a message" to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But by choosing Latvia, a former Soviet republic that became independent in 1991, Bush is stirring bitter controversy among Nazism's greatest victims and risking a repeat of Ronald Reagan's Bitburg fiasco. "I am sorry that this is the time for the visit," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. "If the Baltics had really repented for the terrible crimes that their nationals committed during the Holocaust, then it would make far more sense to 'reward them' by a visit in the proximity of the sixtieth anniversary of the victory over the Nazis."

Moscow agrees. Official discrimination in Latvia and neighboring Estonia against their large Russian-speaking minorities is one of post-Soviet Russia's greatest ongoing grievances, leading to repeated official protests. Putin raised the issue again in his April 25 State of the Union speech, calling on Latvia and Estonia to "prove in actions their respect for human rights, including the rights of national minorities." Another grievance, shared by Russians and Jews, is Latvia's disturbingly tolerant view of its own Nazi past. Zuroff complained that while Latvia has managed to prosecute several former Soviet functionaries for Communist crimes, not a single Nazi collaborator has been tried since the country became independent. In 2000 Zuroff discovered that at least forty-one Latvian members of the Arajs Kommando, a notorious Latvian security unit implicated in the shootings of thousands of Jews, had just been officially rehabilitated and rewarded with increased pensions.

Ninety-six percent of Latvia's Jews were killed in the Holocaust, one of Europe's highest rates and only made possible by enthusiastic local collaboration. Latvia also had one of the highest per capita recruitment rates into special SS legions, whose veterans are revered as "freedom fighters." Today Latvia is the only country in Europe to host annual SS veteran processions commemorating the day the divisions were formed (Estonia used to hold them too). Both the Latvian Parliament and President Vaira Vike-Freiberga--whom Zuroff labeled a "metaphor for the whole problem"--at one time considered combining the day of the SS march with the national memorial holiday. Aleksandrs Gilmans, a former member of the Riga city parliament and an ethnic-Russian Jew, was one of more than thirty protesters arrested at the SS procession in March. "The problem is that there was never a process of de-Nazification in Latvia," he said. "People here do not recognize Latvia's war guilt."

This Latvian revisionism is not merely an emotional historical debate; it is the main justification for disenfranchising the Russian-speaking minority, whom Latvian parliamentarian Aleksandrs Kirsteins, leader of the committee on foreign affairs, referred to as "civilian occupiers." Automatic citizenship is granted only to those who settled in the country before 1940. While half of Latvia's Russian-speaking minority managed to obtain citizenship through grueling tests and requirements, another 500,000 of them, or 20 percent of the population, are still stateless, making them Europe's largest disenfranchised minority. Roughly half of Latvia's 14,000 Jews share their stateless fate. No citizenship means that they can't vote or become teachers or civil servants.

Latvians' contempt for Russia is so deeply ingrained that they don't even bother hiding it. This year Vike-Freiberga presented Putin with a new Latvian history textbook that uses a Nazi-era term to describe the Salaspils concentration camp, where tens of thousands of inmates died, most of them Jews. She also famously quipped that on the upcoming victory day celebration, "Russian people will place a Caspian roach on a newspaper, drink vodka, sing folk songs and recall how they heroically conquered the Baltics." Both of these scandals still get repeated airplay in Russia, which lost 27 million citizens during the war, a staggering figure that reflects the fact that the Soviets bore the brunt of Nazi terror, and that Soviet forces were largely responsible for defeating Germany. Russia is saturated with films and books about Nazi horrors. Yet most ethnic Balts, who were treated as allies by the Germans but who suffered terribly under Soviet occupation, view the defeat of the Nazis as their own defeat.

Tatyana Zhdanok, a Latvian MP in the European Parliament from the country's Russian-speaking minority, lost much of her family in the Holocaust. "For me personally, the political revanchism going on in Latvia is very painful," she said. "So of course it seems very strange to combine a visit to Latvia with a visit to Moscow [to celebrate the victory over Nazism]." Zhdanok said she was concerned by local reports that Bush's Latvian itinerary will include a visit to the Freedom Monument, site of the Brothers' Cemetery, where SS Legion Gruppenführer Rudolf Bangerskis's remains were ceremoniously reburied in 1995.

If Bush visits the site, he could have a controversy on his hands equivalent to that stirred up by President Reagan's visit to the German war cemetery at Bitburg, where SS soldiers are buried. The White House has not yet announced Bush's itinerary in Latvia, except that he will meet with the heads of all three Baltic states, two of whom are loudly boycotting the Moscow celebration.

Many Russian speakers say that if Bush is serious about spreading human rights and democracy, then he should meet with Latvia's disenfranchised minority. Indeed, there is a precedent. In 2001 Bush sent then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to Macedonia to help resolve that country's conflict with its minority Albanian population, who at least had citizenship and voting rights. Powell at the time declared, "Multi-ethnicity need not be a source of conflict...if channels are opened for all to be made part of the democratic and political process."

While there is hope that Bush will make a similar gesture in Latvia, the fear among Russians and Jews is that instead of addressing minority rights issues and historical grievances, President Bush will use his visit to pat the Baltic presidents on the head for supporting his war in Iraq, blunder his way into a controversial cemetery site and then ride into Russia to teach Putin about the lessons of history and human rights.




Date: 5/15/05 5:53AM

Paldies. Daudzu ierastu murgojumu starpā viens, ko agrāk nebiju manījis (droši vien palaidis garām) - par 41 reabilitētu arājieti.

Vai varētu lūgt īsu komantāru?





Date: 5/15/05 10:18AM

Par rehabilitacijas problēmu ir jau bijis runāts un par to būtu jāatbild prokuratūrai.





Date: 5/15/05 12:37AM

Vai tiešām ir kāds nopietns attaisnojums bāst mums ģīmī šādu drazu? Ričs.




Date: 5/15/05 1:00AM


patiešām rakstā nevaru saredzēt neko progresīvu!

Simto un tūkstošo reizi tiek atkārtoti sen dzirdēti argumenti.

Grūti saprotams ir tikai, ka viens tautas piederīgais, tautas kura cieta ļoti otrā pasaules karā, uzstājās "par aizgādni" otrā pasaules kara lielākam slepkavam - ne tikai kara laikā bet arī pēckara gados!

Ugis G. Berzins, vēsā un saulainā svētdienas rītā.




Date: 5/15/05 1:49AM

Es te saskatu tikai tikdaudz tās jēgas, ka kāds mums atgādina, ka vecie spēki nesnauž, un turpina savu sen iesākto politiku.




Date: 5/15/05 10:45AM

Paldies par so rakstinu. Loti informativs.

Tas ari parada, ka sarkanajiem nacikiem uznakusas paniskas bailes. Ari viniem iznaks dot atskaiti par nagu mauksanam un melosanam, slepkavibam un cilveku cienas aizskarumiem.

Zirgu zagliem jau vienmer visi citi vainigi un tas nav nekas jauns ja tads strumfbanšfirers žurkovs ardas un sametas uz vienu roku ar tadu Zdanoku. No vienas sugas.

Interesanti, ka si suga tisam aizmirst tos bagatos latvijas zidus, kurus žurkova brali izsutija uz Sibiriju. 14. junija izsutisana no 14.000 izsutamiem 4000 bija zidu tautibas un ticibas laudis. Vinu vienigais noziegums bija tas, ka tie bija bagati. Likdami santimu pie santima, vini uztureja savus nabagos zidinus. Bet žurkova partijas biedri ne tikai iznicinaja sos laudis, vini grib nokluset so faktu.

Es ieteiktu Andrievam mazliet stingrak atgadinat holokosta petniekiem neaizmirst sos 4000 Latvijas bagatakos zidus.




Date: 5/15/05 3:07PM


Kapec Tu "The Nation" sauc par progresivu zurnalu?




Date: 5/15/05 7:14PM


Ka Tu savadak to sauktu? žurnals ir ar specigu bušisma pretindi. Pamata vini ir par pasaules dekolanizaciju. Tikkai šoreiz viniem missejas. žel!





Date: 5/16/05 6:19AM

Anti-bušisms automātiski nepadara kaut ko par progresīvu ;-)




Date: 5/16/05 7:49AM

nu bet arī par regresīvu neko nepadara :)





Date: 5/16/05 1:01PM


Es no progresiva zurnala sagaida vismaz atbildibas sajutu. Vai velies aizrastit redakcijai?

Visu labako,




Date: 5/16/05 6:09PM

To jau es esmu izdarijis. Sveiks. ae

To The Nation's Editors:

I thank you for printing Mark Ames' “Bush's Bitburg?” (Nation, May 23), for now, once and forever, the readers of The Nation can see what unadulterated Soviet propaganda was, and what kind of hostile fiction the nations caught in between the Soviet and Nazi millstones had to put up with. If the hyperboles do not fly from Berlin they flew from Moscow. The two imperial powers of the past century disagreed on many things but, judging from their writings, they agreed that the disarmed and occupied people between Germany and Russia were the real criminals, worse than Cheka or Gestapo men. Of the potpourri that the article contains, I want to touch upon three points: the Holocaust in Latvia, Latvians in World War II, and the Latvian SS Legion.

The Holocaust in Latvia.

The major problem about the Holocaust in Latvia is that there is more than one version of it. The earliest and first, and in a way the most trustworthy one, was the secret report of October 15, 1941 that Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker, the leader of the Einsatzgruppe A, sent to the RASHA office in Berlin. For those who do not know, Stahlecker was the SD leader in charge of the killing operations in the Baltics. This was a version that served to convict numerous Germans at Nuremberg and later trials.

The second version, which is similar to the first one, is the one accumulated after the war by West German courts. As pertaining to Latvia the most important cases are those of Arajs and Jahnke tried by the Hamburg judiciary and that of Graul tried in Hannover.

The third version is contained in a variety of Soviet investigations that include the work of the Extraordinary Commission and numerous trials held by NKVD/KGB and SMERSH officials. These cases were not particularly well researched and the sentences frequently were inconsistent and capricious, yet the trials most of the time were based on factual information and real, even if biased, interrogations.

The fourth version is what the Nazi public relations crew produced as the killing of the Jews was happening. This information was intended for domestic and foreign consumption, and Hitler himself was involved in proclaiming. (See my article “Neighbors did not kill Jews”:

The fifth version is what Jewish survivors have accumulated. Among these the most influential memoirs has been the work by Max Kaufmann, Die vernichtung der Juden Lettlands (1946).

The sixth version is contained in Soviet Show trials and propaganda literature. Among the show trials we can name the ones of 18th and the 21st Schutzmannschaft Battalions, and the Maikovskis case, of which the final act was played out in M_nster Germany during the 1990s. As Mark Ames' rendering of the Latvian role in the Holocaust, this genre is ninety percent fiction.

Today in Latvia all of the versions are on the table and none, considering ideological complexities of the past, can celebrate a victory. Under the auspices of the President of Latvia, a Commission of Historians, consisting of Latvians, Jews, and Germans has been convened to study this and other question of recent history. Will the Commission be able to negotiate the rapids and arrive at a true and seventh version, one cannot predict today. The disagreement is not about the fact of the Holocaust or the Latvian participation in it. It is about the historical context, the motives, the numbers killed, and it may sound bizzare to an American reader, about the German role in it.

Latvians in World War II

Did the Latvians have any special relationship with the Nazis as Ames infers? In truth during the course of the war. there were three Latvias. About the same number of Latvians served in the Nazi as in Soviet military forces. Both superpowers claimed that they served in their respective units as volunteers. In reality for most of them the service was coerced. The only true volunteers were those Latvians who faught for the cause of the Allies. The third Latvia consisted of Latvian diplomats and embassy employees, the official Latvians who still carried the seal of independent Latvia. Their effort consisted of appointing the Latvian merchant fleet to the service of the Allies and turning their embassies into intelligence gathering centers. Voldemars Salnais, the Ambassador to Sweden in effect became an OSS resident in Stockholm. During the course of the war he established contacts in German occupied Latvia that reached

into all occupation, civilian and military agencies. Salnais reports are assembled in my book: Stockholm Documents. The German occupation of Latvia. What did America Know? Salnais reports consisted of economic, cultural. political, and military information.

Latvian SS-voluntary Legion

The question of the Latvian SS-Voluntary Legion has been on the US investigative agenda since the end of the war. First time it arose regarding the status of the Legion's veterans and their right to enter DP camps and their right to emigrate to the USA and other allied countries. An extensive inquiry by American and UNRRA officials followed which resulted in full rehabilitation of the Latvian Legionaries. The final absolution came in 1950 in a letter from the US Displaced Persons Commissioner Harry N. Rosenfield to the Latvian Ambassador in Washington Dr. J. Feldmanis. The following decision became the operative document that allowed for the Legionaries' emigration to the USA.

Dr. J. Feldmanis
Charges d'Affaires of Latvia
Latvian Legation
1346 Connecticut Avenue|
Washington 6, DC.

September 12, 1950

Dear Dr. Feldmanis:

Please pardon the delayed acknowledgment of your letter of August 2, 1950. By now, of course, you know the decision of the Commission. It has approved the following motion:

“That the Baltic Waffen SS. Units (Baltic Legions) are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United Stated under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended.”

Sincerely yours,
Harry N. Rosenfield

Since 1950 nothing has happened, or new information has emerged, that has necessitated the US government to mend it or countermand this decision. In the world-wide search for Nazi war criminals that has ensued since the time, no Legion's veteran has been accused for any crime committed during the service in the Legion. The Soviet treatment of the Legionaries was quite different, but that is another story.

Andrew Ezergailis, Prof.
Author of The Holocaust in Latvia




Date: 5/16/05 11:25PM

kodolīgs, faktuāls, tiešiem vārdiem, paldies, ka dalies ar ilggadēju savas pamatpētniecības ekspertīzi laikā kad atkal kādiem uznākusi vajadzība kurināt politisku dezinformāciju.





Date: 5/17/05 1:01AM

Paldies par komentariem, bet nedomaju, ka the Nation manu rakstu iespiedis.





Date: 5/17/05 7:36AM

varbūt dažiem "progresīvs" kļuvis vairāk sensāciju pievelkoša fantazijas, mazāk sausi zinātniskais. <g>





Date: 5/17/05 11:40AM

Andrejs so zurnalu labak pazist. Man tomer interese vai verts sakt kadu plasaku kampanu.

Nakamnedel Sietloa viesosies latvijas intyegracijas minustrs Ainars Latkovisks, kurs bija nloti attsaucigs man, kad lidziga problema uzradas viena no sejienenes lielajiem laikrakstiem. Es ar vinu varu parunat par to, ka veidojas Latvijas valdibas izdariba sados jautajumos.

Musu centieni seit ieklava atseviskus rakstus un telefoniskas zinas, peticiju ar vairakiem parakstiem, Latkovska atsutitas zinas un tiesu prasibu atsaukt meligo rakstu. Uzsvars bija uz atbildibu izmantot plasaku informacijas apkopojumu.

Visu labako.




Date: 5/17/05 2:17PM

Publiskas domas veidošana The Nation ir loti svarigs izdevums. Sodien viniem iet labk ka jebkad. Dabut vinus Baltiešu pusē butu liels sasniegums.





Date: 5/16/05 5:40PM

Liels paldies par uzrakstito!! Un par visu to darbu, kas to darija iespejamu.

Gunars Tomsons




Date: 5/16/05 5:58PM

Pievienojos Gunāram! Pateicībā - Ričs.




Date: 5/16/05 5:54PM

Paldies, Andrej! Priecajos par Tavu rupigi rakstiuto vestuli The Nation redakcijai. Ja mani kadu atsaucibu, ludzu palaid so zinu sveikotajiem.

Visu labako,




Date: 5/18/05 2:27AM

nupat nosūtīju savu redakcijai (jāsūta caur tīklu - nepieņem emailā)--aija:


To the Editor, Dr. Katrina vanden Heuvel:

Ames "Bush's Bitberg" violates the ethical injunction not to bear false witness against your neighbor. Most shamefully it attempts to use the victims of the Holocaust to self-serving current ultranationalist Russian political ends against people who were victims of both Nazis and Soviets - Latvia lost a third of its population and was colonized by Russia as a result of the Hitler - Stalin Pact of 1939 dividing up Europe and initiating WWII. All of the atrocities in Latvia occurred under Soviet or Nazi occupation with troops terrorizing the population. Though most Latvians have acknowledged their tragic history and documented and educational material is readily available, Russian policy continues in denial. The outright lies, twisted half-truths, and demagogery of the article which serves to foment hate against a people, should be balanced by such a respected historian as Prof. A. Ezergailis who has devoted his life to the study of the Holocaust in Latvia, on the citizenship question by checking primary sources in English such as  (67% Jewish Latvians have citizenship), and by more objective and balanced reports of Jewish - Latvian relationships that acknowledge ongoing efforts of co-operation in a sincere spirit of healing and mending the world, tikkun olam. <> .

Aija Veldre Beldavs, Ph.D. (IU, Folklore & Ethnomusicology)




Date: 5/18/05 8:36AM

Letter to the Editor -- Re:Bush's Bitburg by Mark Ames 6-05-2005

Ames presents an insulting, highly distorted view of the situation in Latvia that is at odds with UN, OSCE, NATO and EU assessments of the rule of law and democratic processes in Latvia.

Latvia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union losing 1/3 of its population as a consequence of Nazi and Soviet occupations and forced deportations.

The Soviet Union resettled large numbers of Soviet citizens in the territory of Latvia especially in the Brezhnev era in the 1970s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in August 1991 and the renewal of its sovereignty Latvia adopted a process of naturalization to grant citizenship to residents. As in most countries the requirements boil down to rudimentary language skills and allegiance to the constitution. The citizenship law is more liberal than in many European countries such as Germany which has had a large Turkish speaking minority that has resided in Germany for decades. The stateless condition of former Soviet citizens. residing in the territory of Latvia is a legacy of the Soviet occupation. The process is working for the tens of thousands who are choosing to become naturalized citizens of Latvia. Those who choose to not learn the language of the land retain their resident alien status with full rights to healthcare, social services and economic opportunity as in any other normal country including the US.

Vid Beldavs
2451 E. 10th Street, Apt. 606
Bloomington, IN 47408

Kas jauns Latvijā?