Andrew Ezergailis. The Holocaust in Latvia
The psychological concomitants of the present war above all the incredible brutalization of public opinion, the mutual slandering, the unprecedented fury of destruction, the monstrous flood of lies, and man's incapacity to call a halt to the bloody demon.... This war has pitilessly revealed to civilized man that he is still a barbarian, and has at the same time shown what an iron scourge lies in store for him if ever again he should be tempted to make his neighbor responsible for his own evil qualities.
C. G. Jung, 1916
This event [the Holocaust] had been written down in its own code which had to be broken first to make understanding possible.
The Holocaust lends itself more to description than analysis. And to the degree that history writing is analysis, abstracting, and universalization of knowledge, to that degree historical inquiry is at odds with the Holocaust. The Holocaust does not want to open itself up for analysis. Assigning a cause means explaining, and explaining means mollifying, if not forgiving. A Holocaust historian does not want to forgive. The Holocaust is the perfect subject for literature and poetic descriptionthese deal with the whole, the concrete, the specific, and immediate. But paradoxically, there is less good literature written about the Holocaust than there is history. The enormity of the Holocaust is too immense for any one explanation. No sooner is an explanation advanced than it is rebuffed, and new and deeper explanations are demanded. The Western historians of the Holocaust have latched onto the chronological dimension to explain the killing of the Jews. To them anti-Semitism appears to be a major key, and no stone is left unturned in pursuit of Europe's anti-Semitic past. In texts of the Holocaust historians, citations from Martin Luther and the Church fathers can appear as readily as those from Gobineau, Chamberlain, Wagner, or Hitler himself. The iconography of Rome and the facades of gothic churches are examined for their anti-Semitic content.
For several reasons the Western model of explaining the causes of Latvian participation in the killing operations is inadequate. When the anti-Semitic evidence from western Europe is all brought together, Germany, and especially France, seem so heavily laden with anti-Semitic images and writings that one can not help but be persuaded of the correctness of that line of inquiry. But then the question arises, what does this have to do with Latvia?
To historians of the Holocaust, Latvia has been an enigma. The Holocaust in Latvia exists more in the press and the courtrooms of the world than in history books. In the general texts on the Holocaust Latvia has hardly made it into the footnotes. When Latvia is mentioned in the text, there is little more than statistics of victims, accompanied by some statement that is as likely to be mistaken as nonspecific. For example, in Martin Gilbert's The Macmillan Atlas of the Holocaust (1982), Latvia is on the map, but the only significant Holocaust location noted is the Kaiserwald Camp (Mezaparks), which he calls a mass-murder site. Cryptic as Lucy Dawidowicz was about Latvia, she was clearly badly misinformed when she wrote that the Baltic peoples were given limited autonomy under the German occupation.
This is in part because most of the German documentary evidence, which was the only evidence available and on the basis of which much of the early history of the Holocaust has been written, was very skimpy about the killing operations in Latvia. The basic sources for the early writers about the Holocaust in the East were the Ereignismeldungen of the Security Police and SD Einsatzgruppen. But these reports gave very little text other than numbers, and even they may not be fully reliable. In no sense can the Ereignismeldungen be considered to provide more than clues about the killing operations and the identity of the killers and the organizers in Latvia. The cryptic comments need study and decoding, for which the early historians of the Holocaustthe generalists, who wanted to lay out the whole of the Holocaust in one seamless flow lacked time and patience and perhaps knowledge of the background.
Lacking specific and accurate information about the killing of the Jews in Latvia, the generalists overgeneralized. They were better versed, with more solid documentation in hand, in the post-Wannsee phase of the killings, the camps in Germany, the transports and the gassing installations in Poland. The generalists tended to apply their knowledge about the later phase and the countries that they had information about to the earlier phase and a different political and geographic environment. For example, the generalists have given insufficient consideration to the differences between the occupation of the Soviet territories and that of the Netherlands, Denmark, and France. In the countries that the Nazis judged to be "Germanic," a modicum of local administrative structure was maintained. A large part of France was administered by Frenchmen themselves, albeit collaborationists, and in Denmark the royalty continued to act as symbolic head of the nation. The generalists have also failed to note the differences in racial judgments that the Nazis made about the people in the West as opposed to the ones in the East. On the racial scale, the Latvians were judged much closer to the Jews than they were to the French, the Danes being in a category of their own. The Latvian nation was slated for extinction; a full and total germanization of the Baltic was anticipated. The Germans planned to replace the Latvians with Germanic peoples from the West; the Dutch and the Danes were considered to be the prime candidates for settlement in Latvia.
Among the historians Lucy Dawidowicz stands out for her historiographical analysis of writing on the Holocaust, The Holocaust and the Historians (1981). She concluded that the English and American historians had treated the Holocaust unevenly, not given the event its due. In their books, particularly the textbooks, the greatest of this century's tragedies is passed by as a footnote or given no more than a paragraph. The British especially, she writes, have been concerned much more with the pathology of Hitler than with his criminal acts. She characterizes the works of German historians as a "shadow of the past." Although she sees promise in some German historians, their error is to explain the Hitlerzeit in terms of historical discontinuity, depicting Hitler as an historical accident. Dawidowicz in general praises the works that have come out of the Institutfiir Zeitgeschichte, but cautions that they can be too academic, overly concerned with the Nazi era, swamped by details that blur the Holocaust's connection with broader questions. 1 Dawidowicz reserved her harshest words for the Soviet historians, whose works she termed "palimpsest history," because they rewrite Holocaust history beyond recognition, to "demonstrate" that it was the Jews themselves, the Zionists, who brought the tragedy onto themselves. Had Dawidowicz written about the Holocaust literature of Latvia she would perhaps have termed it the "history of the missing center." The shape of the Holocaust in Latvia can be apprehended more by what has not been written about it than by what has. There is a considerable body of work, historical and literary, dealing with World War II in Latvia, but only a few books and articles that approach the Holocaust.
The question of who was responsible for the killing of the Jews in Latvia has undergone some revision. The original historians, such as Gerald Reitlinger, Lucy Dawidowicz, and to some degree Raul Hilberg, were much like the prosecutors in the Nirnberg Trials and attributed the major and primary responsibility for killing to the Himmler-Heydrich team: the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the SD. The major point of this school still looks solid, but there are numerous questions remaining on the periphery.
One of major Soviet contentions in explaining the Nazi atrocities has been to attribute them in large measure to the Abwehr, the intelligence arm of the German military. Although the Abwehr had links and agents in Latvia, the Soviet emphasis on the Abwehr did not pass muster, and in the West the view has not earned any credibility. The Abwehr explanations must be ascribed to the Soviet tendency to extend guilt and responsibility to every nook and cranny in the enemy camp. This explanation is partly due to the Soviet preoccupation with secret societies and spies.
A more serious question concerns the role of the Wehrmacht in the killing operations. Although there has been no documented case in Latvia of Wehrmacht members participating in the actual killings, it is equally true that the Wehrmacht created the conditions in which the killings could take place. First, most of the killings in Latvia occurred while martial law or conditions similar to it prevailed. Second, in many cases, the first "Jewish laws" (concerning wearing yellow identification badges and food distribution) were established by the Wehrmacht commanders in regional or municipal areas. The "Jewish laws" frequently were issued within the first days, sometimes hours, of occupation. There is no question that the Wehrmacht could have stopped the killings had it been determined to do so, and that the atrocities took place on the Wehrmacht's watch. It is clear that the large masses of German soldiers did not know about the orders to kill the Jews, but it is equally true that Hitler and all of the SS and SD hierarchy had coordinated the killings with the Wehrmacht command. The killings could not have taken place nor the anti-Jewish laws issued without the knowledge of the supreme commander, Keitel.
The School of the 1970s
In the 1970s a new view, or rather an attitude, about the Holocaust in Latvia began to emerge in the West. The new attitude was a pervasive one and appeared not only in the works of journalists but also among historians; it influenced prosecutors the world over. The new view softened the legalism of Nirnbergthe assumption that the SS, the Himmler-Heydrich team, were the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Histories, legal briefs, and works of journalism began to appear in which it was contended, in the most extreme cases, that the native peoples in the East, in their relations to the victimized Jews, were worse than the Germans. To a high degree the origins of this view can be traced to the Soviets, but to designate it as the Soviet School alone would be too narrow. In all of its cardinal tenets, however, the new view can be traced to the Soviet Agitprop.
There is one positive aspect to the school of the 1970s: the original Nirnberg legalists, basing their indictments on the paper trail left by the Security Police and SD forces, Had failed to note that in the eastern territories (except for Poland) the native police units had been heavily involved in the killing of their countrymen. In books like Alan Ryan's The Quiet Neighbors, the school of the 1970s revived the idea of general and collective guilt, but this time the accusation of collectivity was not turned against the Germans, as in the 1940s and 1950s, but against the East Europeans, among them the Latvians.
To trace the origins of this new school for all of eastern Europe is beyond the scope of this work, but as far as the accusation of collective guilt against the Latvians goes there are two sources.
The first is Max Kaufmann's Die Vernichtung der Juden Lettlands, published in 1947. One of the early Holocaust memoirs, it vividly brought forth the travails and cruelties that the Jews of Latvia suffered during the Nazi occupation. It is also a sweeping indictment of the Latvians. The basic premise of the book is that the Latvians were rejoicing over the killing of the Jews:
The cruelties of the Latvians grew from day to day. They were accompanying the Jews to the various work places and on the streets they not only beat them horribly, they even murdered many.
Kaufmann attributed to Latvian police and authorities all of the Nazi atrocities: anti-Semitic propaganda, the Jewish laws, sidewalk rules, food-supply regulations, yellow star rules, and the killings themselves.
In 1971 Kaufmann assessed the Latvian role in the Holocaust in these terms:
But shortly after the German occupation of Latvia the Latvians, too, prepared their version of the final solution of Latvian Jews. While the Germans were still busy with occupation questions, Latvian volunteer groups were organized with German blessing; and these volunteers rounded up Jews in the provinces and to an extent also cities. Later these Latvians also organized voluntary military formations, and together with German units they murdered Jews inside and outside Latvia. In so doing the Latvians won the confidence of the Germans, and therefore the Germans did not hesitate to transport thousands upon thousands of Jews from other countries to be murdered in Latvia. This was confirmed in 1946 at the Riga trial of the former German commissioner for occupied territories, Jeckein, and five other generals who were tried simultaneously.... Much archival research is being conducted on the number of Latvian and other Jews killed in Latvia by the Germans. I believe, however, that the exact number will never be accurately determined since Latvians had murdered many Latvian Jews even before the Germans took over.... As an eyewitness to the great tragedy 1 can not minimize the German guilt. But from the Latvians, with whom we had co-existed for several hundred years, and with whom we had passed through good times as well as bad, we should have expected human rather than an animal treatment.
The second source for the new history leads to a series of KGB pamphlets written in the early 1960s, among which the most significant was Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are they? The surprising and unexpected consequence was that these pamphlets, especially Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They?, entered the scholarly literature in the West, and were taken as documents by numerous authors. Daugavas Vanagi. Who Are They? in the Western scholarly works of the 1970s and 1980s was much more frequently cited than were Kaufmann's memoirs. The booklet became a kind of a handbook for war-crimes prosecutory offices in West Germany, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia. The power of this booklet derived from its descriptions of situations, purporting to be based on archival and eyewitness evidence; it listed the names of several hundred Latvian participants in the killings. To unravel all the untruths, half-truths, and exaggerations in Daugavas Vanagi would take a book in itself. Suffice it to say that although 10 percent of the facts in it are true, the remainder are false. How false the facts, the pictures, the situations presented in the booklet are, can be unraveled by examining the details of the assertions. The Western scholars and journalists lacked the patience and knowledge of history to penetrate the deception.
The most interesting aspect of the booklet is that much of the logic and collective accusation against the Latvians is based in large part on three statements that Gen. Friedrich Jeckeln allegedly made at his trial in Riga in 1946. "Truth No. 1" is the assertion that Latvians killed a large, indeterminable number of Jews before the Germans arrived in Latvia. The second is that the Latvians had more nerve for killing Jews than did the Germans. And the third is that Jews from the West were brought to Latvia "because the Latvians had created the proper conditions for it." The unraveling of these three statements is more than just a matter of passing importance. In Western works treating the subject of the Holocaust they are the most frequently cited "truths" about the Latvian involvement.
The Three "Truths" of JeckeIn
There are three questions about these alleged Jeckein "truths": Did Jeckein actually say them? Could he have said them? Even if he had not said them, could they be true?
The three statements, when they appear in Western literature, sometimes are put in quotation marks, sometimes they are paraphrased, and sometimes used without any attribution at all. Although those assertions are already found in Kaufmann's book, the Western authors invariably refer to Daugavas Vanagi as the source of the quotations. Daugavas Vanagi, however, does not give the source of the quotations, but asserts that Jeckein made them at his trial. Considering that Jeckein, adding up the number of Jewish victims alone in Ukraine, the Baltic, and Belorussia, was responsible for a minimum of 300,000 to 500,000 deaths, an unusually high degree of credibility has been accorded to the three alleged statements. In fact, the rhetorical point seems to be that Jeckeln's criminal past invests the statements with a higher believability than if they had been made by a statistician. It could be argued that Jeckein had a motive to lie, to deflect attention from his own guilt. A skeptical historian could also argue that even if Jeckeln himself had not wanted to make the statements, the NKVD interrogator coerced them from him.
But we no longer have to rely on the KGB-filtered information to assess the truth about Jeckeln's statements. By now in the West we have a considerable amount of his interrogation records available, and of Dr. Indulis Ronis, the Historical Institute of Latvia, «saw the full file in Moscow. Now we can say with full assurance that Jeckein did at dodge (or the Soviet prosecutors did not allow him to) his responsibility; neither did he try to prevaricate about his crimes. Latvia was a peripheral issue since the prosecutory toe of questioning was much more focused on connections with Berlin: Himmler and Goring. The Soviet courts, from the point of view of a historian, were narrowly channeled to prove one thing and only onethe criminality of the Nazi regime. In none of Jeckeln's testimonies did he touch upon Latvian responsibility for killing Jews. None of the three statements attributed to Jeckein is found in the official record. Historians and journalists who want to continue, as some will, to rely on Jeckeln's allegations for understanding the Holocaust in Latvia will have to rely on other than the official documents for their assertions.
The purpose of the Jeckein trial was to convict Jeckein and the Nazisnot Latvians. Peteris Krupnikovs, now a professor of history at the University of Latvia, served as an interpreter for the Soviet interrogator and prosecutors prior to and during Jeckeln's trial. He did not remember Jeckein in any context ever making any of the three statements.
The first of the purported Jeckein allegations has two versions. The first of these is Kaufmann's of l947:
The number of the Jews brought from abroad to Latvia is not precisely known to me, nor is the number of Jews killed in Latvia. Already before we Germans took over power, so many Jews were murdered by the Latvians, that no exact number could be determined.
In the Daugavas Vanagi version from 1962, the critical lines are:
The precise number I cannot determine. When I arrived in Riga in the summer of 1941, the Latvians themselves had already killed thousands of Jews. The same had happened in other towns of Latvia.
The Daugavas Vanagi version is the more fantastic and absurd one. Both authors give the citation as a direct quotation but in the Daugavas Vanagi version Jeckein claims to have arrived in Latvia in the summer of 1941, which is an impossibility because at the time he was posted in Ukraine, and it is well documented that he arrived in Riga only in mid-November 1941.
The next quotation comes from Jeckeln's interrogation transcript and to a high degree parallels Kaufmann's version. Jeckein is talking about the number of Jews killed before his arrival, although the exchange came up in an indirect way. He says that he cannot be exact about the number of Jews brought to Latvia, and then he gets into the question of Jews killed before his arrival in the Baltic:
Jeckeln: I must however say, that already before my arrival in Riga, a large number of Jews had been killed in Ostland and in Belorussia. That was reported to me. Question: Who reported it?
Jeckeln: Stahlecker, Pritzmann, Generalmajor Schroder, the SSPolice Commander of Latvia, Generalmajor Moller, the SSPolice Commander of Estonia, and Generalmajor Wysocki, the SSPolice Commander of Lithuania.26
Jeckeln's statement in the transcript corresponds to the facts as they existed in 1941. It is true, as he asserts, that many Jews were killed in the Baltic and Belorussia prior to his arrival. (In Latvia about 30,000 Jews had been murdered). It is also reasonable to assume that upon his arrival Jeckein asked his subalterns to inform him about the situation. The contents of the reports to Jeckein we do not know, but there is no indication that anybody has said that Latvians had killed an unaccounted number of Jews before the German arrival. It is important to note that in structure and content Jeckeln's answer is similar to Kaufmann's statement, except that the official version, contrary to Kaufmann's, does not have anything to say about the unaccounted number of Jews killed by the Latvians. After the war, in 1946, Kaufmann returned to Latvia for a visit, and he claims to have been present at the Jeckein trial, but it must be noted that in neither version, that of 1947 nor that of 1971, when he writes a brief article about the Holocaust in Latvia, did Kaufmann claim to have himself heard the statements from Jeckein. That Kaufmann brought the notion out of Latvia in 1946 seems, however, clear. How he obtained the altered quotation, he did not clarify. As to the source, the KGB pamphlets of the 1960s and 1970s are also silent.
As there is no reason to think Jeckein himself to have been the author of "Jeckeln's" first statement, there are equally shaky grounds for believing that he made the second and third statements.
Did Jeckein ever say that the Latvians had a better nerve for killing Jews than did the Germans? There is no certified or archival document that connects Jeckein with the statement, and it is questionable that this paragon of Nazism, an extreme proponent of the master race, would have said it. Even if he had, there are two cases on record in which he could have appointed Latvians instead of Germans to kill Jews; he chose Germans. The first and the largest was the Rumbula action itself. To kill the Jews at Rumbula, Jeckein ordered his own twelve-man bodyguard to carry out the assignment. Arajs and Latvian policemen at that time performed non-shooting assignments. The second case involves the search for weapons in the ghetto in the fall of 1942. Jeckein ordered Lange's SD team to make the search and thereafter to execute the Jewish resistance fighters. In general, Jeckein could not have been a good judge of Latvians as killers: he was too high in the hierarchy, too far removed from the Latvians. Lange and Stahlecker could have given more credible testimony than did Jeckein, and on several occasions, Stahlecker was known to have complained that the Latvians were killing too slowly .
Jeckeln's third statement is equally insupportable. The Reich Jews began to be shipped to Latvia very shortly after Jeckein arrived there, and everyone involved in Latvia, including Lange, when the shipments of Jews began to arrive in Riga, seemed to have been unprepared and surprised. The decision to ship Jews to Latvia was made in Berlin, and it is not known whether Himmler, Heydrich, or Eichmann ever consulted anybody in the Baltic. In fact, the plans to send Jews to the Ostland were more ambitious than the eventual outcome. The German civilian administration in the Baltic, especially in the person of Hinrich Lohse, was against the transport of Jews to the Ostland. It is a Soviet invention that 240,000 Jews were sent to Latvia and murdered there. To begin with, there was not enough housing in wartime Latvia to accommodate numbers of that scale. The two larger concentration camps, Salaspils and Mezaparks (Kaiserwald), even after being completed could accommodate only about 6,000. And the Riga ghetto, after the killing of Latvia's Jews, was never again filled up to its original population of 29,000. A makeshift camp was created in Jumpravmuiza, but that housed at its peak no more than 4,000.
Soviet Use of the Holocaust, 1945
Source: Records of the Extraordinary Commission, LVVA, P-132 -26-1, p. 1.
As the table illustrates, the Soviet political use of the Holocaust began even before the war had ended. The Extraordinary Commission to investigate Nazi atrocities found that 313,798 civilians (among them 39,831 children) and 330,632 POWs had been killed in Latvia. In reality the total number of civilians killed in Latvia, including the Jews, did not exceed 85,000.
There are four principal bodies of literature concerning the Holocaust in Latvia. First is that written by Jews themselves, mostly survivors. The Germans have tended to write about the administrative and organizational aspects, while the Soviets fighting the "Zionists" and "nationalists" have been jealous guardians of the archives and have engaged in ideological use of the Holocaust. Latvian emigres have been reluctant in their recall of the event.
Jewish survivors have left us many excellent books about their experiences in Latvia, and from them we can learn a great deal about the Jewish fate in Latvia, mostly Riga. It should be noted that the most diligent writers have been non-Latvian Jews. In terms of time span hardly any work can compete with Max Kaufmann's Die Vemichtung der Juden Lettlands. Kaufmann documents his experiences from the time of the Nazi entrance into Riga until August 1944, when he was transported to Buchenwald, then marched to Sachsenhausen, where he was liberated on May 1, 1945. He survived the shootings of November and December 1941 because he was a working Jew. His tales of horrors come mostly from the Riga ghetto and the Mezaparks concentration camp. Among the many bone-chilling chapters, none is perhaps as horror-filled as the one on "Bloody Sloka," a peat bog near Riga, where Kaufmann witnessed the killing of his son by a German SD man, Migge. As a member of a work detail, Kaufmann saw many other camps and labor sites in Riga and its environs. His book is sizable and purports to give evidence about numerous other locales in Latvia. However, his information about places he did not see himself is generally thin. From a scholarly perspective the work is also marred by excessive emotional effusions; his accusations are so universal that he fails to draw distinctions among the guilty, the half-guilty, and the bystander.
Josef Katz, the author of One Who Came Back (1973), was a Lubeck Jew who ranged far out from Riga on work details, on one occasion going to Liepaja (Libau), and on another as far as the Leningrad front to load logs on a train. He arrived in Riga in December 1941, when all of the big Aktionen in Latvia were over. Unlike Kaufmann, he has little to tell us about the killing operations themselves, but his book is indispensable for learning about Jewish life, the threats and cruelties, in the "quieter" period from mid-1942 to 1944.
Perhaps the most detailed and accurate of the memoirs is Sidney Iwens' How Dark the Heavens (1990). Iwens was a Lithuanian Jew who tried to seek refuge in Soviet territory, but before reaching the frontier he was trapped in Daugavpils. His book is written in a diary form and tells about all of the important killing actions in the city as well as his own miraculous escapes from death.
Gertrude Schneider was a girl in her early teens when she, her parents, and her eleven-year-old sister were transported from Vienna to Riga. Schneider's Journey into Terror (1979)31 is quite different from the memoirs of Kaufmann, Katz, and Iwens. As she tells us in the introduction. Journey into Terror is based on her diary, which she has fortified by interviews with her fellow survivors. Further, it is the first history of the Riga ghetto. The book is important for its information about the social and cultural life in the ghetto and the Mežaparks KZ lager, and contains valuable data about the Jewish transports from the Reich to Latvia. Not only has Schneider broadened our knowledge about the Holocaust in Latvia, she has provided it with structure.
Of special interest to Latvians is Frida Michelson's / Survived Rumbuli (1979), a painful book to read, but at the same time an inspirational one. Michelson was a fashion designer in Riga, who was brought to the killing field at Rumbula during the second big Aktion in December 8, 1941. Miraculously, she walked away to tell her story. Her book is important for the information she brings about the first days of the Nazi occupation, life in the ghetto during Aktionen of November and December 1941, the description of the killing operation itself, and her own fortune in hiding out and surviving the years of persecution.
Among other memoirs, we must also mention Jeanette Wolffs Sadismus oder Wahnsinn (1946), a work of smaller scope than Schneider's and Michelson's; Reska Weiss' Journey Through Hell (1961), though confusing many places and times, tells an interesting tale of her experiences in Latvia in 1944; Greta Gottschalk, Der Letzte Weg, an unpublished manuscript at the Institut fiir Zeitgeschichte; a Swedish-language memoir by Betty Happ (pseudonym), Bortom all Mansklighet (1945); A. Levin's Cortu Cerez Zubii (1986); Hilde Sherman-Zander's, Zwischen Tag und Dunkel (1984). We must also include the many-sided collections by Gertrude Schneider: Muted Voices: Jewish Survivors of Latvia Remembered (1987) and The Unfinished Road: Jewish Survivors of Latvia Look Back (1991).
M. Bobe's Jews in Latvia (1971), an anthology of essays and articles issued by the Association of Latvian and Estonian Jews in Israel, contains little information about the Holocaust itself, but it is indispensable for understanding several related topics, especially Jewish life in Latvia and Latvian-Jewish relations before World War II. The most industrious Israeli historian working on Baltic topics is Dov Levin. Although most of Levin's works do not deal directly with the Holocaust, they throw much light on Latvian-Jewish relations prior to the Holocaust.
Very few German-language works deal directly with the Holocaust in Latvia. The most significant historical study is Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges by Helmut Krausnick and Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm (1981). The second part of the bookWilhelm's contributioncontains indispensable information about the killing of the Jews and other civilians in Latvia. Although it is a very detailed study, its scope is limited by over-reliance on the Ereignismeldungen of the Einsatzgruppen, the daily reports the killing units sent to Berlin. The book highlights the problems of using the Einsatzgruppen reports as a source. These reports were a powerful tool in the hands of the prosecutors in Nurnberg and later war crimes trials, but as historical sources they have weaknesses. They report the rough numbers of Jews and other civilians killed, but they are not very comprehensive or specific about the killing operations or the locales. They contain numerous intelligence reports about the local population, but say little in the case of Latvia about who collaborated with the killing units.
Among other German works is Seppo Myllyniemi's Die Neuordnung der Baltischen Lander, 1941-1944 (1973), Important as it is in understanding the Holocaust, Myllyniemi's book tells us very little about the atrocities in Latvia. The author gives us a very accurate description of the German occupation's administrative structure and its economic policies; he does not, however, tell anything about the SD structure in Latvia. Myllyniemi's ambition was to fill a gap left by Alexander Dallin's German Rule of Russia, 1941-1944 and he has successfully done so. Although Myllyniemi is a Finn, his work is similar to German works about World War II. Like Wilhelm, Myllyniemi did much of his research at the Institut fiir Zeitgeschichte. In Myllyniemi's and Wilhelm's books there is too much reliance on Nazi sources, with the result that both authors have allowed the sources to some degree to determine their texts. A similar work, but of lesser scope, is H. D. Handrack's Das Reichskommissariat Ostland (1980).
The German literature is very rich in memoirs, although most of them deal with military or administrative matters. Of special note are the works by three Baltic-Germans. Hugo Wittrock's Kommissarischer Oberburgermeister von Riga, 1941-1944:
Erinnerungen (1979) talks a great deal about the civilian administration's conflicts with the SD, but fails to mention that for about two months in 1941 the author was the chief administrator responsible for the Riga ghetto. Jiirgen E. Kroeger, an SD functionary, has left two memoirs, Eine Baltische Illusion: Tagebuch ernes Deutsch-Balten aus den Jahren 1939-1944, and So war es, Ein Bericht (1989). The most denazified of the Baltic German memoirs is Harijs Mamies' KSvi par Daugava (1958). In all these memoirs the Jewish question is only tangentially present. Kroeger discusses it most fully, although some of his diary passages seem to be later insertions. Both Wittrock and Kroeger continue mining an old Baltic-German lode, blaming the Latvians rather than the Germans for killing the Jews, Mamies was an interesting case, a denazified Baltic German who came to like his childhood Latvian friends more than his fellow-German SS occupiers of Latvia. From the documentary aspect, the most important of these books is the one by Wittrock.
Latvians in Emigration
Latvians who emigrated after the war could have collected their knowledge about the fate of the Jews in their country and thus broken the KGB stranglehold of secrecy. Had the emigres done so, no doubt they would have improved their standing in the world community. Not only did they fail to pursue the question on the official and diplomatic level, they sought to conceal information about the Holocaust in Latvia. It must also be noted that most of the emigre Latvians had only general impressions about the killing of the Jews, while those Latvians who knew the details of the killings most likely were involved in them.
Among some emigre journalists the Holocaust in Latvia is considered somehow to be a communist topic, one that has been exhaustively studied in the Soviet Union. This view is not free of aspects of anti-Semitism.
Although they have attempted to ignore the subject, the Latvian emigres have written more about the Holocaust in Latvia than they themselves realize. Among the important memoirs and polemical treatises we could name the works by Unams,32 Dankers,33 Blakis,34 Valdmanis,35 and Celmins.36 no single work gives us any complete understanding of the tragedy, or even a portion of it. This is partly owing to the lack of sources available to them but there are other, deeper causes. They have not known how to approach the subject nor have they known how to apportion the guilt. In general they have not felt that the killing of Jews was in any way their responsibility. Numerous Latvians have insisted that Latvian-Jewish relations before the German invasion were good, even exemplary.37 They have rejected any notion of collective guilt as Soviet propaganda. On the other hand, some may have been hiding their deep shame about Latvian collaboration. Numerous Nazi-era journalists entered and managed the emigration press. In effect, the accessories to the crimes were later in charge of what was said about the crimes.38 There are emigre Latvians who were so overwhelmed by their own grief and the loss of their homeland that they failed to become in any full sense acquainted with the Nazi assault on Europe's Jews. Finally, the Latvians who were the direct participants in the atrocities, and could write with authority, were obviously not likely to broach the subject Nor were they likely to be the sort to compose memoirs. That, however, does not explain the reticence of those who saw and heard much, but who, for unexplainable reasons, have felt some sense of solidarity with the Latvian criminals.
Latvian emigres have nevertheless written voluminously about the German occupation in histories, memoirs, polemics, and novels. In fact, they have written about everything except the killing of the Jews, or any other killing that took place under the Nazis. The Latvians have treated all other issues, but have avoided the cancerous center. Emigre literature has extensively examined the German administrative structure in Latvia and the Latvian participation within it.
Emigre literature is also rich in information about the origins of the Latvian military formations, from the partisan fighting units at the time of German entrance into Latvia to the Schutzmannschaften and the Latvian Legion. The military literature is immense; among the most important works are Silgailis' Latviesu leģions (1962) and the multi-volume LATVIEŠU KARAVĪRS OTRĀ PASAULES KARA LAIKĀ.39 There are several publications that
for many years have printed World War II reminiscences, studies, and documents on a regular basis.40
Karlis Siljakovs, the chief of Liepaja SD political police, left a two-volume memoir called Mana atbilde (1982 and 1985). Siljakovs' effort, however, failed to live up to the promise to tell the whole truth.
Among the academic studies that have unearthed a great deal about the Nazi era are those of Haralds Biezais, Arnolds Aizsilnieks, and Karlis Kangeris. Biezais assesses the work of the high collaborators in Latvia, especially Dankers and Bangerskis. The latest Biezais works that have been published are Kureliei (1991) and Latvija kāškrusta varā:
Sveši kungi, pašu ļaudis (1992). Aizsilnieks documented in more detail than anyone else the Nazi economic policy in Latvia; and Kangeris has engaged in documenting the Nazi labor policy and the evacuation of Latvia in 1944. A study on the resistance in Latvia that the late Edgars Andersons began is to be published soon.
Of Latvian emigre fiction writers, the prolific Gunars Janovskis is exceptional with his novel devoted to the killing of the Jews in Krustpils. His Pilsēta pie upes (City by the River) was serialized in the newspaper Laiks (1990-91) and will be soon published in Latvia. The novelist who has most directly and powerfully confronted the killing of the Jews in his native Kuldīga is Eduards Freimanis, especially in his novels Ticība (1978) and Visādais Jēpis (1990). In both of these novels the incarceration and the killing of the Jews are described, though not in realistic detail. Other authors who have touched upon the subject are Arnolds Apse in Klosterkalns, Richards RTdzinieks (Ervins Grins) in Zelta motocikls,41 and Valentins Pelecis in his reminiscences Maleniesu pasaule.42 Aivars Rungis43 and Martins Ziverts44 have written plays with references to the Holocaust. In his fictionalized memoir Pakāpies tornī, Uldis Germanis depicts a friend serving in the Arajs commando.
After the war the Soviets were in possession of the physical evidence: grave sites;
captured German documents; and witnesses, survivors, and participants in the killings. The Soviets from the very beginning double dealt with the history of the Holocaust in Latvia, as they did with the Holocaust in general. They had already begun the trail of disinformation during the war. On the one hand the Soviets came close to denying the existence of the Holocaust, on the other they incriminated all of eastern Europe, except the Russians, for killing the Jews. As the Soviets were sinking into anti-Semitism after the war and even the survivors of the Holocaust were being persecuted and sent North, the authorities began to manage the information about the German atrocities in the East by publishing selected evidencesnippets of documents and bookscontaining misinformation or incomplete information about the role that the peoples of eastern Europe played in the atrocities. In the hierarchy of Soviet crimes, participation in a war against the Red Army or the Soviet partisans weighed as heavily, sometimes even more so, than participation in the killing of the Jews. Membership in the Nazi killing apparatus was no detriment for later participation in a NKVD or KGB network of spies, agents, and informers. In Latvia there are some well-known cases of Nazi-era activists and journalists who were engaged in KGB work.45
Even before the war had ended, the Soviets convened an Extraordinary Commission of the Republic46 to investigate the crimes of Nazism. The commission sat from August 23, 1944, to July 27, 1946, established 5,562 (sic.) local commissions of inquiry, and employed about 50,000 people. The commission's reports vary in quality from location to location. On the one hand they reveal punctilious attention to detail, but on the other a tendency to exaggerate, even fabricate data. Especially, the number of victims was increased without any substantiating evidence. In addition to the Extraordinary Commission's inquiry on the political and criminal level, the NKVD and SMERSH in Latvia and in the USSR at large interrogated thousands of Latvians and Germans about Nazi crimes. Only now that the archives are open do we see the mountain of information accumulated by the Soviets. After the war the Soviets captured at least 344 members of the Arajs commando and they all were interrogated, tried, and convicted-47 The World War II documents are cross-indexed and filed in accordance with the most demanding archival standards.
Only after perestroika did the KGB start to open some of the information for limited public use. After the fall of the Soviet Union, with the exception of those files taken to Russia, full access to the once-secret holdings is possible. The Extraordinary Commission's archives were opened to foreigners in 1989, and other archives previously controlled by the KGB, such as the documents of the local police, have gradually been made accessible. The NKVD and KGB war crimes trial files came under civilian control only after the failed coup in August 1991.
The level of secrecy that the Soviets imposed upon the Holocaust archives is difficult to understand,48 because the Soviets, too, claimed to want to root out the Nazis. Only in 1970s did the Soviets begin to release selected documents (now we know that the released documents were selected and sanitized) to the German and American prosecutors in war crimes cases. Nevertheless, numerous documents that could have helped to prosecute war crimes in the West were withheld by the Soviets,49 who subjugated the Holocaust to considerations of internal and international politics. All the Soviet-era publications are colored by these considerations. The memory of the Nazi crimes was drowned out in the Soviet dialectic.
The Soviets never gave an accurate accounting of the number of victims during the German occupation. They did not even count up the number of communists killed, which would have been easy to do. It was left to the Agitprop offices to determine the numbers, and they came up with a count that bordered on the fantastic. Some of the numbers, as they appear in the reports of the Latvian Extraordinary Commission, were falsified at the grass-roots level. The reported numbers were frequently tripled, in comparison to the actual data from the field .
The general tendency of the Soviet works on the Holocaust has been to minimize, sometimes even eliminate, the German role in the killings, and attribute the responsibility for the murders to "nationalists." The Soviets picked up and continued the Nazi theme of the spontaneity of "native" forces in the killing of the Jews. The cornerstone of Soviet historiography was to divide the Latvian people into communists and nationalists. In Soviet usage the term "nationalist" more often than not meant non-communist. While collective guilt ceased to be attributed even to the Germans, the Soviets and their successors continued to operate with the concept until our own day. These writings have de-emphasized the German occupational grip, the martial law rule, the Wehrmacht, the SD and the multiple layers of civilian and Nazi Party control in Latvia. Latvia is portrayed as if Latvians themselves were in control, governing the country. As this view was fostered, access to the sources of information and archival evidence about the German occupation was suppressed.50
The Holocaust was a taboo subject even among the survivors of the Holocaust.51 Jews were not allowed to write about the years of their torment. The Soviets suppressed information about the crimes and frequently persecuted those who had suffered under the Nazis, even Jewish survivors. As the Soviets were compiling mountains of evidence about the Nazi crimes, they forbade the survivors a forum to discuss the crimes and remember the victims.52
In general, we can say that in pre-glasnost Latvia, it was even forbidden to write about Latvian-Jewish relations. For example, the word "Jew" was edited out of Latvian Marxist texts; Janis Rainis' classic drama Joseph and His Brothers was banned for long stretches from the Latvian stage, and his diary about his trip to Palestine in 1929 was excluded from his collected works. Only with the advent of glasnost did the Soviet information barrier begin to crumble. But not even today has the Kremlin leadership, now that of Russia, recognized that Jews in the Russian territories were killed as Jews, nor have they made any acknowledgment of Soviet-Russian participation in the Holocaust.53
In spite of the strictures, the Latvians living under the Soviets wrote about the Holocaust, simply because they lived on the site of the crime. Information about the Holocaust in Soviet Latvia must be found in the peripheral literature: the histories and memoirs of war, partisan struggles, and resistance.
Among the Soviet Latvian books that include information about Nazi crimes are Latvieu tautas cīņa Lielā Tēvijas karā (The Latvian Peoples Struggle in the Great Fatherland War) 54 and Reiz cēlās strēlnieks sarkanais (The Rising of the Red Strelki),55 an anthology. Furthermore, there is a series of communist resistance and partisan movement works: J. Dzintars, Neredzamā fronte (1970); Alfreds Raskevics and Olga Spoge, Avangardā komunisti (1979); and a whole series of studies and reminiscences by the academician Vilis Samsons: Kurzemes partizāņi, Kurzemes meži šalc, and numerous other works.56
There are only three Soviet-Latvian books that more or less deal with the Holocaust issues directly: a document collection, Mes apsūdzam (1968); an anthology of reminiscences, Salaspils naves nometne (1978); and a monograph by Margers Vestermanis, Ta rīkojās vērmahts (1973). Within the Soviet Holocaust library one may also include Tiesas prāva (1946), which contains a description and partial transcript of the Jeckein trial in 1946. During the Soviet occupation the most careful and industrious compiler of documents was Margers Vestermanis, a Holocaust survivor who did much to keep propaganda out of his writings. KGB works written for foreign consumption must be considered separately, for they were not available locally and they were intended to influence Western opinion. Starting with Khrushchev in 1959, Moscow organized a campaign and ordered the respective KGB branches in the satellite republics to issue pamphlets with the specific purpose of implicating the borderland peoplesUkrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians in Nazi crimes. The centralized origin of these pamphlets is evident from the style and contents of the text. The purpose was not to reveal information about the Holocaust, but rather to compromise, sometimes deservedly, the respective nationals who had emigrated. The pamphlets dealt in half-truths, and among the faked documents and pictures they included true archival documents previously not seen in the West. The impact of these pamphlets on Holocaust studies and Western prosecutory offices can not be underestimated. The pamphlet that created the biggest impact was Kas irDaugavas Vanagi? (1962).57 It was translated into highly literary, free-wheeling English as Daugavas Vanagi. Who Are They? And also into German and Swedish. A significant part of the impact of the pamphlet in the West was the result of purporting to name Latvian war criminals. Of the approximately 300 names listed in the booklet, about three dozen have turned out to have been people with criminal pasts. This Soviet propaganda genre, as M. Zvonov's pamphlet, Po evrejam ogon (Riga, 1993) shows, has been taken over by the Russian secret services.
In the broader context of Soviet-Latvian historiography one must also include the Salaspils memorial park, which is one of the most grandiose in Europe. Although the park was not built to commemorate the Jewish victims alone, the Jews certainly were subsumed under the victims of Nazism. Even during the darkest days of Brezhnevite anti-Semitism the tourist guides did not fail to mention that Jews were killed in Latvia.58
Only after perestroika could fully honest publications about the Holocaust in Latvia appear. The publication in 1989 of Vilnis Zarins' study of Nazi ideology was a noteworthy event.59 Up to now numerous Holocaust-related articles and materials have appeared in the press and the leading historical journals Latvijas ZinStnu Akademijas Vestis, Latvijas Vestures Instituta Zurnals, and Latvijas Vesture. Among the authors of the post-perestroika writings have been Vilis Samsons, Andrievs Ezergailis, Haralds Biezais, Karlis Kangeris, Heinrihs Strods, and Aivars Stranga.
Witnesses might not intentionally lie or dissimulate but their testimony is often of only limited importance. In general they remember little, and tend to have tunnel vision.
Like historians they universalize and overgeneralize from the little that they experienced and remember. While it even denied it, it is also equally true that, with few exceptions, those who saw the killings at close is true that many Germans and East Europeans have attempted to forget about the killing of Jews or quarters either as victims or victimizer remember little; if they remember, their memory is frequently incomplete and faulty.
Some witnesses are better than others. The best first-hand evidence comes from trial witnesses; among those, the most credible testimonials came from those who had been tortured or punished. This means that the best evidence for the writing of this study has come from the Soviet Union, especially from depositions that were obtained for litigation in West Germany or the United States, where some cross-examination was part of the deposition. The Nurnberg testimonies have been of a more limited value because they dealt with the upper echelon of criminals, only rarely focusing on the grass-roots activities.
The most significant documentation about the killings in Latvia was gathered during the 1970s by the prosecutors of the Hamburg and Hannover Landgerichte, who were the first to penetrate the Soviet concealment of evidence. Both jurisdictions obtained documents from the KGB and SMERSH archives on a limited and selective basis, and the right to question and cross-examine Soviet witnesses. The work begun by the German judiciary has been continued by the Office of Special Investigation (OSI), a prosecutory agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. Without the evidence that these organizations have collected, this work could not have been possible. Especially noteworthy is the compilation of documents by the Landgericht in Hamburg, where, in addition to Viktors Arajs, a series of Germans with a past in Latvia were tried and investigated: Friedrich Jahnke, Gerhard Maywald, Arno Besekow, and others. Also to be noted is the document collection in the Landgericht Hannover, where Einsatzkommando Commander Erhard Grauel and other Liepaja SD functionaries were tried.
Another valuable source has been the testimonials of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. After the war various Jewish agencies attempted to collect depositions and memories from the survivors, who were scattered worldwide. Much of the evidence has been deposited in the Yad Vashem archives in Jerusalem. These depositions are in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, English, and Russian; a few are in Latvian. The survivors' evidence has the shortcomings of eyewitness accounts in general: they are very uneven and narrow, limited to the witness's own experience. The narrowness of the recollections and the remembered details are the most useful aspect of their depositions. No deposition of a Jewish survivor, however, surprises with a plenitude of evidence. The survivor testimonials, for what they remembered and what they forgot, are a significant part of the Holocaust experience itself, but little is gained by expecting too much from any single one of them. Every survivor may know the truth of the Holocaust but not the total truth. As witnesses of the Holocaust, the Jewish survivors labor under a number of problems:
they were forced to live in confined and brutal circumstances; their mobility and ability to get real news was circumscribed; usually their only encounters with Gentiles was with the guards; they were living under terror and duress; and, the survivors did not experience the killing operations themselves. About the killing operations, the murderers themselves, if they can be coerced to talk, often are more informative than the survivors. Regarding these shortcomings of Jewish witnesses a certain Ida Bocian testified in the Grauel trial:
"Wir hatten Angst, den Kopf zu heben, die Augen zu offnen, zu atmen" ("We were afraid to raise our heads, to open our eyes, to breathe").60
With a few exceptions, the survivors' testimonies, those of foreign Jews more than of Latvian ones, have been especially deficient in pinning down and describing the role of the Latvians. If it had been left to the Reich Jewish witnesses, the roster of Latvian murderers would not exceed three or four names.61
The memoirs of Jews transported to Latvia (and there are a considerable number of works) present a special problem: these Jews were closer to Germany and Germans than to Latvia and Latvians. Their language was German, and their communication with Latvians was limited. This group of memoir writers often leaves the impression that they liked the German supervisors, with whom they could communicate better than with the Latvian guards they did not know. In certain instances European Jews were not free of racist thinking, and on the racial-evaluation scale they placed the Latvians about where the Germans placed them.62
Some of the survivors' testimonies about the Holocaust in Latvia have been spectacular and unique within the whole of Holocaust literature. Among them one must include the book of Frida Michelson, the testimonies of Ella Medale, and Matiss Lutrins,63 and many parts of Max Kaufmann's book, such as his account of the killing of his son in the Sloka peat bog.
Another potential source that could have revealed a great deal about the Holocaust in Latvia would be the Latvian emigres in the West who were employed in important posts in Nazi-occupied Latvia, especially the police. But these emigres, in part because of the war crimes trials, have not been very forthcoming. Even this writer, who in general can be said to have had deep roots in the Latvian emigration, has not been able to tap into this source.
Who Killed the Jews of Latvia?
Although the question sounds simple, the answer to who killed the Jews of Latvia is far from easy. The murder of the Jews began with the German occupation, and the chief executors of Hitler's orders were the men from the Security Police and SD units.64 There is many-leveled evidence that had it not been for the Puhrerbefehl the Jews of Latvia would not have suffered any harm. Whatever role the Latvian partisan forces may have played in the slaughter of the Jews, it was the Nazi invasion of Latvia that made possible the killing. Clarity about the lines of authority and the organizational framework of the killings goes to the heart of the spontaneity versus inducements, or orders, issue.
Spontaneity Versus Orders
The earliest mention of the idea, even before any Latvian Jews were killed, that there should be a spontaneous murder of Jews in Latvia, is found in Heydrich's directive to the Einsatzgruppen leaders. The theme was picked up by a variety of German functionaries in their reports, directives, memoirs, and depositions. After the war, the Soviet Agitprop, for purposes of its own, also found the spontaneity accusation useful. It was incorporated in Max Kaufmann's reminiscences and numerous other Western journalistic and historical works. None of the claims, however, of spontaneous pogroms has been specific as to location, date, units, or persons involved.65 The minimum case for establishing a spontaneous Latvian engagement in the killings would require the date and location for murders. The spontaneous killings-could not have occurred in Riga, Liepaja, or Daugavpils, because for these three major cities there is much German, SD, and postwar persecutory documentation that points up the difficulties of inducing the Latvians into pogroms.66
The most direct way of double-checking the validity of the spontaneity claim is to visit the Latvian State Historical Archives in Riga and examine the files of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission of 1944-48. The commission's standard of data-gathering was not without lapses of integrity, but the archives are very clear and specific about the locations and, most of the time, about the dates of the atrocities. The archives are organized by districts, and each district file is subdivided into smaller, sometimes raw, data files from pagasts and towns. The murder sites are usually illustrated by charts, indicating their geographical location and size of the graves. Frequently, lists of murdered Jews are also part of the file. If the Jews were killed locally, it is indicated in the records, but usually Jews from smaller locations were sent to larger towns, and that is also indicated. Lists of people participating in the killings or arrests are also in the files, and it is noted whether the killings were done by locals, Germans, or some other unit. The commission's reports contain voluminous raw data that could serve as a basis for detailed and specific study about the murder of the Jews in Latvia's localities. On the precise numbers killed, the Extraordinary Commission's data were unreliable, because the investigators for numerous locations were engaging in double bookkeeping, one list for reported deaths and another for actual murders.67
Hardly any Latvian opinion preserved from 1941 is untainted, for there was hardly a break between the Soviet and Nazi rule. While the powers were changing hands, however, a group of journalists in Riga managed to put out a one-page newspaper, BnvaZeme, on July I.68 Amazingly enough, the editor addressed the problem of killing enemies.
Give welcome to the heroic German Army which has smashed our biggest enemy and has driven out the inhuman communist looting gangs. This army, pitiful and defeated, now flee in panic from our land. Latvians, do not kill these pitiful people, disarm them, and take them prisoner, and only in cases when you find resistance, be quick to avert it.69
Though the writer is full of hate for communism, he discourages his countrymen from killing anyone. There is no mention of revenge, and that is one reason, we may presume, why Stahlecker halted any further publication of the newspaper.
The records of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission showed that mass killings in Latvia's small towns did not begin during the first days of occupation, but only during the second half of July and throughout August. In other words, the killings in Latvia began weeks rather than hours after the arrival of the Nazis, well past the time that the post-war Soviets had said was the limit for the interregnum in Latvia. The Latvian local police files in the same archive also contain a timetable and evidence of the structure and orders under which the police forces were organized and operated. A comparison of the two timetables concerning the dates of the killings and the establishment of the police force reveals that the killing and the organization began in the reverse order from that publicized by the Soviets. The archives show that the German organizational efforts began hours after the Wehrmacht's entrance into Latvia. And the slaughter began only after a chain of command had been established. Considering the dates of the murders alone, there is sufficient reason to say that killings could not have occurred in a fit of anger or as spontaneous revenge, but that they were organized, ordered, and directed.
The killing of the Jews took place in a context different from the one promoted by Soviet propaganda. No evidence about the killing of the Jews in Latvia should be considered as final, but in light of the new, glasnost evidence, the Soviet assertion that there was a spontaneous killing of the Jews in Latvia, and that the Latvians carried out murders without the German orders is patently wrong.
If we probe the Nazi mind and the system of controls that was established from the early hours of occupation, there is every reason to think that the Nazis, in spite of what they said, did not want the Latvians to act spontaneously. Had there been any real spontaneity, punitive measures would have followed it.
Historians with a predilection for perceiving predetermining historical forces should also consider the absence of pogroms in Latvia's past. No Jewish synagogue had been burned in Latvia until after the Germans arrived. Among anti-Semites Latvia was known as a "Jewish country," not one where pogroms took place. The Latvian-Jewish relationships in the 1920s were not without their problems, but there was nothing that would have predicted the murders of 1941.71
Summing up the debate about the responsibility for the killing of the Jews of Latvia, there is some unclarity about the lines of authority in ordering the murders. There is the problem of partitioning the responsibility between a variety of German forces: the SD and the Wehrmacht. And there is also the problem of partitioning the responsibility for the murder of the Jews between the Germans and the Latvians, especially as it pertains to the relationship between the Einsatzkommando 2 of the German Security Police and SD and the Arajs commando.
The Causes of Latvian Participation
Relatively speaking, the Latvians were new to literary culture. There was no tradition of anti-Semitism such as existed in Germany and France. The anti-Semitic incidents that can be documented in Latvia do not predate 1919. In comparison with the frequency and consistency of the incidents in France, the Latvian incidents are minimal. On the other hand, Latvians were not naive about anti-Semitism. Riga was an international metropolis, where even Wagner had spent some youthful years. Everything known in Germany and Russia, the two major producers of modem anti-Semitism, was also known in Riga. But in Latvia's past there were no great minds, such as Wagner or Gobineau, who were tainted with anti-Semitism, and there were no architectural monuments with anti-Semitic images. The greatest of Latvia's poets, Janis Rainis,72 was a philo-Semite, as was Karlis Balodis, the internationally-known economist.73 Up to the time of the Nazi occupation, although Henry Ford's anti-Semitic opus was printed, only excerpts of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion had been translated into Latvian. It is unlikely that the Latvians who participated in the killing of Jews had read, or even heard about either of the classics of anti-Semitism. The kind of anti-Semitism that demonized the Jew as a world conspirator, which Norman Cohn documents in his magnificent study74 of the genesis of the Protocols of the Elders ofZion, had no counterpart in Latvian culture.
Anti-Semitism in Latvia still awaits its historian. Once the full account is written, themes of hostility towards Jews will undoubtedly be found, for the Jews by and large lived apart from the Latvians and were far from being integrated. However, if we give any credence to the Latvian anti-Semitic writers, the Latvian government and culture were friendly to Jews. They found hardly anything in Latvia's past or then-present that showed sufficient awareness of the "Jewish problem." It must also be noted that during Ulmanis' dictatorship, anti-Semitic writings were banned from public life. This means that the majority of the young men who participated in the killings were preteens or teenagers in 1934 and were not likely to have read up on the topic. In summary, we can say that the demonization of the Jew, as it had evolved in France, Russia, and Germany, did not take place in Latvia before the German occupation in 1941.
Considering the "newness" of the Latvian culture and the absence of the image of the Jew as a demon, we must rely on more traditional, more pluralistic historical analysis to explain the Latvian participation in the Nazi crime: the impact of Nazi propaganda, the principle of higher orders, and a collective madness, brought on by the occupation of their country and the war. Above all, the Germans obtained Latvian participation in the killings by popularizing the idea of Jewish Bolshevism. Though the linkage was false, the propaganda was relentless and concentrated. In effect, the Jewish Bolshevism label was the blood libel of old, which related to the killing of Christ in antiquity.
The first Nazi propaganda gambits in Latvia did not in any public way call for the death of Jews. There was no direct radio call to kill Jews, as is sometimes asserted, but there was a great deal of anti-Semitic propaganda coming over the radio waves, which began with the Latvian-language broadcasts from Konigsberg in the predawn hours of June 22, 1941.75
The more serious anti-Semitic propaganda began on the streets: posters announcing restrictions on the Jews; they were forbidden to stand in lines; they were forced into labor gangs. Another important early step was the disinterring of the corpses of victims of the communists and accusing the Jews for their death. During the first weeks of occupation the major news in the Nazi press in Latvia was pictures showing the victorious German army and the half-rotten corpses that had been dug up in a variety of massacre sites.76 The identification of these corpses was part of the on-going activity. Anti-Jewish sentiments were further inflamed by repeatedly referring to the Jews as Chekists and associating Jews with communism. The dominant phrase in the Nazi press in Latvia was Jewish-Bolshevism.77 In addition to the "news" in the press, Latvians were invited to visit the communist torture chambers. One such tour through the Cheka cellars was described by a medical student:
The Germans were quick to show up communist atrocities. And then everyone dug up the corpses of relatives and took them away. And there was "Baltezers" and the Cheka cellars....At the time I was still studying in the medical school. Then from the school we were taken to an excursion to the Cheka. We were not taken to the cellar, but the guide told us what had happened there. There had been an entrance from the corner, I remember, and we went in through it, then we went through a room and came into a garagethere was a rectangular, slightly elongated, garage. The exit from the garage was directly to the yard. On the opposite side of the garage there was an iron gate, that now leads out to Stabu iela. Along the wall in the garage there were enclosures (boksi). It seems I saw two such enclosures, where the shooting had taken place. You could see the wall riddled with bullets, and splattered with gray matter and everything else. The drain that washes the blood away was also shown. The guide told us that the shooting took place therein and then the bodies were piled into a truck and taken away.78
The anti-Semitic propaganda was a many-leveled, coordinated assault. Visits to a torture chamber, such as this medical student was given, were intended to deliver an anti-Semitic message without saying so in so many words.
Both the Wehrmacht and the SD, as they entered Latvia, were careful not to allow any competing command structure, regardless of how small, to remain under Latvian control. The Nazis simultaneously militarized the police and made police forces out of the military units. In both cases the Germans were the important link in the structure. Until January 1942, all Latvians serving in police units, the SD, or the Schutzmannschaften were volunteers. During the first two months of the occupation it was possible to resign from the unit. No Latvian was coerced to participate in the atrocities. The attrition within the Arajs commando, as well as the Schutzmannschaften forces, in the beginning was very high. Why some left and others stayed to participate in killings is more a question for a psychiatrist than a historian. All of the activities, however, took place within established structures. That is, nothing happened in Latvia without an order.19
Numbers of Latvian Participants
As the exact number of victims of the Nazi occupation will never be known, neither will the numbers of people participating in the killings. First of all, it is not so clear what should be called participation. If one includes only the people who did the actual killings, that is one thing. Under those criteria, the numbers of Latvians carrying out the bloody assignments perhaps would not reach 500. It took only twelve of Jeckeln's men to kill the 24,000 victims in the two-day Rumbula action. Yet the Rumbula action required about 1,500 men to stand guard and lead the victims to the killing grounds. One frequently hears that the killing of the Jews was such an immense assignment that the Germans could not have done it without Latvian or other "native" help. Still, in terms of manpower it did not take very many people to liquidate the 65,000 Latvian Jews. Himmler, knowing the psychic damage that the assignment would inflict, did not want to contaminate an undue number of his troops. Further, the killings were never intended as public events; a certain secrecy was observed. As it was, the SD received criticism from other Germans for letting Latvians do the killings: they talked and drank too much, and they became witnesses of the murders. The Gebietskommissar of Liepaja suggested that, if the Latvians were allowed to kill Jews, they must be murdered afterwards.80 Most of the killings occurred during early morning hours and, with some exceptions,81 in isolated locations. Thus the need for secrecy kept the number of people involved in the killing low.
There were two types of killing actions: one, such as Rumbula, was manpower-extensive; others used very few. The numbers of people used in the killings of course depended on the number of victims. As already stated in the Rumbula action there were about 24,000 Jews whom Jeckein had decided to kill in two days. The ghetto was about ten kilometers away from the killing field, and the Jews were driven there on foot. This required a very large number of men to guard the periphery of the killing grounds and to drive the victims to it. In the Rumbula action as many as 1,500 Latvians might have participated as guards and expediters of the action. At least 800 of the Latvians were drawn from the Riga precinct police force. In this action perhaps more Latvians were complicit than in any other action during the occupation.
Most, if not all, other killing actions in Latvia involved a much smaller number of participants. Jews were driven from the camps to the killing grounds in groups of twenty to thirty, depending on the size of the trucks. Upon arrival, the group was quickly killed. This method required very few guards. One dozen guards would have sufficed. The killing would be done by twenty to forty men, sometimes fewer. This was the method used by Arajs commando in the Bikernieki murders and in most small-town killings. The massacres in Liepaja and Daugavpils fell somewhere in between, but in general the Bikernieki pattern was followed. In comparison to Jeckeln's procedure and the conveyor-belt methods in the killing camps of Poland, this was a slow process. Nevertheless, the numbers added up: about one hundred Jews could be killed in one hour. It would take about one day to kill 1,000 people. The Arajs team, traveling in its infamous blue bus, on occasion stopped in several places on the same day. Not all of the small-town Jews were killed by Arajs' men. Sometimes the killing in places such Madona, Nereta, and Kuldiga, was done by local policemen. That was an exception, and in the small towns of Latvia the complicity of the Latvian policemen consisted of their standing guard at the detention centers and the killing grounds. Perhaps no more than 1,000 Latvian policemen, in addition to those in Riga, were involved in the killings. Assigning responsibility to the local policemen is a difficult if not impossible problem. The density of the population of Jews in Latvia differed greatly from district to district.^ In localities of high Jewish concentration the participation of Latvians could be expected to be higher. But, those were also the cities most frequently visited by the Arajs commando. Nine locations with the highest concentration of Jews in Latvia accounted for about 85 percent of Latvian Jews. Consequently, most of Latvia's policemen had no dealings at all with Jews. Soviet propaganda has attempted to link the Schutzmannschaft battalions to the killing of the Jews, but it must be noted that the first of these battalions were organized only in late 1941 and early 1942, when the Jews of Latvia were already dead.
The Latvian Guilt
The question of Latvian guilt in the killing of the Jews is more subtle and more complicated than that of the Germans. Latvia was an occupied country. Unlike in Belgium, Holland, and Denmark, martial law prevailed. The Nazis asked for no Latvian advice about the Jewish question. No Latvian was in a position to perform the role of a Petain. The General Directors and the Latvian quisling administrators were too far removed from any decision about the Jews. The calculus of guilt must include Latvians as Nazi victims. No genocide against the Latvians, though contemplated, had been carried out; about 15,000 non-Jewish Latvians in all were killed during the Nazi occupation. It could be argued that the German engagement of Latvians in the killing of Jews was a type of victimization. It is, however, a historical fact that the Arajs commando, consisting mostly of Latvians, was a unique unit with no exact counterpart in occupied Europe.
Latvian writings about the killing of Jews in their country exhibit several levels of remorse. There are definite generational attitudes involved. Younger Latvians who experienced the Holocaust as preteens or teens, or even those who were not born then, seem to feel a higher degree of guilt than those who were adults during the occupation. No generalization can be safely made, because the topic has not been studied and samples are very few.
The Latvians in Latvia pose a special problem. For a half a century they were gagged by the KGB as it dealt with the Holocaust on its own terms. Indeed, there is a triple problem: the topic was driven underground and was not discussed and clarified as it has been in the West; the Soviets used the issues of the Holocaust to beat down the Latviansthe Soviets were taught to refer to the Latvians as fascists and Germans; and many glasnost historians and journalists are too young to know or care much about the Holocaust. Long after the notion of a collective guilt ceased to be applied to countries in the West, the KGB continued to use it against people in Soviet-occupied territories. The basic thrust of today's independent Latvia is to recreate the Latvian-Jewish relations as they were during Latvia's parliamentary times. Latvia's Supreme Council has accepted a resolution of regrets, but as yet no wide-ranging debate about the Jewish fate in Nazi times has taken place.
Janis Lejins epitomizes the attitude of the older generation of Latvians, those who were in a more or less administrative position during the occupation. Lejins was the manager of the Irlava Correction Farm for Adolescents when, on July 24, 1941, eight Jews who worked there were taken away by policemen to the pagasts center. From there, the Jews were taken to Tukums, and, as Lejins heard it, they were killed on the following day. Lejins regards, in spite of the specific circumstances, the killing as an act of the Germans:
The Germans somehow were rushing the "action," but did not divulge the reason for it. The same was happening in Riga. This information bothered me a lot. To read of Hitler's rantings about the purity of the race is one thing, but to find out that murder has taken place among us was another matter. Eight people, who just yesterday were working for me, without a crime and a trialkilled!...Could we have saved them? A thought like that then even did not arise, because nobody knew that they needed to be saved from anybody. My clerk had received the order to surrender the Jews. I questioned the clerk, whether he had asked for the reason why the people were taken away, when we needed them here. He had asked, but the policeman did not know it either, except that it was stressed that it was a strict German order that must be carried out without delay.83
Lejins also notes that "it was not within Latvian power to start that action or to end it."
It is difficult to say how much remorse Lejins feels about the Jews. He implies none. He tells us that the Latvians could not have helped the Jews and that at the time, late July, no one was aware of any dangers to the Jews. The problem of knowledge is the pivotal one: though Jews were not killed in the open, could Lejins, a man who had contacts with Riga and other centers, claim ignorance? Whose guilt may he be hiding his own? His nation's?
We have virtually no good samples of Latvian opinion about the killing of the Jews from the time of the German occupation. The few underground mimeographed publications available do not address the question frequently or forcefully. In 1943 Latvian trade unionists sent out an appeal to the International Federation of the Trade Unions, explaining the Latvian attitude towards the killing of the Jews:
The German terrorism was even more ruthless than the Russian had been. We have no exact data about the number of persons executed in and deported from the Baltic states by the Germans. However, according to conservative estimates, from Latvia alone about 10,000 have been executed and some 50,000 deported. Many thousands are imprisoned and interned in concentration camps. Moreover, in all three Baltic countries there have been murdered practically all citizens of Jewish race who lived in the countries at the time when the Germans invaded the Baltic states. Latvia had about 90,000 Jews; perhaps 20,000 of this number escaped with the Russians; in the ghetto of Riga there are now some 3,000 Jews; the rest have been murdered by the Germans. Significantly, the Germans are now spreading the lie that it was the Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians who had killed the Jews. In Latvia, the Germans' cynicism went as far as to film the execution of Jews. In the film, by the side of the victims, guards in Latvian uniform are to be seen. These were either hooligans bribed or intoxicated by the Germans or persons who had been placed under the threat of execution. All these mass murders are on the German conscience, the local population condemns them with abomination. The persons responsible for these massacres are:
Gruppenfuhrer Schroder, the Leader of the German SS, and Sturmbannfuhrer Lange, the Chief of the Security Police in Latvia. 84
Among Latvian writers abroad, the deepest sense of regret has been shown by novelist Eduards Freimanis, but he was closer to the killing action than Lejins, and fully aware of the facts. Freimanis is from KuldTga, where as a young man he was a member of the local self-defense group. He worked in the weapons storeroom, and among other assignments he had to pass out weapons and ammunition to the murderers of the Jews. He knew the people who did the killing and also many of the local Jews who were killed. Among the victims was a school friend. Freimanis returns in many works to the July days in Kuldīga.85 The killers in his works search for a solution in alcohol. God, and insanity.
The crimes of the Latvian past also weigh heavily on the conscience of Richards Rīdzinieks. The protagonist of his novel, like a Freimanis hero, ends up in an insane asylum. The ever-recurring question for Rīdzinieks' protagonist is: "....and then?"86 Among the literary works in which the question of the murder of Jews is placed at the center of Latvian collective consciousness are a poem by Qjars Vacietis, "Rumbula,"87 and one by Voldemars Avens, "Zilais Autobuss."88
If suicide and mental breakdown are an admission of guilt, then the life histories of the members of the killing squads could provide rich data. Although no one has collected them, tales exist on the level of folklore, and numerous Latvians over sixty years of age would have heard about Jew-shooters who became insane or committed suicide. The two best-known cases of suicides of Arajs men are those of Lieutenant DTbietis, an Arajs sidekick from the early days of the commando, and Lt. Roberts Freimuts.89
Janis Eduards Zirnis, who served for a time in the Arajs unit, has struggled with his conscience. In the 1960s he founded a bureau of war crimes investigationComite international de la resistance et des victimes du fascismewrote long letters to Nazi-hunters. Egons Jansons, a member of the commando who testified in the Arajs trial, has lived in Germany and been in and out of jails and mental hospitals all his life. On the other side of the ledger, Jazeps Linarts, a resident of Latvia who participated in the Liepaja killings, denied feeling guilt when questioned in the Grauel trial.90 in general, the surviving witnesses of the Arajs commando in Latvia, questioned by a variety of Western prosecuting attorneys, do not seem to show much remorse. But questions of conscience were not much probed by the interrogators. The witnesses in Latvia, as a rule, had been punished, and most of them had spent time in Siberia.9 [
The emigres who tend to reject Latvian guilt have a number of arguments that in general relate to Latvian powerlessness under Nazi occupation:
No public defense of Jews, e.g. a pastor's plea for mercy, was possible. To show any sympathy for Jews would have meant dismissal from one's position, as the cases of several pastors indicate.
Hiding a Jew was a crime punishable at the very least with imprisonment, and thus the whole family would suffer.
The Jews of Latvia were killed fast, and there was no time or means to react to the massacres.
Western and Soviet radio, the only lines to the outside world, were silent on the issue. The intelligence services of Great Britain, the United States, and Sweden, who could have issued warnings, clarified Nazi policies, and warned Latvians of the price for collaboration, had nothing to say. Under Soviet pressure, the Allied and neutral foreign affairs offices in London, Washington, and Stockholm denied the Latvian diplomats and democrats abroad access to the radio waves.
The Nazis managed to penetrate Latvian society with spies and collaborators, and thus greatly undermined any native resistance. It took some time for the Latvians to discover that the Nazis were as dangerous to their country as were the Soviets.
Numerous European Jews had found refuge in Latvia when the doors of many other countries, including Sweden, were closed.
Proportionally, whatever their guilt, more Latvians have been punished for Nazi crimes than Germans.
After everything is said and done, numerous Latvians risked their lives to save Jews, some successfully, others not.92
There is a sizable group of emigres who not only reject any question of Latvian guilt, but endeavor to turn the tables by arguing that the Jews themselves are responsible for their fate because they brought it on themselves by collaborating with either the communists or the Cheka.93
Regardless of what one could say about the defenselessness of Latvians under the Germans and the difficulties of helping Jewish victims, the inner guilt that many Latvians suffer arises because there was a commando of Latvians who killed the Jews, and because numerous Latvians lost neighbors and friends. This guilt is both personalthe loss of a neighbor, friend, school friend, student, employeeand nationalLatvia's body politic, crushed and broken as it was, was helpless in defending its citizens.
Analyzing German guilt in 1946, Karl Jaspers posited that there were four types of guilt under which the German people were laboring: criminal, political, moral, and metaphysical.
There certainly were numerous Latvians who were criminally guilty. Those who participated directly in the murder of the Jews should be criminally condemned, even if to speak of punishment for most of them in 1996 is too late for this world. The criminally guilty, using the criteria of the war crimes trials in the West, would involve about 500 to 600 men, 1,000 at the most. That would include four dozen journalists who wrote, edited, and published Nazi propaganda about the Jews.94
Little political guilt should be ascribed to any Latvian. Every Latvian official, high or low, was chosen by the Germans. The Latvian quislings, if we want to attach that name to the members of the General Directorate of the Latvian Self-Administration and its employees, were not even true quislings, because they had no decision-making powers except to assent to the request of their German supervisors and occasionally to propagandize German policies. It is not known whether any measure, regardless of how innocuous, that the General Directorate initiated was accepted by the Germans. The General Directors perhaps had less independent decision-making powers than did the elders of the pagasts, the local farmers' communities. None of the General Directors spoke up for the Jews. To begin with, they were chosen for their Nazi proclivities, anti-Semitism being one of the criteria. Had they tried to defend the Jews, retribution would have been instantaneous. There are several lower-level Latvians whose signatures are attached to orders leading to the death of Jews; among them the most prominent are Colonel Lobe, Martins Vagulans, and Lieutenant R. Bluzmanis.95 In all cases, however, when a Latvian did sign an anti-Jewish law or directive, the paper trail leads to the Einsatzkommando. The guilt of the Lobe, Vagulans, and Bluzmanis was criminal, not political.
Moral and Metaphysical Guilt
In Jaspers' view one incurs moral guilt when one does not make the ethically correct choice. In matters of moral choice the principle of higher order is not an excuse for committing a crime. The moral guilt is incurred by those who were in the proximity of the crime, but did not object when they were in a position to do so, or when they did not refuse an order, although in a position to refuse it. In moral matters ignorance is no excuse. Moral guilt, in Jasper's view, is determined by oneself, but also by friends and intimates "who are lovingly concerned about my soul." One could add to Jaspers' meditations that community, too, has a role to play in defining one's moral obligations.
Metaphysical guilt comes out of the sense of solidarity of all men "that makes each co-responsible for every wrong and every injustice in the world, especially for crimes committed in his presence or with his knowledge." Jurisdiction for metaphysical guilt rests with God alone.96 The questions of moral and metaphysical guilt are subjects more for philosophers and religious thinkers than historians to contemplate. One can, however, register that in the Latvian intellectual community since World War II, aside from a handful of literary works, there has been little to no contemplation of the Latvian guilt in the killing of Jews of Latvia.
1 For an excellent discussion of various facets of anti-Semitism, see Sander L. Oilman and Steven T. Katz, eds. Anti-Semitism in Times of Crisis.
1 Among the general texts on the Holocaust, I include American Jewish Conference, Nazi Germany's War Against the Jews', Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews;
Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust', Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution; and Leni Yahil, The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, 1932-1945.
3 There were numerous mass-murder sites in Latvia, but the Mezaparks KZ, brutal as it was, was not one of them. Gilbert is also wrong in saying that in 1944 tens of thousands were transported from Riga to Stutthof. In fact the most optimistic estimates of surviving Jews in Latvia would not exceed 12,000. Mezaparks KZ was opened in late 1943, about two years after the killing period in Latvia.
4 Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, p. 398.
5 The administrative structures in various European countries are described in Raul Hilberg, Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe, 1933-1945, pp. 75-102. About the rescue of Danish Jews see "Danes Commemorate Rescue of Jews from Nazis," The New York Times, 28 September 1993, p. A3.
6 Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians, pp. 22-42.
7 Dawidowicz, The Holocaust and the Historians, p. 67, is pleased with Pritz Fischer's Griff nach der Weltmacht, because it asserted the principle of continuity in German history, and Karl Dietrich Bracher's Die Deutsche Diktatur (1969), because the author was "the first non-Jewish historian anywhere who has recognized that iron) the start the Nazis assigned primacy of place, in doctrine and in action, to make hatred of the Jews, with all its tragic consequences, a cardinal feature of the state's policy."
9 Wilhelm's work on the Einsatzgruppe A still confirms this view. See Helmut Krausnick and Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm, Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges, Teil II.
10 For example, this tendency to blame the Abwehr for the atrocities is found in V. Cherednichenko, Collaborationists, as pertaining to Ukraine. Janis Dzintars' Nere-dzamS fronte is a good example of this tendency as it pertains to Latvia.
11 The role of the Wehrmacht has been especially emphasized by Margeris Vestermanis in his essay, "Der Lettische Anteil an der «Endlosung»."
12 This is evident from Stahlecker's Consolidated Report of October 15, p. 17: "The Wehrmacht commanders having been insstructed understood such activity, the self-purging actions could progressed without any problems."
13 For efforts to coordinate SD activities with the Wehrmacht see YIVO Archive documents: "fur die miltarische Sicherung und flir Aufrechterhaltung der Ruhe und Ordnung im Ostland," YIVO Occ E3 3, and Keitel's memorandum of 12 September 1941,YIVO,OccE33.
14 One of the authors who worked in this genre was Helen Fein, Accounting/or Genocide. The premise of Fein's book is that the Holocaust is not so much explained by the Nazi occupation as by the social attitudes of the local people.
1 5 Max Kaufmann, Die Vernichtung.
1 6 Kaufmann, Die Vernichtung, p. 62.
17 Kaufmann, "The War Years in Latvia Revisited," pp. 365-366.
1 8 The real author of this pamphlet, as of many others, was Paulis Ducmanis, who during the Nazi occupation worked in the Nazi press. After the war, the NKVD persuaded Ducmanis to work for them. In 1963, the Ducmanis opus came out in Gladys Evans' English translation, Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They? Thereafter it also appeared in Swedish and German translations. Other pamphlets of similar type were Arvlds Rupeika Politiskie begli bez maskas (The Latvian Emigrants Unmasked), B. Arklavs, J. Dzirkalis, J. Silabriedis, Vini bez maskas (Riga: 1966); J. Dzirkalis, KSpec vini bega? Patiesiba par latviesu nacionalo fondu Zviedrija (1965); and M. Birznieks, No SS un SD lidz.... (RTga: 1979). A specialized sub-genre was one that picked out Latvian churchmen as guilty of Nazi crimes. See (Anon) Cilveki bez sirdsapzinos. Riga: KGB publication, 1961); and E. Stabins, Kangari talaros (Riga: KGB publication, 1968). These pamphlets contained much information about the Holocaust in Latvia, but very little, aside from the documents, could be proven, as numerous court cases based on the information derived from these pamphlets have shown.
1 9 Among the authors who listed the book in their bibliography, quoted or paraphrased from the KGB literature, and were influenced by its logic were Helen Fcin, Gertrude Schneider, Bernhard Press, Howard Blum, Roschelle G. Saidel, and Christopher Simpson. The most surprising addiction to the KGB literature was shown by Alan Ryan, the erstwhile director of the OSI, in his book Quiet Neighbors: Prosecuting Nazi War Criminals in America, in which the guiding metaphor of quiet neighbors is derived from Soviet literature, especially Daugavas Vanagi, Who Are They? Citations from the pamphlets also appear in Dov Levin, Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities.
20 At a certain point in my study of the Holocaust in Latvia, for polemical purposes I asserted that about 75 percent of the booklet was true. That was at the beginning; the deeper I have entered the subject, the falser the booklet has turned out to be; pictures and documents are misidentified, the guilty and the innocent are mismatched with the time and place of the atrocities described. Today Bernard Press, Judenmord in Lettland, 1941-1945 (1988 and 1992), is the major continuer of the KGB tradition. He has taken pictures from various European cities where Jews were mistreated and identified them as scenes on a Riga street in 1941. He has also printed a picture of burning a Berlin synagogue in 1938 and identified it as the burning of a Riga synagogue in 1941.
21 In November 1941 Himmler dispatched Jeckein to Riga, appointed him as the HSSPF, and ordered him to empty Riga of its Jews and other ghettos of the Baltic. In November, Jeckein took over from Stahlecker the assignment to kill the Jews of Ostland and Russia's North. As a minimum, during his stay from November 1941 to September 1944, when he left Riga, Jeckein was responsible for 150,000 deaths in the Baltic. If one includes all of the Jews he ordered killed in Ukraine, before arriving in Riga, and all of the Jews killed in Belorussia, the figure easily can be doubled or even tripled. In Latvia alone he was responsible for at least 45,000 Jewish deaths. Jeckein was sentenced to die for war crimes, and hanged on Uzvaras laukums in Riga, on February 2, 1946.
22 Kaufmann, Die Vernichtung, p. 536. The same idea, differently phrased, is also on p. 68.
23 Some of Jeckeln's interrogation documents were obtained by the Hamburg Landgericht in connection with the war crimes trials of Maywald and Arajs. Most of them are reprinted in Krausnick and Wilhelm, Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges; also in Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, pp. 95-100. Some of Jeckeln's testimony is also found in Tiesas prava.
24 Kaufmann, Die Vernichtung, p. 67.
25 Ducmanis, Kas ir Daugavas Vanagi, p. 12.
26 Krausnick and Wilhelm, Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges, p. 569.
27 Landgericht Hamburg: Urteil, Hem Georg Theodor Triihe, April 29, 1975, p. 28.
28 The first time the idea of sending Jews to Riga was floated was at the end of September 1941, in Berlin, by Himmler in a letter to Geiser. The idea was again raised by Heydrich in an October 10, 1941, RSHA meeting on the "Final Solution." Heydrich suggested that 50,000 Jews be sent to Riga and Minsk. See Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, vol. II, p. 402.
29 Gertrude Schneider ("The Riga Ghetto, 194M943") pp. 44-45. She especially documents Lohse's opposition to the movement of Jews to the Baltic.
30 See Schneider's critique of Kaufmann in "The Riga Ghetto 1941-1943," pp. 9-10.
3 1 Schneider, "The Riga Ghetto," and Journey into Terror: Story of the Riga Ghetto. In many parts the dissertation is fuller than the book based on it.
32 2anis Unams has written a whole series of treatises critical of the Latvian leadership during the German occupation. The most important of them are Melna vara (The Black Power), 1955, and Zem Barbarosas skepa (Under the Sword of Barbarossa), 1975.
33 Oskars Dankers has left two books that are highly defensive of his position under the Nazis, and reveal less than they conceal: Lai vesture spriez tiesu and a collection of articles about him that include a number of his speeches. No atminupura. Irma Dankere in her hefty memoir Daudz tu man soliji ...(1982), chooses to talk about happier days of her family's life, before and after the war, reducing the coverage of the war years to about one half of a page.
34 Adolfs Blakis, Medalas otra puse.
35 In a full sense of the word Alfreds Valdmanis has not written his memoirs, but many think that Boris' Dienas baltas nebaltas, a boastful little book, in effect is a Valdmanis memoir. Some insight into Valdmanis' career also can be gleaned from his letters to Edgars Andersons, "Atminas kavejoties," Treji VSrti, no. 95-98.
36 Gustavs Celmins' memoirs Eiropas krustcefos (1947) deal almost exclusively with his experiences in the German concentration camps and not with his encounter with the Nazis in 1941.
37 The fullest discussion of this problem is to be found in M. Bobe et al. (eds.). The Jews in Latvia. For the Latvian point of view, see Edgars Andersons, "Tns bezvalsts tautas Latvija," Treji VSrfi, no. 94, pp. 9-16.
38 There is no reason to imply that all editors were accessories to Nazi crimes. A distinguished democratic newspaper Latvju Zirias, edited by Dagnija Sleiers, for a brief number of years was published in Stockholm. Among the authors who found limited possibility of publication in the emigre press one can mention M. Valters, A. Berkis, and Z. Unams.
39 Osvalds Freivalds et al. (eds.), Latviesu karavirs. Also to be noted are Arnolds Sinkis, Kurzemes cietoksnis; A. Plensners, Informacija par LatvieSu le^ionu. Among the full-length memoirs by the fighting soldiers of World War II there are Vilis Hazners, VarmScTbas lorni; Vilis Janums, Mana pulka kaujas gatlas; Julijs Kilitis, Es kara aiziedams', A. Lasmanis, Ceribas un vilsanas', Rudolfs Bangerskis, Mana muza atminas;
Oskars Perro, Holmas cietoksnis;Vestures veidotaji; Neuzvareto tragedija, and VaravTksnes loka.
40 Among the periodicals we can mention DV Menesraksts, Kara Invalids, Latvija AmerikS and Treji VSrti.
41 As a counterpoint to the writers who have confronted the war and the Holocaust we can name Eglitis, Es nebiju varonis, and Zeitins, PazuduSS paaudze, both prolific writers, who, in spite of the opportunities that the respective works presented to them, failed to deal with the killing of the Jews.
42 Valentins Pelecis, Maleniesa pasaule, vol. Ill, pp. 147-157, briefly told about the internment of the Aluksne Jews.
43 Rungis, Salaspils in Aivars Rungis et al., Tns lugas (Celinieks, 1980). The Rungis play is a highly stylized piece, written in a modernistic mode, intending more to symbolize Latvia's entrapment by its powerful neighbors than to highlight the concrete Nazi atrocities committed in Latvia's best-known KZ camp.
44 Ziverts, in Pedeja laiva, depicts a situation in a bunker at the Baltic Sea shore, before the last boat left for Sweden. A young Latvian gives up his seat so a Jewish woman can escape.
A KGB source lists the following Arajs commando members (some listed only by their code name) who worked as their informers in Latvia: Pekavs, Krauze, Feniks, Apse, Grigorevs, Lauks, Edvards, Kaija, Raimonds Zaikalns, Janis lezens, Aleksandrs, Andrejs, Zveinieks, Janis, Manfreds, Valdis, Lorencs, Erglis, Kurosins, Karlis Strazds, Janis Vitols, Sterns, Boris Kinslers, Brokans, Vitols, TTgeris, Marsans, Vladims Klingeris, Janis Zaiitis, Olgerts Lacis, Haralds Leja, Valdemars Sulmanis, Rolfs Ozols, Beglis, Melnais, Smilga, Julijs (Edgars) Vitols, Manfreds Puzule (^iternoje Delo, vol. 12, an uncatalogued KGB collection of Arajs commando personnel in Latvian State Archives).
46 The full title of the commission read: Republikas Arkarteja Komisija vacu fasistisko iebruceju un to lidzdalibnieku pastradato noziegumu konstatesanai un izmeklesanai, ka ari Latvijas PSR pilsoniem, lauksaimniecibai, sabiedriskajam organizacijam, valsts uznemumiem un iestadem nodarito zaudejumu konstatesanai, Latvijas PSR maza enciklopedija, Sejums I (Riga, 1967), pp. 99-100. If anything, the commission overdid its assignment: it found that during the German occupation in the territory of Latvia 313,798 civilians, among them 39,835 children, and 330,032 POWs were killed (Mes apsudzam, p. 6). In all categories these are phenomenal numbers.
47 The Arajs commando trials comprise only a small part of the 40,000 cases that the KGB archive holds in Riga.
48 The secrecy extended to the Soviet desire even to hide the number of Latvian communists killed during the occupation. See Samsons, Kurzemes mezi salc, p. 19.
49 For example, the Soviets knew exactly how many men served in the Arajs commando, but the documents were never given to the Hamburg justices. In the Maikovskis case the Soviets had the rosters of men serving under Maikovskis, but they were never given to the Americans.
50 For Soviet attitudes towards Nazi evidence, see Vilnis Zarins, "Laupitaju filozofija," p. 69. According to Zarins, other people advised him to leave the topic alone because fascism had been so thoroughly defeated that its reincarnation in a scholarly study was no longer needed. He writes: "In accordance with the rules of the times, a publication about national socialism was not allowed to contain precise citations and its sources from the works of Hitler and his followers because that would give a forum to the enemies. I was told to leave out the precise citations, substituting them with paraphrases, and the interpretation of the textswith cursing."
51 The only reliable work on the Holocaust, more on the peripheral issues of the Holocaust than Holocaust itself, was done by Margers Vestermanis. See Vestermanis, Tā rikojas vermahts. Vestermanis was also responsible for the document collection, Mes apsudzam, although his name was not mentioned in the roster of editors.
52 Frida Michelson was not allowed to publish her memoirs within the Soviet Union. See her / Survived Rumbuli, p. 231.
53 For example, it is well established that the NKVD troops at the time of German entrance into Latvia blocked the Latvian-USSR frontier, preventing Jews from Latvia and Lithuania from escaping to the Soviet interior. Also to be noted is Stalin's radio speech of July 3, in which he fails to mention the Jews and the special danger that they faced under the Nazis. A warning by Stalin on July 3, 1941, could not have perhaps saved Latvia's Jews, but with proper warnings and help the fate of the Kiev Jews could have been much different.
54 Latvijas PSR Zinatnu Akademija, Latviesu tautas cīņa Lielajā Tēvjjas karā.
55 Latvijas KP CK Partijas vestures instituts, Reiz celas strelnieks sarkanais.
56 Kurzemes katia (1969) is an earlier version of Kurzemes mezi sale. Among his other works the more significant are Partizānu kustība ZiemeļlatvijS Lielajā Tēvijas kara (1950), DevinpadsmitaisSarkano partizanu gads (1970), and Cauri puteniem (1983).
57 See above.
58 The Salaspils Memorial Park (encompassing forty hectares) was opened on October 31, 1967. The park consists of an entrance structure ("the boundary line between life and death"), a concrete-clad ceremonial quadrangle, and the Road of Sorrows, which encircles the camp grounds, along which rise seven figures sculpted in rough pebbled concrete: The Undefeated, The Humiliated, The Protest, The Pledge, Red Front, The Solidarity, and The Mother. On the left side of the ceremonial quadrangle is the spiritual center of the Memorial Park, the wreath-laying platform, with a perpetual metronome pulse, symbolizing the heartbeat of the 7,000 children killed in the camp. It is located on the alleged site of a barracks where some of the 7,000 children were housed. See Latvijas PSR maza enciklopedlja, vol. Ill (1970), pp. 277-78. As Soviet historiography of the Holocaust frequently contains exaggerations or lies, unfortunately the stone memorial is no exception. The story of the 7,000 children killed in Salaspils is likely to be false. The Reich Jews built the camp but, when in the fall of 1942 they were returned to the ghetto, Gentile prisoners were moved in. It is true that in late 1943 numerous Belorussia children were temporarily incarcerated in the camp, there is no record that they were killed. Viktors Neimanis, who was an inmate of Salaspils during 1943 and 1944, testified that in Salaspils there never were Jewish children housed or killed. The housing of 7,000 children was much beyond what the Salaspils camp could accommodate.
59 Vilnis Zarins, "LaupTtaju filozofija."
60 The reliability of the survivor witnesses is examined in Landgericht Hannover, Strafurteil gegen Grauel und andere, pp. 37 and 42.
6 1 The most frequently mentioned Latvian, far exceeding Arajs, is Herberts Cukurs, the famous aviator. Residents of the ghetto also tend to remember Danckops, the commander of the Latvian ghetto guards.
62 Schneider, "The Riga Ghetto," p. 202, states: "Some [German functionaries] were trusted as well as respected. It was not so with any of the Latvian SS guards. Here the ethnocentricity of the German Jews reared it head. They were hated and despised, not only for their cruelty, but also for their alleged backwardness." The European Jews, as soon as they arrived in the Riga ghetto, germanized the ghetto street names, usually changing the Latvian names to names of German cities.
63 For more details about the Lutrins and Medale testimony, see Chapter 8.
64 In the literature of the Holocaust, the Gestapo was frequently mentioned as the killing agency. In Latvia, however, the Gestapo presence was not very visible. The umbrella organization was the SD, and the Gestapo was subsumed under it. Jiirgen Kroeger, a Baltic German interpreter for the Riga SD, when introduced to his job, was told:
"Unsere Abteilung ist eine Nachrichten-Abtellung. Wir sind so zusagen der lange Arm der Gestapo." (Kroeger, So war es, p. 89).
65 Max Kaufmann has been perhaps the only one who has portrayed what he calls Latvian actions in front of and within the courtyard of the Riga prefecture. No doubt Kaufmann was correct in describing the scene. But in suggesting that it was a spontaneous action he is wrong, because the prefecture building at the time that Kaufmann is describing the scene was occupied by Stahlecker. See Chapter 7.
66 In the case against Grauel et al., the Hannover Landgericht considered this question and came to the conclusion that under the circumstances Arajs could not have acted alone or spontaneously: It is impossible that "...under the conditions, just a few weeks after the ( beginning of the war with the Soviet Union, in an occupied territory, an armed Latvian commando, under independent Latvian orders, more or less under the view of the responsibility and participation of the local German authorities in the land, could j move around and carry out larger executions of the Jews. Locally in Liepaja there was a headquarters of the Security Police and the SD, and Kligler's commando.
Noziegumi pret cilvēci Crimes against Humanity