DEN RUSSISKE FDERASJONS AMBASSADE I NORGE

Involvement of the Lettish SS Legion in War Crimes in 1941-1945 and the Attempts to Revise the Verdict of the Nuremberg Tribunal in Latvia

The history of Lettish military units, which formed part of SS during World War II and were known as the Lettish SS Legion, goes hand in hand with the history of Lettish national chauvinism and collaborationism.

Pro-Fascist organizations began to emerge in Latvia soon after World War I. The Aizsargi (meaning "guards") and the Lettish National Club were the first ones, created in 1919 and 1922, respectively. The Aizsargi paramilitary organization was headed by K.Ulmanis, the Peasants Union party leader, who actually used the "guards" as a military force in his struggle for power. The Aizsargi support made possible a military coup and the establishment of a one-man rule by K.Ulmanis on May 15, 1934. During his rule, the forty thousand men-strong Aizsargi was equated to the police in terms of its rights and responsibilities.

The Government of K.Ulmanis abruptly toughened its policy against national minorities. It disbanded their public organizations and closed most of schools for national minorities. Even the Latgals (22 percent of the population), the closest ethnic group to the Letts, were no longer able to use the Latgale language at local institutions and be taught in the Latgale languages at schools.

The Government banned the Lettish National Club activities soon after it was established; however, it served as a basis for forming the Fire Cross group in 1927, renamed into Perkonkrust ("The Thunder Cross") Lettish People Association in 1933. By the fall of 1934, its membership stood at about 5,000. Perkonkrust was a radical nationalist organization, which attempted to consolidate the entire political and economic power in the hands of the Letts and crack down on "strangers", Jews in particular. After K.Ulmanis came to power, Perkonkrust was formally dissolved.

After the Soviet military bases were established in Latvia according to a treaty with the USSR in the fall of 1939, the Aizsargi, ex-Perkonkrust members and the Latvian political police instituted espionage against the Red Army units on behalf of Germany. At the same time, hundreds of national minority representatives, especially Jews, were apprehended for their "sympathy for Bolsheviks".

When Latvia joined the USSR, the German intelligence vitalized its ties with illegal Lettish nationalist organizations in order to arrange an armed mutiny by the time of German invasion of the USSR. These plans ended in failure thanks to the steps taken by the Soviet State security bodies.

Former members of Latvian nationalist organizations resumed their activities right after the Red Army withdrawal. In the summer of 1941, massive Jewish pogroms swept across Latvia (Annex 1). On June 29, 1941, R. Heydrich, head of the SD and the Reich Security Main Office, issued a directive to all the Einsatzgruppen leaders, which ordered "not to obstruct the attempts by anti-Communist and anti-Jewish organizations in the occupied territories aimed at self-cleansing" (Europa untern Hackenkreuz. Okkupation und Kollaboration (1938-1945). Berlin. S. 219-220). The Latvian newspaper Tevija wrote 11 July 1941: "The Jewish sins are gross: they wanted to destroy our nation and, therefore, must perish as a culture" (Urteil des Landgerichts Hamburg (37)5/76 gegen Viktor Arajs vom 27. Oktober 1980, S.11)..

The former Aizsargi, servicemen of the Latvian army and police - as well as members of the "Thunder Cross" voluntarily formed the so-called "self-defense squadrons". Their headquarters was located in Riga. The squadrons were under the command of Z.Veiss ( . .14 .5.1075, .313.), a lieutenant-colonel of the former Latvian army. These units were used for searches, arrests, raids and mass shootings of civilian population. The priority target population for on-site execution, as in all occupation areas, were Jews, communists, Soviet activists, Soviet power sympathizers. Mass shootings of Soviet citizens, including tens of thousands of Jews in summer-autumn 1941 in Riga, Daugavpils, Liepaja (Annex 2) serve as one of the sanguinary "examples of their work".

Further, in July 1941 in the territory of the Preilipagast, Dvinsk district, such punitive teams shot 900 Soviet citizens, including the entire Jewish population of the city of Preili. 110 villagers of Dagla in the same district were shot in August 1941. The Latvian castigators shot 700 Soviet citizens, including women and children, in the suburb of the city of Subate, Ilukste district. In all these cases the belongings of those executed were shared among the executioners ( . .4. .5..535..122)..

In the Fall 1941 the head of the "Perkonkrust" G. Celmin, promoted by then to the rank of Sonderfuhrer, called upon the Latvians to join the volunteer "security team" under the command of V. Arjs - a former Latvian Army corporal and a Riga University graduate - who headed the entire Riga police at the moment the team was formed. During the first weeks of its emergence the "Arjs team" burned a Riga synagogue together with the people who had barricaded themselves inside and also exterminated about 2000 Jews and Communist party members. The overall strength of the "Arjs team" sometimes amounted 3000 men ( . .16. .312. .308. .147-152)..

The Arjs teamspersonnel wore uniform of the former army of the Latvian Republic and had on their sleeves an armlet bearing raw head and bloody bones and an inscription: "Auxiliary security police". Later on, the team was outfitted with the SS troops uniform.

According to the archives, in July-December 1941 the personnel of this unit together with other police battalions carried out the executions of Jews in the Bikernieku forest (total number of victims - 46500), as well as in Liepaja, Talsi and at the railway station Carnikava (over 10000 persons). Also, the Arjs team participated in mass shootings in the Rumbule forest (during the occupation - about 38000 persons were shot) ( . 2783 . . 2000, 16, .7.). During consequent years of the Great Patriotic War the V.Arjs unit was periodically dispatched to perform punitive operations in the vicinity of the cities of Velikie Luki, Baranovichi, Slutsk, Minsk.

Further, the police Arjs teamsand later Latvian battalions guarded the concentration camp in the city of Salaspils where prisoners were brought not only from Latvia but also from Austria, Czechoslovakia, France and other countries77 ("". - 7. 1990. .34.). During the entire occupation period 101100 Soviet citizens were exterminated in this camp.

In 1941-1945 in Latvia a total of 46 prisons, 23 concentration camps and 18 Jewish ghettos were established. According to the Latvian SSR's Extraordinary Republican Commission on Crimes Committed by German-Fascist Aggressors and their Accomplices, only in the territory of Latvia 313 798 civilians (including 39 835 children) and 330 032 Soviet prisoners of war were exterminated.

The guerrilla warfare in the German rear became an important factor which forced Hitler to take an unplanned decision to create national armed formations from among inhabitants of the occupied territory of the USSR. Thus, on August 25, 1941 Field Marchal-General von Leeb, Commander of the Army Group North, formally authorized the recruitment of Lithuanians, Estonians and Letts to form special detachments and volunteer battalions. In autumn 1941 regular police battalions were created on the basis of the so called "self-defence squadrons" with the task to carry out punitive operations. In October 1941 the first Lettish battalion was sent to fight against guerrillas in the Pskov region, and in December that year Lettish policemen participated in punitive actions on the territory of Byelorussia.

During the war years a total of 41 battalions of this kind were formed (for comparison - 23 in Lithuania and 26 in Estonia). Each battalion counted an average of 300 people, but some of them were up to 600 people strong. Lettish battalions were operative in Latvia, Ukraine, Byelorussia and other regions. Thus, in the summer of 1942 the 18th and 27th Latvian police battalions88 ( . . . .1990 . .191.) "introduced order" in the German rear in the Caucasus.

Heavy losses incurred by the German Army during the Red Army's winter counter-offensive (1941-1942) in the environs of Moscow forced Hitler to attach the police units to the German Army as reserve units. Later they were used to "stop up breaches" in the battle-front and still actively involved in fighting guerrillas.

In February 1942 the 2nd SS Motorized Brigade (2.SS-Infanterreie-Brigade (mot)) was formed on the basis of the 16th, 19th, 21 and 24th Lettish battalions and in autumn 1943 it was sent to the Eastern Front in the environs of Leningrad (Bender R.I and Tailor H. Uniforms, Organization and History of the Waffen-SS Jose, Calif, 1986. p.71-72.). In November 1943 the 2nd Lettish SS Volunteer Brigade was composed of the 39th and 40th Lettish volunteer regiments. From November 1943 to January 18, 1944 it participated in military operations against the Red Army units in different sectors of the Army Group North's front.

In 1942 General R.Bangerskis, the Defence Minister of the former pre-war Government of Latvia, and his supporters from among local collaborationists came out with the initiative of creating a "100 000 Latvian Army". The idea of formation of an independent Latvian army was rejected by H.Himler who proposed to set up a "Lettish Legion" within the SS to fight against the Soviet partisans and got a principled consent to form a "Lettish SS Volunteer Legion" (Lettische SS-Freiwilligen-Legion). On February 10, 1943 A.Hitler signed an order to create "a SS volunteer Lettish legion as a single military unit" (Annex 3).

On March 24, 1943 H.Himler issued an order which specified the notion of the "Lettish legion" as a general term for all Letts who served in the Lettish military units, including police battalions (Windrow M. The Waffen-SS (Revised Ed.). Osprey Publ. Ltd. London, 1989 p.64.).

In March 1943 and March 1944, the German High Command in Latvia created within the Legion the 15th and 19th volunteer SS divisions (on the basis of the 2-nd mechanized SS brigade and the 2nd Lettish volunteer SS brigade, respectively). The legion's commander was General Hansen, while R.Bangerskis, who received the rank of the SS-Gruppenfhrer, was appointed general inspector. The persons joining the legion took an oath of allegiance to A.Hitler personally.

In March 1944 the 15th and 19th divisions were incorporated into the 6th SS corps, which, in its turn, merged with the 18th army (Army Group North). During that period of time it was holding positions along the river Velikaya to the North of the towns of Ostrov and Pskov (the territory of the present Pskov region).

In June 1944, the name "voluntary" (Freiwilligen) division was replaced by "Waffen". Thus, the full name of the 15th division, for instance, read like "15. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (lettische 1)". The disappearance of the term "voluntary" was connected with the fact that with the outcome of the war getting all the more evident, it did not encourage volunteers to enlist, and in December 1943 the occupation authorities resorted to mobilization of the male population born in 1918-1922.

The offensive of the Soviet troops in July 1944 forced the German Army Group North together with its two Lettish divisions to continue the retreat to the west, and on October 13, 1944 the city of Riga was liberated by the Soviet troops. The German force, which also comprised the 19th Lettish SS division, continued to hold positions in Kurland, where it capitulated in May 1945. The legionnaires caught in the Kurland mousetrap were disarmed by the 130th Lettish Infantry Corps of the Red Army. The 15th division was overrun near Berlin in April 1945, and its scattered units surrendered to the Soviet and American forces.

The units and sub-units of the Lettish legion not only participated in fighting against the Red Army, but were also used by the SS command for mass shootings, carrying out of punitive actions against guerrillas and civilian population on the territories of Latvia, Poland, Byelorussia, Ukraine and Russia, for keeping guard service in the ghettos and concentration camps ( (). .451..6. .96. .221-222.) (Annex 4).

On June 12, 1943 in the telephone message No. 33 the Assistant Chief of the district police informed the Regional SS and Police Chief that in accordance with the instructions given on June 11, 1943 at a meeting in Riga, the command of the Gendarmery of Latvia and SD forces carried out in the village of kaune the evacuation (the word for shootings used in reports) of families, one or several members of which came over to the "bandits". The evacuations took place in the villages of Skaune, Rundeni, Paspene and Briti. In general, 224 persons were shot down according to the plan during three hours, and it was done by policemen from the 273-rd Lettish police battalion (. .7021. .93. .3695. .88-89.).

In Ukraine, the castigators from the 22nd Daugavpils police battalion acted ruthlessly in the areas of Zhitomir and Lutsk; of the 23-rd Gauja's police battalion - in the areas of Dnepropetrovsk and Kerch, of the 25th Abava's police battalion - in the areas of Korosten and Ovruch, and of the 28th Barta's police battalion - in the area of Krivoy Rog.

In Byelorussia, in summer 1942 the German security police handed over the guardship of the town of Slonim to the 18th Lettish police battalion. Exactly on the same day its commander Rubenis issued the order to exterminate the ghetto (2 000 people) ( . . . . 1990 . .1913).

The Latvian Legion sub-units participated directly in the "Winter Magic" operation, which was carried out from February 15 until early April 1943 and is more commonly known as the Osveja tragedy. The operation was aimed at creating a neutrality zone 40 km in width between Drissa in the south, Zilupe and Smolnatal in the north within the area Osveja Drissa Polotsk Sebez Rossony (Byelorussia, Russia). This strip of land with no inhabitants or settlements was meant to deprive the partisans of their strong points. 7 Latvian battalions, one Ukrainian company and one Lithuanian company took part in the operation under the personal command of SS Obergruppenfhrer F.Ekkeln. Besides, special sub-units were attached thereto. The overall strength totalled about 4000 people.

According to the records, the operation unwound the following way: on entering a village the police and the attached units of the SD were shooting down everyone suspected of possible partisan activities (nearly all men at the age of 16 to 50 were suspected), as well as the elderly and the disabled who could not manage a long-distance journey on foot. Others mainly women and children proceeded on foot towards the place of the so-called "second sluicing". Those exhausted by the journey were shot down. From the collecting camps people were sent to the other camps, for example to Salaspils nearby Riga, where women were separated from their children and sent to work in Germany.

Altogether several hundreds of villages were destroyed, including those with a thousand and more inhabitants ("". - 6. 1990. . 32.). In the Osveja region alone 183 villages were burned down, 11 383 people were shot down and burned (among them 2 118 children under the age of 12), 14 175 inhabitants were taken away for work adults to Germany, children to the Salaspils concentration camp (Annex 5). The FRG judiciary qualified the "Winter Magic" operation as a crime against humanity.

In the summer and autumn of 1943 the 25th Police Battalion and the company of Lidums were dispatched to carry out punitive operations against the Soviet partisans in the Pripjat marshes (Byelorussia). The 18th Police Battalion gained notoriety for the worst atrocities committed on the Byelorussian land. For their "achievements" 73 most "active" members of the punitive battalion were awarded medals "For Courage of the 2nd class for Representatives of Eastern Nations" by the Chief of the Byelorussian SS and Police.

In 1944 punitive operations in Byelorussia were conducted by three police regiments already. The 1st Riga Volunteer Regiment was acting nearby Nevel, the 2nd Liepaja Regiment - along the railway between Daugavpils and Polotsk. The punitive operations were carried until the end of May 1944. According to the military records, the 3rd Cesis's Regiment destroyed "the terrorist forces estimated at approximately 20 thousand people". According to the witnesses, in Kobylniki village alone some 3 thousand innocent civilians were killed.

In early March 1944 the Latvian police regiments participated in the major punitive operation against partisans nearby the town of Vetrino (Byelorussia) along with some 20 Estonian and German police battalions. The castigators burned down the remaining Byelorussian villages in the region and shot down the inhabitants.

From August to December 1943 the Police Battalion 282-A participated in the punitive expedition in Lithuania and Poland aimed at defeating the partisans and taking away the young people for forced labor in Germany. The 316th Battalion of the 2nd Liepaja Police Regiment also took part in the punitive expeditions in Poland and Latvia (Annex 6).

The 278th (Dobele's) Police Battalion was stationed in Poland where it also combed out forests and villages supported by the aviation in search of the persons fighting against the Nazi invaders (Annex 7).

The Lettish SS brigades and divisions participated in the punitive operations as well. Thus, the 2nd Lettish SS Brigade burned down the village of Fedorovka in the Chudskoy District of the Novgorod Region and the village of Osino in 1942. Moreover, the personnel of the Brigade have carried out mass arsons and executions in the towns of Lubnitsy, Osets, Krechno 60 km north-east of Novgorod as well as in the Krasnoye Selo prisoner-of-war camp near Leningrad. V.Arjs served in 15th Division in the rank of Sturmbannfuhrer.

Besides the general functions at the East Front the 19th Lettish SS Division performed the following tasks: to counteract Soviet partisans in the German back areas; to carry out raids against civilians suspected in supporting partisans; to execute the Soviet civilian population; to confiscate livestock, grain and foodstuff from population; to burn down villages and towns. Basically, these tasks were performed by a Police Gendarmerie Company within the structure of 19th Lettish SS Division but the personnel of other combat units of the formation was often involved in such actions.

The Division has directly participated in the punitive actions against the Soviet citizens on the territory of the Leningrad and Novgorod Regions. The units of the Division took part in the punitive actions against the Soviet partisans in the areas of Nevel, Opochka, Pskov (560 persons were executed 3 km from Pskov) in 1943. On 18 December 1943, 250 civilians were executed in the village of Zalia-Gora west of Novgorod. The personnel of the Police Gendarmerie Company carried out summary executions in the town of Chudovo in the Leningrad Region early in January 1944. Thus, on 21 January 1944, the Lettish punitive team forced 200 villagers of Glukhaya into a barn and then machine-gunned them all. The same team has executed 500 prisoners of the concentration camp near the village of Prokhorovo in Byelorussia. As a result of the punitive operations carried out by the personnel of 19th Lettish SS Division in the period from 18 December 1943 to 2 April 1944 23 villages were burned down, in 13 of them - 1300 villagers were executed (. .451. .6. .96. .221-236.).

Also, the military personnel of the Lettish SS divisions have participated in atrocious killings of the Soviet prisoners of war including women. Thus, on 6 August 1943, the soldiers of 43 Rifle Regiment of the 19th Lettish SS Division tortured to death 15 prisoners from the 65th Guard Rifle Regiment of the 22nd Guard Rifle Division captured near village of Bobryny (the Latvian SSR). This fact is confirmed by a provision of the verdict of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal determining that "there are proofs that executions of unarmed prisoners of war were a routine practice in certain SS divisions", which directly concerns the Lettish divisions as their personnel executed prisoners by even more atrocious methods (Annex 8).

The subversive groups for carrying out subversive activities in the rear of the Red Army to a great extent have been staffed with the personnel of the 19th Division (later many of their members became the so called "Forest Brothers" who committed more than 3000 subversive and terrorist acts which killed thousands of people in the period from 1944 to 1952) (Annex 4).

The participants in the war-time events confirm that the Latvian legionaries are also responsible for exterminating the civilian population, in particular, killing the residents of the Knyazevo (Krasnoye), Barsuki, Rozalino villages, Vitebsk county, Morochkovo and Kobylniki villages in 1944 (Annex 9).

The central regions of Poland were not neglected by the legionaries too. As German general J.Stroop alleged the Latvian formations were also involved in the operation on the Warsaw Ghetto extermination in 1942-1943. An estimate 56065 people were exterminated in Warsaw (Annex 10).

The criminal nature of the SS organization was totally recognized by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg which stated that "the SS was utilized for the purposes which were criminalized by the Chapter involving the persecution and extermination of the Jews, brutalities and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of the occupied territories, the administration of the slave labour programme and the mistreatment and murder of prisoners of war In dealing with the SS the Tribunal includes all persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS including the members of the Allgemeine SS, members of the Waffen SS, members of the SS Totenkopf units and the members of any of the different police forces who were members of the SS. Tribunal declares to be criminal within the meaning of the Charter the group composed of those persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph who became or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts criminalized by Article 6 of the Charter The Tribunal finds that knowledge of these criminal activities was sufficiently general to justify declaring that the SS was a criminal organization". Moreover the Tribunal stated that "Article 10 of the Charter stipulates that the judgment about the criminal nature of the accused organization is considered proved and shall not be questioned on any following process of independent members of the organization". And as it clearly comes from the judgment, the Latvian legion is also recognized criminal because the Tribunal included to the SS the "Waffen-SS" members and the members of any police units emphasizing that "it is impossible to single out any one portion of the SS which was not involved in these criminal activities". The Tribunal also "noted" the activities of the SS divisions indicating that "the SS divisions were responsible for many massacres and atrocities in the occupied territories " ( . 8 . . 8. , , 1997, . 652.).

Also of interest is the provision of Article 10 of the Charter of the Tribunal according to which "in cases where a group or organization is declared criminal by the Tribunal, the competent national authority of any Signatory shall have the right to bring individual to trial for membership therein before national, military or occupation courts In any case the criminal nature of the group or organization is considered proved"

After Latvia withdrew from the USSR the Latvian authorities in order to justify the collaboration of the Latvian nationalists with Hitler Germany put forward a theory about the responsibility of the "totalitarian regimes" of Germany and the URSS for "involving a number of Latvians into crimes in the period of two occupations".

At the same time the Latvian authorities are upholding the assertion that the Latvian SS legion was used exclusively for military operations on the front in the fight for the independence of Latvia and had not allegedly been connected to the punitive operations on the territories occupied by the Nazi Germany. On October, 29, 1998 the Latvian Seim (Saeima) adopted the Declaration on the Latvian Legionnaires in World War II, aiming at "restoring the historical correctness and the fair record of the Latvian Warriors". The Declaration highlighted that "the goal of the Letts, both drafted, and voluntarily enlisted in the legion was to protect Latvia against the restoration of the Stalinist regime" and that "they (i.e. the legionnaires) had never participated in the punitive acts of the Hitlerites against the peaceful residents". At that the Seim charged the government "to see to the elimination of encroachments upon the honour and dignity of the Latvian Warriors both in Latvia and abroad".

Right after the adoption of the above mentioned Declaration on the Legionnaires in that very 1998, the Seim included the day of Commemoration of the Latvian Warriors in the calendar of holidays and memorable days, which was dated to the major battle between the legion and the Red Army on the Velikaja river at Opoka of March, 16, 1944 (the territory of the Russian Federation). However the official celebration on that day in 1999 and the parade of the former SS members through the center of Riga caused such an adverse reaction on the part of the victims of fascism both in Latvia and abroad, that the authorities, concerned about the countrys international image, were quick to relieve the day of the official status as "memorable". But for all that the format of the event, which became "a private affair of the citizens", remained and is from year to year accompanied by a public worship at the Dom Cathedral and the laying of wraiths to the monument "To Fatherland and Freedom". The formal commemoration of the legionaries is however postponed for the Day of Laplesis, the legendary hero of the Lettish epic, celebrated on November, 11. Thus the legionnaires were actually recognized as the "national heroes".

The reserve of the Latvian authorities in the public demonstration of their special attitude to the former legionnaires since the invitation for Riga to enter the EU and the NATO was replaced by the determination to accomplish the process of turning the SS members into "the heroes of the Resistance" and "the fighters for the liberation of Latvia". The official opening of the Memorial to the Lettish legionnaires in the Lestene by the city of Tukums, attended by Guntis Ulmanis, the former President of the country, Inguna Rbena, Minister of Culture and Raimond Graube, the Executive Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, who is dealing with the integration of the Army of Latvia into the NATO.

Thus, since mid-1990-ies on the official level in Latvia the policy of rehabilitation and celebration of war criminals has been pursued against the backdrop of attempts to overwrite the results of World War II. "The military and patriotic experience" of the Lettish SS Legion is being implemented in educational work with the oncoming generation at schools and in the Latvian Army, including the Aizsargi organization reconstructed in the form of militia. The former legionnaires are actively engaged in this work, as well as their present-day admirers, united in the National Lettish Warriors Community, The Daugava Hawks Organization (Daugavas Vanagi) and the Association of National Lettish Guerrillas (The Forest Brothers).

The revival of nationalist ideology has also encouraged the extremist organizations in Latvia. For example, the Perkonkrusts (The Thunder Cross) followers resumed the activities of their organization in the 1990-ies, declaring the overthrow of power "that did not live up to expectations" and the creation of a "Lettish Latvia" as their aim. The Perkonkrusts has so far scored three attempts of exploding the Monument to the Liberators of Riga from the German and Fascist Invaders in Riga and the explosion of the Rigas Siltums heating main. Early in 2000 the most active members of the organization were arrested. However, the sentence was extremely mild: three people were set free right in the court and the others got either nominal or minor sentence.

The historic aspect of mass statelessness persisting in Latvia is also important. As a matter of fact, the recognition of the concept of history of Latvia in World War II imposed on the society is presented by the government as one of the major conditions of passing the naturalization test in the context of naturalization, which is naturally unacceptable for the overall majority of Russians, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Jews and residents of Latvia of different nationalities. Such attitude to the problematic historic issues exacerbates the splitting of the Latvian society.


Annex 1.


The following is an extract from the declaration of G.L. Barinbaum to the Extraordinary Commission of the Latvian SSR on Identification and Investigation of German Nazi Crimes: "Lettish Nazi scoundrels wanted to organize a pogrom in the town itself and literally slaughter all the Jews and already began doing it in some parts of the town but the German military command prohibited it but gave a permission during the night to arrest and execute 5 thousand men" State Archives of the Russian Federation, section P-7021, register 93, file 1, sheet 59.


Annex 2.


EXCEPT FROM A REVIEW OF ACTIVITIES OF THE SECOND OPERATIONAL TEAM OF THE OPERATIONAL GROUP "A",
SD AND SECURITY POLICE

In the beginning of 1942*

By the time of the entry of German troops into Latvia, about 70 000 Jews lived there. At the time of the Bolsheviks Latvia had much more Jews but a great deal of them fled with the Bolsheviks.

The objective set from the very beginning to the second operational team consisted in radical solution of the Jews problem by complete execution** of all the Jews. To achieve that the Sonderkommanden and choice forces of the Lettish Auxiliary Police conducted broad cleansing actions throughout the region. Approximately by the beginning of October, the groups executed 30 000 Jews. We should add here several thousand Jews liquidated on the initiative of the self-defense units themselves after they have been hinted to do that

Before the end of October, the rural areas of Latvia were entirely cleansed.

To exclude entirely from social life the Jews still needed for work they were gathered together in ghettos organized in Riga, Daugavpils and Liepaja.

Simultaneously, it was ordered to introduce a special identification mark for Jews - a Jewish star. The functions of the security police in the ghettos were limited to purely police ones, while the isolation and management of the ghetto area, as well as remuneration and supply of prisoners were entrusted upon the Gebietskommissaren and the use of Jews at work - upon the Work Office.

In early November 1941, there still were about 30,000 Jews in Riga ghetto, about 4,300 in Liepaja and about 7,000 in Daugavpils. After that 400-500 Jews were executed... Besides, during large actions the ghettos were cleared of restrictedly fit for work, as well as of the Jews not needed for work. Thus, on 9 November 1941, 11,034 Jews were executed in Daugavpils, in early December 1941, during a large action conducted on the order and under the direction of the highest SS and police chief - 27,800 more Jews, and in the middle of December 1941, in Liepaja according to the wish of the Reichskommissar - 2350 more Jews. The rest of the Jews (2500 in Riga, 950 in Daugavpils and 300 in Liepaja) were excluded from this action because they belonged to the qualified work force irreplaceable for the economy, especially the war economy.

Source: "Мы обвиняем" ("We accuse"). Рига. 1967 г. стр. 77 - 79.


* Dated according to the contents

** I.e. elimination


Annex 3.

EXCERPT FROM ANNOUNCEMENT FOR LATVIAN POPULATION


Riga

February 27, 1943

"Fhrer of the Great Germany has authorized the setting up of an SS Volunteer Lettish Legion. The newly established Lettish Legion has already been joined by some volunteer units to become its core.

The Legion is structured as a single combat group being a part of the SS troops with its subunits being in command of Lettish officers"

Source: "Мы обвиняем", Рига. 1967 г., стр. 268.


Annex 4.


Excerpt from interrogation record of Tone Bruno, February 11, 1945.

"In the mid July 1943 I was appointed company commander of the 4th SS Lettish battalion which guarded a concentration camp situated in a place called Salaspils The company performed this function up to October 1943 when together with other SS troops, it was sent to protect the Latvian-Soviet border which existed till 1939 from infiltrations by Soviet partisan groups to the Latvian territory Members of the SS company under my command guarded the perimeter of the concentration camp to exclude any possible escape by prisoners. They also escorted prisoners for work at turfaries and other works, for interrogation at Riga SD, guarded isolation wards In October 1944 I was detached to the headquarters of the 19th SS Lettish division. Upon arrival I met six more officers sent from other military units and they told me that the 19th SS Lettish division where they served was visited by Alfons Raitums, leader of Latvian fascist party "Lidumneks", who convened them and proposed to engage in "partisan" activities against the Soviet authorities in the Red Army rear, and they accepted this proposal Our group of officers was received by SS Sturmbannfuhrer Pechau Pechau told us that he had an armed and trained unit composed of six hundred Letts to be deployed in the Latvian territory freed by the Red Army for subversive and terrorist activities and we should perform command duties in this unit" (Source: "Military and Historical Magazine", No. 2, 1997).


Annex 5.


Excerpt from a special report on the apprehension by a SMERSH unit of Alfred-August Kukis: "On participation by Kukis in a punitive expedition (in Osveja) here follows testimonial evidence by Elizaveta Petrovna Kromann who witnessed the atrocities committed by members of this (Lettish) Legion: "On February 17, together with many other people I was arrested for connections with partisans and brought to Alfred Kukis who interrogated me. After the interrogation all inhabitants of our village - the elderly, girls, children and women (a total of about 100 persons) were put together near two sheds and being counted off by dozens were taken to a shed to be shot. When a dozen of us remained we were ordered to stand about twenty meters from the shed. The shed was set on fire while we heard screams of people locked in there who were still alive. Everybody died in flames when the sheds were burnt down" (Central FSB Archives)


Annex 6.


Excerpt from the special report concerning the arrest of active members of the Aizsargi military fascist organization: "In August 1943 A.Y.Leimanis was enlisted in 282-A Punitive Police Battalion and as a member of this unit during five months he participated in the punitive expedition in Lithuania and Poland aimed at the corralling young people to Germany". "Starting from February 1944 A.Y.Berzi served in the 316th battalion of the 2nd Liepaja police regiment and as a member of this unit he participated in the punitive counter-guerrilla expeditions in Poland and Latvia".//FSB Central Archives.


Annex 7.


An excerpt from the special report concerning the arrest of Ludvig Karlovich Spudi, citizen of the Latvian SSR, according to article 58-1a of the RSFSR Penal Code. Citation from the testimony of the detainee: "In August 1943 the 278th Police Battalion was redeployed in Poland where also with the support from air they combed forests in order to locate there persons fighting against Germans In December 1943 the 278th police battalion arrived to Russia in the Lake Osvee area. In this area several similar battalions operated. There special SD units and even aircraft were attached to our battalion. In Russia our battalion often moved along the Latvian border. The warplanes bombed villages in these areas and SD units together with police battalions operated in forest areas where they searched for local residents hiding from bombardment. The persons recovered and caught in the forests were handed over to the SD units and later they were executed. The battalion personnel lived on foodstuff looted from local residents".// FSB Central Archive.


Annex 8.


An excerpt from the special report of the head of the SMERSH Counterintelligence Office of the 2nd Baltic Front of 18 August 1944 "On victimization of the Soviet prisoners of war by Germans and their accomplices from the SS Lettish units".

"During the night preceding 6 August the 65th Guards infantry regiment of the 22nd Guards infantry division was engaged in an offensive operation in the area of Bobryni village (Latvian SSR). Germans and Letts from the SS division outflanked combat formations of the Guards, attacked them from the rear and cut off a small group of the Soviet soldiers and officers from their units. During the fight 43 infantrymen and commanders were wounded who, due to the existing difficult situation, could not be evacuated and were captured by the Germans.

Having captured the prisoners of war the German scoundrels started a bloody massacre.

The Germans and traitors from SS Lattish units put out the eyes and inflicted many knife wounds to private N.K.Karaulov, junior sergeant Y.P.Korsakov and lieutenant of the Guards E.R.Bogdanov.

They cut stars on the foreheads, screwed legs and kicked out by boots teeth of lieutenants of the Guards Kaganovich and Kosmin.

Torturers cut out breasts, wrung legs and arms and inflicted many knife wounds to medical assistant A.A.Sukhanova and three other nurses.

Privates F.E.Egorov, Satybatynov, A.N.Antonenko, P.Plotnikov and sergeant-major Afanasiev were massacred.

Nobody among the wounded captured by Germans and Lettish fascists escaped tortures and atrocities.

According to the existing information, the wounded Soviet soldiers and officers had been massacred by soldiers and officers of a battalion of the 43rd Infantry Regiment, 19th Latvian SS Division. //FSB Central Archives.


Annex 9.

An excerpt from the report by Lieutenant V.Balti, special mission officer of the Russian Liberation Army staff, of 26 May 1944 to colonel Pozdnyakov, representative of the Russian Liberation Army, Riga:

"In mid-December 1943, I was on mission (together with several other officers) in Knyazevo (Krasnoye), Barsuki, Rozalino and other villages of Byelorussia (former Vitebsk country). Those villages were occupied by German troops which displayed tolerance towards the local residents; however, when Latvian SS units came to replace them, a horrifying campaign of wanton terror immediately unleashed. Local people had to hide in the nearby forests during the night time to stay alive. There were numerous dead bodies of women and elderly people around those villages. I learnt from the inhabitants that Latvian SS troops were responsible for those atrocities.

On 23 April 1944 I happened to be in Morochkovo village which had been completely burnt. The remaining cellars were occupied by Latvian SS servicemen. On the day of my arrival they were to be replaced by a German unit, but I had time to speak, in Latvian, with several of those servicemen whose names I do not know, however. I asked one of them why there were so many bodies of dead women, elderly people and children, hundreds of unburied bodies and killed horses lying around the village. They answered: "We killed them trying to exterminate as many Russian as possible".

When the Latvian unit left, they took with them, as concubines, several Russian women and girls. Those women had, above all, to wash soldiers' clothes, firing bath-houses, clean the rooms etc.

The next day we crossed over a small river and found nearby several remaining houses and local people. When they saw us they got frightened; however, we managed to calm them down quickly. We showed them seven new Crosses on the graves where we had buried bodies and told them about what we had seen. The peasants cried away and told us about what they had to live through during the period of the Latvian SS units' stay there.

In the beginning of May, in a ravine near Kobylniki village we saw about 3 thousand bodies of shot peasants, mostly women and children, who had been executed. Local people who had managed to escape told us that executions had been carried out by the "persons who understood Russian, wore dead heads on their service caps and red, white and red armlets around their left arms", i.e. by the Latvian SS servicemen.

("Istochnik"//1998 No.2 pp.74-75)


Annex 10.


Excerpt from the Nuremberg Tribunal sentence: "Deliberate and systematic character of the repressions against Jews can be best demonstrated by the report of Mr. Stroop, SS brigadier, who was responsible for the demolition of the Warsaw ghetto, that took place in 1943. That report was submitted to the Tribunal as a piece of evidence and its front page bore the following inscription: "Warsaw Jewish ghetto exists no more". As Strop put it in his report, as a result of his actions in Warsaw 56065 people were executed. //Nuremberg process. Compendium in 8 volumes. V.8. Moscow, Yuridicheskaya literatura, 1997, pp.633-634.