Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Latvian court backs free speech and assembly, yet again

An "antifascist" organization a few days ago and the Latvian veterans' organization "Daugavas vanagi" on March 15 won the right to assembly near the Freedom Monument on March 16 in appeals to a Latvian court.  The court ruled, yet again, for the right to free assembly. Lame-duck Minister of Interior Linda Murniece (who has resigned, but will not go away until June) initially opposed the ban on public gatherings imposed by the fuckwit Riga City Council (the fuckwit part doesn't fade with a change in political compositon). Now she is promising a massive show of police force to make sure the rallies stay peaceful. Massive, at least, as far as the large majority of police who will not be out in the countryside staging armed robberies and gun battles, or driving around Riga shitfaced banging up cars, as another member of the elite Alfa unit did.
What happens now is that a small number of 80 and 90-somethings, former Latvian Legion members, accompanied, perhaps, by their middle aged children, will march to the Freedom Monument after a religious service. They will be met by a cordon of Latvian flags held by youth supporters of the Visu Latvijai  (All for Latvia) a fervent, but moderate nationalist party. Various ultranationalist and neo-Nazi crackpots will also show up. Opposing them will be a mixture of geezers and younger folk denouncing the Legion veterans as fascists. There will, yet again, be almost universal distortion or ignorance of both history and "alternate history".
What I mean by that is that in 1943,  when the Latvian legion was drafted in violation of international law by the Nazi occupation authorities, nobody was seen off with an honor guard of dozens of flags of the Latvian republic. Maybe I am wrong, but the red-white-red shoulder flashes that these conscript Waffen SS troops got was as far as officially allowed displays of nationalism went back then.
It is also undeniable that like the little spoon dipped in tar that gets used in a big honey pot, there were people in the Latvian Legion who had been with the Latvian Police Battalions formed prior to 1943. I don't think even any of these guys participated in the Holocaust, which was largely over in the Baltics by 1942, but some of them may have done some nasty things in Belarus.
That will not prevent some of the anti-fascists from acting as if everyone in the Latvian Legion personally took part in the shooting of Jews and then celebrated by having Hitler's face tattooed life-sized on their back with a hairpin taken from one of their victims. Nonsense, to be sure.
As for the "ignorance" of alternate history, consider this -- what if the side the Latvian Legion was fighting on had actually "won" in a limited sense. Say, Stalin dropped dead in late 1944 and the Red Army suffered some major calamity and whoever took charge of the Kremlin called an uneasy armistice. Then what?
I am pretty sure the Germans would have shifted much of their "best" troops to the West, to give the Allies a bloody nose, maybe doing a better in the Battle of the Bulge, or maybe a bit worse, because some Latvians decided to desert or surrender to the 101st Airborne? Then what? I could see reprisals in Latvia, mutiny, more Legionnaires and civilians killed by "loyal" German troops and maybe the Red Army moving in anyway to "restore order" (a mutiny or disorder on the Eastern Front could be a breach of the armistice, who knows).
The least likely scenario, whatever the 18 to 20-something patriotic draftee legionnaires were thinking at the time, was that Hitler would say -- thanks, kids, here is Latvia back! Not likely. At best, there would be even fewer surviving Legionnaires and brighter and stranger shades of grey about what they were up to in an alternate history end of World War II. The guys who happily surrendered after mauling an American tank company? Sorry about that.  The guys who survived a battle with the regular SS and staggered out of a concentration camp dressed in the tatters of another kind of SS uniform? WTF or whatever they said in 1945? Guys who surrendered to Swedish police after landing on Gotland in the 1938 uniforms of the Latvian army, but armed with Schmeissers and captured Russian submachineguns?  No, it would not have ended well, only differently.  What happened in reality to the Legionnaires was one of many potential bloodsoaked clusterfucks waiting to happen under the political and military circumstances of World War II.
My late father was drafted and fought in the Legion, he was badly wounded. At the end of it, he took off his Latvian flag shoulder flash and said something like -- we did our best, but it got fucked up, and what happened did not really do honor to that flag. Kind of sums it up pretty well. 


Anonymous said...

Well put, Juris!

Uldis Liepkalns

Anonymous said...


Don't treat this message as an introduction to any kind of debate.
Just a few thoughts after reading your blog. And I'm in UK BTW.
Like your "what-if's"! What if Stalingrad battle ended differently?! Would any latvians then be drafted to SS? Or if entire pace of WWII was more of a success for little Dolfi? Perhaps you need to read again about his pre-1939 plans in regards to all non-arians, also in baltic states. Nazis mandatory drafted in late 1943 those poor latvian lads just to plug a hole, at the very best, on their patchy eastern front. After it was clear war balance wasn't in their favour at all. Don't preach here commiseration to the likes of your dad. Sorry mate, you're mixing personal feelings, full respect here, with the way society judge historical facts. SS was BAD! Fulls top. Think differently whatever the reason?!? - see english, french, dutch, russians, polish and a dozen other nations who will enforce this point in sometimes ruther blatant and simplistic but nonetheless understandable form. Or read Nurnberg process docs again.Latvians as a nation,.....erm... what am I writing here. Not as a NATION as such word in general terms of use stands for populus. Latvians as ethnical group (think this is more precise), can you learn finally to stop moaning about universal lack of fairness from entire world towards your poor country. You are NOT EXCEPTIONAL nor deserving to be treated better than anyone else. Waffen SS members were war criminals. 3rd reich was not "liberator" of nations subdued to soviet rule but a bloodiest ever attempt for world domination. Learn from others! See how croats treat their WWII past. Or romanians. Their Ustase and Iron Guard represent much more heavier historical responsibility in terms of accepting ancestrial failure of judgement. And at same time their contemporary politicians do not glorify these history atticks. And none moans trying to find excuses and explanations turning black into white. Once you've stepped into brown stuff just wipe it off and carry on. And FORGET about it. Even if it was your dad stepping into it voluntarily.
Loads of f-words in your blog. Reading it leavs a sort of disturbing feeling. Seems you definitely having an issue being in this small land. I felt same way around 14 years ago and I left.

Juris Kaža said...

I am quite aware of how the Nazis would have treated the Latvians but for Stalingrad and the need for cannon fodder.
However, you are off the mark saying that all Waffen SS were war criminals. Most of the killing of Jews and others in Latvia took place before the Latvian Legion was formed. Some elements of the police battalions may have found their way into the Legion, this is true. But on the whole, the Legion was a combat unit. The US found them be mostly free of suspicion.
Where do you see the Nuremburg trials declared the entire Waffen SS as war criminals? Forming the Waffen SS by forced draft was a war crime, to be sure. The Germans were guilty of that.

Anonymous said...

Me again.
No debates! Promise.
As said earlier - this is all about the way society judges historical facts. And such is quite inverted on Daugava shores.

Definition of Waffen SS as recognised war criminals - as below:


How sensitive this issue is for brits:



And germans:


From the above


Die Nazis ermordeten mit lettischen Kollaborateuren 70.000 der 85.000 lettischen Juden.


Don't know about others but self, and around a million of DE citizens, trend to trust Der Spiegel.

Enough of this squabble.

Aris Kruvevers

Smile :-)