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What is Latvia thinking?

by slaboymni Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 01:16:49 PM EST

Latvian SS march sparks clashes

I had read in various Latvian press briefings that this year would be different <sigh>.  It was not...


SS veterans' marches cause outrage among Russian-speakers in Latvia
Latvia police have made dozens of arrests after pro-Russian activists tried to bloc a march of SS veterans and young nationalists in Riga.
The veterans had fought against Soviet troops on the side of Hitler's Germany in World War II.

The march in the capital was sanctioned by the Latvian authorities and took place amidst heavy police presence.

From the diaries, hoping to draw out Latvian commentary ~ whataboutbob



But it was interrupted by skirmishes which broke out as marchers came across the anti-fascists' human chain.

The protesters, mostly from the pro-Russian Rodina or Motherland organisation, were wearing striped clothes and yellow stars of David in a reference to the SS atrocities in Latvia, which lost 90% of its Jewish population in World War II.

 

Former members of the Latvian Waffen SS Legion, formed during the German occupation of Latvia, have been staging similar events since the country regained independence in 1991.

 

The resurgence of SS veterans is causing outrage among Latvia's large Russian-speaking population, which includes ethnic Jews.


Russian reaction to the annual Latvian Waffen SS parade

From the article above:


The Russian television station, TVC, aired a documentary called "Fascism in the Baltics", despite protests from Latvian officials.  A Russian deputy of the Seim (parliament) who participated in the film (Nikolai Kabanov) was kicked off the International Affairs Committee in retaliation.

I can understand freedom of assembly/speech, etc., but having sitting members of parliament participate?  And in the past the prime minister has marched?

Display:
Sounds like the Unionist marching season in Northern Ireland. The dark side of the EU.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 10:28:36 AM EST
Yes, it is deeply troubling.  It really makes me worry about Colman's comment about a possible pan-EU nationalism.
by slaboymni on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 10:31:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It also makes me wish more people thought like Ritter's sig:

I love my wife, not my country.

by slaboymni on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 10:33:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ET is anti-Baltic! </snark>

(P.S. added to the Wiki)

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 10:37:26 AM EST
Hopefully this will draw some Latvian lurkers out.  I would be very interested in their viewpoint.
by slaboymni on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 10:40:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, my gut reaction was certainly:

"Thinking? They aren't thinking at all, and that is the problem!"

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 10:48:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe they are honoring Latvian Waffen SS who defended Latvia from Soviet oppression?

And not the ordinary (non-Waffen) SS who were part of the Einsatzgruppen and who murdered Jews etc?

Of course, Waffen SS were not the nicest of chaps either, but not worse than the Wehrmacht or the Red Army.

Any thoughts?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 01:37:29 PM EST
The Truth about the Latvian SS Legion

The article linked above is from a Russian-language magazine in Latvia - almost 30% of the population is Russian.

I don't have time to translate right now - I'm at work.  It does a good job of debunking the 7 most common "myths" about the Latvian SS Legion - including the one you mention (it's myth no. 1).  I'll do a quick and dirty translation of part of this one:


"Myth No. 1: The Legion Fought for the Freedom of Latvia"
In reality:

The volunteer Latvian Legion was founded by Adolph Hitler, was under the command of ReichsFeuhrer Henrick Heimmler, all of its combat operations were planned by the German General Headquarters for Light Infantry, its divisions were commanded by SS Generals.

Basically, this argument falls apart with the following logic - Did Hitler create this group to fight for Latvian freedom?

Here is the text - maybe someone could run it through babelfish or something:


"Час": правда о латышском легионе СС
Рижская газета "Час" сегодня, 16 марта, в так называемый день латышского легионера СС публикует материал о семи мифах "борцов за свободу Латвии". Как отмечает издание, нынешние историки легиона многое утаивают и не договаривают, тем самым, порождая нелепые мифы. Газета взялась развенчать самые распространенн&# 1099;е утверждения почитателей легиона, причем опираясь не на "советскую клевету", а на исследования западных и современных латвийских историков. "Любопытно, что последние часто в исследованиях пишут одно, а в латышских СМИ появляется совсем другое", - отмечает "Час". Далее текст сегодняшней публикации газеты.

"Миф № 1: легион сражался за свободу Латвии

На самом деле:

Создал Латышский добровольчески&# 1081; легион СС Адольф Гитлер, находился он под управлением рейхсфюрера СС Генриха Гиммлера, планировал все его военные операции немецкий Генеральный штаб сухопутных войск, командовали дивизиями легиона генералы СС. Легионеры СС давали присягу: "Именем бога торжественно обещаю в борьбе против большевизма неограниченное послушание главнокомандую&# 1097;ему немецких вооруженных сил Адольфу Гитлеру, и за это, как смелый воин, готов отдать свою жизнь!" Уже в первые пять лет после победы нацисты собирались выдворить отсюда (из Латвии, - ИА REGNUM) в Сибирь 75 процентов населения, а освободившиеся территории заселить немцами. Вся западная Латвия (левый берег Даугавы) должна была подвергнуться германизации. Во всех крупных городах (Даугавпилс, Рига, Валка) жили бы только немцы, а наиболее "верным" остаткам латышей разрешили бы холопствовать в восточной части Латвии...

Утверждение о борьбе легионеров за свободу рушится, сталкиваясь с тезисом о том, что Гитлер противоправно и принудительно создал легион СС. Получается, Гитлер заставил латышей сражаться за свободу Латвии, а сами они не хотели? Кстати: коммунисты тоже верили, что строят самое лучшее в мире общество на благо всех. Но вряд ли кто-то из почитателей легиона СС посчитает это оправданием для коммунистов. Факт: на обочине шоссе Рига - Лиепая в 1991 году установлен памятник - "защитникам курземской твердыни (крепости)" (скульптор Ояр Фелдбергс), то есть нацистской группировке армий "Север" (с 26 января 1945 года "Курляндия"). Но в "Курляндской крепости" из 33 гитлеровских дивизий лишь одна была латышской! Получается, что в восстановленно&# 1081; Латвийской Республике установлен памятник в честь Гитлера и его армии как... борцам за свободу Латвии!

Миф № 2: легионеры мстили за зверства коммунистов

На самом деле:

Тот, кто занялся этими циничными подсчетами, должен держаться фактов. Коммунисты, даже по подсчетам нацистской пропаганды, уничтожили до июля 1941 года 3000 граждан Латвии, а еще 25 тысяч подвергли репрессиям. Нацисты же уничтожили около 100000 граждан Латвии, не говоря о других репрессированн&# 1099;х.

Миф № 3: Латышский легион можно сравнить с финскими войсками, которые отстаивали свою независимость

На самом деле:

Финны сражались под своими (а не нацистскими!) знаменами и только на территории Финляндии (в границах 1939 года). Они категорически отказались участвовать в штурме Мурманска и Ленинграда, замкнуть кольцо блокады вокруг Ленинграда (тогда бы пришлось выйти за пределы Финляндии)... Кольцо замкнули латышские легионеры СС. Поэтому к Финляндии победители отнеслись относительно мягко - они действительно воевали за свои национальные интересы. Кстати: в Латвии тоже было восемь пароходов, экипажи которых сражались на стороне антигитлеровск&# 1086;й коалиции под знаменами Латвийской Республики (о них "Час" подробно писал). Вот этих людей действительно можно сравнить с финнами. Ими можно гордиться! Однако власти не спешат отдавать им должное. Даже стенда в музее до сих пор не сделали. Зато на легионеров места не жалеют.

Миф № 4: легионеры не гитлеровцы еще и потому, что им доверили охранять Нюрнбергский международный трибунал вместе с солдатами антигитлеровск&# 1086;й коалиции

На самом деле:

Вокруг дворца правосудия, где проходил международный трибунал, было три кольца охраны. У самого здания находились немецкие солдаты, во втором кольце - американская военная полиция. А внешнее кольцо было поручено бывшим военнослужащим гитлеровской армии. Однако с укомплектовани&# 1077;м охраны в первом кольце были проблемы - немцы считали позорным охранять "суд победителей", да и хотели поскорее отправиться домой. Тут-то и вспомнили про латышских легионеров - этим деваться некуда, связей с местными (а значит, и с местными нацистами) не имеют, по-немецки говорят и такие же бывшие гитлеровские вояки... Пусть стоят!

Миф № 5: Нюрнбергский трибунал не осудил Латышский легион СС

На самом деле:

Нюрнбергский трибунал признал СС преступной организацией, особо указав: всеобщие СС, войска (Ваффен) СС и соединения "Мертвая голова" (Тотенкопф) и эсэсовцы "любого рода полицейских служб". Так что все добровольцы легиона СС и все члены полицейских батальонов являются членами преступной организации. Это решение не имеет срока давности. Бывшие полицейские, охранявшие Саласпилсский и другие лагеря, Рижское и Варшавское гетто, конвоировавшие евреев к местам уничтожения или узников из лагеря в лагерь, участвовавшие в антипартизанск&# 1080;х акциях, а также лица, добровольно вступившие в легион СС, были и остаются членами преступной организации.

Миф № 6: Нюрнбергский трибунал принимал решения, боясь Сталина

На самом деле:

В 1945- 1946 годах американцы монопольно владели ядерной бомбой, которую уже успешно испытали в бомбардировках Хиросимы и Нагасаки.

Миф № 7:Латышский легион был оправдан в 1950 году американцами

На самом деле:

Так называемый "меморандум Коркерна" от 1 сентября 1950 года был написан лишь для внутреннего пользования в США. Этот меморандум одного чиновника не отменил и не мог отменить решение Международного трибунала, подписанного и от имени США. Он лишь уточнил и привел документацию США в соответствие с решениями трибунала. А трибунал не наказывал и не считал преступниками принудительно мобилизованных. Поэтому и в меморандуме указано, что США не будут считать преступниками и будут выдавать вид на жительство легионерам "Ваффен СС", "зачисленным в этот отряд в соответствии с обязательным призывом". Из этого списка исключена лишь та часть легионеров, которая была вовлечена в легион принудительно, но сам легион, его добровольцы и зачисленные из полицейских батальонов продолжают считаться преступниками и подлежат выдворению из США. Это ограничение в силе до сих пор. Легион как таковой никем не оправдан.

Кстати: в начале марта этого года из США выдворили восточноевропе&# 1081;ца, который, как выяснилось, был в полицейском батальоне и охране концлагеря".

by slaboymni on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:03:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Миф № 2: легионеры мстили за зверства коммунистов

На самом деле:

Тот, кто занялся этими циничными подсчетами, должен держаться фактов. Коммунисты, даже по подсчетам нацистской пропаганды, уничтожили до июля 1941 года 3000 граждан Латвии, а еще 25 тысяч подвергли репрессиям. Нацисты же уничтожили около 100000 граждан Латвии, не говоря о других репрессированн&a mp;# 1099;х.

Considering that these 'repressions' involved the deportation of 1% of the population to Siberia in June 1941, not to mention the thousands of executions that had preceded that, I think it's a bit disengenuous to suggest that revenge did not play a pretty significant role in the motivation of those who volunteered for the SS, especially considering that the bulk of the volunteers came early on, while later recruits tended to be conscripts.

It is also problematic to set the Nazi vs. Soviet tolls side by side. Some two thirds of the Latvians murdered by the Nazis were Jews.  The sad truth is that in most of central and eastern Europe Jews were seen as foreigners, regardless of citizenship and longstanding presence.  Some of the ethnic Latvians killed by the Nazis were people who had worked with the Soviet occuppation, and were thus seen as traitors by the Latvian population. Add that up and you get comparable tolls for the one year Soviet occuppation and the three and a half year German one, which was then followed by another Soviet one, whose initial period led to tens of thousands more executed or sent to the Gulag.

by MarekNYC on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:59:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If that is what they're doing they're being (willfully) naive. From Wikipedia:

After the war the judges of Nuremberg Trials declared the entirety of the SS as a criminal organization, because of its implementation of racial policies of genocide in The Holocaust, among other reasons.

"No worse than the Wehrmacht"? Actually, the converse is perhaps more accurate: current research seems to indicate that, particularly in the East, elements of the Wehrmacht were little better than the SS. This Wikipedia article (in German) provides an overview.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:06:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, dvx!  You are right about the Nuremberg Trials.

This was debunked in Myth No. 5 of the article above.

by slaboymni on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:11:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Latvian government disagrees.
The Nuremberg military tribunal issued a ruling on October 1, 1946, in which it produced quite a precise list of those people who could be seen as members of the criminal SS organisation.  The tribunal said that exceptions could be made with respect to those who were mobilised through force (as was the case of a majority of Latvians - authors), provided that these people had not committed any war crimes (see Document 1).

The hold that the majority of the members of the force were illegally conscripted as does this document.

Most of the estimated 100,000 young Latvian men that made up the Latvian Legion were forcibly mobilized to fight on Germany's collapsing Eastern Front. Draft evasion was punishable by death. The Soviets were advancing, the Germans were retreating and the Latvians were called up to fill the gap. While Hitler's racist policies had forbidden the use non-German combatants in the early stages of the war, by 1943, desperation overruled discrimination. Similar non-German Waffen SS combat units were established in France, Italy, Hungary, Ukraine, Estonia and Belarus, all in a last ditch German effort to prevent defeat.

Frankly, I doubt we're going to get any reliable knowledge out of Russian or Latvian sources on this matter. Anyone got reference to a neutral third party?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:30:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about this?

In the West, people who are not well informed are frequently suspicious and mistrustful of veterans who admit they fought on the German side in the ranks of the Waffen-SS. A full analysis of these armed formations is beyond the scope of this book. I can only point out that Hitler and Himmler decided to form Latvian divisions, which were organized as the Latvian Legion in the Waffen-SS Sixth Army Corps because otherwise it would have been logistically impossible to send over a hundred thousand Latvians to the front. It must be emphasized that Latvia was in the Reichskommissariat Ostland, a territory not annexed to Germany but in a legal sense considered to be occupied enemy territory. The Hague Convention forbids occupying powers to call inhabitants of such territories into their regular armies (in this case, the Wehrmacht). Therefore Hitler, overcoming his dislike of Latvians (see the quote in the introduction), decided he could get the necessary Latvian cannon fodder by calling the new army units "volunteer divisions." The Waffen-SS was formally a volunteer army defending the "new Europe."

In fact the Latvians were mobilized, by force, with severe punishment for avoiding call-up orders, and death for deserting from the front. Intensive conscription into the Latvian Legion started in the fall of 1943, when the German army was suffering one defeat after another on the Eastern front. Before that, there were Latvian battalions fighting on the front, especially in the Volchov region, but they were intermingled among German units.

Hitler's and Himmler's purpose was two-fold. First, they circumvented the Hague Convention, with its prohibition against conscripting the people of occupied lands into the regular army. Second, they

inextricably joined the conscripted soldiers to the Nazi regime. With the SS "runes" on their collars, the death's head on their caps, and their blood group tattooed in their armpit, the soldier's carried the mark of Cain. They were identified with the Allgemeine-SS, the General-SS. They fought to the last breath, refusing to be taken prisoner, for they knew that, as SS men, the jails of the Cheka and
camps of the Gulag awaited them. This Machiavellian ploy succeeded to a large extent. It is not accidental that Latvians, from the Fifteenth Battalion of the Waffen-SS Fifteenth Division, desperately defended the Reichskanzlei and Himmler's State Security Headquarters (Hauptamt) in Berlin at the end of the war. These 80 men were surrounded on all sides, but kept on fighting. They were not just Waffen-SS, but also Latvians, therefore, to the Soviets, double traitors.

Neutral source or not? He goes on to discuss the equivalent units on the Soviet side, apparently also conscripted.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:40:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Turns out that that's the site of
We are an international team of historians, filmmakers, web designers, journalists, educators, photographers and Jewish community activists. Our goal is to create a window into Jewish history, and current events, in Central and Eastern Europe the former Soviet Union, and Turkey & the Balkans. By marrying together the newest technologies and serious research methods, we want to take Jewish history off the shelf, and bring it into your homes, classrooms, synagogues, libraries, book clubs and organizations. Whether you are Jewish or not, from North America, Europe or the Middle East, we are confident that you will find our site interesting and stimulating.

They don't sound like holocaust deniers. I could be wrong I suppose.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:44:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The author himself is an Israeli, so surely not a Holocaust denier.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:33:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that those marching proudly in SS uniforms aren't those who fought against their will.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:16:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bravo! Good point!

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 09:29:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From Wikipedia (in German):

15th SS Weapons/Grenadier Division

The Latvian divisions of the Waffen-SS were formed under German occupation starting in 1941, and comprised the "15th Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS 'Lettland'" and the "19th Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS "Latvia'".

Initially, these SS divisions recruited volunteers, forced conscription is also said to have occurred later on.

Deployment

In 1943-1944, the "Latvian Legion", which swore loyalty to Hitler, took in the Latvian punishment units of the Security Police SD, which became "famous" for numerous operations involving the annihilation of the population in Latvian, Russian and Belarussian territory in the period 1941-1943.

The divisions were deployed in the mass executions in the forest of Bikernieki and to guard death camps and the concentration camp in Salaspils.

In 1942, the Latvian special units burned the village of  Fjodorowka im Tschudskoj Rayon in the Nowgoroder area, and the hamlet of Osno. They executed mass arson attacks and shootings in the towns of Lubnizy, Osez, Krechno (60 km northwest of Novgorod), and in the POW camp in Krasnoje Selo near Leningrad.

For their "heroic actions" in the massacre of the civilian population, the best-known leader of the Latvian punitive units, W. Arais was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbahnführer in 1942 and received the decoration "Kreuz für Kampfverdienste mit Schwerten" in 1943.

It is often claimed today that the Latvian divisions of the "Waffen SS" were defending the freedom of Latvia.

The "Latvian Legion" committed atrocities. Nothing honorable there.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:31:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is one ambiguous point in the article I hope Marek can clear up.

What you translated as "punishment units", Strafkommando, was usually an expression for captives put to some mean work by the Nazis. So it could be that these units were forced to do the dirty work for the SD.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:42:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The most notorious exposition of punishment unit life is by a Dane? I think, Sven Hassel.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:56:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Point taken. Unfortunately, every German-language article on the Web seems to either reference or quote this piece.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 04:00:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Waffen SS were somewhat worse in their behaviour in the East than the regular Wehrmacht - and that's saying a lot. They weren't as bad as the SS Einsatzgruppen - and that's really not saying much - the latter's full time job was to massacre civilians, the Waffen SS just did it as a routine side hobby.
by MarekNYC on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:37:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The German Wikipedia article on the 15th div. is very interesting. I need a few minutes to translate it then I'll put it up.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:01:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed. Link for German-speakers who can't wait. This SS legion very much took part in massacres.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beat me to it! :-)

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:32:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of the estimated 100,000 young Latvian men that made up the Latvian Legion were forcibly mobilized to fight on Germany's collapsing Eastern Front [...] Similar non-German Waffen SS combat units were established in France, Italy, Hungary, Ukraine, Estonia and Belarus, all in a last ditch German effort to prevent defeat.

Disingenious spin. Most foreign Waffen SS legions were voluntary.

(BTW, a recent scandal: an onetime member of the Golden Team of Hungarian football - which lost the 1954 football World Cup final against Germany - was exposed to have joined the Waffen SS in 0944 at 17. Apparently his footballer talent was enough for the then stalinist regime to sweep his dark past under the rug.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:10:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure. They did engage in conscription for the Waffen SS in the late stages of the war in areas considered as sort of part of German areas, and the Baltics, with their long heritage of being run by a German landowning and mercantile elite certainly were - both a Deutsche Orden influence from East Prussia and Hanseatic run port cities, though the the Nazis worked with the Soviets to deport the German minority in 1940-41 to be settled in the 'Warthegau' - i.e. part of the annexed Polish territories. (Also heavy Freikorps action in Latvia and Estonia after WWI, some of whose veterans ended up becoming the founding leaders of the expellee Landschaft movement after WWII - just btw)
by MarekNYC on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:31:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure. They did engage in conscription for the Waffen SS in the late stages of the war in areas considered as sort of part of German areas, and the Baltics

I don't dispute that - the disingenious spin I meant was making it appear that this was the norm for foreign SS legions, and that what was before the mass conscriptions was insignificant.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:39:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone should do a diary or series on the rise of the extreme right in Europe.  I know all the French are going to come after me for blowing this all out of proportion, but I have government report right in front of me addressing the link between the European working class and right wing extremism.  And didn't Austria actually elect a Nazi a few years ago?

This seems like a topic which needs to be addressed, and nipped in the bud.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:26:04 PM EST
Well, not just the French.

Report from which government?

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:51:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was a study commissioned by the European Commission.  Those conducting it and the respondants were from all over Europe.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire
by p------- on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:08:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the working class form the cannon fodder of extremist groups (left and right) everywhere, unfortunately. Likewise, it's difficult to think of anywhere that right-wing groups are not a problem. (I had some eye-opening moments in a trip to Montana.) I think the issue is that the election system of many European countries makes it more visible.

The UK system makes it less visible at a national level, but at the local level it again shows up in some elections.

Just to note, I am brown and the rise of the far-right tends to be a major concern for me. so it is not that I am a complete naysayer. However, my empirical experience is that society in the UK at least is certainly going forward on this issue, not backwards.
I am not qualified to speak about other countries in the EU since about 2002 as I've been away elsewhere.

The reason for this is that the mainstream is becoming more tolerant. This actually tends to spur a rise in noise making (and I regret to say, violence making) amongst the racists on the far right as they essentially rage against the dying of their light.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 04:11:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I recommend you at least read the conclusions of the report. Very interesting, and partially running against 'common wisdom'.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 04:40:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
D!mnit DoDo, I'm swimming in all the things I am supposed  to read, can't you spoonfeed me the thing you want me to understand?  ;-)
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 04:43:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am going to have to put in an option to award 10's around here.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 05:20:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not sure what he was getting at but they concluded that in addition to older blue collar workers, some educated young people in commerce and consulting who don't work for big corporations have a tendency to like right-wing extremists.  Seems like in both cases insecurity about future financial stability and some vague sense about not belonging -> wingnuttery.

Immigration was a big factor.  Those who were wingnuts were most likely to have problems with immigration.  Aren't there issues in the EU with people from poorer EU countries going to wealthier ones and "taking" jobs?  And then there are the immigrants from outside the EU.  

Man, for people who like to preach about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, rightwing extremists sure are terribly insecure about their own predicaments.  

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 06:00:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quote:
amongst the racists on the far right as they essentially rage against the dying of their light.
*
To be honest I don't see their light dying at all...it's well and alive and growing...around the world...
Look where most of the countries are going lately. OK it's not extremism (yet) but it's pretty much right...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 09:42:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Someone should do a diary or series on the rise of the extreme right in Europe.

You mean historically, or do you think there is a continent-wide rise right now?

Could you give a link to/if in print, give more details on that EU report?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:12:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://www.siren.at/en/publics/turning_right.pdf

The report is about the correlation between socio-economic change and right wing extremism, but they state in the intro that there is  "an alarming increase in support of right-wing populist or extremist parties" in Europe.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see the report is from 2004.

However, since then Haider's support collapsed in Austria, MIÉP fell from parliament in Hungary, the far-right became a non-story in the 2005 German elections due to the rise of the Left Party, BNP couldn't score much in the British elections, and the spinoffs of Fortuyn's movement in the Netherlands receded too. So in my view there are conflicting trends, no general trend. (As for some rising trends, the cartoon battle was another recent push for the extremists in Western Europe, while Poland turned hard right in the very-low-participation elections a few months ago.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:52:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see the last rows of table 3-17 (pdf page 84) addresses change. They too show opposing trends in different countries (over five years).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 03:59:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have government report right in front of me addressing the link between the European working class and right wing extremism.

Having read through it, the short version is that class is an almost insignificant factor when considering the other factors, above all perceptiveness and education. Critical note: they should have picked Lega Nord in Italy, rather than AN, they wouldn't have got such an outlier result.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 04:38:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what would the Latvian government feel about having old NKVD veterans march, accompanied by MP's?  Not sure about later but the early Cheka had plenty of Latvians - some sort of thing about using minorities - they also had tons of Jews and Poles, including their chief Feliks Dzierzynski, from a good Polish gentry family in Lithuania. I'm also sure plenty of Latvians signed up after 1944 out of some sort of mix of badly misguided idealism and opportunism.

I can understand the motivations that led some Latvians to join up after the Germans kicked out the Russians. Lesser evil and all that. What I can't understand is being proud of it to this day when it turned out that the supposed lesser evil was even worse than the one that it was fighting.

by MarekNYC on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:32:52 PM EST

 can understand the motivations that led some Latvians to join up after the Germans kicked out the Russians. Lesser evil and all that. What I can't understand is being proud of it to this day when it turned out that the supposed lesser evil was even worse than the one that it was fighting.

This sums up the feeling of the Russians (both in Latvia and in Russia) whose comments I have read on web forums today.  There's more a feeling of sadness for Latvia than a feeling of hatred / need for retribution.

by slaboymni on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 02:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically you can say, in a sort of simplified way that Latvians historically have been either dominated by the Germans or the Russians and suffered conquest by these nations most of the time.  The Latvian nation was very much the creation of the German crusaders and knight orders.  The most dominant being the Livonian order coming to the region on decree from the Pope in order to convert the different pagan tribes in the area.  The order founded the capital Riga in 1201 and a Livonian state was formed some 70 years later.  

Another and more famous German Knights order came to the area in the mid 13th century and quickly became the masters of the land in the Baltic's, absorbing the Livonian order into what is better known as the Teutonic order and thus most of the Baltic region became the fiefdom of this order with relative independence from the Papacy in Rome.  

When Latvia finally declared its independence in 1918  the first nation to recognize the newly independent nation was the new Bolshevik regime in Russia very much because the Latvians had been significant in the survival of the new Soviet regime during the revolution and later during the Russian civil war.  But the newly independent Latvian state evolved into an autocratic State with German sympathies and when Latvia was incorporated into the Soviet Union as a consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the hatred towards Russia increased and thus Germany was seen as liberators when they came in 1941 by many Latvians.  

I guess, in a twisted sort of way, that these SS soldiers are seen as some sort of liberators of the Latvian nation, representing the opposition against the Soviet occupiers.  It is worth noting though that Latvia never really has come to grips with their rather dubious Second World War collaboration with the Germans much because of these views even if a lot of Latvians also fought the Germans during their occupation of the nation.  

Bitsofnews.com Giving you the latest bits.

by Gjermund E Jansen (gjans1@hotmail.com) on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 04:11:25 PM EST
Latvian Seym: today, all true patriots celebrate SS legionaries' day


On March 16, the Latvian Seym banished from the agenda the discussion over declaration on condemning of Nazism glorification in Latvia, proposed by left-wing opposition, informs a REGNUM correspondent. Authors of the document think that ban of SS legionaries followers meetings are only forced concession, made because of Western pressure. Opponents of the declaration called it "daub" and it initiators -- "red fascists".

Head of parliamentary fraction of party "For Human Rights in United Latvia" Jacob Pliner said, that by condemning celebration of Latvian Waffen SS legionaries' day, government itself de facto signed the declaration. He said that Seym's voting will demonstrate, if Latvia is really independent state, or if government acted only because of calls from US or EU. According to Pliner, most of the information that the declaration contains are from the book "Latvian History: XX century". Preface to the book is written by Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Pliner said, that they propose to abolish glorification of Nazism military support, because Latvia and Estonia are the only countries in Europe, that stand on this position, as stated in declaration of Latvian Legionaries in WWII.

Opponent of the declaration, member of Latvian PACE delegation, MP Juris Dobelis stated that "on March 16 all true patriots celebrate SS legionaries", because the document, proposed by left-wing parties contains only information about Nazi responsibility for WWII, and nothing about Communist actions. Also, according to Dobelis, the declaration says nothing about rebirth of Nazism in Russia that is a grave problem in the country - successor of USSR. He concluded that authors of the declaration do not know enough about history, as well as about ethics.

As a result, the Latvian Seym banished the question from the agenda with 60 votes for and 20 against.

by blackhawk on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 07:24:10 PM EST
Some encouraging words from the All About Latvia blog

This is the first time in our memory, the foreign ministry came out against the March 16 demostrations before the event. Perhaps, the European spirit of tolerance and mutual understanding is contageous. Perhaps the popularity of those groups will not pass any significant number.

Pseudo-patriots were quick to respond. Calling everyone who opposed them an agent of Soros Foundation, or Russia, or whatever other enemy they'd be able to find, they will march on.

While we're for the freedom to express one's opinions, it appears to us the best interests of the public and society as a whole are best served if no demostrations take place on March 16.

(I note though that the foreign ministry statement includes the standard CEE right-wing trick of equating right- and left-wing extremists.) The blog entry just before is a longer piece on the issue  - I'll quote it without comment in full as a Latvian opinion (with potential biases all theirs) and more detailed background piece.

It's less than a month away, but it is already all over the news.

March 16 is almost upon us. The holiday commemorates March 16, 1943, when the Latvian SS legionnaires unit was established the day when two Latvian volunteer conscript divisions fought the Soviets side by side (thanks to Simpsonite for showing the error of my way). From the comments section: "Between March 16th and 19th, 1944 ... was the first time both divisions fought side by side for a hill near Velikaya river. It was the only battle in the whole war when units from both divisions fought together under Latvian command."

The volunteer unit fought, hoping to drive out the Soviet occupiers. More than 50,000 of the 140,000 Latvian legionnaires died in the losing cause.

In the recent years, the day was marked by marches to remember those who died defending their country under the banners of the Nazi Germany. It stretched the limits of peace in the country. At first, even political leaders, such as prime minister, laid flowers at the Freedom Monument in Riga. But due to much political pressure, the commemoration is now set aside for the very patriotic organizations.

And the veterans themsevles no longer participate.

Some of the previous years' marches resembled political mastrubation from now-party Visu Latvijai (All For Latvia). They were self-serving in nature and when done in public, a bit disturbing.

For the last few years, every year on March 16, Latvian uberpatriots march in Riga and the Western Latvian city of Liepaja. Every year, Russian uberpatriots march to protest against the new found spread of fascism in the Baltic states. Russian TV arrives. Takes the footage. Viewers in Russian cities watch what those Balts think of the grandpappy who died in World War II. The Russian government becomes irate and says that a EU member state should not allow Nazis have any liberty to demonstrate. And eventually, we forget about it.

That happens every year. And it was about to happen this year.

Nacionālā spēka savienība, or Union of Nationalist Forces, plans to march in Liepaja this year. Their opponents, the banned Latvian National Democratic Party, along with the pro-Russian party "For Human Rights in United Latvia", will stage a counter-march against fascism on the same day. Here is the advert for the march.

Patriotic Klubs 415 posted the following on its Web site. 16.martā tiekamies Kluba 415 rīkotajā gājienā! Dosimies no Okupācijas muzeja līdz Brīvības piemineklim, lai godinātu latviešu karavīrus - leģionārus. Pulcēsimies zem latviešu karogiem! English: Let's meet for a march organized by Klubs 415 on March 16. We'll march from the Museum of Occupation to Freedom Monument to honor Latvian soldiers, the legionners. Let's gather under the Latvian flags.

We smell patriotism. And it smells bad.

Visu Latvijai decided not to participate in the March 16 demostrations. A political party vying for a few seats in the next parliamentary elections in October cannot just cast voters aside and continue to participate in this self-serving nonsense.

"Not to give in to provocation to the unfriendly forces," that's how Visu Latvijai motivated its decision. However, the leadership still wants to provide a "security corridor" near the Freedom Monument in downtown Riga. As Diena's Askolds Rodins said yesterday, police should be able to provide security. It's not a job of a political organization.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 04:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually the blogger is an expat in the USA.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 05:01:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hah, this situation reminds me A LOT about Croatia prior to recent Balkans wars. When Croatian officials started to parade and wave everywhere with their flag (the same as one they had when they joined Nazis in WWII and managed to have "independent state" with Hitler's help and by the way slaughtered close to 1 million mostly Serbs but also Jews and Gypsies etc.) that was a point where Serbs in Krajina felt they had to arm themselves. And who ever does not understand where this is leading and why it is so,  is lost for reality...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Mar 16th, 2006 at 09:08:06 PM EST
Put quite simply, Latvia was thinking it is a modern democratic state in which demonstration by groups people, including those in the Government might disagree with. A counter-demonstration pointing out the contrary view was organised and from the coverage I have seen, the arrests came when these counter-demonstrators attempted to stop the march using violence.

If as with the Apprentice Boys in Northern Ireland, the route of any march is deliberately intended to incite a breach of the peace, it should be rerouted. Banning only lets the suppressed group become martyrs in their own eyes and makes them more radical. Agreeing a route and stewarding in no way implies that the authorities condone or agree with the views the demonstrators express. I realise there are large ethnic Russian minorities in the Baltic states who could well be offended by these demonstrations. Unfortunately for them, living in a democratic state means you are sometimes offended by the policies, views or actions of others. The Dutch make exactly that point in their documentation for the new "immigration" test. As new Dutch they may be offended personally by the sight of naked women on beaches or gays kissing but must recognise that this is part of Dutch society.

Of course both sides in the Latvian/Russian history are unlikely to change their views. The Russsians will continue to see the Latvian "veterans" as murdering Nazis and the Latvians will continue to regard the Russian side as tools of Stalin who suppressed their nation for some 50 years. Freely expressing both those views however lets the next generation understand and resolve the historical differences. Quite frankly they have better things to do like completing their education to get or create good jobs in Latvia or other parts of the EU, forming relationships and generally getting on with life. Of course there will be a few ultra-nationalist youths on both sides but these usually get their motivation from poor educational or  economic prospects.  

by Londonbear on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 06:35:42 AM EST
As I wrote in the diary, I agree about the right to freedom of assembly.


Freely expressing both those views however lets the next generation understand and resolve the historical differences. Quite frankly they have better things to do like completing their education to get or create good jobs in Latvia or other parts of the EU, forming relationships and generally getting on with life. Of course there will be a few ultra-nationalist youths on both sides but these usually get their motivation from poor educational or  economic prospects.  

It's a completely different type of role model when the prime minister and members of parliament are doing it.

by slaboymni on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 06:52:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]

 Unfortunately for them, living in a democratic state means you are sometimes offended by the policies, views or actions of others. The Dutch make exactly that point in their documentation for the new "immigration" test. As new Dutch they may be offended personally by the sight of naked women on beaches or gays kissing but must recognise that this is part of Dutch society.

I can't believe you're comparing naked women and gays kissing to government participation in a Nazi-glorifying parade.

Oh, well.  I guess we should all just "get over it" as it's part of democracy.

by slaboymni on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 06:55:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quote:
I can't believe you're comparing naked women and gays kissing to government participation in a Nazi-glorifying parade.
*
It's so bloody scary that I can't start to explain. People should be aware that once Pandora's Box is opened there is no way to stop incoming hell. How many times we have to learn again and again ignoring history. Democracy has quite a few answers for diversity of views (still not all the answers) but evil will find its way through it if we let it. Hitler was democratically elected too as far as I remember...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 07:23:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would not go as far as describe Latvia as democratic state. For one, it does not have universal suffrage. 30% of population does not have a right to vote and is generally politically and economically supressed.

Also so far there were no equal expression of the opposing views. Views contrary to official one are repressed. One of the recent examples is that Latvian authorities tried to open criminal investigation into activities of the authors of "Nazism in Baltic"  documentary and Latvian Foreign Ministry even asked for the film not to be shown in Russia.

Although, things may be changing:

Latvian mass-media: for the first time, legionaries' supporters found themselves to be alone


On March 17, Latvian mass-media cover broadly events, happened on the eve, when state police and Special Forces neutralized attempts of Latvian Waffen SS supporters illegally to march through Riga downtown. In particular, Riga Chas newspaper mentions, that many things happened for the first time in the latest history of Latvia on that day.

"Yesterday has become historical day in spite of its whole ambiguity. Because many things happened for the first time,' writes the newspaper. `Latvian authorities pioneered to show hard will not to suffer international disgrace. Though, under pressure from the West, but traditional SS legionaries' march was not allowed. And an attempt to do it illegally was severely suppressed. For the first time legionaries' supporters found themselves to be alone. No politician dared to say even one word to support them. The authorities, they used to consider their own ones, pioneered to strive against them. For the first time, March of national-radicals was blocked not by small group of anti-Nazis, avoiding policemen, but by the authorities. The police pioneered to break up not Russian schoolchildren and `stripy persons', but Latvian radicals. For the first time, authorities received Latvian opposition in addition to usual Russian speaking one. Time will show, in what rate fall ruling parties will pay for their yesterday's inexorability. After all, 15 years long authorities were teaching voters to be proud of Latvian SS Legion. Now, they have to explain very long, why people must not to be proud. For the first time, some Latvian citizens realized, that we are in Europe, and that guideline of Brussels and Washington may not be ignored, as earlier Moscow's one. For the first time, in streets it was said in Latvian, that `it was better under Russians.' For many people yesterday became a severe lesson. There is a big contribution for it of last year's `stripy persons,' who demonstrated the whole world matter of historical conflict in country..."

by blackhawk on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 07:20:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically the Latvian SS were a bunch of nazi murderers. Why would anyone want to glorify them?
by observer393 on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:32:26 AM EST
Because they were Latvian. It's patriotism gone batshit insane: all you need to know about someone is that they were of the same nationality as you, and they automatically become worthy of commemoration.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:42:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by observer393 on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:48:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not a Latvian monopoly, this feeling.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:50:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A very succinct, and relevant, definition of nationalism you have here.
by slaboymni on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:55:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, yes it is.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 10:56:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is naked nationalism, right. "As usual", sadly.

There is one circumstance, however: The German Nazi evil is strictly the past, for as much as we can see. But the Russian imperial ambitions are the past, the present and the future, from the Baltic perspective.

by das monde on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 11:26:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Question - the BBC article you quote from has the march being sanctioned by authorities, a BBC article from last night has it being banned by authorities:

About 60 people have been arrested in Riga for defying a ban on rallies commemorating Latvians who fought with Nazi Germany during World War II.

Riot police separated nationalists who wanted to honour the Latvian Waffen SS unit from rival pro-Russian protesters, who denounced them as fascists.

The ban was imposed in a bid to avoid a repeat of violence which has marked Legionnaires' Day in recent years.

Latvia's government urged people not to take part in the demonstrations.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said those who joined the banned rallies would be playing into the hands of extremists wanting to give Latvia a bad name.

Earlier on Thursday, several dozen elderly veterans from the Waffen SS unit, known as the Latvian Legion, attended a mass for their former comrades outside Riga.

Latvian SS march sparks clashes

Is the first article just referring to the mass? If so, a few dozen elderly nostalgics isn't that big a deal but the article does seem to refer to the demo as being approved. A second question is just how popular these guys are in Latvia. If it's just some fringe right deputies, oh well - an extreme right fringe exists everywhere.  If it's at the level of support for, say the Polish NSZ in Poland, there would be reason to worry. (The NSZ was a small Polish fascist resistance movement which fought the Germans and then the Communists after the Germans were forced out by the Red Army - in Poland even the local emulators of the Nazis fought the Germans. It gets its popularity from the fact that it was the only organization to also fight the Communists, the main resistance movement, the Home Army, having decided it would be futile to do so, even though its leaders and some of the rank and file were being rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, and often killed by the Polish and Soviet secret police)

by MarekNYC on Fri Mar 17th, 2006 at 12:32:52 PM EST


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