Monthly Archives: June 2012

The start of World war II on the territory of Latvia and its occupation by Nazi Germany

After facing brutal Soviet occupation, majority of Latvians celebrated Germans as liberators. However the Nazis got their own sinister plans for Latvians and Jews.

On June 22 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Although the fact that both sides had signed a non–aggression treaty at 1939 August 23 Nazi Germany decided to attack its former partner state. This decision was based on Adolf Hitler mistrust on the Soviet Union and his desires for expansion in the east. The outbreak of war was crucial for Jews since it changed Nazi Jewish policy towards the “final solution”. Before that Nazi leaders had unclear visions how to “solve” the Jewish question. After the Nazi occupation of Poland Adolf Hitler first approved plans for Jewish deportation from Eastern Europe. The desired place was the island of Madagascar in Indian Ocean. This plan was taken for serious consideration until new plans to invade the Soviet Union.  Soviet Union was inhabited by 5 million Jews that made the deportation plan impossible. Thus Madagascar was not even controlled by Germany.  On  March 13 Hitler then entrusted SS to fulfill special tasks for preparation of political administration that allowed SS Einzatssgruppen to operate in the territory of the Soviet Union On June 6 1941, the Nazis issued so called Commissar Order, which ordered to kill all the Soviet officials.  Although Jews were not directly mentioned in the order it laid down plans for further treatment of the whole population of the Soviet Union. At  June 17 chief of German Security Service Reinhard Heydrich met with all four Einzatsgruppen commanders and set out the goals and assignments for the invasion.  Although they knew their goal of destroying all Jews of Soviet Union, it’s not known if they had received direct orders of it. It is however known that on  July 17 three weeks after the initial invasion Heydrich ordered to kill all Jewish POWS.  Already at July 2 he has instructed to kill all Jews that were members of the Soviet Communist party.   However, most Hitler’s orders concerning Jews were oral and documents were written in concession form, leaving vast explanations.  A direct order ordering destruction of Jews of Soviet Union has never been found. Hitler was over optimistic about his campaign and wanted to clear the vast territories of the Soviet Union from people he considered unneeded. The idea of Lebensraum (the living space for Germans) obsessed the minds of Nazi leaders and set bad prospects for nations living in the Soviet Union. In the event of victory Nazi regime would also Germanize Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, but first victims of their blacklist were Jews. Another aspect of this order was Hitler’s belief that the Soviet Union is controlled by Jews and Marxism was invented by them. So the destruction of Jews was an important aspect of Hitler’s struggle against Marxism.

First battles in the territory of Latvia started in  June 23 in Liepaja. The city was taken in hard street fights in  June 28. German army reached Riga at  June 29, and captured it on July 1. The city was taken with fewer fighting then Liepaja, but suffered sustained damage on parts of Old Riga. On June 26 German 56 Tank group led by general Erich von Manstein captured Daugavpils. The Red army failed to recapture the city and Germans gained control over the right coast of River Daugava so Soviets were forced to retreat. German tank formations crushed trough Soviet lines and on  July 2, Soviets began a chaotic retreat to the East. In  July 5 military activity in Latvia was over.

German invasion in 22. June 1941.

This study will discuss problems of the start of war in Latvia from June 22 to July. The first part describes various Latvian nationalist organizations and their preparation for the destruction of Jews. The second part will take a look on pro–nazi underground in Latvia, was there such in how it was involved in the destruction of Jews.

German plans for Latvia

Adolf Hitler already stated in his book “Mein Kampf” that Russia must be new living space for Germans. All Eastern Europe must go through radical ethnic reforms to fulfill the domination of the German race. Jews, Slavs and Baltic peoples were supposed to go through ethnic cleansing to make the Soviet Union a “garden of Eden” for “superior German race”. Hitler did not consider the independence of Latvia, as it should be added to German Lebensraum.  Baltic German Alfred Rosenberg – the Nazi philosopher had large affection on Hitler’s ideas. He made Hitler believe that Jews and Bolsheviks are one in the same. He also taught Hitler about Baltic peoples, in  July 11 1941 Hitler had said that Estonians are “elite” of the Baltic people, then comes Lithuanians, last are Latvians.  Hitler also said that Stalin used Latvians for his executions that Russian dreaded to do themselves. Latvians were also in charge of killings in old Russian Empire according to him.

Latvia was designed for colonization, and Latvians were thought as the “dying race” and should be replaced with more energetic Germans. About 10 to 30% Latvians were considered eligible for Germanisation but the rest must be deported.  Such intentions are found in Dr. Wetzel letter to Heinrich Himmler where he strives for mentioned goals,   Also more detailed Nazi view on Latvian problem can be found in head of the political department of Ostland Trampedach report,  The designed plan was called General Plan Ost. Modern German historians call it the racist utopia.  Luckily, the Germans wanted to that with Latvians after the victory, but since it never came Latvians escaped a bitter danger for their survival. Ultimately, Latvians would meet the same fate as the Jews.  However, Jews were first on the German list, and they had to be destroyed before the victory.

German plans for “spontaneous” anti-Jewish pogroms

There is no direct order known for killing the Jews in Latvia. However, we have a set of SD chief Reinhard Heydrich instructions to General Walter Stahlecker and other Einsatzgruppen leaders to conceal the killings and to make it appear as that the “natives” were doing it.  These instructions were spoken in  June 17 1941. The unambiguous plan was to induce “spontaneous” anti-Jewish pogroms by the local peoples. Also a part of concealment was to film and photograph the killing actions performed by the “natives” but to avoid doing the same with the Germans.   Those instructions can be found in Einsatzgruppe A report on October 15 1941.  It was a sign that “spontaneous” “self-purification” actions done by Latvians were a cover-up by Germans.

The Latvian Nationalist organizations

To do such devious plan Germans required local collaborators from national circles. Not all nationalists are necessarily radicals and anti-Semites. Such people can be found in radical nationalist parties and organizations. From 1919 to 1939, nationalism was the popular ideology across Europe and was no stranger to Latvia. In fact, Latvia itself was built on national principles. However, the constitution of Latvia (Satversme) clearly stated that the rights of citizens belong to all people living in Latvia not just Latvian nation. Minorities were accepted in culture and politics and had a visible presence in national affairs. Such form of nationalism is to be called “democratic nationalism” that was official state ideology throughout the years. More radical national groups that often showed xenophobia and chauvinism objected such concept. These men called themselves “active nationalists”. They were strongly against Bolshevism, democratic party system and most visibly against national minorities. While Latvian nationalists had always despised Baltic Germans, Jews became even more targeted by them. Anti-Semitism was a rather new phenomenon among Latvians. First anti-Semitic references were published late 19th Century where Jews were accused of treachery and doing harm for Latvian economy.  However at that time more serious was Russian imposed anti-Semitism than Latvian. The swift rise of anti-Semitism appeared after 1920. Anti-Semites accused Jews of takeover of Latvian economy and attempts to seize control over the politics of Latvia. Another accusation was the large amounts of Jewish immigrants who entered Latvia together with war refugees from Russia. Such claim has been false since the majority of those who returned lived here before. However, because of citizenship law that granted citizenship to those who had lived here since 1914 about 23% Jews were without it. However, until 1925, 83% Jews were citizens which meant that most of them had applied for citizenship. Jews also were accused for close corporation with the Communist party and the Soviet Union. But the amount of Jews in Communist party was small and became larger only because of the rise of anti-Semitism.
First visible radical nationalist party who became the seed of all nationalist organizations was Latvian National Club (LNC). The club was founded in 1922. It was formed by mostly young age students. The club was sympathetic to Benitto Mussolini Fascist Regime in Italy and sent greeting letters to him personally.   Club despised parliamentary struggle and instead preferred aggressive demonstrations that often resulted in violent incidents. LNC had an influence on anti-Jewish violence at the University of Latvia on December 1922. Radical students who supported LNC caused student riots in University rooms.  Because of radical methods and use of violence club  became more dangerous until it was banned in 1925. The reason was murder of young Jewish social democrat agitator Alexander Massak.

LNC had many follow up parties who existed until 1934. Most of them were marginal and could not reach the LNC fame. But in 1932 new radical movement “Ugunskrusts” (Fire cross ) appeared. This organization will have part in the Holocaust. Because of their anti-governmental agenda and violent acts, it was banned in 1933. However, it was renewed as “Pērkonkrusts” (Thunder cross) at the same year but was again banned by Karlis Ulmanis regime in 1934. The party remained underground trough out the years of Ulmanis regime and was a sharp enemy against it. It had the same ideology as LNC but was even more xenophobic towards minorities. The party was sympathetic towards Nazi Germany and praised its actions against Jews. However before the war they were as much against local Germans as Jews and declared that in the event of takeover of power they will kill Germans along with Jews .  Pērkonkrusts called for expulsion of Jews from Latvia but had no clear plan how to do it.  They declared that if they came to power, they would not spare anyone and destroy the Latvian democracy. Radicals even came to violent attacks against Jews. In February 7 1933 group of radicals attacked the Cionist club in Riga calling “Heil Hitler!”  Similar attacks were made against Jewish shops and individuals. Luckily, radicals killed no one. Pērkonkrusts was also anti-German but their anti-Semitic stance was more visible. During the Ulmanis regime “Pērkonkrusts” became even more grotesque when their members moved around masked in hoods and burned swastika signs on their right elbows.  The leader of the movement was Gustavs Celmiņš. By the German data Pērkoņkrusts had 5, 000 to 6, 000 members.   The LNC and Pērkonkrusts were the main radical forces in the pre–war Latvia.

The leader of Perkonkrusts Gustavs Celmins

However, after one year of Soviet occupation much had been changed, and Latvian nationalists were divided into many groups. Andrievs Ezergails has given definitions for them and set their goals at the start of the war. Ulmanieši (the supporters of Ulmanis) was largest part of the Latvian nationalists at 1941. In ranks of them were many who wanted to collaborate with the Germans. Oskars Dankers, Alfrēds Valdmanis were among those that had the elite position in times of Ulmanis and wanted to regain it with help of Germans. However, it’s worth to note that the majority of these people had hopes for restoration of independence, and they hoped for German help. The Germans, on the other hand, viewed them with suspicion. Another group was Kalpakieši a set of high rank military officers who survived Soviet occupation. They were named after the first commander of the army of Latvia Oskars Kalpaks. Lt. Col. Aleksandrs Plensners and Viktors Deglavs were agents of Abwehr (German intelligence service). Their main goal was the restoration of Latvian national military forces. Such intentions were viewed with hostility from Germans.

Special group was Aizsargi – the civil defence guard. It was formed in 1919, to protect rural areas and fight brigandage. Guards became extra powerful when they allied with Karlis Ulmanis regime. After the occupation, they were dissolved and repressed by Soviets. At the start of the war, many former civil guards entered the partisan movement. Under German occupation some of them entered Schutzmannschaften and also some were part of the Arajs commando.  It appears that Stahlecker first choosed the Aizsargi for collaboration. The behavior of these men is explainable because of Soviet repressions enforced especially against them. Smaller group was Officers of former Latvian army who however did not rush to join German formations. Some of them did join Arajs commando but the count was very small.

Already mentioned Pērkonkrusts had high success at first months of the war. Yet Germans could not forgive their anti-German stance. The main guilt of Pērkonkrusts in Holocaust was the spreading on anti-Jewish propaganda before and after the start of the war. Their connections with murders are unclear but some members are known to taken part in the killings. It is known that Viktor Arājs himself was a student member of Pērkonkrusts but as a policeman in Ulmanis regime, he could not maintain his relationship with the organization.

The preparation of nationalist collaborators for Holocaust

The main forces behind gathering participants for Jewish destruction were: 1, Abwehr– the military intelligence service, Himmlers men and RSHA group, 2, Security Police and SD, 3, civil government and Alfred Rozenberg men.

The agent of Abwerh Curt Greb made contacts with colonel Aleksander Plensner and colonel-lieutenant Viktor Deglav. V. Deglavs was military attaché in Lithuania when Soviet Union occupied Baltic States. He escaped to Germany. A. Plensners was recognized war veteran and intellectual who apart from his military carrier wrote poems. He was attaché in Germany from 1937 who stayed in Berlin after the occupation and in 1941 became an agent of Abwerh. Before the start of the German invasion A. Plensners gathered 200 Latvians living in Germany. In May 1 1941, A. Plensners met with Abwerh in Marienburg in a friendly atmosphere. Abwerh promised that in case of war Latvians would have a chance to form their national forces. A. Plensners men were scattered among many German army units. Abwerh used them for “defense and sabotage tasks”. After Nazi occupation of Latvia A. Plensners and V. Deglavs was quickly removed away from ruling structures. They reached Riga only in  July 5 when Stahlecker’s men already had started to operate.  Unaware of German betrayal Plensners and Deglavs still demanded for the formation of national forces. In the July 18 1941, V. Deglavs was killed in the stairway of A. Plensners apartment.  A large funeral at Latvian main war cemetery were done for Deglavs  and his death was commemorated in main newspaper Tēvija,  but the reason for his death was never revealed.    This event was a clear sign that Germans used Latvian officers as puppets and had no desire to give them more freedom.

Latvian Army war officer Viktors Deglavs killed by Germans because of his demands about restoration of Latvian armed forces

SD worked with the members of Pērkonkrusts. They allowed them to takeover Latvian press. Pērkonkrusts leaders Gustavs Celminš and Evalds Andersons were present in Germany before the war and come back together as Sonderführer under the aegis of Abwehr.   The Pērkonkrusts did notable “intellectual” work on promoting anti-Semitism in their ranks was writers like Raimonds Čaks, Teodors Zeltiņš Mārtiņš Vāgulāns, Artūrs Kroders and Ādolfs Šilde. A. Šilde was best known for his propaganda against Jews and promotion of Holocaust in newspaper Tevija.   Later after the war he completely changed his position and became a notable democratic author.  Known Pērkonkrusts members that took part in Arājs commando was Arnolds Trucis, Valdis Didrichsons and Kārlis Deglavs.

The third agency searching for potential collaborators was the Ministry of the East, Alfred Rozenberg’s purview. The ministry needed a coterie of puppets a group that would play a public role yet allow the Germans to do everything they wished. The puppets had to be men of importance within Latvian community and had accommodated with the Nazis. Chosen persons were Pastor Dr. Visvaldis Sanders from Liepaja, and Arturs Freimanis a retired army officer. These persons, however, was not widely known in the public. But Germans found the support of Oskars Dankers a retired army general with prominence within the society. He, however, was described as a dull man.

There were certainly a sizable number of Latvian collaborators who decided to work with Germans. One side of them took part in Holocaust. However, the others had no anti-Semitic intentions; their motivation was the restoration of Latvia in which they could have some power. While Pērkonkrusts certainly wanted to realize their goal of Jewish expulsion, they also wanted more power in their own hands. Leader of Pērkonkrusts Gustavs Celmiņš made a detailed application for Germans to form Latvian national armed units in German army that would be very common to the future Latvian Waffen SS Legion,   Germans supported none of these intentions. Nazi Germany had an expansionist agenda based on racism and the independence of Latvia was not in these plans. Latvian collaborators were used as puppets; Germans deceived them all. Pērkonkrusts survived Ulmanis and Soviet regime but were smashed during the Nazi occupation. On August 17 1941, German authorities banned Pērkonkrusts. Some members still worked with Germans others turned to resistance. Main leader Gustavs Celmiņš was arrested in 1944 and thrown into concentration camp.

Nationalist collaboration with Nazi Germany is unacceptable; a true nationalist and patriot would never support any occupation regime and fight for only behalf of its country and people. The persons that choused to support Nazi occupants were careerists and criminals not nationalists. However its must be noted that one year of Soviet occupation made an illusion that Germans will support and restore the Latvian independence and therefore many rushed to ally with Germans.
National partisans and their role in the first days of war

Soviet occupation from 1940 to 1941 was shocking time for many Latvians. Even more blowing was the deportation to Siberia at June 14 1941. It widened the will of resistance against Soviet regime. On  June 22 German invasion and their quick success made way for spontaneous resistance against Soviet troops. Armed groups that called themselves “national partisans” attacked retreating Soviet troops and made sabotages.  First partisan regiments formed soon after  June 14 but became active after June 22. Former army officers, civil guards (Aizsargi), and deserters of 24, Rifleman corpus joined the armed struggle.  Armed units had random numbers from few men to many hundreds. They were armed with rifles, sometimes with machine guns, mortars and even tanks. Partisans were present in 20% of Latvian parishes. The amount of national partisans was between 6000 to 8000 partisans.  Ex Latvian army member Lieutenant Colonel Voldemars Veiss and Roberts Osis enlisted 5, 000 men to show up.  Most active they were in Vidzeme, less active in Latgalia. Partisans attacked weapon storages, retreating army men and NKVD agents. Other than that they also were accused of opening fire to evacuating Jews, who fled Nazi army. However, there are no documentary proof on that.   Partisans did many atrocities against communist supporters; there were rumors that partisans hanged a boy only because he had a pioneer uniform.  In Riga during two days of war partisan activity was very high, Red Army was shot from rooftops. Partisans did everything to prevent the escape of fugitives; many Jews could not make out safe because of them.  In combat actions about 120 national partisans lost their lives . Latvian public was exited to meet Germans as their new liberators. Streets of Riga were filled with armed men awaiting their arrival.  Some thought now it’s time to set scores with the Jews  but most were just exited of “liberation of Riga”. A sudden rise of national partisans can be described as sense of revenge against soviet occupation and their crimes especially the deportation of June 14 few days before the war. Most of simple Latvians who joined national partisans were motivated to fight soviets not specially Jews.

Latvian national partisans on the streets of Riga at 1 July

When Germans finally captured Riga, a large crowd went to greet German army. A large demonstration with national flags was set to offer flowers and bread to German soldiers. Latvian national anthem “God bless Latvia!” was sung along the way. However, a day after all flags were removed and anthem was prohibited to sing.  Germans wanted to exclude the usage of words “Latvia” and Baltic states”.

Germans had a dilemma on what to do with these people. Hitler on July 16 1941, banned non–Germans to bear weapons.   However, a year earlier Himmler, on May 28 1940, noted that non–Germans could become town majors and policeman.  When Germans met local partisans, they renamed them to self-defense forces. They appreciated their help fighting Red army but feared from their will to set vertical networks reaching towards every pagasts (parish) of Latvia.

On  June 30 German military command set out main points on what to with the national partisans.  The formation of these forces was encouraged, but at the same time they were limited to cleansing land from Bolshevik terror and Russian stragglers. But they were banned from the political initiative and only set as auxiliary forces. National army was disallowed. Regiments had to be commanded by local rulers under jurisdiction on German military command. In so national partisan units were organized in Selbstschutz (self-defense) regiments.  Germans organized 700 self-defense commandants’ offices across Latvia. These were armed structures that were responsible for the law and order. Wermacht and SD controlled them. All orders came from them although in some cases self-defenders could make their own moves.

Instructions from Heydrich made it clear that existence of these units should be temporary and their role only should be limited on pogroms against the Jews. At  July 8 Stahlecker dissolved all national partisan units. Those who he trusted were included in auxiliary police under his control.  It’s important that the term for new regiments was not Latvian, military, nor police but auxiliary police. Later they were renamed to Schutzmannschaften on October 1941.

From National partisan units Stahlecker also organized several Security police and SD auxiliary units and teams sometimes refereed to as Sonderkommandos. These commandos on whom the largest was Arājs commando were under Stahleckers own guidance, and when he left their supervision was entrusted to the leadership of the Eiznatzkommando 2. These units were directly involved in killings of Latvian Jews.

Only after the establishment of Self-defense forces Germans started mass murders all around Latvia.  This means that Germans only used national partisans for this purpose. Some men from national partisans were not inclined to kill the Jews, but now Germans gave them such task. It could be seen, as tragedy for those men who wanted to fight for Latvian freedom became the perpetrators of Nazi crimes. Nazi propaganda however managed to convince many Latvians that the Jews were the blame for the Soviet occupation and atrocities.   German plans for spontaneous pogroms failed, einzatsgruppe A reported that only few thousand Jews were killed by the locals.

The Arājs commando

It is not exactly known how many Latvian Jews fell in the hands of the Arajs commando. The number may be at least 26 000 people. Commando was formed from radicals, members of student fraternities and simple people who applied to join.  The official name of the commando was Latvian SD police but because of notable presence of Arājs it was mostly called Arājs commando.

Viktors Arajs the head of SD commando that took thousands of Jewish lifes

The main face of the commando was Viktors Arājs. He was born on January 13 1910 in Baldone, a small town near Riga. He was a son of the Latvian blacksmith Teodors and German–Latvian Berta. German was often spoken in his parental household. However, he felt himself as a Latvian. First world war separated his family; his father joined the Imperial army. He returned to Latvia, by a way of China, bringing along a Chinese woman. Arājs was forced to live in poor conditions and work hard during the wartime.  He received education in Jelgava gymnasium and in 1930, was enlisted into the army. In 1932 he applied to join a law faculty of Latvian University.   He joined nationalist organization Viestura savienība (Viestur’s Society) at 1930. He also looked for more possibilities and entered the student fraternity Lettonia, the most oldest and respectable of all.   In 1935 he attended police school and was sent to practice to Zaube parish. In 1937 he married Zelma Zeibots a Zaube local. Because of these departures he could not finish university. He dropped out but returned in November 1940 under Soviet occupation. His study results were average from very good to bad. There are three CV’s written by Arājs in 1935 1940 1941. In first he shows how he makes his carrier and hides his material difficulties. In January 7 1941, CV he conforms his life completely to Soviet standards. This CV is most detailed and shows Arājs as a good Soviet citizen.  This means that Arājs could collaborate with any foreign regime on the behalf of his personal carrier. He received a lawyer’s diploma in March 1941 and stated that he starts to believe “that Bolshevism was the best of systems. Indubitably, I was then a communist.”   This remark, however is doubtful because is hard to tell when he was telling the truth or lie. He also had remarks about anti-Communist feelings in his trial. He told that he joined partisan movement at the start of the war.

Arājs declared that when Germans entered Riga, he had gathered about 400 to 500 men under his command and had occupied the police headquarters.  Such claim is credited false. However it could be that such group of ex–soldiers and policemen may have “spontaneously” gathered. A radio call on 1, July asked all policemen to return to their police stations. He met Stahlecker at 1, July and 2, July, he was appointed to head a commando.
Arājs was a typical opportunist. He came from poor family and had limited chances to start a successful carrier in independent Latvia. So he looked for opportunities in ranks of foreign invaders. He could well work together with Soviets as he did in 1941, when he received degree. To hide his shameful communist past, he joined partisans and then Germans. Sadly, he was most successful with Nazis.
The exact conditions of establishment of the commando are still unknown. The persons involved are SD agent Roberts Štiglics a Latvian political police functionary under Ulmanis, Hans Dressler, a Baltic German, who was a member of the EG and Stahlecker’s cohort. Dressler knew Arājs from Jelgava gymnasium and the Latvian army.

Arājs gathered members for his commando. His closest associate was lieutenant Fēliks Dībietis who helped Arājs to make the structure for his commando. Arājs used his fraternity membership to attract more members. One of them was Herberts Cukurs a famous pilot and adventurer. Before the war Jews once knew Cukurs as very friendly to them when he took journey to Palestine and presented his adventures to Jewish public, at main Jewish club.  Also members from Pērkonkrusts, and Aizsargi (civil guards) were asked join. However, not only members from these social groups entered the commando. Most of the commando members were simple workers and farmers.  The motivation for joining was different for many. Some had political motivation while others wanted to find a good job. This means that commando was not generally made of radicals and anti–Semites; some who joined probably may not expect that they had to kill unarmed civilians.

First task of the commando was the organization of “spontaneous” pogrom. On July 4, they burned all the synagogues in Riga including main Horal Synagogue at Maskavas street. Many people burned alive in synagogue the number of the perished is unknown.
Arājs commando was not the only Latvian formation that took direct part in the Holocaust. In Jelgava Jews were killed by Vāgulāns commando. Latvians recruited in Hilfspolizei lead by lieutenan colonel Veiss and members of Selbstschutz also were involved in the killings. But the Arājs commando was the most notorious and most lasting killing squad of all. Commando was deformed in 1944, when it was no longer useful.
Latvians who wanted to collaborate with Germans in order to fulfill their carrier became a part of Nazi crimes. Some of them may not want to kill Jews, not all national partisans attacked Jews at first days of war, and neither, they joined Nazi formations after it. But those who joined and took active part in Holocaust are criminals despite their motives and intentions.

The leader of Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler made a decision to attack his former ally – Soviet Union. Modern research shows that Hitler made the decision to kill Jews right before the operation Barbarosa. The two main planers of this action was chief of the SS Heinrich Himmler and SD chief Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich who devised a plan of “spontaneous” pogroms to make  appear that the locals did the killings. To do this Germans found enough Latvian collaborators, radicals and opportunists to do this. Some of them were radical anti-Semites like Perkonkrusts. Others like Viktors Arājs were opportunists who could fare well in NKVD as well they did in SS. Most of these people were lees of Latvian nation not the elite.  It’s not objective to accuse all Latvian nation in Holocaust because of these killers. Simon Wissenthal has said “Already a year after the war I washed away a thought about collective fault, because I know history who shows that we Jews in our thousand year time always been victims of collective fault”

But the fault of these Latvian collaborators must not be forgotten. Although they called themselves nationalists, it’s not the nature of true nationalist to support foreign invaders. Especially if they have plans for large–scale crimes. It is a question of morale of every person who is involved in such actions. Holocaust was the collective tragedy for Latvians and Jews because both became victims of German imperialism. It was only the German defeat in Eastern front that saved Latvians from German plans of Germanization.

It is also worth to remember that whatever the crimes committed by non–Germans it was the Germans, who established a pattern of systematic persecution.  Independent Latvian state was not capable and had no desire for the killing of Jews. It was only the Nazi Germany, who opened doors for radicals and opportunists to realize their darkest intentions.

Selected Sources:

Ezergailis, Andrievs. (1996) The Holocaust in Latvia, 1941–1944 : the missing center. Riga: History Institute of Latvia; Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Bleiere, Daina, Ilgvars Butulis, Inesis Feldmanis, Aivars Stranga, Antonijs Zunda. (2008) Latvija Otrajā pasaules karā (1939–1945).Rīga: Jumava

Felder, Björn M. (2006) Lettland im Zweiten Weltkrieg : zwischen sowjetischen und deutschen Besatzern 1940–1946. Paderborn; München; Wien
Biezais, Haralds. (1992). Latvija kāškrusta varā : sveši kungi – pašu ļaudis.   Īstlansinga : Gauja.
Browning, Christopher R. (2005) The origins of the final solution, The evolution of Nazi Jewish policy 1939. –1942. London.
Documents of the Holocaust. Jerusalem Yad Vashem, 1999.
Латвия под игом нацизма: сборник архивных документов. М.: Европа, 2006.

Mēs apsūdzam: Rakstu krāj.: Dokumenti un materiāli par hitlerisko okupantu un latv. buržuāzisko nacionālistu ļaundarībām LPSR : 1941–1945. Iev. aut. un red. kol.: A. Kadiķis (atb. red.) u. c.; sast.: R. Skrābāns, L. Stonāne, M. Vestermanis] ; LPSR Ministru Padomes Arhīvu pārv. LPSR Centr. valsts vēst. arhīvs. LKP CK Partijas vēst. inst. PSKP CK Marksisma–ļeņinisma inst. filiāle. Rīga: Liesma, 1965.

Kaprāns, Mārtiņš, Zelče, Vita. Vēsturiskie cilvēki un viņu biogrāfijas. Viktora Arāja Curriculum vitae Latvijas Valsts vēstures arhīva materiālos. In: Latvijas Arhīvi, 2009. Nr. 3.

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Articles

Soviet Mass Deportations of June 14 1941

The arrested people were loaded into cattle trains and taken to camps in Siberia

The June 14 was one of the darkest nights of the Latvian nation. Thousands of people were taken from their homes and loaded on freight trains and taken to Siberia. Whole families, women, children and old people were sent to death camps in Siberia. This terrific crime was done by the Soviet occupation regime, ordered by high authorities in Moscow.

In  August 23 1939  Soviet Union and Germany signed non aggression agreement the Molotov- Ribbentrop pact. Latvia was included in the Soviet sphere of interest. On  June 17 1940 Latvia was occupied by Soviet forces. As the Karlis Ulmanis government was removed new illegitimate elections were held in June 21 1940 with only one party list “electing”fake parliament which made resolution to join the Soviet Union. The resolution was drawn up in Moscow already before. Latvia became part of the Soviet Union in August 5  and on 25 August all people in Latvia became citizens of the Soviet Union. The Ministry of Foreign affairs was closed isolating Latvia from the rest of the world.

Occupation was locally administered by a Latvian Communist Party that became part of the main All Union Communist (Bolshevik) Party. From the first days of occupation it loyally carried out all orders from Moscow. The main task was the liquidation of the “bourgeois” state apparatus and establishment of the Soviet state apparatus everywhere. In economical field the task was the elimination the private property.

 From the first days of occupation the campaign against the enemies of the regime begun. The puppet government lead by Augusts Kirhensteins called to wipe out all reactionary and nationalist elements from the state apparatus by all means.

 So the first arrests of  the “people’s enemies” and “alien class enemies” begun. The first victims were members of the Latvian Army and National Guards (Aizsargi). The number of arrests rose from 20 in June 1940 to 300 in August 1941. On August 30 the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic Peoples Commiserate of Interior was established lead by Alfons Noviks. The NKVD officers appointed from Moscow such as Semyon Shustin became the main organizers of repressions. An underground prison was made at Riga Brivibas Street Nr. 37/39 that became the place of torture and death for political prisoners of Latvia.

 Local repressive authorities gathered lists of “people’s enemies” in all Soviet western republics. First deportations already were carried out in the occupied area of Eastern Poland. Polish nationals were first to be sent to Siberia. The decision of mass deportations was made on May 14 1941, by Moscow authorities. The draft order stated that in the Baltic states there is a considerable amount of former members of counter-revolutionary nationalist parties, former policemen, gendarmes, landlords, civil servants of the former government who carry out destructive anti-Soviet activities. Local Interior commissariats were allowed to arrest these people, confiscate their property and deport them to concentration camps for five to eight years. After passing the sentence they will be settled in remote areas of the Soviet Union.   On  May 19 1941  an instruction was sent out to local authorities about how to carry out the deportations. To make the list of the deported people LSSR PCSS central authorities, departments of districts, cities and towns as well as the staff of the Baltic Special Military district prepared the files of the persons to be arrested and deported. The main persons involved in this were Semyon Shustin, Janis Cinis and A. Brezgins.

Shortly before the deportation in  June 14 1941, the Peoples Commissariat established operational groups who preformed arrests, search and seizure of the property. Whole families were arrested and taken to train stations where trains made to transport the cattle awaited them. The arrests took place in all parts in Latvia including rural areas.

The main deportation routes and locations of the camps

  According to research made by Latvian State Archive in 2001, 15, 424 people were deported of them 5, 259 were arrested in 14, June actions in Latvia. Of nationalities 11 418 Latvians, 1771 Jews, 742 Russians, 36 Germans and other nationalities 247 were deported. Of professions 616 merchants, 306 policemen, 29 prison guards, 166 army officers, 7 deputies, 6 diplomats, 31 judges 71 teachers, 24 doctors, 7 clergyman, 15 students, 39 foresters, 1345 peasants, 44 chiefs of pagasts (small rural areas) 13 secretaries of pagasts. The breakdown by nationality and profession of the reported peoples are not completely  accurate  since not all archive files contain such information.

The deported people ended in the Soviet prison camp system also called Gulag. Latvians were sent to Yuhnov, Vyatka, Norilsk, North Uralian labor camp Sevurrallag, Usolye, and to Astrakhan prison. The working and living conditions in the camps were extremely hard. Often there were no light or heating, no possibility to wash themselves or wash and dry clothes in the barracks. People were forced to work to complete exhaustion often 16 hours a day without any proper tools, just hands only. Because of the lack of proper clothes in the bitter cold and extremely small food portions 3 400 prisoners died at their places of imprisonment. Because of that Soviet prison camp could also be called death camps. Unlike the Nazi camps where people were killed systematically, the Soviet camps took their prisoners to slow painful death by imposing hard work and life conditions. Mostly the male prisoners died, families lost their fathers. A large number of children spent their childhoods in Siberia.

On 1948 those who served their sentence in the camps were sent to settlement “forever”. They had no passport, just identity card. The places of settlement were Abana, Achinsk, Bogotol, Boguchani, Dzerzhinsk, Irbeisk, Kansk, Kozulka, Partizansk, Taseyo and other districts in Krasnoyarsk area, also in Novosibirsk, Kazakhstan and Igarka and Dudina in Siberian far north. The living conditions in the settlement were hard as there was no support, the houses and dugouts were not fit for living especially in the winters. Many people again died there.

After the death of Joesph Stalin, the  “thaw” of Nikita Khrushchev allowed the release of the deported persons. Many were rehabilitated and were allowed to move back to Latvia. Many people stayed in Siberia, where they married locals and lived in towns and rural areas. Today there is still few hundreds of deportees and their children and grandchildren living in Siberia.

  Although Latvians were not deported by ethnic means as may Jews and Russians also were deported, it was a heavy blow to the nation as a whole since the those the ones deported were elite members, intellectuals and members of the middle class. The action was done to destroy nationalistic and democratic people within Latvians to cease any possible resistance. They are some speculation that there was another deportation planned shortly after the first but was interrupted by the German invasion in June 22. The deportations of the June 14 sparked a large will of resistance within Latvian people that was shown in the first days of the German invasion.

The memorial site at Tornukalns Train Station Riga where the deportation took place

Selected Sources:

Pelkauss, Elmārs (Ed.) (2007) Aizvestie : 1941. gada 14. jūnijs.Rīga : Latvijas Valsts arhīvs : Nordik.

Starptautiska konference “1941. gada 14. jūnija deportācija – noziegums pret cilvēci”. 1941. gada 14. jūnija deportācija – noziegums pret cilvēci : starptautiskās konferences materiāli, 2001. gada 12.-13. jūnijs, Rīga = Deportation of 14 June 1941: crime against humanity : materials of an International Conference 12-13 June. (2001). Riga. Latvijas vēstures institūts.

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Historical Articles

Latvian National Hockey Team

Latvia is a small country with only two million people, but it has so many successful sportsman in various sports fields. While Latvians were the first European basketball champions and Latvian football team has once participated in European Final, undoubtedly the Latvian Ice Hockey team has made the most effort in Latvian team sports. Although no medals has yet not been won, Latvia has been member of Hockey world Elite for past 10 years. There was great victories and great defeats, but hockey has always been the most popular sports event in Latvia. Every May when Hockey championship starts thousands of Latvian hockey fans travel to see the games and even more are counting on victory at home.

  Latvia had its own hockey team before the WWII. The scores were average – 6 victories, 16 losses and 4 draws. 37 goals and 93 allowed goals. With fifteen years of participation Latvia entered 19th place in world rating. After the soviet occupation and the war, the new emerging soviet hockey entered Latvia. Because of great achievements of Soviet hockey team hockey became popular in local level. Hockey schools and ice skate rigs were built. Riga entered the Soviet hockey map when Riga Dimano hockey team entered the main soviet hockey league in 1946. A hockey arena Sports Palace (Sporta pils) became the center of Latvian hockey team. Many Latvian hockey stars like Helmūts Balderis, Vitalijs Samoilovs, Arturs Irbe and others played there and entered the Soviet hockey team. However, because of lack of Latvian local players large influx of Russia born players were sent to Riga. One of them was Olegs Znaroks, the future team captain and coach.

 Latvia returned to the worldwide hockey arena in 1992. when Soviet Union collapsed. Until then local hockey industry relayed on Moscow support, now they up to themselves. Riga Dinamo was disbanded because its former owner the Soviet Ministry of Interior was no longer in power. New club Pārdaugava was formed, also the Latvian Hockey Federation was made to bring Latvia back to hockey. On 7, May 1992. Latvia joined the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). As the borders were open many local players moved to play in foreign clubs.

The first coach of the Latvian national hockey team was Helmūts Balderis a veteran hockey star, that even played in NHL Minnesota North Stars and won many gold medals under the Red banner. To enter the hockey elite Latvia had to play from the start. First games were against Estonia and Lithuania. They had to be won so Latvia could participate in C pool tournament. With Helmūts Balderis as the coach and the player on ice Latvia won both games. With the look to the future Latvia team went to Finland for friendly much against the silver medal winners. First game was lost 3:6 but then to the surprise to Finland and Latvians themselves Latvia won 6:3.

  In 1993. Latvia head to Bleda, Slovenia to win C tournament and enter the B pool. Along with Latvia, new hockey teams like Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Slovenia also played for complete victory. Belgium, Israel, North Korea and South Korea were crushed in two digit scores (Israel was beaten 32:2). Then the toughest fight came with Ukraine 5:5. Latvia then met Slovenia in semi final. The Latvian won 5:1 was met with outrage of Slovenian fans, who started to riot and trowed things at the ice field. Now in Final Latvia again met Ukraine and won 2:0 and entered B pool.

 Next objective was to qualify to Lillehammer Olympic games. Latvia went to Sheffield. The main rival was Slovakia. Latvia was ready to win and so they too. First steps were grand the crushing victory over Poland, UK and then crushing defeat against Slovakia 1:7. The Olympic dream was lost. This was the debut tournament for goalie Arturs Irbe who could not stop the Slovakian machine.

  After that in 1994. Latvia went to Copenhagen to won the B pool tournament.  Again the same scenario superb victories over Romania, China, Japan, Poland and Netherlands. The final rival the – Switzerland.  Latvia had to stay in B pool for one more year because the Swiss won 2:1. Helmūts Balderis resigned from coach office as he already got involved in conflicts with other hockey specialists.

In 1995. Latvia went to Bratislava, Slovakia. Slovaks were the main rivals. Latvia got new coach Evalds Grabovskis, Polish national experienced hockey specialist. The team was formed from former Riga Dinamo stars, in all past tournaments the leader of the team was Olegs Znaroks. Rough and often rude fighter along with Fanduls, Belavskis and Maticins. Latvia team was pretty Russian in the first years. Latvia won all games and in Easter faced Slovakia. In games filled with blood on ice Latvia lost 3:4.

The third attempt to enter the elite was in 1996. Eindhoven, Netherlands. The Latvian Hockey Federation leadership was unsatisfied with Evalds Grabovskis and appointed Leonids Berensevs as the new coach. This time main rivals were Belarus and Switzerland. First games were edgy with unstable goalies but were won, then Arturs Irbe came from NHL and Latvia won Belarus 4:2. But everything was decided with Switzerland. Since Swiss lost to Belarus, Latvia needed just draw to enter the elite. However until third halftime Latvia lost 0:1. Motivated by Olegs Znaroks rude ranting Latvian players went out on the final fight and in 48. minute Znaroks pushed the puck in Swiss net. Game ended in 1:1 but it was enough to finally enter the elite.

After the stunning victory another defeat came. Latvia again fought for the entry in Nagano Olympics. This time in Riga. After many crushing victories, Latvia lost to Belarus 1:4. It was despite the formation of the best players including NHL Stanley Cup winner Sandis Ozolins.

Latvian Hockey fans have become the trademark of the Latvian hockey.

In 1997, Turku Finland was the Latvian debut in elite. The question was if the Latvia plays a good game and stay there of falls back to B pool. The rivals were Canada, Sweden, USA, Finland no longer some weaker second-hand teams. First game against USA 4:5 although Latvia had every chance to win. Then the same loss to Italy 4:5. After that Latvia almost won Canada by leading 3:1 but Canadians managed to get draw in the end. Then another draw with Sweden 1:1. Finally the first victory was scored over Norway 6:3. After that Latvia moved to Tampere to fight for 7th place. Germany was crushed 8:0, France 6:2 and Slovakia 5:4. Latvia returned home at 7th place.

Hockey suddenly became so popular the team at the Riga airport was greeted by thousands of fans. 1998. championship took place in Switzerland. At historical date 4th May Latvia for the first time met Russia in hard fight Latvia lost 5:7 only after Arturs Irbe was replaced by sixth player. Before that Latvia lost to Finland 0:6 The question of staying in elite was settled with Kazakhstan and Latvia won 7:2. Then the first victory over USA 3:2 and the Americans were sent to B pool.

  Copenhagen 1999. was the worst championship in Latvian hockey team history. In even games Latvia lost to Switzerland and Sweden but won France. Then the game for 9th place and crushing loss came to Austria 2:5. After the loss to Belarus Latvia dropped out from elite.

 The crisis made Leonids Beresnevs resign. New coach Haralds Vasiļevs made significant changes. Old time leader Olegs Znaroks was ejected from the team. The old guard from Riga Dinamo days proved to lived out their days. The change of generation begun among Latvian players. Latvia had a chance to go back to elite by wining qualifying games in Sheffield. Kazakhstan was won by 6:3 and then two 0:0 games with UK and Ukraine but it was enough to go back to elite.

 The 2000. championship took place in Russia, St. Petersburg.  Latvia lost to Sweden 1:3. Then won Belarus 6:3 and Ukraine 2:1. After this in second round Latvia met Russia. Before the championship Russians already felt the golden medals in their pockets. The ultrapatriotic an  chauvinist talking about “dream team” went to dead end after Russia lost to USA and Switzerland. Now Russian fans  demanded crushing victory over much disliked Latvian neighbors. But the match ended with Latvian victory 3:2 and Russia felt like they just lost the Great Patriotic War. But for Latvia it was the greatest victory in hockey yet. Large crowds celebrated in streets of Riga. After that more trouble came to Russians as they lost both to Belarus and Sweden. Latvia made to its firs quarter-final and lost to Czech Republic. It was 8th place in the end.

2001. was in Nuremberg and Cologne. Latvia lost to Sweden 2:5, but then won USA 2:0. However Ukraine gained victory over Latvia 4:2 and Latvia had to play for staying in elite. Latvia had hard knock with Belarus 2:2, but overwhelming victory over Japan 8:2, and 3:0 against Norway. Latvia stayed in elite, but felt disappointment so Latvian Hockey Federation fired coach Haralds Vasiļevs, blaming him for the poor performance.

  Ongoing president of Latvian Hockey Federation Kirovs Lipmans decided to bring some foreign perspective into team and hired Swedish coach Curt Lidstrom. In past he coached the Finland team and won golden medal in 1995.  By his lead the rebuilding of Latvian hockey team begun as the old stars retired. His first debut was qualifying for Salt Lake City Olympics. Latvia won Austria and Denmark and for the second time made it to Olympics. First time was in 1936.

At Olympic games 2002. Latvia won 9th place by wining Austria, 6:6 with Slovakia, wining Ukraine but loss to Germany.

In spring at Sweden 2002. world championship Latvia met Canada, Italy and USA. By loosing both to Canada and US Latvia defeated Italy and made it to next round. Latvia was defeated by Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and finished 11th. It was one of the first nothing special championship were Latvia lost two opening games, won the third and then took all the chances to get to quarter-final.

2003. championship was held in Finland. Latvia had to face Canada, Sweden and Belarus. After losing the first two Latvia won Belarus 4:0. Then in second round at 4th May the Independence declaration day Latvia defeated Russia 2:1. However after that Latvia lost to Denmark 2:4. This was the last time when Latvia had chance to defeat Russia, after Russia acquired large funds from oil money, its hockey industry begun to move and Russia finally got a strong hockey team. Latvia finished at 9th place.

  In 2004. things were taking place in Czech Republic. Latvia met the home team and lost, then played a draw with Germany 1:1, after that win over Kazakhstan. In second round Latvia lost to Canada, but achieved draw with Switzerland. Then Latvia won Austria. Latvia made it to quarterfinal and played the game with Sweden and lost 1:4. Latvia again achieved 7th place.

 Most people thought that Curt Lidstrom was doing good job, but the federation decided to not prolong agreement with him. Instead Leonids Beresnevs was back as the coach. It proved to be an ill fated choice. In 2005. in Austria Latvia lost to Canada, USA, but won Slovenia and made to second round. Latvia won Ukraine, played 0:0 with Finland, but lost 1:9 to Sweden. In so Latvia made it 9th

Nobody was expecting the trouble, but the qualifying for Turin Olympics was one of the most traumatic ever. The match in Riga with Belarus will go down in history. The crucial loss in first two periods by 2:4. Things seemed hopeless until in third period Latvia achieved 4:4. In last minutes nerve breaking rush and removal of the goalie for the six player nearly brought defeat as the Belorussian puck missed one inch of the Latvian empty net. Then in last final attack the miracle goal was scored and Latvia won 5:4. But the Olympic nightmare was far from over. In Vancouver Latvia lost every game, excluding USA by who she played a draw 3:3. But the loss to Kazakhstan 2:5 made Latvia last place in Olympics.

 Leonids Berensnevs resigned leaving Latvia without  a coach just few months before hockey championship in home Riga, Latvia. Impeding crisis made the federation to do unusual solution a Russian coach Pjotr Vorobjov was assigned for one championship to rescue the team for failing in its own home. Vorobjov was a former Riga Dinamo player.

The 2006. championship in Latvia was one of the best. The Riga Hockey Arena was built in time to welcome the top teams. Latvia in its first game played draw with Czech Republic, lost to Finland but won Slovenia. The second round started with most crushing defeat against Canada 0:11. The blame lays partially to US referee Rick Looker who gave constant penalties to Latvian team for every minor offense.  It caused large outrage by Latvian fans who stopped the game by trowing everything against the referee and Canadians. Even a shoe was dropped on ice. People suspected that the American referee was payed to help Canada  win. Then Latvia lost to US but won Norway. Czech Republic won gold medals in Riga, but home team Latvia finished at 10th place.

Pjotr Vorobjov reused to continue to work as coach for Latvia. So now the turn came to Olegs Znaroks. When he was asked to leave Latvian hockey team in 2000, he met this with great anger and resentment. He refused from Latvian citizenship and became a German citizen. He spent last seasons in German hockey league. Then after leaving active sports he took the ambition of becoming a coach and started to work for Latvian junior team. But his goal was to take over Latvian national hockey team and now his dream came true.

His debut in Moscow however was far from outstanding. Losses to Sweden, Switzerland and finally in overtime to Italy made Latvia to fight for staying in elite. Latvia however won Ukraine, Austria and Norway and safely stayed at 13th place.

2008. championship was held in Halifax, Canada. Latvia lost to home team and USA but won Slovenia. In second round Latvia won Norway, but lost to Germany. Latvia stayed 11th.

In 2009. Latvia qualified for Vancouver Olympics. Latvia won all games against Hungary, Ukraine and Italy. In Vancouver Latvia lost to Russia, Slovakia and Czech Republic and finished at 12th place.

The 2009. in Switzerland was the latest best tournament for Latvian team. Latvia lost US, but did remarkable job defeating Sweden in penalty shootout gaining 3:2. After that Austria was won by 2:0. In second round a another great victory over Switzerland 2:1, but with world champions Russia 1:6. It was however enough to make to quarterfinal and meat with Canada. Canada won 4:2 and Latvia for the third time achieved 7th place.

 The 201o. hockey championship took place in Germany. Latvia lost to Canada and Switzerland. However Italy was won in a revenge  for defeat in 2007. In second round Latvia lost to Sweden and Czech Republic but won Norway. By that Latvia finished at 11th.

Latvian hockey was stagnating in last five years. Teams like Norway, Denmark, Slovenia became stronger and started to achieve high scores. Latvia was no longer the strongest of the medium level teams. At Slovakia 2011. Latvia lost to Czech Republic and Finland but lost to Denmark in penalty shootout 2:3. After that in relegation round more trouble came as Latvia lost to Slovenia 2:5. But Latvia won Austria and Belarus and stayed in elite.

Olegs Znaroks was controversial for his erratic behavior and zero skills in Latvian language and this time previously friendly federation fired Znaroks. He however went to work in Continental Hockey Language to lead Moscow Dinamo and won the Gagarin Cup in 2012.

Latvian hockey federation again decided to go for foreign coach. This time it was Canadian Ted Nolan. In his past he was successful player and coach in NHL. As the coach of Latvian hockey team he made many changes in team line up, tactics and psychology. A high expectations were awaited from him as everyone was amazed of his Canadian style management and fact that he was a Native Indian. Latvia went to Sweden with many new players, many past leaders were unable play because of injuries. Also Nolan had its own thoughts of liability of some players who were in past considered as the best. Instead he introduced many new players and it proved to be a good move.

  2012. championship in Sweden and Finland brought new round scheme. Teams were divided in two groups. The four teams makes to quarter final, the last team in group falls out of elite. Latvia lost to Russia, the future champions but were in lead at the first period. Then in rough game Germany was defeated by 3:2. Italy was won by 5:0. So far things were looking good, but then the troubles begun. Latvia lost to Czech Republic in even match but failed miserably with Norway 0:3. Then with Denmark 0:2. Ted Nolan was talking much about psychology and team spirit, but apparently the team spirit and psychology went loose after game with Norway. The last game with Sweden ended 0:4. Latvia was unable to score goals for three games. So the latest championship ended with 1oth place.

Its a question if Ted Noland continues to lead Latvia the decision is up to Kirovs Lipmans and he will make his decision in Summer. For the best cause Nolan should stay since he made good contributions to hockey team, introduced many new players. He needs more time to understand the settings of Latvian Hockey.

 The future of Latvian hockey team is not brightest but also not the darkest. The lack of funding to hockey industry and lack of new stars may endanger the results of Latvian hockey team. The new Riga Dinamo hockey club that plays in Russian Continental Hockey League makes good and bad contribution  for local hockey industry. But, its doubtful that Latvia has the possibility of falling out of the elite, because many games can still be won and many players are willing to play for Latvia.

This was the long story of 20 years of Latvian hockey. Latvia has been member of the ice hockey elite for more than ten years and its unlikely to leave it. Victories and defeats will come along and hockey in Latvia will always be popular.

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Articles