Tag Archives: Nazism

Baltic German Nazis in Latvia 1933-1939

There have been too much speculation about rise of national socialism  in Latvia and Latvian Nazi’s in the past. These speculations have been mostly carried out by Russian propaganda and Soviet mythology. In reality before the World War II Nazism was very unpopular among Latvians. There was only one marginal Latvian National Socialist party that suffered from low recognition and was short-lived project.  The Thunder cross movement despite their antisemitism was more Latvian Radical Nationalist than Nazi and can be at least compared to Mussolini Fascism.  The reason why Nazism was pretty hated by Latvians at those times was the local Baltic German Nazis who were outspoken and aggressive defenders of German expansionism. Latvians who witnessed 700 years of German prominence feared Nazi Germany more than the Soviet Union.

After the end of the First World war a new age begun for Baltic Germans in Latvia. The independence of Latvia changed their political, economical and social status. For 700 years they considered them as a political elite. The Agrarian Reform in 1920 completely destroyed their prominence in rural areas and made a large blow to their political power.

Despite being the third national minority (3,9% of the population) they still kept strong position in politics and economical field. While other minorities were divided between various rival political factions, Baltic Germans made a united party list and always scored 5-6 parliamentary seats in Latvian parliament.

Their attitude against the state of Latvia was uneasy. During the first years of independence they’re taking a passive or even hostile position against Latvia and Latvians. The main reason for this was unwillingness to obey a small nation namely Latvians. They felt discriminated and oppressed for they thought that state abuses their imagined rights. However, the Baltic Germans have begun to adapt to the new situation and took part in state matters. Their main demands were “the gaining the minority rights and their empowerment.” In practice that sometimes meant giving demands to Latvian state that often were chauvinistic.

The situation changed in 1933 after Adolf Hitler rise to power in Germany. The Nazi ideology and promise to unite all Germans abroad in one German state deeply affected the Baltic Germans. In result they have begun to alienate from Latvian state and head towards Nazi Germany. The alienation went deeper after a coup by Karlis Ulmanis in 1934 that prohibited Germans and other minorities take part in the elections. For years Germany was considered defeated and weak the rise of Nazi power made it look stronger and that made Germans living outside Germany support the Nazi party.

Nazi movement first emerged in Latvia in 1932 and was exported from Germany. Baltic German Nazis were divided in many groups under common cause. The official German National Socialist Workers party had its own local group in Latvia (Ostgruppe or Stützpunkt Riga), the Baltic Brotherhood (Baltische Brüderschaft), German cultural society (Deutscher Kulturveirein), Baltic Land Party (Baltischer Landespartei) group lead by lawyer Erhard Kroeger also called as the “Movement” (Bewegung). Not all of these organizations were primary Nazi, but had certain Nazi elements in them.

  Consequently the Movement lead by E. Kroeger became the main Nazi force in Latvia. It emerged in spring 1933, when Kroeger attempted to find new Baltic German National party (Nationalpartei der deutschen Balten). However the Latvian Ministry of Interior rejected the registration of the party for it feared that the new movement posses danger to the Latvian state.

The Movement continued to operate in secret. For many years its legal cover was “German education society in Latvia (Deutscher Bildungsveiren in Lettland) and “Baltic German travel and sports society” (Deutshbaltischer Wander-un Sportveiren). The German youth union in Latvia (Verband deutscher Jugend in Lettland) and German scouts union (Deutscherbaltischer Pfandfinderbund) was under E. Kroeger control bringing Nazi propaganda to young Baltic Germans. However the Nazis failed to assume control over German employes union (Verband deutscher Arbeitnehmer in Lettland) as in 1935, the Nazi members were excluded from the union.

After the coup by Karlis Ulmanis the security services begun to suppress the Movement and attempted to limit the activities of their legal cover organizations. However the Movement continued to operate. Their structure and rankings were taken straight from Nazi party in Germany, the members of the movement could be recognized by their brown shirts. They marched across the streets sparking anger of local Latvians. Before the coup the German Nazis were openly combated by Latvian Social Democrats and their youth organization The Workers Sports Union (SSS). Often Latvian leftists and German Nazis engaged in open street fights. Also Jewish organizations took an active stance against German shops, exports and cinema making the Latvian foreign relations with Germany problematic. Sometimes Latvians united with Jews to beat up the German Nazis in the parks of Riga.

The Movement leadership had its “headquarters” and the “center”. The headquarters were lead  by E. Kroeger, A. Von Koskull, H. Barth, H. Schlau, H. Ohsoling- Fehre ad V. Von Baehr. The members of the center was O. Von Krauss, V. Von Radetzky, H. Schneider, O, von Firks, B von Bieberstein and N. Stender. According to Latvian intelligence the Movement was divided into smaller cells. The Mans Union (Mannschaft), Females Union (Frauenschaft), Youth Union (Jugendschaft) and Girls Union (Mädchenschaft) The main role was for Mans Union that operated in various cities in Latvia or even in rural areas. Also they had a special defense group (Schutzgruppen) whose role was to spy on non Nazi Germans and sort out the  Latvian secret police informants among their ranks. The Latvian intelligence service did constant monitoring of the Movement, from their documents we know detailed facts about their structure and ranks.

  The popularity of the Movement rose steadily. In 1934 they were supported by less than quarter of the Baltic Germans. However in 1936 their support rose up sharply because of the new laws that closed the German trade guilds including the Great and Small Guild in Old Riga. Also some German unions were closed sparking dissent among Baltic Germans.

  The Movement used any possible tool to spark Nazi propaganda among Baltic Germans. The Nazi propaganda entered German schools and German academic institutions. The Herder Institute became the main place for Nazi lectures, courses and meetings. Nazis organized informal meetings labeled as the “family evenings, beer meetings”, a Nazi propaganda books were illegally imported to Latvia. Even in legal German meetings Nazis showed up. One of the main goals of the Nazis was to infiltrate in legal German unions and take control over them. The Baltic German Peoples Union (Deutschbaltiche Volksgeinschaft in Lettland) was the main Baltic German representative in culture, politics and social issues. Because the leadership of the Peoples Union was conservative or even liberal, the Nazis made large efforts to discredit the leadership by using lies and black PR. The Nazi German youth came in handy.

  At the end of 1938  the Movement took almost complete control over the Peoples Union, by electing their deputy A. Intelmann as the president of the union and E. Kroeger entered the presidium excluding the members of the old guard.

The Movement received extended support from Nazi Germany. The members of the Movement were sent to Germany to receive a special Nazi education so they can do their propaganda work at home. German Agency The “Peoples German” central office (Peoples Germans were a special term for the Germans living outside Germany) took special care of the Movement bypassing the Peoples Union.

The main thing that Baltic Germans striven for was occupation of the Baltic states by Germany. Nazis spread out slogans for “German entering and ruling in Latvia”. After the annexation of Austria 1938 the calls for a German invasion became louder. Large crowds greeted the arrival of the German war cruiser “Köln” and sung the song of “when German sailors will return to Latvia and the banner of Nazi Germany will flow here”. After the annexation of Klaipeda from Lithuania in spring 1939 the Nazi movement reached its peak. The hopes were high that Germans will be here anytime soon.

 However, the reality of the German foreign policy put a dead end on the Baltic German Nazi movement. After the Molotov – Ribbentrop pact a confusion and resentment were among Baltic Germans. In Autumn 1939, the German resettlement  to Germany begun and all local German Nazis moved away to their Nazi dreamland. Some of them became members of the German Nazi party, took part in SS and Army ranks. Erhard Kroeger became a top SS officer, joined the Einzatzgruppen in Soviet Union and was known for his involvement in the infamous Vlasov army.

Today we can see some analogy with Baltic Germans and Russians. Russians same as Baltic Germans felt resentment after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They lost their prominence in politics also the language lost the official status. The Citizenship law had the same effect as the Agrarian reform. And the impression of Vladimir Putin Russia as more stronger and greater than before made many Russians lost their loyalty to Latvian state and turn to dissent and radicalism. Russian nationalist parties and groups sometimes operate like the German Nazi Movement. Also the involvement of the state of Russia is clearly visible. This shows that Latvia will never be free from the ambitions of the imperialist nations. However in the past the tides of history have always turned against the imperialist nations. Nazi Germany is the prime example.

Selected Sources:

Feldmanis, Inesis (1985) Vācu fašisma loma buržuāziskās Latvijas vācu nacionālā mazākuma galveno organizāciju nacifikācijā (1933 -1939) : mācību līdzeklis. Rīga : P. Stučkas Latvijas Valsts universitāte.

Kaņepe, Vija (Ed.) (2001) Latvijas izlūkdienesti, 1919-1940 : 664 likteņi. Riga : LU žurn. “Latvijas Vēsture” fonds.

Cerūzis, Raimonds (2004) Vācu faktors Latvijā (1918-1939) : politiskie un starpnacionālie aspekti = German factor in Latvia (1918-1939) : political and inter-ethnic aspects. Rīga : LU Akadēmiskais apgāds.

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Stalin and Hitler

It was August 23 1939 when Nazi Germany and Soviet Union signed an agreement pact that set the path to World war II. The reasons behind this pact are described here, and Stalin’s real intentions in the war are discussed here. This article raises question is both regimes Hitler National Socialism and Stalin’s Communism is comparable or are they two opposite things that don’t come together. Latvian historians have promoted that Stalinism and Nazism are equal and must be equally condemned. This view has been battled against by Russian patriots, leftists and Western historians who support the theory of the victorious side.

The theory of the victorious side in short is such: World War II was caused by Nazi Germany, who was led by an aggressive dictator who desired for large territories in the east. His plans for living space in the east are clearly set in his book Mein Kamph. It was his desire to start war alone, he annexed Austria, Czechoslovakia and wanted to take Poland. Soviet Union on the other side was toughened by the Stalin’s purges and was not ready for the war. Thus Stalin’s foreign policy was peaceful and was not meant to attack Europe since he used slogan “Socialism in sole state”. A Molotov – Ribbentrop pact was signed so the Soviet Union could gain time to prepare for war and acquire “neutral border zone”  between Germany and Soviet Union so it would not have been captured by Germany. Also Stalin did not expect German attack and Soviet Union was only ready for war in 1942. After the German attack in 1941 Soviet Union together with UK and US defeated the “primary evil” – Nazism.

Nowadays more and more people disbelieve this simple Hollywood style theory where three “heroes” destroys one “villain”.  It its clear that Stalin had aggressive plans of his own. The occupation of Baltic state and Eastern Poland only made the Soviet Union unsafe of Germany since it made a large border with it. Nor Hitler was originally intending to start world war by attacking Poland and operation “Barbarossa” was not just part of one page statement in “Mein Kamph” but part of the strategical situation in 1941, and Soviet aggressive foreign policy. And Red Army was ready enough to attack Germany on 1941. German invasion made Soviet Union the supreme ally against Germany. The Soviet victory for 50 years silenced the talk about Soviet crimes against humanity, Soviet aggressive plans and movements and Soviet war crimes. It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union when historians opened the lid of the Soviet crimes that showed that the Soviet was no better than Nazi Germany in fact it was more bloody and repressive than “Supreme Evil” – Nazism.

Nazism and Communism share same insights in ideological basis. Even if it’s commonly described that Hitler was far right and Stalin was far left, National socialism was a mixture of both left and right. Nazism also supported the workers rights, it was also generally against  classical capitalist order. Nazi ideologues took many insights from Karl Marx teachings. During the peacetime Nazi regime in Germany Hitler introduced social policies for lower classes and supported welfare. The main departure from Socialist thought was the idea of a clash between races not between classes. Nazis believed that racial unity can unite all social classes. Soviets on the other hand believed that social unity can unite the races.

One of the main common aspect of both ideologies are belief of making the  new human – Homo Novus. It was the idea of making new society and thinking that would completely differ from the old type of humanity and society. For Nazis the new human was racially sterile and strong patriotic men and women. For Soviets it was strong worker and peasant free from  bourgeois desires for private property, nationalism and religion.   To make such society both regimes needed to get rid of the elements who could not submit to new laws of mankind. To Nazis they were the Jews, homosexuals, mentally ill persons and communists. For Soviets it was the bourgeois, religious, nationalists and private owners. The idea of parasites that are needed to exterminate was common for both ideologies.

Soviet Union was declared as free land for all nations with  equal opportunities. In reality there were one dominant nation – Russians. Stalin often spoke that the Russian people won the war, not thousands of Baltic, Ukrainian,   Caucasians and Asians who also fought the war. The Russian language was official language, other languages were allowed but constantly dismissed and repressed. No wonder that many small nations in Siberia have lost their culture and language because of the Russifacation. Stalin did everything to remove Jews, Latvians and other small nations from top governmental posts and replaced them with Russians. Even if he was born Georgian he identified himself with Russian people rather than Georgian. Stalin’s Soviet Union in this matter was also Nationalsocialist and kept being so until the very end. After the end of the war many exile Russian Nazis came to conclusion that Stalinist Russia was actually very nationalist and moved back to it.

Soviet Union also was antisemitic. In the very roots the revolution was organized by many Jewish Bolsheviks – Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoyev  and others. Stalin was a moderate anti-Semite and consequently removed Jews from top party posts. He did not allow his son Yakov to marry a Jewish woman and was angry when his daughter Svetlana married a Jew. His last purge in 1952 to 1953 was mainly against Jews. It is a speculation that Stalin intended to make a mass deportation of Jews to Siberia before his death. Even after Stalin’s death the antisemitism persisted, as the Soviet Union made a strong opposition against Zionism and Israel and supported Jewish enemies. Its also no secret that the Soviet Union was homophobic by nature and homosexual behavior was impossible to practice without severe exclusion from the society.

However the main common things between Nazism and Communism is practical in state matters. Both regimes were based on political cult of one supreme leader. Both regimes where single party totalitarian states. Both had overwhelming security apparatus- the Gestapo for Germany and KGB for Soviet Union. Both had youth organizations like Hitlerjugend  and Pioneer Movement. Both regimes gave large importance to army matters. Both regimes build concentration camps in fact it was the Soviet Union who first set a large network of concentration camps. It was not the famous Nazi death camps that were largest camps during the war it was a Soviet camp in Vorkut that the largest camp in WW2 history. Another fact that after the liberation of Nazi Death Camps in Poland, the camps were not closed but put back in order for the Soviet use.

In therms of Genocide Nazis are the main evil. The Holocaust is the major ethnic genocide in the history of the 20th century. However the question of Stalin’s genocide is important. The convention on genocide also included the mass extermination of social and political classes, however was was declined by the Soviet Union in UN. If the original draft would pass it would potentially make Stalin’s crimes as Genocide. Soviet Union had good reason not to support the original draft. Since the October coup, Bolsheviks eliminated large masses of political and social groups.  And the body count of the Stalin’s Genocide exceeds the Holocaust victim count. They may be a question of more than 10 million people.  We must note that recognition of Stalinist genocide or comparison with the Nazi crimes does not in any way minimize the importance of the Holocaust. The objective research of the Stalinist crimes and its commemoration is not Holocaust revisionism and cannot change what the Nazis did. The victims of the Stalinist crimes deserve the same attention and support just as the Holocaust victims. No nation holds the rights for the monopoly of suffering for the suffering is deeply individual and subjective experience. Both sides fighting against or for so called double genocide theory needs to remember this.

In order to compare Stalin and Hitler regime we do not need to go deeply into speculations about ideology and patterns of killings. The main resemblance is the common nature of the both totalitarian states. The crimes they committed were close to each other and went beyond in terms of ideological writings and speeches. On May 9 1945 Nazi Germany was defeated but the Soviet Union along with its crimes was able to pretend as the “lesser evil” for 50 years. And they are still pretending now. Communist propaganda freely exists, communist symbols are not banned and ex communist nation Russia still defends Stalin’s actions in official level. There is a need for a time when Communism will suffer the same condemnation as Nazism. Until then the World War II is far from being over.

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