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Rehabilitating the Historical Reputation of the SS

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Hitler and Himmler

COMMENT: Many listeners and readers may wonder at our frequent references to the Nazi tract “Serpent’s Walk.” In that book, far more (in our opinion) than the “novel” it purports to be:

  • The SS goes underground at the end of the war. This happened.
  • They use their economic muscle to buy into the American opinion-forming media. The publisher for the SS during World War II–Bertelsmann–dominates English-language publishing. For those who would relegate the firm’s SS affiliation to the past, we note that the firm’s house historian–Dirk Bavendamm–published a book in 1998 blaming World War II on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jewish domination of Hollywood and the American media and U.S. imperialism.
  • A recent U.N. resolution introduced by Russia condemning celebration of Nazi collaborators as “heroes” was approved by 115 countries, with Germany prevailing on the EU nations to abstain. The U.S., Canada and Ukraine voted against it.
  • Now, the Baltic states and Ukraine are celebrating their Nazi collaborators–including Waffen SS units drawn from their populations–as “freedom fighters.” This IS “Serpent’s Walk” made manifest. History is being stood on its head.

“Four Baltic Marches, One Dan­ger­ous Racist Trend” by Efraim Zuroff; i24 news; 2/15/2015.

This com­ing week will see the open­ing of what I refer to as “Baltic Neo-Nazi/Ultranationalist March Month.” Within exactly 29 days, four such marches will take place in the cap­i­tal cities of the Baltic Euro­pean Union mem­bers — Lithua­nia, Latvia, and Esto­nia. And while there obvi­ously are dif­fer­ent local nuances, the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the marches are far too numer­ous to ignore, reflect­ing a dan­ger­ous trend, which deserves to be treated seri­ously by Brussels.

All the marches are being spon­sored by right-wing orga­ni­za­tions with fas­cist sym­pa­thies and zero tol­er­ance for local minori­ties. At past marches in Lithua­nia, the most pop­u­lar slo­gan shouted was “Lietuva lietu­vams” (Lithua­nia for Lithua­ni­ans); and in Esto­nia, it has already been announced that the theme of this year’s march will be “Eesti eest­lastele” (Esto­nia for Esto­ni­ans). In other words, as far as they are con­cerned, only eth­nic Lithua­ni­ans or Esto­ni­ans belong in their country.

The spon­sors also share a crit­i­cal view of the accepted nar­ra­tive of World War II and the Holo­caust, which includes the exten­sive and zeal­ous col­lab­o­ra­tion by tens of thou­sands of Lithua­ni­ans, Lat­vians and Esto­ni­ans in the mass anni­hi­la­tion of not only their fel­low Jew­ish cit­i­zens, but also of thou­sands of Jews deported from else­where in Europe to the Baltic coun­tries to be mur­dered there, as well as tens of thou­sands of Jews mur­dered by secu­rity police units from Lithua­nia, Latvia, and Esto­nia in Belarus. As far as the orga­niz­ers are con­cerned, the real “geno­cide” was that sup­pos­edly com­mit­ted in the Baltics by the Com­mu­nists, whereas the Holo­caust was pri­mar­ily a respite from the two peri­ods of Soviet repres­sion and per­se­cu­tion in 1940–1941 and 1944–1991.

The revi­sion­ist bent of the marchers was boldly evi­dent in both Lithua­nia and Latvia in pre­vi­ous such events. Thus, for exam­ple, the Lat­vian march is osten­si­bly to honor the locals who fought along­side the Nazis in the two Lat­vian SS divi­sions, whom the marchers seek to por­tray as Lat­vian free­dom fight­ers. They con­ve­niently for­get three impor­tant his­tor­i­cal facts: that the goal of these divi­sions was a vic­tory of the Third Reich, that Nazi Ger­many had absolutely no inten­tion of grant­ing Latvia inde­pen­dence even if it had won the war, and that among these so-called “Lat­vian heroes” were quite a few for­mer mem­bers of the Lat­vian Secu­rity Police who had actively par­tic­i­pated in the mass mur­der of Jews, local and for­eign. In Lithua­nia, promi­nently dis­played among the nation­al­ist heroes was Juozas Ambraze­vi­cius, the Prime Min­is­ter of the Lithuan­ian Pro­vi­sional Gov­ern­ment estab­lished in July 1941, which fully sup­ported the Third Reich and encour­aged Lithua­ni­ans to par­tic­i­pate in the mass mur­der of their fel­low Jew­ish cit­i­zens, hardly a qual­i­fi­ca­tion for glo­ri­fi­ca­tion. At these marches, Lithuan­ian swastikas, a slightly altered ver­sion of the Nazi orig­i­nal to avoid legal prob­lems, were a very com­mon sight.

All four marches are being held in the main avenues of the cap­i­tal cities, and three of them are cel­e­bra­tions of local inde­pen­dence days. The first march, on Feb­ru­ary 16 in Kau­nas, which was the cap­i­tal of the first Lithuan­ian repub­lic in mod­ern times, marks the inde­pen­dence granted in 1918. The sec­ond, a week later, on Feb­ru­ary 23 in Tallinn, marks Eston­ian inde­pen­dence, and the third, which will be held in the cen­ter of Vil­nius on March 11, marks the renewal of Lithuan­ian inde­pen­dence in 1990. (The Lat­vian march, which will be held in Riga on March 16, is linked to a his­toric bat­tle of the Lat­vian Legion.) The com­bi­na­tion of exclu­sion­ist nation­al­ist slo­gans with the achieve­ment of free­dom for the Baltic peo­ples is a toxic com­bi­na­tion which sends a racist, xeno­pho­bic and anti-Semitic mes­sage which, at least in the­ory, runs counter to the val­ues of the Euro­pean Union.


“Nazi Hunter: Even Putin Would Con­demn Nuremberg-esque Parades in Esto­nia” by Dr. Efraim Zuroff; IB Times; 3/3/2015.

The torch­light parade held by right-wing ultra­na­tion­al­ists last week in the Eston­ian cap­i­tal of Tallinn reminded the Russ­ian jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the event of sim­i­lar spec­ta­cles in Nazi Ger­many, but this was more wish­ful think­ing on their part than actual reality.

They were out in full force this past Tues­day night, but unfor­tu­nately, they were the only for­eign tele­vi­sion jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the event, with not a sin­gle rep­re­sen­ta­tive of any Euro­pean Union mem­ber country’s media in atten­dance.

The Euro­pean Union, on the other hand, does not appear to be par­tic­u­larly per­turbed by gen­uinely dis­turb­ing phe­nom­ena in the Baltic coun­tries and else­where, which, of course, would in no way jus­tify Russ­ian aggres­sion, but deserve to be han­dled seri­ously and promptly before they get out of hand.

Tuesday’s march, which was spon­sored by the Sinine Ara­tus (Blue Awak­en­ing) youth move­ment, closely affil­i­ated with the Eston­ian Con­ser­v­a­tive People’s Party (EKRE), was a good exam­ple of at least one of the major prob­lems we increas­ingly encounter in post-Communist East­ern Europe, and espe­cially in the Baltics. I am refer­ring to the rise of eth­no­cen­tric sen­ti­ment, a euphemism for racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.

Thus the march was pub­li­cised under the slo­gan of ‘Esto­nia for Esto­ni­ans,’ an explicit mes­sage of zero tol­er­ance for Estonia’s minori­ties, among them fam­i­lies who have lived in the coun­try for gen­er­a­tions. The announce­ment also bore the sym­bols of the “sis­ter” par­ties in Lithua­nia and in Latvia, whose plat­forms advo­cate the same ethnocentricity.

In addi­tion, the only sign I saw besides the one held by the lead marchers which said ‘For Esto­nia,’ bore a white supremacy mes­sage. In fact, IBTimes UK reported not that long ago on a state­ment by Mart Helme, a lead­ing mem­ber of the EKRE, who said that the pol­icy in Esto­nia towards Africans should be, “If you’re black, go back.” When ques­tioned about this state­ment by the Eston­ian daily Pos­timees, Helme responded that he would not allow polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness to silence his opinions.

Rewrit­ing Nazi history

The other omnipresent prob­lem in the Baltics was not in evi­dence this past Tues­day night, but is def­i­nitely in the background.

As past marches by Baltic ultra­na­tion­al­ists have clearly demon­strated, one of their key goals is to rewrite the nar­ra­tive of World War II and the Holo­caust to hide the exten­sive lethal com­plic­ity of local Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors and pro­mote the canard of his­tor­i­cal equiv­a­lency between Com­mu­nist and Nazi crimes, often com­monly referred to as the “dou­ble geno­cide theory.”

A very impor­tant ele­ment of this cam­paign is the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of cer­tain anti-Communists, despite their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the per­se­cu­tion and mur­der of their fel­low Jew­ish cit­i­zens dur­ing the Holocaust.

This ele­ment was on dis­play last week in Kau­nas, Lithua­nia and will cer­tainly be fea­tured in Vil­nius and Riga in the marches sched­uled for mid-March. In Esto­nia, this revi­sion­ism is on dis­play at the annual gath­er­ing of SS vet­er­ans held in Sin­i­mae every sum­mer, and hosted by the vet­er­ans of the 20th Eston­ian Waffen-SS Grenadier Divi­sion, which is attended by SS vet­er­ans from many Euro­pean coun­tries in which such gath­er­ings are illegal.

In Esto­nia, a coun­try in which local Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tors par­tic­i­pated in the mur­der of prac­ti­cally every sin­gle one of the 1,000 Eston­ian Jews who lived there under the Nazi occu­pa­tion, as well as of thou­sands of for­eign Jews deported by the Nazis to Esto­nia, and local Jews killed by the 36th Eston­ian Secu­rity bat­tal­ion unit in Nowogru­dok, Belarus, they should know better.

A very impor­tant ele­ment of this cam­paign is the glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of cer­tain anti-Communists, despite their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the per­se­cu­tion and mur­der of their fel­low Jew­ish cit­i­zens dur­ing the Holocaust.

This ele­ment was on dis­play last week in Kau­nas, Lithua­nia and will cer­tainly be fea­tured in Vil­nius and Riga in the marches sched­uled for mid-March. In Esto­nia, this revi­sion­ism is on dis­play at the annual gath­er­ing of SS vet­er­ans held in Sin­i­mae every sum­mer, and hosted by the vet­er­ans of the 20th Eston­ian Waffen-SS Grenadier Divi­sion, which is attended by SS vet­er­ans from many Euro­pean coun­tries in which such gath­er­ings are illegal.

The Waffen-SS as Free­dom Fight­ers” by Per Anders Rudling; The Alge­meiner; 1/31/2012.

Despised and ostra­cized, the Swedish com­mu­nity of Waf­fen–SS vol­un­teers long gath­ered in secrecy on “The Day of the Fallen,” for obscure rit­u­al­is­tic annual gath­er­ings at a ceme­tery in a Stock­holm suburb.

Since the 1990s, the rit­u­als have not needed to be clan­des­tine: the few, now very elderly sur­vivors now head to Sin­imäe, Esto­nia, where they feel they are now get­ting the honor to which they are enti­tled. Here, Swedish, Nor­we­gian, Aus­trian, Ger­man and otherWaf­fen–SS vet­er­ans from West­ern Europe meet up with their Eston­ian com­rades. The annual gath­er­ings include those who vol­un­teered for ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons, and who are today actively pass­ing on the expe­ri­ences to a new gen­er­a­tion of neo-Nazis.

In pre­vi­ous years, Mart Laar, the Eston­ian min­is­ter of defense sent offi­cial greet­ing to the vet­er­ans. Eston­ian gov­ern­ment endorse­ment of these events means in effect that an EU mem­ber state is under­writ­ing the Waffen-SS vet­er­ans’ own claims that they con­sti­tuted a pan-European force, who were more­over pio­neers of Euro­pean unification.

Accord­ing to the Tageszeitungthis March the Eston­ian par­lia­ment will con­sider a law, which would for­mally des­ig­nate the Eston­ian Waf­fen–SS vet­er­ans as “Free­dom Fight­ers.” The law, pro­moted by Mart Laar’s right-wing nation­al­ist Isamaa party, rep­re­sents a fourth attempt by the Isamaa to pass such a law. Pre­vi­ous efforts were made in 2005, 2006, and 2010. Last win­ter the Eston­ian prime min­is­ter Andrus Ansip sent the Eston­ian Waf­fen–SS vet­er­ans a let­ter, in which he thanked them for their ser­vice to the Eston­ian people.

In doing so, Esto­nia would con­firm its lead­ing role in reha­bil­i­tat­ing the Waf­fen–SS. Across Europe, Waf­fen–SS vet­er­ans and their admir­ers are fol­low­ing the devel­op­ments in Esto­nia and Latvia. Nowhere in Europe have these vet­er­ans been rec­og­nized by gov­ern­ments . The Esto­ni­ans and Lat­vians were (and are) break­ing a taboo, set­ting a prece­dent for oth­ers to follow.

Like their Scan­di­na­vian com­rades, the Ger­man Waf­fen–SS vet­er­ans per­ceive them­selves as a vic­tim­ized and mis­un­der­stood group, sec­ond class cit­i­zens, vic­tims of vic­tors’ jus­tice. They have gen­er­ally not been enti­tled to state pen­sions for veterans.

Out­side of Europe, Waf­fen–SS vet­er­ans have been more suc­cess­ful in gain­ing accep­tance for their own nar­ra­tive. In Canada, gov­ern­ment author­i­ties, in the name of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism have agreed to share the con­struc­tion cost for mon­u­ments with the asso­ci­a­tion of the Ukrain­ian vet­er­ans of the 14th Waf­fen Grenadier Divi­sion of the SS (1st Ukrain­ian), bet­ter known at the Waf­fen–SS Gal­izien. Pub­lic insti­tu­tions of higher edu­ca­tion insti­tute endow­ments in the honor of Ukrain­ian Waf­fen–SS vol­un­teers.

To the dis­ap­point­ment of the extreme right, for­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko (in office 2005–2010) did not fol­low up his reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the most impor­tant inter­war Ukrain­ian fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion, the OUN, with a reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the Waf­fen–SS Gal­izien. To the Ukrain­ian far right, Latvia and Esto­nia have become a source of inspi­ra­tion and an exam­ple to emu­late. Much like the cur­rent Eston­ian prime min­is­ter, Andrus Ansip, the lead­ing Ukrain­ian ultra-nationalist party, the All Ukrain­ian Asso­ci­a­tion Svo­boda, which dom­i­nates local pol­i­tics in sev­eral West­ern Ukrain­ian cities, denies that hon­or­ing Waf­fen–SS vet­er­ans has any­thing to do with neo-Nazi ide­ol­ogy.

In April 2011 Svo­boda cel­e­brated the 68th anniver­sary of the estab­lish­ment of the Waf­fen–SS Gal­izien. Lviv was dec­o­rated with bill­boards refer­ring to the vet­er­ans of the Waf­fen–SS Gal­izien as “the trea­sure of the nation,” accom­pa­nied by the slo­gan “They defended Ukraine.” The far right marched through Lviv with cries like “Gali­cia – Divi­sion of heroes!,” and “One race, one nation, one Father­land!” In time for the Euro 2012, a Waf­fen–SS Gal­izien taxi com­pany was established.

These processes are inter­linked. The Eston­ian and Lat­vian gov­ern­ments’ par­tial recog­ni­tion granted their pre­sum­ably heroic Waf­fen–SS vet­er­ans is part of a larger nar­ra­tive of apolo­get­ics and obfuscation.

In fact, a Nazi vic­tory, for which the Waf­fen–SS was employed, would have meant the per­ma­nent dis­ap­pear­ance of Esto­nia, the pop­u­la­tion of which was ear­marked for destruc­tion by the Gen­er­alplan Ost, which stip­u­lated that only 50% of Esto­ni­ans could be Ger­man­ized. That dis­cus­sion would have thereby pre­cluded this dis­cus­sion in the first place.

Thus, that gov­ern­ment that has itself pro­filed from an elab­o­rate vic­tim­iza­tion nar­ra­tive mak­ing Esto­nia a Euro­pean cen­ter of grav­ity for Waf­fen–SS nos­tal­gists is deeply ironic.

Unlike most plants, these sort of cults grow in the shade. The Eston­ian gov­ern­ment does not want inter­na­tional expo­sure on this. Yet, that is exactly what is needed.

The nos­tal­gia for the Waf­fen–SS “free­dom fight­ers” is not merely an Eston­ian con­cern It is a Euro­pean con­cern. It is an inter­na­tional concern.



2 comments for “Rehabilitating the Historical Reputation of the SS”

  1. Regarding the Canadian rejection of that resolution, two insightful articles have appeared in recent weeks that perfectly illustrate how the Canadian Conservative government continues to grovel at the feet of the Ukrainian government. The Toronto Star’s Gabor Mate (Tories’ Cynical Monument to Victims of Communism–March 8th) and Thomas Walkom (Canada Quietly Tiptoes into Ukraine-Russian War–Feb. 26) reveal Harper as the fascist lickspittle he truly is.

    Posted by Brad | March 11, 2015, 4:43 am
  2. It looks like NATO is going to start treating Russian-language media in the Baltics like it’s a form of a ‘hybrid warfare’. That should do wonders for all the community tensions:

    NATO allies come to grips with Russia’s ‘hybrid warfare’
    By Mike Collier with Mary Sibierski in Warsaw

    Riga (AFP) – NATO allies are scrambling to protect vulnerable Baltic partners from the threat of hybrid warfare, a Russian tactic that officials and experts say is based on deception rather than formal declaration of war.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin’s use of anonymous “little green men” to slice Crimea away from Ukraine last year sent alarm bells ringing throughout the three small Baltic NATO and EU members.

    They endured decades of Soviet occupation after the Red Army rolled in during World War II. While a full-scale invasion is improbable now, hybrid meddling and destabilisation tactics designed to test NATO’s commitment to collective defence are not.

    Putin’s brand of hybrid warfare also relies on “misinformation, bribery, economic pressure”, which are designed to “undermine the nation”, according to Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis.

    Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite did not mince her words when she said: “The first stage of confrontation is taking place — I mean informational war, propaganda and cyber attacks. So we are already under attack.”

    – Trojan Horse –

    According to James Sherr of Britain’s Chatham House think-tank, hybrid warfare is “designed to cripple a state before that state even realises the conflict has begun.

    “It’s a model of warfare designed to slip under NATO’s threshold of perception and reaction.”

    NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow has called it a modern example of the ancient Trojan Horse tactic.

    NATO is “looking at how we prepare for, deter, and –- if required –- defend against hybrid threats,” the former US ambassador to Moscow said recently at a security conference in the Latvian capital Riga.

    Not to be caught off guard amid an increased Russian military presence in the Baltic, alliance members have mounted a series of troop rotations into the region.

    The United States also deployed a cargo ship full of heavy armour there this month, including helicopters and tanks for exercises dubbed Atlantic Resolve.

    NATO will boost defences on Europe’s eastern flank with a spearhead force of 5,000 troops and command centres in six formerly communist members of the alliance: the Baltic states and Bulgaria, Poland and Romania.

    Lithuania revived its pre-WWII Riflemen’s Union to help deter the threat of both conventional and hybrid warfare.

    The citizens’ militia boasts over 8,000 members in the nation of three million people, a number almost on par with its 8,000 military personnel and 4,500 reservists.

    – ‘Media weaponisation’ –

    With roughly a quarter of the populations of Estonia and Latvia being ethnic Russian, some argue that Moscow’s huge TV, radio and Internet presence is part of a hybrid battle for Baltic hearts and minds.

    Putin justified his Crimea takeover by insisting that Moscow was coming to the defence of ethnic Russians in the territory, sparking concern here that Russia could deploy a similar policy.

    According to Riga journalist Olga Dragileva, a hybrid media war aimed at sowing “dissatisfaction and illusions” among ethnic-Russian Latvians is in full swing in the eurozone member, which is still recovering from a crippling 2008-9 recession sparked by the global financial crisis.

    It amounts to “the weaponisation of social media”, according to Janis Karklins, director of NATO’s Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.

    Based in Riga, the centre works to analyse the official Russian political narrative and suggest responses.

    Karklins warns the solution does not lie in creating counter-propaganda: “The old recipes are not effective any longer.”

    He proposes instead “to develop skills of media information literacy and critical thinking in our education system to make it harder for adversaries to disorient the population.”

    EU leaders are expected to agree at a summit this week to set up a special media unit to counter what the bloc sees as a skilful Russian propaganda campaign during the Ukraine crisis.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 19, 2015, 8:18 am

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