Hour of Reckoning: Russia Initiates Cases Against Nazi Accomplices in the Baltics

“Will there be an hour of reckoning for Nazi accomplices, and will it not be too late?”, said newspaper observer and writer Galina Sapozhnikov, opening a round table in the press center of “Komsomolskaya Pravda”. After a long period of silence during the Soviet years, in modern Russia criminal proceedings started to be initiated concerning the atrocities of Baltic punishers. In the Baltics news that their “heroes” will be convicted to the full extent of criminal law causes hysteria.

The answer to the question why Nazi accomplices still go unpunished, unlike their German curators at the Nuremberg Tribunal, is very simple. In the USSR the atrocities of collaborators closed their eyes in favour of the well-known “friendship of peoples”.

Today this friendship is a beautiful nostalgic myth, forever tarnished by the demands of compensation for “occupation,” cynical attitude to national minorities, and the demonisation of the “Russian world”.

Now Soviet soldiers/liberators in the Baltics and Ukraine are considered to be executioners, and the real executioners are excused and raised to the rank of national heroes.

And if Europe is still making it difficult to adequately assess the rehabilitation of Nazism in the Baltics, Russia has managed to lift the “veil of impunity” of the collaborators. The Investigative Committee of Russia (ICR) initiated a number of criminal cases concerning the atrocities of Baltic and Ukrainian punishers.

“This year the situation has changed. For at least 30, and maybe 40 years, no criminal proceedings have been initiated for crimes committed during the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War, which would be investigated in Russia. This was an extremely sad situation, because, for example, in other countries, in Germany, for example, such investigations took place,” says Aleksandr Dukov, Director of the Historical Memory Foundation and Researcher of the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Only after the Russian Search Movement initiated the project ‘Without a Statute of Limitations’, during which several graves of victims of Nazi crimes were found, did the ICR initiate a number of criminal cases. This is, first of all, a case related to the shooting of civilians in the area of the Novgorod village of Zhestyanaya Gorka, where the so-called ‘taylkomanda’ SD, whose members came from Riga, operated. One of the criminals, who later fled to the West and remained unpunished, headed the organisation ‘Daugavas Vanagi’, which is now supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia,” said Dukov.

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Graves in the area of Zhestyanaya Gorka were found in May. Searchers found the remains of 42 civilians, including a pregnant woman and three children.

A total of 2,600 people – Russians, Jews and Roma – were destroyed by the executioners. Later, the FSB established a list of punishers – it includes 19 names of natives or residents of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Why has Russia done nothing for so many years to punish the executioners? Experts agreed that it was all the fault of the well-known “broad Russian soul”, which played a cruel joke on his people. After all, the USSR [1950’s post-Stalin period – ed] did not talk about the fact that Ukrainian auxiliary policemen burned the Belarusian Khatyn, reminded Sapozhnikov.

Doctor of Historical Sciences and leading employee of the St. Petersburg Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Kovalev presented video materials about Nazi crimes in Novgorod. Recently the publishing house “Enlightenment” published his book “It Cannot Be Oblivious: Occupation, Resistance, Retribution”, co-authored by the scientists Sergey Kulik and Dmitry Astashkin.

Kovalev spoke about the memoirs of German soldiers and their Latvian accomplices, which describe the “glorious feats” of their “civilisational mission” in distant “barbaric Bolshevik Russia”.

According to Sapozhnikov, in the Baltics there are whole departments of bookshops where such literature is sold. There are also those among the memoirists who are barely in their 60s – they tend to brag about how they “reported to the Germans about the Russians” during the war.

Among other investigations by the Investigative Committee of Russia is the case of the mass murder in Yeysk of children of an orphanage, who in 1941 were evacuated to the region, and after the occupation of the city by the Nazis in 1942 were destroyed because they fell ill and were considered a ballast. In 2 days 214 children died here.

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Further – a series of cases that are initiated under article 354 of the Criminal Code – glorification of Nazism. In September the Investigative Committee of Russia opened a case against 95-year-old veteran of the Latvian Legion SS Visvaldis Lācis. The former head of the Institute of National Memory of Ukraine Vladimir Vyatrovich is accused under the same article.

A few years ago, Lācis republished in Riga the book “Latvian Legion in the Light of Truth”. In it he justifies war crimes committed against civilians committed by police battalions of the Legion on the territory of the USSR occupied by the Hitler’s Nazis.

In 1943-1944 Lācis, along with other legionaries, participated in the punitive operations “winter magic” and “spring holiday”, during which hundreds of villages and thousands of civilians were destroyed.

The Co-Chairman of the Latvian Anti-Fascist Committee Eduard Goncharov spoke about the government in Riga’s attitude towards Lācis by video link. According to him, the news about the investigation against the legionary caused real hysteria among the Latvian authorities. He recalled how the Minister of Defence of Latvia Artis Pabriks and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs were indignant at the case against the “state hero”.

“As early as 1998 a declaration on the Latvian Legion of the SS was adopted, which clearly stated that Latvian legionaries are state heroes, and the task of the state is to defend their honour. So now it’s such a ‘bomb under the table’. However, it must be said that the hysteria of Latvian politicians is a good sign, because it has not yet been possible to hold legionaries accountable for their crimes. We all break this ideologue together,” said the anti-fascist.

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The event featured a unique report on the so-called “collaboration index” in Europe. Dukov, together with other historians, conducted a study that counted the number of collaborators per 10,000 population in each of the countries, including the USSR and the Baltic Republics that were a part of it.

Latvia and Estonia were the absolute record holders for the number of Nazi accomplices with 738.2 and 884.9 respectively.

For comparison: in France this indicator is 53.3, in the USSR – 142.8, and even in the “fighting for independence from ‘Soviet occupiers'” Lithuania – only 183.3.

Experts called on all those concerned about the inhumane crimes of Nazism to be true to their ideals and to continue to fight the falsification of history and attempts to rehabilitate punishers, which is completely ignored by developed European countries and the United States.

However, it is the West that “plants” Nazism into the Baltics and Ukraine, said Olga Zinoviyeva, President of the International Public Organisation Society “Russia-Germany”.

“Now the West is ‘planting’ Nazism into Ukraine to see how it will take root there. In the Baltics it perfectly ‘settled’ in countries that I, in general, do not consider to be European. The experiment started, and not at all in laboratory conditions – here is this most ghastly thing. We need to think about making the truth available to children and the generation that will replace them, so that they are spoken to by living ‘documents’ – people who know what happened. There are witnesses of conscience, there are witnesses of history. The crimes of Nazism have no statute of limitations,” reminded Zinoviyeva.

The round table “Crimes without punishment: hour of reckoning for Nazi accomplices” took place in the editorial office of “Komsomolskaya Pravda” on December 5th. You can watch the broadcast below:

Anna Falaleyeva

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