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Latvian SS-Legion: Past and Present. Some Issues Regarding the Modern Glorification of Nazism

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Abstract

Each year on March 16, former soldiers of the so-called Latvian SS-Legion take part in processions on the streets of Riga to commemorate the day when in 1944, during World War II, Latvian SS units participated in combat operations against the advancing Soviet troops. The Latvian authorities consider March 16 the day of the Latvian Legion, in connection with which various public events, including processions of former legionaries paying tribute to the memory of defenders of the fatherland, have been taking place since the year 1998. These processions are organized each year, which generates great controversy and mixed opinions not only in the Latvian society and in the international community, but also in academic circles. Defenders of the processions of ex-legionaries highlight the fact that despite the SS being acknowledged as a criminal organisation by the Nuremberg Tribunal, Latvian Waffen SS units were excluded from the list of criminal organisations because conscription into these forces was imposed on a compulsory basis, in violation of the Hague Convention of 1907, and these units were not involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity. The main aim of this article is to show that although the position of the defenders is gaining more and more ground, the Latvian SS-Legion does in fact possess all the features attributed to a criminal organisation by the Nuremberg Tribunal and that its glorification is a form of glorification of Nazism, which poses a threat to compliance with the principles of international law.
LEANID KAZYRYTSKI*
LATVIAN SS-LEGION: PAST AND PRESENT. SOME ISSUES
REGARDING THE MODERN GLORIFICATION OF NAZISM
ABSTRACT. Each year on March 16, former soldiers of the so-called Latvian SS-
Legion take part in processions on the streets of Riga to commemorate the day when
in 1944, during World War II, Latvian SS units participated in combat operations
against the advancing Soviet troops. The Latvian authorities consider March 16 the
day of the Latvian Legion, in connection with which various public events, including
processions of former legionaries paying tribute to the memory of defenders of the
fatherland, have been taking place since the year 1998. These processions are
organized each year, which generates great controversy and mixed opinions not only
in the Latvian society and in the international community, but also in academic
circles. Defenders of the processions of ex-legionaries highlight the fact that despite
the SS being acknowledged as a criminal organisation by the Nuremberg Tribunal,
Latvian Waffen SS units were excluded from the list of criminal organisations be-
cause conscription into these forces was imposed on a compulsory basis, in violation
of the Hague Convention of 1907, and these units were not involved in war crimes or
crimes against humanity. The main aim of this article is to show that although the
position of the defenders is gaining more and more ground, the Latvian SS-Legion
does in fact possess all the features attributed to a criminal organisation by the
Nuremberg Tribunal and that its glorification is a form of glorification of Nazism,
which poses a threat to compliance with the principles of international law.
I INTRODUCTION
On 15 June 1998, the Latvian parliament proclaimed the day of 16
March ‘‘Remembrance Day of the Latvian Legionnaires’’, and rec-
ognized its official status. It was on this day in 1944 that two Latvian
divisions, the 15th and the 19th Waffen SS-divisions, which formed
the core of the Latvian SS-Legion, fought together on a battle field
against the Soviet Army offensive. Each year on this day, former
* Lecturer in Criminal Law and Criminology, Faculty of Law, University of
Girona, 17071, Campus de Montilivi, c/ de la Universitat de Girona 12, Girona,
Spain. E-mail: leanid.kazyrytski@udg.edu.
Criminal Law Forum (2016) 27:361–385 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
DOI 10.1007/s10609-016-9286-3
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... as previous scholarship has demonstrated, recognizing the commission of crimes against humanity by the state and apologizing for them can serve as an important factor in international relations. 69 Soroka illustrates this through the competing historical narratives adopted by Polish and Russian elites relative to the Katyń massacre and how these have varied over time. 70 The Polish side has long expected greater Russian contrition and cooperation in investigating this crime. ...
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Across Eastern Europe how the past is remembered has become a crucial factor for understanding present-day political developments within and between states. In this introduction, we first present the articles that form part of this special section through a discussion of the various methods used by the authors to demonstrate the potential ways into studying collective memory. We then define the regional characteristics of eastern europe's mnemonic politics and the reasons for their oftentimes conflictual character. Thereafter we consider three thematic arenas that situate the individual contributions to this special section within the wider scholarly debate. First, we examine the institutional and structural conditions that shape the circulation of memory and lead to conflictive constellations of remembering; second, we discuss how different regime types and cultural rules influence the framing of historical episodes, paying attention to supranational integration and the role of technological change; third, we consider the different types of actors that shape the present recall of the past, including political elites, social movements, and society at large. We conclude by identifying several promising avenues for further research.
... All this has, to some extent, led to some legal uncertainty with respect to the qualification https://doi.org/10.1007/s12142-019-00567-9 * Leanid Kazyrytski leanid.kazyrytski@udg.edu 1 Faculty of Law, University of Girona, 17071, Campus de Montilivi, c/de la Universitat de Girona 12, Girona, Spain of these organizations and has deprived international institutions of solid foundations in order to counteract new forms of the manifestation and glorification of Nazism (Kazyrytski 2016). In addition, this certain "incompleteness" of the Nuremberg Trials left it to the political elite of each state to assess the activities of organizations by use of the legal principle legal nullum crimen sine lege and to interpret them according to its national interests, often based on a special legal qualification of historical events of World War II. ...
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This article is part of the special cluster, “Here to Stay: The Politics of History in Eastern Europe”, guest-edited by Félix Krawatzek & George Soroka. The Western outskirts of the former Soviet Union suffered huge levels of destruction during World War II. It is for this reason that the memories of the war in countries such as Belarus and the Baltics have centered on the local opposition to the Nazi occupiers in an attempt to bring societies together after the war. This article compares how Latvia and Belarus have represented their involvement in World War II over time and undertakes an analysis of how young people today perceive of this aspect of their country’s history. Of particular interest is the extent to which young people are prepared to admit the existence of collaboration and whether a persona of moral authority is able to shift how young people assess the need for critical engagement with history. To that end, the study relies on an original survey generated in early 2019, which also enquired into questions related to historical memory. I argue that young Belarusians are, on average, more prepared to acknowledge collaboration than young people in Latvia and that the involvement of a moral authority shifts assessments of history in a decisive way in Belarus only. The results for Latvia stress in particular the persistent divide relating to the country’s two linguistic communities.
Book
This volume offers the first, in-depth comparison of the Holocaust and new world slavery. Providing a reliable view of the relevant issues, and based on a broad and comprehensive set of data and evidence, Steven Katz analyzes the fundamental differences between the two systems and re-evaluates our understanding of the Nazi agenda. Among the subjects he examines are: The use of black slaves as workers compared to the Nazi use of Jewish labor; the causes of slave demographic decline and growth in different New World locations; the main features of Jewish life during the Holocaust relative to slave life with regard to such topics as diet, physical punishment, medical care, and the role of religion; the treatment of slave women and children as compared to the treatment of Jewish women and children in the Holocaust. Katz shows that slave women were valued as workers, as reproducers of future slaves, and as sexual objects, and that slave children were valued as commodities. For these reasons, neither slave women nor children were intentionally murdered. By comparison, Jewish slave women and children were viewed as the ultimate racial enemy and therefore had to be exterminated. These and other findings conclusively demonstrate the uniqueness of the Holocaust compared with other historical instances of slavery.
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