A decision to create a new movement – The International Anti-Fascist Front – was made at the conference in the Latvian capital, Riga, entitled “WWII lessons: liberators, victims, and butchers”.
Notably, the gathering coincided with a controversial memorial march that was held in Riga on March 16. Latvian Waffen SS veterans and their supporters were parading to honor those who died fighting on the Nazi Germany side in the Second World War.
The conclusions of the Riga conference on the Holocaust – which brought together about 100 representatives from the Baltic states, the US, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Germany and Austria – are not very encouraging. According to participants, society has become far too tolerant to attempts of reviving fascism.
This year the 65th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany will be celebrated, but people appear to have forgotten the horror of the bloodiest war in history.
The International Anti-Fascist Front will focus on educating the youth and teaching them the historic truth. Among its other tasks is identifying authorities who promote the ideology of reviving Nazism and searching for their sponsors. Information on all cases spotted will be made public and sent to international courts.
It is planned that a founding congress of the independent movement will be held in April in Minsk, Belarus. With headquarters in Strasbourg, the organization will have branches in almost all European countries as well as other states. So far, anti-fascist organizations from eighteen countries have filed membership applications, news website delfi.lv reports.
“We will resist all the organizations that are tolerant to Fascism and Nazi Germany,” President of The World Congress of Russian-Speaking Jewry Boris Shpigel told the media on Tuesday. In Russia the body will focus on fighting against the neo-Nazi organizations, first of all so-called skinheads.
Shpigel said he supports the commission against rewriting history created in Russia and said he wished such a program was launched in every single country.
“One of our major tasks is to resist neo-Nazism and to set barriers to attempts to revise and falsify history,” he told Itar-Tass. “The history is not a subject matter for speculations; it is a field where scientists having historical facts should be working.”
Commenting on the Waffen SS veterans’ march, Shpigel said it is not the event itself that is dangerous, but the fact that “certain politicians use such events in their own interests, thus cultivating Nazi ideas disguised as heroic patriotism.”
“We must not underestimate the risks of re-emerging Nazism,” he stressed. “Behind it there are well-organized fascist structures. And it is these structures that finance events like the ones we have seen in Latvia and Estonia.”
Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the Russian upper house's international affairs committee, was rather harsh in evaluating the Latvian memorial parade and said it was a challenge to civilized humankind.
Before WWII the Baltic States were “a spiritual province of Nazism,” he told Itar-Tass. Now, they are “conservation areas of neo-Nazism within the EU.”
The senator noted that “Brussels, fighter for European values, keeps silent” over the issue.
In Latvia, which was part of the USSR until 1990, the anti-communist mood remains strong. Many Latvians see nothing wrong with fighting on the Nazi side. A rather common view in the country is that, by joining the Waffen SS, 140,000 people were fighting for liberation from the Red Army. On the so-called Legionnaires' Day celebrated annually, they glorify those who fought for the SS, which was condemned by the Nuremberg Trials for its connection with the Nazi Party and involvement in war crimes.
However, Latvian SS veterans claim it was the “tragic fate” that made them put on the uniform which was hated by the entire world. Regnum news agency, citing an interview published in Latvian paper Latvijas AvÃ„Â«ze, quotes Waffen SS veteran Robert Eleksis. According to him, Latvian soldiers and the Nazis should not be equated.
“Latvian legionnaires fought for the freedom of their land, for their homes, lives of their relatives and their nation,” he said. “We fought not for Germany, but against Communism… It was our tragedy that at that time in history we had no opportunity to fight under our national flag neither against the blue-grey [the Nazi] nor against the Red [the Soviet Army].”
Apparently, choosing the Third Reich Flag seemed to be more appropriate for over a hundred thousand Latvian men.
It will soon be twenty years since the Soviet Union ceased to exist, but Latvia, as well as Estonia and Lithuania, keep blaming the USSR for “illegally annexing” them in 1940, portraying themselves as victims. Russia, however, insists the three Baltic States voluntarily joined the Soviet Union after they were liberated from the Nazis.
The man considered the world’s leading Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who was also in Riga for the Tuesday conference said that marches of former soldiers of Hitler’s Army “who disguise themselves as fighters for independence” are unacceptable.
“With all my sympathy for the victims of Communism, the crimes of Communism are simply not the same as the Holocaust. Part of this is fuelled by a desire to deflect attention away from the extensive collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War,” the man said as quoted by the Independent. “They thought they were fighting for Latvia, but the real beneficiary of these men's service and bravery was Nazi Germany.”
Johan Beckman of Finland’s anti-fascism committee believes holding events like the SS veterans’ parade is an attempt to falsify history, delfi.lv reports.
“It is not a gathering of elderly people. It is propaganda of Nazism,” he stated.
Natalia Makarova, RT