Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front - Fighting with Hitler's Latvian SS

When Germany attacked Russia on 22 June 1941, the people of Latvia had been under Russian Communist rule for a whole year, during which time they had experienced Communism in action. Even the few Latvians, who in the beginning of this period had had some hope of a better life, were bitterly disappointed. Within a year the country had become poor and the people were terrified of their new rulers. Many of them had been arrested and disappeared without trace. There were rumours circulating everywhere of the tortures meted out by the Russian Secret Police on those who fell into their hands. Anyone still believing the Russian propaganda of a better life just around the corner suffered the final disillusionment on 14 June 1941. In one night the Russians arrested some 15,000 persons, loaded them onto cattle trucks and deported these wholly innocent people to the concentration camps of Russia. The total number of children and adults killed and deported in one year by the Communists amounted to almost 36,000. Nearly everyone in Latvia lost a relative or member of their family. When the German Army reached Riga in a swift ten-day advance after the start of the war, they were greeted as liberators and welcomed by the people. Only then did the full horror of the Communist rule become known. Mass graves of tortured victims were opened up, and lists of arrested people and instruments of physical torture were found at the Secret Police headquarters in Riga.