Latvian anti-Nazi resistance movement 1941–45

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Many Latvians resisted the occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany. [1] The Latvian resistance movement was divided between the pro-independence units under the Latvian Central Council and the pro-Soviet units under the Central Staff of the Partisan Movement in Moscow. Daugavpils was the scene of fierce Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. [2] Many local Latvians were actively involved in the resistance movement against the ethnic policies of the German occupation regime. Žanis Lipke risked his life to save more than 50 Jews. 134 Latvians were later honored with the title Righteous Among the Nations.

Latvians Ethnic group

Latvians are a Baltic ethnic group and nation native to Latvia and the immediate geographical region, the Baltics. They are occasionally also referred to as Letts, although this term is becoming obsolete. Latvians share a common Latvian language, culture and history.

The Latvian Central Council (LCC) was the pro-independence Latvian resistance movement during World War II from 1943 onwards. The LCC consisted of members from across the spectrum of former leading Latvian politicians and aimed to be the governing body after the war. Its military units were an alternative to the Soviet partisans also operating in Latvia.

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

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National resistance movements

Civic circles in Latvia were dissatisfied with the German occupation regime and secretly plotted to reinstate democracy.[ citation needed ] There were many small underground groups of the national resistance movements focused on the restoration of the independence of Latvia like The Latvian Nationalist Union, Latvian National Council, the Officer Union, organizations “The Latvian Guards”, “New Regiments“, “The Free Latvia”, “The Latvian Hawk organization” and others. The radical nationalist organization “Thundercross” was allied with the Germans in the first months after the invasion, however when repressed by the Germans it again started underground resistance.

Democracy system of government in which citizens vote directly in or elect representatives to form a governing body, sometimes called "rule of the majority"

Democracy is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a liberal democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association.

On August 13, 1943 members of four biggest Latvian political parties founded the Latvian Central Council. It published the outlawed publications Jaunā Latvija (New Latvia) and Neatkarīgā Latvija (Independent Latvia). The periodicals propagated the idea of renewing democracy in Latvia after the war.

Propaganda Form of communication intended to sway the audience through presenting only one side of the argument

Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented. Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups, companies, religious organizations and the media can also produce propaganda.

Kurelians

The Latvian Central Council managed to form their own military unit, disguised as a Home Guard unit, commanded by General Jānis Kurelis; the men were popularly known as Kurelians (Latvian : Kurelieši). The unit was organized in July 28, 1944 by a directive from Veide, the administrator of Rīga township, for the officially avowed purpose of fighting Soviet partisans who had recently been dropped by parachutes in great numbers, and for the formation of German-supported Latvian partisan groups which would operate in Soviet-occupied Latvian regions.

Latvian language Baltic language, official in Latvia and the European Union

Latvian or Lettish is a Baltic language spoken in the Baltic region. It is the language of Latvians and the official language of Latvia as well as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 1.3 million native Latvian speakers in Latvia and 100,000 abroad. Altogether, 2 million, or 80% of the population of Latvia, speak Latvian. Of those, 1.16 million or 56% use it as their primary language at home. The use of the Latvian language in various areas of social life in Latvia is increasing.

The size of the Kurelians is uncertain. Estimates range from 1,200 to 16,000, while the Germans were told that the group had only 500 men. Volunteers were attracted by word of mouth. The Kurelians expected ultimately to fight both Soviets and Nazis and to remain in Latvia as nationalist partisans if the Germans withdrew, or even to hold a part of Latvia until help arrived from the Western Allies. On September 23 the Kurelians retreated through Rīga to northern Courland, leaving behind a group of 150 men to operate in the Soviet rear. The Kurelians assisted the Latvian Central Council “boat actions” to Sweden and established radio contacts with Sweden. [3]

Courland Place in Latvia

Courland, is one of the historical and cultural regions in western Latvia. The largest city is Liepāja, the third largest city in Latvia. The regions of Semigallia and Selonia are sometimes considered as part of Courland as they were formerly held by the same duke.

On November 14 the Germans surrounded and disarmed the Kurelians. Seven of their officers (including Upelnieks, the member of the military committee of the underground Latvian Central Council) were sentenced to death by a Nazi military tribunal and shot in Liepāja on November 19. A Kurelian battalion commanded by Lt. Rubenis fought the Germans for three days and was annihilated; Rubenis fell during a Latvian counter-attack trying to break through the German encirclement but some of the Kurelians escaped. General Kurelis was deported to Germany. 545 of his men were sent to the Stutthof concentration camp. [4]

Liepāja City in Latvia

Liepāja is a city in western Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea. It is the largest city in the Kurzeme Region and the third largest city in the country after Riga and Daugavpils. It is an important ice-free port. In 2017 population of Liepāja is 69,443 people.

Stutthof concentration camp German Nazi concentration camp outside of Danzig (Gdańsk) in present-day Poland

Stutthof was a Nazi German concentration camp established in a secluded, wet, and wooded area near the small town of Sztutowo 34 km (21 mi) east of the city of Danzig in the former territory of the Free City of Danzig. The camp was set up around existing structures after the invasion of Poland in World War II, used for the imprisonment of Polish leaders and intelligentsia. The actual barracks were built the following year by hundreds of prisoners.

Soviet partisans

Armed combat behind the German front lines was carried out by the soldiers of the Red Army units: Latvian Riflemen Soviet Divisions and people guards. Activity picked up in 1942, one year after the first winter war, but real work by the partisans in Latvia started only in 1943 after the German Army Group B stalled at Stalingrad and Kursk. [5] The partisan regiment "To padomju Latviju" was organized and started training in June 1942 in Leningrad, and from Staraya Russa three small Latvian partisan units (about 200 men) headed for Latvia. On July 7 the regiment reached the Latvian Kārsava region, but there the Germans found and dispersed them with great losses and only several partisans escaped. [6] The next partisan unit was formed in September 1942 by Moscow from volunteers from 201st Latvian Riflemen Division and the Latvian partisan regiment "Par Padomju Latviju". The commander was Vilis Samsons. This partisan regiment began fighting east of the Latvian border and only in the winter of 1943 did it start to fight in Latvia. In March this unit was renamed as the Latvian Partisan Brigade.[ citation needed ] Since the local population in Latvia would not support Soviet partisans, they could not gain a foothold. [7] From January 1943 the Red Partisans in Latvia were directly subordinated to the central headquarters in Moscow under the leadership of Arturs Sproģis. Another prominent commander was Vilis Samsons, who later became a historian. [8] Altogether Latvia had 24 partisan units, together with 33 smaller groups. From March 1944 until July they formed 4 partisan brigades: 1st Brigade with about 3000 men (commander V. Samsons) fought in Northern and Northeastern Latvia. 2nd Brigade (about 1500 men, commander P. Ratins) fought in the centre of Latvia. 3rd Brigade (about 500 men, commander Otomars Oškalns) fought at Zemgale, along with the 4th Brigade, also with about 500 men.[ citation needed ] The Leningrad partisan brigade, which consisted only of Russians (commander M. Klementyev) fought around Lake Lubāns. In 1944 and 1945 in Courland they formed many partisan units (2 to 12 men each) which, though small, were very active. Most noted was "Sarkana bulta". The Latvian Red partisans suffered great losses, and many from smaller groups were completely eliminated. The Red partisan movement in Latvia ended in October 1944.

After World War II

After the end of World War II, resistance continued against the Soviet regime. From 1945 to 1956, around 40,000 were involved in the national partisan resistance movement. [9]

In the 1990s the former Soviet partisan Vassili Kononov was accused of war crimes. [10]

See also

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References

  1. Occupied Latvia During World War II. Li.lv. Retrieved on January 6, 2012.
  2. Dvinsk. Eilatgordinlevitan.com. Retrieved on January 6, 2012.
  3. Latvian Resistance Against the Nazi Occupation. Latvianhistory.com
  4. JULY 1941 TO MAY 8, 1945 Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine . Historia.lv.
  5. Mark Healy, Zitadelle: The German Offensive Against the Kursk Salient July 4–17, 1943.
  6. Andris Straumanis, Human rights court overturns war crimes ruling. Latviansonline.com (2008-07-25). Retrieved on January 6, 2012.
  7. JULY 1941 TO MAY 8, 1945 Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine . Historia.lv. Retrieved on January 6, 2012.
  8. The Partisan War. Theeasternfront.co.uk. Retrieved on January 6, 2012.
  9. Laar, Mart. War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944-1956, translated by Tiina Ets, Compass Press, November 1992. ISBN   0-929590-08-2 p. 24
  10. The Telegraph: Ex-Soviet partisan Vasily Kononov fights his last World War Two battle