Table of contents        Chapter VIII        Chapter X

[page 95]

CHAPTER IX

JULY 1941 TO MAY 8, 1945

Since the Russian Revolution they [the Baltic States] had been the outpost of Europe against Bolshevism. They were what are now called “social democracies,” but very lively and truculent. Hitler bad cast them away like pawns in his deal with the Soviets before the outbreak of war in 1939. There had been a severe Russian and Communist purge. All the dominant personalities and elements had been liquidated in one way or another. The life of these strong peoples was henceforward underground. Presently, as we shall see, Hitler came back with a Nazi counter-purge. Finally, in the general victory the Soviets had control again. Thus the deadly comb ran back and forth, and back again, through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. There was no doubt however where the right lay. The Baltic States should be sovereign independent peoples.

Churchill[1].

The Latvian national partisans were in control of Rîga on the morning of July 1, 1941, ahead of the German troops. The Red Army had hastily departed. The partisans occupied the Rîga radio station and broadcast the Latvian national anthem “God bless Latvia!” Latvian officers were asked to report to the radio station for duty. A huge crowd gathered around the Freedom Monument and prayed for the country’s future. Then the first German soldier appeared, a scout on a motorcycle approaching the Freedom Monument, [page 96] covered by the people with flowers and wreaths. The crowd stopped him and in jubilation threw him in the air: the first German soldier in the history of Latvia who was actually welcome; an accomplishment of the Red Terror, not of German charm[2]. Churchill was willing to welcome the devil as an ally against Hitler. Latvians, after the experiences of the “Ghastly Year,” were willing to welcome the devil as an ally against Stalin.

Of course, the Latvians were not aware of Hitler’s plans for them. On the contrary, Hitler’s announcement of war with the Soviet Union, broadcast over German radio on June 22, had mentioned the Baltic States several times in such a manner that Latvians could assume that the ejection of the Red Army was equivalent to a re-establishment of Latvia’s independence. Hitler’s speech and the note delivered to Molotov in Moscow enumerated the reasons for the invasion. One of the reasons given was that the Soviet Union had occupied and annexed the Baltic States contrary to earlier promises[3]. Lithuania was liberated first; she also revolted ahead of the German advance. A national Lithuanian government was formed and declared restoration of independence on June 23 [4] [5].

On July 1 the NKVD prisons of Rîga were opened, and the survivors told their tales of horror. Mass graves of NKVD victims were discovered, and men, women, and children filed by the rows of mutilated corpses looking for their spouses or parents.

The whole furious nation felt like it had woken up from a nightmare-yet it had not been just a nightmare, for the killings and deportations were real. People who had not been in touch since June 14 greeted each other with “Thank God you are alive!” Latvian red-white-red flags appeared spontaneously everywhere and were flown for a month in jubilation and relief.

Thousands of Latvians, outraged by the Red atrocities and hoping to serve an independent Latvia, volunteered for Latvian “self-defense” units which were organized by Latvian officers (Lt. Col. Voldemârs Veiss, Lt. Col. Roberts Osis, and others) in the rear of the German front line[2]; the German advance had been so swift that thousands of Red troops had been by-passed without taking them as prisoners. The Latvians now collected the Reds and some­times fought fierce battles with those who resisted. The national partisans ahead of the German front line took Sigulda on July 2 (two days before the Germans). They secured Alûksne on July 5, but that evening strong Red Army forces, retreating from the Germans, [page 97] reached the town, and the partisans withdrew without a fight. The Latvian puppet government was among the Reds who spent that night in Alûksne. The next morning the Reds departed, and the partisans re-occupied the town. They stopped smaller Red units trying to pass through and seized a train with Red plunder. The Germans occupied Alûksne on July 7. At the village of Mâlupe the partisans attacked the headquarters of the 183rd Rifle Division, killing its commander and several staff officers and capturing their supplies and transportation[6]. By July 8 the Red Army had retreated beyond the Latvian border[7].

The Germans paused in the middle of Estonia for a couple of weeks. When they resumed their advance, they had to overcome the resistance of fresh Red troops. The Estonian mainland was completely in German hands by August 28, and the islands by the end of October[8].

The illusions of independence and regained freedom lasted only a few days. On July 3 SS General Stahlecker, the German commander of the hinterland for the Army Group North, rejected an attempt to set up a provisional Latvian government[9]. On July 8 Stahlecker forbid the Latvian self-defense units to wear uniforms or to bear arms[10] [11] [12]. Furthermore, those who had served in the 24th Corps and had deserted were treated as prisoners of war and were sent to camps in East Prussia[13]. Under the threat of a death penalty all Latvians were disarmed. However, some new Latvian police units were formed under German supervision almost immediately. The police consisted of two types: 1) a local dispersed organization throughout Latvia; 2) battalion-size units for guard duty at strategic objects (railroad junctions, ammunition depots, etc), for operations against Red partisans and by-passed Red Army units in the forests, and for front-line duty. In the beginning there was no lack of volunteers since service in the police battalions gave a chance to avenge relatives deported to Siberia or killed in the NKVD prisons. Many Latvian Army officers and men were ashamed of the fact that they had let the Reds take over the country in 1940 without a fight; the police battalions provided an opportunity to atone for that dark hour. However, Latvian enthusiasm soon encountered the harsh realities of German rule, and the flow of voluntary enlistments dried up.

Before long the first of many mysterious deaths of Latvian officers took place. The patriotic Lt. Col. V. Deglavs, active in the attempts [page 98] to form a Latvian government, was found dead with a bullet in his head and his briefcase with documents missing. The Germans declared that his death was a suicide and forbid any further inquiries[14].

***

On July 14 the Germans reached the Luga river on the way to Leningrad. On July 16 they entered the outskirts of Smolensk on the way to Moscow. It seemed that the Soviet Union would be conquered in a few months, and Hitler held a conference on July 16 to remind his underlings about his plans for Lebensraum. Germany would dominate Russia up to the Ural mountains. The Baltic States would be incorporated into Germany. The Crimea would be settled by Germans. Finland should be annexed as a federated state[15] [16].

To achieve those goals, the people in the occupied regions should not be antagonized prematurely. The Germans would play the role of liberators from communist oppression, and the retention of control in German hands would be justified by wartime conditions[16].

To implement his policy on July 17 Hitler appointed Alfred Rosenberg as the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Regions and Hinrich Lohse as the Reich Commissar for Ostland (the new name of a combined region consisting of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Byelorussia) [5] [17] [18]. However, these new appointments were kept secret until November. As a slap to patriotic Latvians Rosenberg announced the formation of Ostland on November 18, the Latvian Independence Day[17].

In August the Germans overran a large part of the Ukraine. In the Smolensk area the Soviets stopped temporarily the German advance towards Moscow. By September 8 Leningrad was surrounded by Germans and Finns on land; a link to the rest of the Soviet Union remained across Lake Ladoga. Four Soviet armies were encircled at Kiev on September 16 and hundreds of thousands were taken prisoners[19].

On September 30 the Germans began an offensive against Moscow. Orel was captured on October 2. Further huge encirclements of Russian armies took place at Bryansk and Viazma. By October [page 99] 14 the Germans were 50 miles from Moscow which people abandoned in panic[20].

***

A preliminary alliance between Great Britain and the Soviet Union was signed on July 12, 1941 [21]. On July 30 President Roosevelt’s special assistant Harry Hopkins met with Stalin and Molotov in Moscow and arranged for economic assistance to the Soviet Union[22] despite the fact that numerous U.S. public figures spoke out against it (e.g., Senator Robert A.Taft: “A victory for Communism would be far more dangerous to the United States than a victory for Fascism”; former President Herbert Hoover: “Collaboration between Britain and Russia makes the whole argument of joining the war to bring the Four Freedoms a gargantuan jest”) [21]. George Kennan in the American Embassy in Berlin wrote to a friend in the State Department[23]:

It seems to me that to welcome Russia as an associate in the defense of democracy would invite misunderstanding of our own position and would lend to the German war effort a gratuitous and sorely needed aura of morality. In following such a course 1 do not see bow we could help but identify ourselves with the Russian destruction of the Baltic States, with the attack against Finnish independence, with the partitioning of Poland and Rumania, with the crushing of religion throughout Eastern Europe, and with the domestic policy of a regime which is widely feared and detested throughout this part of the world…

On August 12 Churchill and Roosevelt signed the “Atlantic Charter” aboard a ship off the coast of Newfoundland - a joint declaration of broad principles to be used to guide the policies of both countries in the future (e.g., self-government should be restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of it, territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned should not take place, etc.) [24]. On August 25 Great Britain [page 100] and the Soviet Union forcibly deprived Iran of self-government by a joint military occupation to assure a supply route from the Persian Gulf to the Soviet Union[25].

Another result of the Churchill-Roosevelt conference was the decision to send a British-American mission to Moscow to follow up Hopkins’ talks with Stalin. Lord Beaverbrook represented Britain and Roosevelt sent his special envoy Averell Harriman. They arrived in Moscow on September 28. The mission was a prelude to the first U.S. billion dollar lend-lease loan to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was promised a variety of arms, machinery, and raw materials[26] [27]. Molotov hailed the result as a demonstration “that a mighty front of freedom-loving peoples has been created, led by the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the U.S.” [27]. The outcast Soviet Union was suddenly popular. She could pretend anything, including love of freedom, because her suitors Churchill and Roosevelt were willing to swallow a Soviet lie in exchange for a Soviet front against Germans. To please Stalin Britain even declared war on Finland, Rumania, and Hungary (yes, against Finland, the country which England and France almost assisted in 1940 against the Soviet Union).

***

To improve the management of occupied Latvia the Germans established a so-called Self-Administration with Latvian “general-directors,” roughly corresponding to ministers in a cabinet. Of course, the real power remained in German hands. The Self-Administration did not make policy; it just carried out German orders concerning civil administration[28]. General Oskars Dankers, a commander of a division in the army of independent Latvia, was appointed as the head of a provisional Self-Administration on August 21, 1941. He accepted since the alternative was an administration by Germans. Dankers hoped that a Latvian administration might be able to soften the impact of the German occupation. After discussions with the leaders who had attempted in July to establish a Latvian government, Dankers completed the organization of the Self-Administration in December. It was approved by the Germans on March 18, 1942 [29].

The properties “nationalized” by the Soviets during the “Ghastly Year” were not returned to their rightful owners. The Germans declared that the German state inherited the properties of the Soviet [page 101] state. Consequently, almost everything in Latvia now belonged to the Reich[30] [31] [32].

The first of the Latvian police battalions was sent outside Latvia on October 21, 1941, commanded by Lt. Col. Kârlis Mangulis[33] [34]. In the German numbering system it was labeled as the l6th Battalion. The Germans arranged a parade the day before departure, a parade without the red-white-red Latvian colors and without the Latvian anthem. A typical tug-of-war between the German and Latvian interests took place, later to become commonplace: the Latvians wanted to turn the occasion into a national event, the Germans wanted to play down anything Latvian and talked vaguely of a New Order in Europe, etc. The Latvians did hold a second parade on the day of departure with Latvian colors and with the Latvian anthem. Lt. Col. Osis gave the farewell address, stressing that the battalion’s goal was to fight for an independent Latvia[35].

The battalion was sent to perform guard duty in the rear of the German l6th Army near Lake Ilmen, south of Leningrad. Another typical event in the German-Latvian relationship soon took place: the attached German liaison officer tried to usurp the command of the battalion. Unable to get along with the German, Mangulis resigned on December 12 and returned to Rîga[36].

In the struggle between German and Latvian interests the former Baltic Germans (who were repatriated to Germany by Hitler) played a major role. A number of them returned in various official positions and tried to turn the clock back by a century or two, attempting to treat the Latvians as German serfs.

The secret German master plan for the occupied eastern territories, as conceived by Heinrich Himmler, the chief of the SS (the Nazi party’s military arm), consisted of extermination of their culture and of the use of the “natives” as German slaves. Eventually education beyond the 4th grade was to be stopped[37]. For the duration of the war such drastic measures were postponed. However, the Germans did close the Institute of Latvian History[38] and some museums, and purged all libraries of patriotic books[39]. Afflicted by a “master race” complex, in the Baltic States the Nazis planned to Germanize racially suitable “superior natives” and to banish the rest into Russia, settling the Baltic States with Germans and possibly also with Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, and even with British farmers (after the conquest of Britain) [40] [41] so that the mixture would be converted into a German-speaking population.

[page 102]

The Latvian Jews suffered the same fate as Jews elsewhere under Nazi rule: most of them were killed. A special German SS unit “Einsatzgruppe A” with headquarters in Rîga collected Jews throughout Ostland and put them in ghettoes. In the fall of 1941 the first mass executions of Jews took place in forests near Rumbula and near Biíernieki. A concentration camp was built at Salaspils[42]. About 70,000 Latvian Jews were exterminated between 1941 and 1945[43].

***

The Germans and Rumanians captured Odessa on October 16, 1941. The Germans took Kharkov on October 24, Kursk on November 3. Yet the first German offensive against Moscow was stopped by the end of October, stopped by mud and snow, new Soviet tanks and fresh troops from Siberia. Stalin quit talking about a struggle between Nazism and Communism and reverted to plain old-fashioned Russian chauvinism, exhorting his people to kill Germans for the glory of Russia[44].

The Germans started a second offensive against Moscow on November 16 and reached Istra fifteen miles west of Moscow[45]. A severe frost caused 100,000 German cases of frostbite-Hitler had expected to conquer the Soviet Union before the onset of winter and therefore winter clothing was not available[46]. At the beginning of December the Soviets counterattacked and eased the pressure on Moscow.

On December 7 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and converted the European war into a true world war. In accordance with the Tripartite Pact Hitler and Mussolini declared war on the U.S. on December 11, although Japan did not declare war on the Soviet Union.

***

To follow up on the Beaverbrook-Harriman talks with Stalin and to negotiate a formal agreement with the Soviet Union Churchill sent his Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden to Moscow in December. The U.S. State Department was concerned that the agreement might recognize Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States or an encroachment upon Poland’s independence, e.g., Soviet annexation [page 104] of eastern Poland. Secretary of State Cordell Hull dispatched a message to Eden warning him not to conclude any agreements on postwar settlements of frontiers or to negotiate secret accords[47] [48]. Yet, according to Kennan, in the Allied governments there

…seems to me to have been an inexcusable body of ignorance about the nature of the Russian Communist movement, about the history of its diplomacy, about what bad happened in the purges, and about what had been going on in Poland and the Baltic States. I also have in mind F.D.R.’s evident conviction that Stalin, while perhaps a somewhat difficult customer, was only, after all, a person like any other person; that the reason we hadn’t been able to get along with him in the past was that we had never really had anyone with the proper personality and the proper qualities of sympathy and imagination to deal with him, that he had been snubbed all along by the arrogant conservatives of the Western capitals; and that if only he could be exposed to the persuasive charm of someone like F.D.R. himself, ideological preconceptions would melt and Russia’s co-operation with the West could be easily arranged. For these assumptions, there were no grounds whatsoever and they were of a puerility that was unworthy of a statesman of F.D.R.’s stature.[49]. 

Furthermore,

…one does not get… the impression that Roosevelt had any substantive objections-any real political objections - to seeing these areas go to Russia, or indeed that he cared much about the issue for its own sake… His anxiety was rather that he had a large body of voting constituents in this country of Polish or Baltic origin, and a further number who sympathized with the Poles, and be simply did not want this issue to become a factor in domestic politics…[50].

A Polish government-in-exile was functioning in London with General Sikorski as prime Minister. After the German attack upon [page 105] the Soviet Union the Poles were permitted to form a Polish army in the Soviet Union, recruited mostly from prisoners of war captured during the joint German-Soviet attack upon Poland. Under the command of General Anders the Polish army was supposed to fight Germans. However, as recent prisoners of war they were understandably anti-Russian and reluctant to help the Soviets. Eventually the Poles left via Iran and fought along with the Allies in Italy[51].

During the meetings between Eden and Stalin on December 16 to 20, 1941, Stalin demanded recognition of the Soviet frontiers as they existed at the time of Hitler’s attack in June, i.e., the Baltic States, eastern Poland, a strip of Finland and the Rumanian province of Bessarabia were supposed to be recognized as parts of the Soviet Union. The British War Cabinet and Churchill rejected Stalin’s terms, and Eden returned to London[52] [53]. Churchill wrote on December 20 [54]:

Stalin’s demands about Finland, Baltic States, and Rumania are directly contrary to the first, second, and third articles of the Atlantic Charter, to which Stalin has subscribed. There can be no question whatever of our making such an agreement, secret or public, direct or implied, without prior agreement with the U.S. The time has not yet come to settle frontier questions, which can only be resolved at the Peace Conference when we have won the war. 

And again on January 8, 1942 [55]: 

We have never recognized the 1941 frontiers of Russia except de facto. They were acquired by acts of aggression in shameful collusion with Hitler. The transfer of the peoples of the Baltic States to Soviet Russia against their will would be contrary to all the principles for which we are fighting this war and would dishonour our cause. 

However, Eden convinced the rest of the British War Cabinet that the Baltic States may be a small price to pay for Soviet cooperation [page 106] in the war with Germany. The British were haunted by the specter of a separate peace between Hitler and Stalin[56]. In February of 1942 the British War Cabinet approached the U.S. asking for consent to a British recognition of the 1941 Soviet frontiers. Roosevelt and the State Department objected[57]. The British prepared to go ahead with the treaty anyway, in spite of American objections. Molotov arrived in London on May 20 for talks with Eden. The U.S. Secretary of State Hull drafted a strong message to Eden, approved by Roosevelt, threatening to issue a separate American statement disavowing the treaty[58]. Consequently, the Anglo-Soviet treaty was signed on May 26, 1942, without any clauses about frontiers[56] [58] [59]. The treaty pledged both nations to help each other in the war against Hitler, and both promised not to sign a separate peace with Germany.

***

On December 10, 1941, the Japanese seized Guam and on December 24 Wake Island. Hong Kong surrendered on December 25. In January of 1942 the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies. Singapore was captured on February 15. In the Philippines Bataan surrendered on April 9 and the last fortress Corregidor on May 6.

In North Africa a series of campaigns see-sawed across the desert. On May 26 the Germans, commanded by General Rommel, opened an offensive which eventually took them deep into Egypt.

In the Soviet Union during the winter of 1941-1942 the Germans suffered several setbacks. Moscow was never reached. The noose around Leningrad was loosened slightly by the Soviet recapture of a vital railroad junction. In Crimea Sevastopol held and the Soviets managed to recapture a part of the peninsula. In the spring Hitler renewed his attacks and in May overran all of Crimea except Sevastopol. A Soviet offensive at Kharkov in May was stopped and encircled. The Germans captured about 200,000 prisoners[60].

On May 30 a new dimension was introduced into the war. The British attacked the German city of Cologne with one thousand bombers[61]. The war had reached the German civilians.

The Communist rule by terror had produced such wide-spread [page 107] fear and despair throughout the Soviet Union that many hailed the Germans as liberators, especially in the Ukraine which proclaimed independence on June 30, 1941, after the Germans had captured the city of Lvov[62]. If the Germans had taken advantage of this mood of the Soviet people, and if the Germans had allowed the various nationalities of the Soviet prison of nations some degree of self-rule, Stalin’s government would not have lasted longer than a few months. However, the brutality of the Nazis, the massacre of the Jews, the deportation of millions to Germany as slave labor eventually turned the local populations against the Germans. In the Nazi theory of races the Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians) were , rated as “subhumans” [Untermenschen] of little value[63] [64]. The Germans forbid the Ukrainian national government. The Ukrainian nationalists went underground and fought against both the Germans and the Communists[62].

During the winter of 1941-1942 the true nature of the Nazis had not yet clearly emerged. Since from previous experience the Soviet people expected nothing but lies from their government, stories of German atrocities were discounted as just some more lies[65]. The suffering under the Soviet regime was so great that it was hard to believe that a change, any change, would not be for the better. Consequently, the Germans were welcomed as the deliverers from years of barbarity. Hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops were encircled and easily taken prisoner because they did not want to fight for a government which they loathed[66]. Russians joined an anti-Soviet Russian National Liberation Army, established by the Germans, or guard units called Osttruppen[67]. These units for para-military duty were kept small and dispersed so as to avoid the creation of a substantial force which could be a threat to the Germans. Actually there were more Russian (and Byelorussian, and Ukrainian) volunteers than the Germans were willing to sign up[68]. Blinded by their vanity, the Germans expected to win the war by themselves.

Not all of the encircled Red army units surrendered. Some disappeared into the forests of the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Russia and became Red partisans. They were joined by Communist party officials who had failed to escape eastward before the German advance. Moscow sent terrorists to join and lead the partisan movement and to kill those village elders who cooperated with the Germans[69] [70]. Thus Moscow reminded its escaped slaves that the whip of the Red masters could lash even across the front line.

[page 108]

The partisan movement grew much larger in 1943 after the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad[69]. Since it now seemed likely that the Reds might win the war, many joined the partisans to establish anti-German credentials. The arrogant cruelty of the Nazis also helped to increase the number of partisans.

Since the local population would not support them, the Red partisans in Latvia could not gain a foothold[71], although Moscow sent in about 700 well-trained operatives[72]. Audriòi, a village in Latvia near the Soviet border, populated mostly by Russians, helped a partisan group made up of Red Army stragglers by providing them with food and medical supplies. In January of 1942 the Nazis burned down the village and shot its 235 inhabitants[73].

***

Since Latvians were supposed to be on a slightly higher level than the Slavs in the Nazi ranking of ethnic groups, the Germans were willing to sign up additional Latvians for duty in the police battalions, but there was a lack of volunteers because the Nazis suppressed everything Latvian. According to international law the Germans could not draft the Latvians for military duty because Latvia was treated as an occupied country. Consequently, on December 19, 1941, Rosenberg issued a decree that all men and women in Ostland were subject to mobilization for “labor service.” As part of the labor service thousands were required to serve in the German army as “auxiliaries” (laborers behind the front lines), commanded by German officers and treated as “subhumans.” Given such a choice, the men rather volunteered for the police battalions. Furthermore, some who had volunteered for local police duty of a limited 6-week duration were now transferred to the police battalions to serve there for an indefinite period of time under Rosenberg’s decree[74].

The second of the Latvian police battalions to be sent outside Latvia left for Byelorussia on December 28, 1941 [75] (numbered l7th by the Germans). The third (the 2lst) was sent to the front at Leningrad on March 30, 1942, but at first underwent training and built fortifications there. It was actually placed in the front line in July[76]. Shortly it was joined by another Latvian battalion whose commander Captain Praudiòð was soon arrested for anti-German remarks, sentenced to death by a German military court, but was [page 109] saved by the vigorous protests from the Latvian Self-Administration. Praudiòð was stripped of his rank and returned to the front as a soldier. However, eventually he regained his rank and as a Major commanded a Latvian regiment in Courland in 1945 and received several high German decorations (Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class, German Cross in Gold) [77].

The front around Leningrad was held not only by Germans and Finns, but also by Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, Estonians, and the Spanish “Blue Division” [78].

By 1943 there were 29 Latvian police battalions[79]. They were scattered all over the German-occupied Soviet Union from Leningrad to Crimea. For example, the 17th Battalion fought at Kharkov, the 23rd in Crimea[80].

The battalions were poorly armed. Therefore, they sometimes even had to steal automatic weapons from German supply depots[81]. To improve the firepower of the 26th Battalion, corporal Þanis Butkuss dug up weapons which he had captured as a leader of a group of national partisans in June and July of 1941 and which he had hidden from the Germans[82].

Butkuss, a marksman who placed second with a combat rifle in the World Shooting Championship of 1937 [83], had lost his wife and two daughters during the “Ghastly Year” in the deportation of June 14, 1941 while he himself was in the forest[84]. As a national partisan leader after that deportation he made life insecure for the NKVD forces and other Reds, and stopped further deportations in his neighborhood. After the beginning of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union his small partisan group captured about a hundred Reds[85]. He volunteered for the 26th Battalion when it was formed in March of 1942. The 26th served first in Byelorussia and then at Lake Ilmen where it occupied a long front line and made the Reds nervous by daring reconnaissance. For example, Butkuss and warrant officer Miervaldis Âdamsons (nicknamed “Marokas Baigais” “The Dreadful Moroccan” - because he had served in the French Foreign Legion in Morocco) led a group across the frozen lake at night on March 8, 1943, entered the Red camp, captured three prisoners, and discovered large hidden stores of artillery shells for a planned Soviet attack. The German airplanes blew up the ammunition depots the next day[86] [87]

Not all of the service was in the front lines, and the actions in [page 110] the rear frequently brought Latvians and Germans into conflict. The Latvians had no desire to fight against national partisans (Poles, Ukrainians, etc.) who were against both Germans and the Soviets. For example, the Latvian battalions stationed for a while near Vilnius established secret communications with the Polish partisans and agreed not to attack each other (when the Poles mistook a Latvian company for Germans and did attack them, they later sent an apology) [88]. A battalion on the other side of the former Latvian-Polish border prevented the German SD (Sicherheitsdienst, a department of the SS which did most of the Nazi dirty work such as mass murders) from collecting and sending Polish women to Germany in September of 1943 [89]. A Russian village on the other side of the Latvian-Soviet border begged the 277th Battalion to leave a Latvian company stationed in the village because otherwise they had to flee into the forests whenever the Germans or the Red partisans approached. They were willing to pay for such a protection, but, of course, the Latvians could not provide it[90].

***

The turning points in the Pacific war were the air-sea battles of the Coral Sea, May 6-8, and of Midway Island, June 4, 1942, by which the U.S. stopped the Japanese advances. In August the Americans landed an amphibious force on the small island of Guadalcanal and captured it in a savage struggle which lasted until February.

In North Africa Rommel took Tobruk in June and entered Egypt, but the Germans were eventually defeated at EI Alamein in October of 1942 and forced to retreat from Egypt.

In the Soviet Union the Germans pushed east on the southern front to capture the oil fields near the Caucasus, the wheat fields of the Kuban, and the Donets industry. Their force included 27 Rumanian, 13 Hungarian, 9 Italian, 2 Slovak, and 1 Spanish division[91]. Sevastopol fell on July 3, Voroshilovgrad July 19, Rostov July 28, Kotelnikovo August 3, Maikop and Krasnodar August 11. Hitler divided his forces and attempted to capture both the Caucasian oil fields and the important city Stalingrad on the Volga river. In September the Germans reached the outskirts of Stalingrad and in October had captured most of the city in heavy street-to-street fighting[92]. [page 111] The very name Stalingrad suggested a symbol, e.g., that Stalin’s own prestige was at stake.

***

Churchill arrived in Moscow on August 12, 1942 for direct talks with Stalin. Roosevelt sent Harriman. The U.S. was giving priority to the European war, while committing limited resources to the Pacific war.

Stalin clamored for a Second Front in Europe to bring relief to his troops (i.e., he demanded a landing in continental Europe by the British and the Americans to force a withdrawal of some Germans from the Russian front). He was also complaining about the delivery of weapons and other war supplies. In his opinion the newly respectable Soviet Union was entitled to many more American trucks and tanks than were arriving by the convoy route to Murmansk[93]. The sea convoy PQ17 of Allied supplies for the Soviet Union had been annihilated by German U-boats and aircraft. To secure the convoys Churchill and Stalin even discussed a joint operation against Finland[94]. Churchill placated Stalin with a promised “Operation Torch,” an invasion of North Africa by the Americans and the British.

***

Operation Torch took place on November 8, 1942. The Americans and British landed in French Morocco and Algeria. The Germans reacted by occupying Vichy France and Tunisia. In February Rommel retreated to Tunisia and joined up with the German and Italian forces there[95].

November was a record month for German U-boats. They sank 729,160 tons of Allied shipping[96].

On November 19 the Russians counterattacked at Stalingrad, cut through the Rumanian Third and Fourth Armies, and in four and a half days completed the encirclement of the German Sixth Army inside Stalingrad. Hitler forbade them to retreat. Yet attempts to break the encirclement from the west failed. In January the Germans started to withdraw from the Caucasus, afraid to be cut off there too[97] [98].

[page 112]

Roosevelt and Churchill met at Casablanca in January of 1943 (Stalin refused to participate because of urgent business at home). They decided to step up the bombing of German cities and that their next invasion target would be Sicily. They issued a declaration that the war would be ended only with unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan [99]

The last Germans in Stalingrad capitulated on February 2, 1943.

***

Since the German troops were holding a large area from North Africa to Norway and from France to Caucasus, they were stretched out rather sparsely, and they had to rely on their willing and unwilling allies (Italians, Rumanians, Hungarians, etc.) for some support. For the same reason the Germans tried to enlist as many Latvians as possible into the police battalions which then were used in the front lines. When the voluntary enlistment program failed to satisfy the Germans, they proposed in November of 1942 the formation of a Latvian Legion for which men would be mobilized by the Self-Administration and which would be a definitely military organization, not a para-military one such as the police battalions. A similar Estonian Legion was proposed to the Estonian Self-Administration on August 28, 1942 [100].

On November 4 and 30 general-director Alfrçds Valdmanis of the Latvian Self-Administration sent a counter-proposal to General Commissar Drechsler (the German overlord of Latvia, repotting to Reich Commissar Lohse who was in charge of Ostland): 1) restoration of an independent Latvia; and 2) agreement from the Germans that the Latvian Legion would fight only on the Latvian border. In exchange the Latvians would provide 100,000 men[101] [102] (there were 32,000 already in the police battalions[103]).

On December 23 Lohse and Drechsler replied that if Latvia’s independence were restored then Belgium, Holland, and Estonia would demand the same. Since Hitler was busy with plans for the ultimate victory, such problems could not be considered at the time[104].

In January of 1943 Himmler, the head of the German SS, visited the Leningrad front[105]. On January 23 he proposed to Hitler the reorganization of the Latvian police battalions stationed there into a brigade as part of a Latvian Legion. Hitler agreed and on January [page 113] 24 Himmler sent a radio message to the Leningrad front ordering the reorganization without any knowledge by the Self-Administration. Since a mobilization is not allowed in an occupied country under international law, Himmler even proposed autonomy for the Baltic States. Rosenberg’s staff drew up such a statute of autonomy, but Hitler turned it down on February 8 [106] [107].

On January 26 the Self-Administration met with Major General Schroeder, the German commander of SS and police forces in Latvia, who informed them that the Latvian Legion now existed; all it needed was some more volunteers. The Latvians countered with four demands: 1) a guarantee that the goal of the fighting would be a free and independent Latvia; 2) an end to the persecution of patriotic Latvians and a release from jails of all Latvians imprisoned for nationalistic activities (e.g., a fifteen year old girl had been arrested by the Germans for reciting patriotic poetry at the Cemetery of Brothers); 3) the return of private property nationalized by the Soviets and now usurped by the German Reich; 4) equality of Latvians and Germans in matters of justice, supplies, food, salaries, etc.[108].

On January 29 the Self-Administration had another meeting with Drechsler, Schroeder, and others. The Latvians emphasized that they must know what they were fighting for if the Germans expected them to join them against the Russians (it was clear to both Germans and Latvians that the Legion would not fight against the Western Allies). Furthermore, the Self-Administration had no legal authority to mobilize since it was not the government of an independent country[109].

On February 6 general-director Dankers met with General Jeckeln, the commander of SS and police forces in Ostland, who agreed that a Latvian Legion would defend the front near the Latvian border (but not on the Latvian border). Furthermore, all prosecutions of Latvian nationalists would be terminated, the return of nationalized private property to the original owners would be considered, and the food allocation would be the same as in German East Prussia[110]

On February 10, eight days after the surrender of the last German forces at Stalingrad, Hitler as Commander-in-Chief signed the following order[102] [106] [111]:

“I order the formation of a Latvian SS Volunteer Legion.

The size and the type of the unit will be determined by the number of the available Latvian men.”

Obviously there were two things wrong with that order: 1) the [page 114] Legion had the label “SS” attached to it; 2) it was to be formed from volunteers[112]. According to the original SS rules, only Germans of racial purity going back to the year 1800 could belong to it[113]. However, later the rules were changed to admit men from “Nordic” countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Holland[114]. To avoid service in the regular German army, after the outbreak of war special units of Waffen-SS [Armed-SS] were formed from SS members of draft age, exclusively at Hitler’s disposal. The Waffen-SS was not under the Wehrmacht (regular German army) command, and considerable rivalry existed between the two because the Waffen-SS claimed to be elite forces[115]. Since the SS had descended from the Freikorps which burned Latvian villages in 1919, the Nazis were adding insult to injury by labeling the Legion as “SS”. Eventually it turned out that the Latvian divisions were designated differently from the German SS units. The latter were named, for example, “5th SS-Panzerdivision,” while the Latvians were labeled, for example, “19th Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS,” a division of SS (i.e., owned by SS). Furthermore, the SS label was given only to the whole division and not to its individual regiments because the division commander and most of his staff were German SS officers. The individual regiments, commanded by Latvian officers, were numbered without the SS label, for example, “Waffen-Grenadier Regiment 42” [116].

The “volunteer” part of Hitler’s order was equally misleading. Without the consent of the Self-Administration the German Labor Administration notified those born between 1919 and 1924 to report for registration on February 26 [117] [118]. The draftees were supposed to be given a choice between 1) the Legion; 2) service with the German Wehrmacht as auxiliaries; 3) labor service in important war industry (i.e., slave labor in Germany); and they had to sign a declaration that they were volunteering. Those who refused were sent to the Salaspils concentration camp[119]. However, in practice frequently there was no choice, and the registration commission designated the service for which the draftee had to “volunteer” [120].

Faced with the accomplished fact of a disguised mobilization of Latvian youth, the Self-Administration tried to ensure that the Latvian Legion would be commanded by Latvian officers and that the new recruits would receive adequate training before being sent to the front. General Bangerskis (a Corps commander in Kolchak’s [page 115] army, and the commander of the first Latvian Rifle Battalion in 1915) was proposed as the commander of the Legion. At first the Germans agreed, but at the end of March they announced that the Legion would be commanded by a German Waffen-SS Major General Hansen, and Bangerskis would be the Legion’s Inspector-General with rather nebulous duties[121]. Furthermore, the first one thousand recruits were loaded onto a troop train under an armed German guard on March 29 without any training. However, they were sent to the rear of the Latvian police battalions (now part of the Legion) at the Leningrad front and trained there by Latvian instructors[122] [123].

Upon German insistence the Self-Administration agreed to publish an announcement inviting Latvians to volunteer for the Legion, but it steered clear of the conscription action. When the Germans tried to send out draft notices in Bangerskis’ name, he protested vigorously, and they stopped that practice. The notices were then sent out in the name of a non-existent “Replacement Command of the Latvian Legion” which, of course, had no legal right to draft anybody[124].

While the Self-Administration was against the draft performed in an occupied country by the occupiers, it was also quite conscious of the fact that the creation of a Latvian armed force may later on provide opportunities similar to those during World War I: if the Germans and Russians were both exhausted, the Latvians again might win a two-front war against both giants. Furthermore, even if the Germans were defeated (which now seemed a possibility after Stalingrad) and the Russians were still strong, perhaps the Baltic States alone could hold off the Russians long enough for help to arrive from the West. We now know that such ideas were naive. England and the U.S. had no intentions to fight with the Soviet Union over eastern Europe, but during the war the trusting people of eastern Europe thought that Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s Atlantic Charter really meant what it said. Even in the Soviet Union itself the people found it unbelievable that the Western Allies were fighting only to defeat Nazism and not the equally detestable Communism, that the war was not for freedom in general but only for freedom from the Nazis, abandoning those people to the Red tyranny[125].

Consequently, while the Self-Administration refused to endorse the German conscription of Latvian youths, it did try to make sure that the recruits were not used just as “cannon fodder.” Therefore, [page 116] on May 21, 1943, it asked former officers and non-commissioned officers to register for service in the Legion[126]. Otherwise the Latvian boys would be led by German officers who would not be very considerate in their use at the front. It also restated its basic position numerous times: Latvians would not have to be drafted, they would volunteer for the Legion if the Germans permitted Latvian independence. Under the present circumstances Germany regarded Latvia as part of the Soviet Union conquered by German arms. The laws of the Soviet Union applied unless directly countermanded by the Germans (e.g., all private property belonged to the state, now the German Reich). Thus in this respect the Germans and the Soviets treated Latvians the same, e.g., the Moscow radio broadcast names of Latvian soldiers captured and shot as traitors (traitors because in Moscow’s opinion they were Soviet citizens) [127].

Ultimately both the Latvian police battalions and the grenadier divisions were considered to be part of the Legion[128], but initially it was difficult to obtain some control over the police battalions widely dispersed in the Ukraine[129]. Since most Latvian soldiers were regarded as members of the Legion, it turned out to be the largest of all the foreign Legions: the Dutch and Scandinavian Legions had only a few battalions[130]; the Estonian Legion consisted of about 5000 men[131]. On July 1, 1944 the Latvian Legion had 87,550 men; there were another 23,000 in the Wehrmacht auxiliaries and the labor service; the casualties at this time had amounted to 13,089 [132]. There was also a Latvian Air Force Legion of about 1200 men, and about 900 served in the Navy. The Lithuanians were more suc­cessful in the resistance to the German draft and avoided the forma­tion of a Legion altogether[133] [134]  although they did contribute police battalions. Russians, Ukrainians, and other nationalities of the Soviet Union also formed various military units.

The first large unit of the new Latvian Legion was formed at the Leningrad front from three police battalions. It was shortly joined by three other battalions. The unit was transferred from the front south of Leningrad to the front east of Leningrad along the river Volkhov at the beginning of May, 1943. It was designated as the 2nd Brigade[135]. A year later it was transformed into the l9th Division.

The 15th Division was formed from the new recruits in Latvia. It was officially established on February 25, 1943 [136]. The highest ranking Latvian officer of the division was the Infantry Commander Col. Arturs Silgailis. The commander of the division and the rest [page 117] of the staff were Germans. However, since it constantly sent replenishments to the Brigade at Volkhov, and these were then replaced by new recruits, it went to the front in December of 1943 only partially trained[137].

***

The German surrender at Stalingrad was a turning point in the war. For the first time a German army was thoroughly beaten. In the next few months the Soviets scored some more successes: in February of 1943 they retook Kursk, Rostov, and Kharkov. However, the Germans recovered; they recaptured Kharkov in March.

On the diplomatic front the Soviets suffered an embarrassment. In accordance with their usual policy to dispose of possible opponents by killing them, they had shot several thousand Polish officers after the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland in the forests of Katyn (near Smolensk) in 1940. The corpses were found by the Germans in April of 1943, and the discovery was announced to the rest of the world. While the Soviets tried to blame the Germans for that massacre, the evidence supported the original theory that the Soviets were the butchers[138] [139]. Since the Polish government in exile in London also blamed the Soviets, Stalin broke off diplomatic relations with them and set up his own rival Polish government.

There was an uprising of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in April. Their struggle against desperate odds lasted a month. The captured survivors of the uprising were shipped to the gas chambers.

In May the Germans and Italians in Tunisia surrendered. North Africa was completely in Allied hands. In July the Allies landed in Sicily. The Fascist Grand Council restored the Italian king to the post of Commander-in-Chief. The king had Mussolini arrested on July 25. As the Allies crossed over to the Italian mainland, Italy surrendered on September 3. However, the Germans immediately occupied northern and central Italy, and the Allied advance up the Italian peninsula became very slow. On September 12 the Germans rescued Mussolini and established him again as the head of another Italian government in the German-occupied part[140].

In the Pacific the Japanese were gradually evicted from one island after another. In May the U.S.A. landed in the Aleutian Islands. During the summer heavy fighting ensued in New Guinea.

The biggest tank battle of the war took place in July of 1943 in [page 118] the Soviet Union at Kursk. A German offensive failed, and the Soviets counterattacked. The Soviets recaptured Orel and Kharkov in August, Smolensk in September. This was the last important German offensive in the east; from here on the Germans mostly retreated.

***

When the Germans retreated from the Caucasus in January of 1943, they were followed by wagon trains of the Caucasian peasants who preferred to leave their country with a defeated alien army rather than welcome back their old Soviet masters[141]. The scene repeated itself throughout the Soviet Union during the next couple of years as the Soviets pushed back the Germans.

Despite the manpower shortage and the obvious lack of success on all fronts, the Nazis in 1943 still did not trust the Russians well enough to use them against the Red Army in large units. The Wehrmacht was willing to expand the Russian Liberation Army, commanded by the defector General Andrei Vlasov, and there were droves of volunteers willing to fight on the German side[68]. Yet Hitler could not stand the idea of “subhuman” Slavs fighting alongside the Germans; therefore, he vetoed the proposal[142]. Thus the creation of Vlasov’s army was postponed from month to month, and the few units which had been formed were scattered all over the Soviet Union. Only in the fall of 1944 were four Russian divisions authorized[143].

It has been estimated that 220,000 Ukrainians, 110,000 Turkestanians, 110,000 Caucasians, 70,000 Cossacks, and numerous other smaller ethnic contingents from the Soviet Union fought with the Germans against the communists[144].

***

In August of 1943 an underground Latvian Central Council was formed with seven members: one representative from each of the four largest political parties of the last Parliament, and three members of the last Presiding Board of the Parliament[145] [146]  [147]. The Council was headed by Professor Konstantîns Èakste, the son of the first Latvian President. The Council rejected cooperation with the German occupation regime and declared that Dr. Pauls Kalniòð, the President of the last Parliament, was now the Acting President [page 119] of the Latvian Republic in accordance with the provisions of the 1922 constitution. The Council made contacts with underground groups in Estonia and Lithuania and with Latvian diplomatic missions in London and Washington (those missions continued to represent independent Latvia as a result of the extraordinary powers granted in 1940). In the belief that history would repeat itself and the Latvian David would be able to defeat not just one but two Goliaths again (Germany and the Soviet Union), the Council established contacts with some officers of the Latvian Legion and formed a military committee to plan a Latvian national army[147].

***

The Latvian brigade at Volkhov consisted of two regiments, commanded by Lt. Cols. Voldemârs Veiss and Kârlis Lobe. Their major engagement in 1943 took place on September 2-9. The Latvians attacked and took a hill to straighten out the front line. The Soviets mistook the attack for a start of a major German offensive, and counter-attacked with three divisions, yet the Latvians kept the hill. The brigade was awarded 9 Iron Crosses 1st Class and 104 2nd Class, plus hundreds of lesser medals[148].

After the battle of Kursk the Soviets recaptured a large territory and in October crossed the river Dnieper on the southern front. On November 6 they recaptured Kiev. Latvians felt threatened by a Red re-occupation more and more with each month. On November 10 the Self-Administration was told that Hitler has ordered the mobilization of those born between 1915 and 1924 in both Latvia and Estonia[149]. Thus the Nazis were now desperate enough to replace the hidden mobilization, disguised as conscription for labor service, by an open mobilization, illegal in an occupied country. The Germans proposed that the Self-Administration should announce the mobilization. Furthermore, 41 Latvian professors, writers, and other public figures sent Bangerskis a memorandum urging the creation of a Latvian army. Convinced that the Germans would carry out the mobilization with or without their participation, to retain some control over the fate of the Latvian draftees the Self-Administration decided to issue a mobilization order in accordance with the laws of independent Latvia, assigning the duties of the Minister of War to Bangerskis[150]. The public announcement was made on November 16. In the morning Dankers submitted a request to restore Latvia’s independence [page 120] to Dr. von Borcke, Drechsler’s deputy[151]. In the afternoon Dankers and Bangerskis addressed a conference of mayors and of Self-Administration department heads. Both stressed that the mobilized Latvians would be fighting for Latvia’s independence[151] [152]. Furthermore, Bangerskis declared that he would be the only one to determine the conduct of the mobilization. He would not tolerate interference from others (meaning Germans) [151].

Of course, the Nazis ignored the demand to re-establish an independent Latvia; and they interfered with the mobilization. Yet the Latvians did not have much choice. If they did not mobilize and the Germans won the war, then the Latvians would have a weak claim to independence because freedom from Soviet rule would have been won by the Germans. If they did not mobilize and the Germans lost the war, then surely Latvia would be occupied by the Reds once more, and the “Ghastly Year” would be repeated again and again. Thus the only choice was to mobilize and to fight for independence, hoping for ultimate help from the Western Allies, since it seemed inconceivable that the West would abandon the Baltic States to the Soviets. German claims that the West had sold the Baltic States to the Reds in exchange for Stalin’s help against Hitler were dismissed as just Nazi propaganda.

World War I ended with Germany exhausted but not completely defeated, with large areas of Russia still occupied by Germany. If history would repeat itself, and if World War II would end the same way, then upon the collapse of Germany a Latvian force would be needed to defend its borders. Therefore, mobilization was a necessity. Yet World War II did not end the same as the first one: a) Hitler wanted to fight until the bitter end, destroying Germany[153] [154]; b) Roosevelt and Churchill had announced that only an unconditional surrender of Germany would be acceptable[99], which did not encourage an early end to the war.

***

On September 2 Roosevelt told Harriman, the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Moscow, that he hoped to persuade Stalin to hold plebiscites in the Baltic States to determine any territorial changes. Anyone who did not choose to live under the Soviet rule should be allowed to emigrate[155].

[page 121]

Roosevelt met Stalin for the first time at the Teheran Conference, November 28-December 1, 1943. Stalin promised Roosevelt and Churchill to attack Japan after the defeat of Germany; Roosevelt and Churchill promised Stalin to launch an invasion of Europe in the spring of 1944. Roosevelt jokingly told Stalin that he did not intend to go to war with the Soviet Union when the Red Army reoccupied the Baltic States. However, some kind of a referendum in the Baltic States on the subject of joining the Soviet Union would be desirable to satisfy public opinion in the U.S. and elsewhere [156] [157]. Stalin replied that the Baltic people would have plenty of opportunities to vote in the regular Soviet elections; a referendum under international control was out of the question. The public opinion of Roosevelt’s constituents should be changed by applying the right kind of propaganda[156] [158].

The Big Three also agreed to dismember Germany after the war and to shift Poland west, giving eastern Poland to the Soviet Union, and compensating Poland with German territories in the west. “Uncle Joe” (the nickname of Stalin used by Churchill and Roosevelt) had a grand time marking up a U.S. State Department map with a red pencil [159] [160], assigning millions of people to his slave empire.

***

The Latvian l5th Division was transported to the front in such a hurry at the end of November, 1943 that some regiments did not receive winter clothing, and it did not have time to train with the recently issued new German weapons. The division was sent to the vicinity of Velikiye Luki, about 50 miles east of the Latvian border. It was dispersed for training among two German divisions, the 83rd and the 205th [161]. The relationship with the Germans was not good. The Germans treated the Latvians arrogantly and took away their new modern automatic rifles and machine guns which the Germans themselves lacked[162]. The training was supposed to last for a few weeks. When the Latvian regiment commanders tried to reassemble the dispersed units after the training period, some German commanders refused to release the Latvians, claiming inability to hold the front without them[163]. Furthermore, some Latvian units had suffered more than 50% casualties in heavy fighting [page 122] [164], and some could not be located and turned up only weeks later[165]. The German commanders tried to save and preserve their own units; the Latvians were expendable[166].

While the 15th Division was attached to the l6th German Army, the 2nd Brigade was with the l8th German Army about 200 miles to the north. In January of 1944 the Soviets launched a major offensive in the north to relieve Leningrad. At the front on the Vokhov river the Reds broke through the German lines about 3 miles south of the Latvian brigade and encircled two German divisions north of Novgorod on January 14. A Latvian battle group of two battalions commanded by Col. Veiss, was sent to stop the Red breakthrough and to free the encircled Germans. The Latvian counterattack from the north and the German attack from within the encirclement succeeded and the encirclement was broken. Consequently, Veiss was the first Latvian to receive the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest German decoration[167] [168].

Because the sparsely held German front could not withstand the Soviet offensive (in 1944 the Reds outnumbered the Germans roughly 2:1 in men, 4:1 in tanks [169]), the front was pushed back to the borders of Estonia in the north. During February the 2nd Brigade withdrew, fighting a rearguard action, about 150 miles southwest to the vicinity of Ostrov on the river Velikaya[170].

Half of the l5th Division was sent about 50 miles north to Belebelka on February 2 to stem the Red advance, but on February 20 it was ordered to withdraw west. It reached its new position on the river Velikaya south of the 2nd Brigade on February 29, having fought three battles on the way[171]. The 4th Regiment (in German enumeration the 33rd Regiment), commanded by Col. Vilis Janums, was surrounded by the Reds during the retreat, and the Soviet radio already announced its annihilation, yet the regiment slipped through the Reds in the wooded terrain, walking 40 miles in 29 hours without food or rest[172].

The remainder of the l5th Division joined the Latvians on the Velikaya river in early March. The 2nd Brigade was enlarged into a division (the l9th Division), and both divisions were joined into the VI Latvian Corps[173]. On March 16 units of both divisions for the first time attacked together, taking a hill[174] [175]. Yet it was hardly appropriate to call them divisions. The heavy fighting of the last couple of months had taken a severe toll. Each division had less than two thousand men[176]. However, in this respect they [page 124] were not worse off than the Germans. For example, at the end of March the neighboring l3th Luftwaffe [Air Force] Field Division consisted of about 500 men[177]. Nevertheless, it seems that there was a lack of understanding of the true situation at the divisional level and higher where battalions, regiments, and divisions were still treated as entities worthy of their name. For example, the 1st Latvian Battalion of the 3rd Regiment was ordered to take a heavily defended hill when the Battalion had only 23 men[174].

The two divisions were not the only Latvian forces fighting in the front. For example, in November 1943 the 1st Police Regiment and the 313th and 316th Police Battalions were sent to counter-attack a Red breakthrough in the area of Nevel (about 50 miles east of the Latvian border) and heavy fighting continued until January. The 1st Regiment remained in the front line at Nevel until March[178]. Furthermore, the Latvian auxiliaries, attached to German divisions, were forced into front-line duty because of German losses. Bangerskis in vain tried to get them transferred to the Latvian Legion. For example, one German division replied that 48% of its men were Latvians; consequently, it would be seriously weakened by such a transfer[179].

***

In the Pacific the Americans assaulted Tarawa in November of 1943 and the Marshall Islands in December. The recapture of the Solomon Islands was completed in January of 1944. The Japanese countered with an offensive on the Indian border in February and March, and they renewed their offensive in China in April. The Allies landed at Hollandia in New Guinea in April.

Italy declared war on Germany on October 13, 1943. In January the Allies landed at Anzio. On June 4, 1944 the Americans entered Rome.

In April of 1944 the Soviets crossed the Rumanian border. In May the Reds recaptured Sevastopol and the rest of the Crimea.

The Allies continued the heavy bombing of German cities. The Soviet forces were bolstered by a steady supply of Allied weapons (tanks, trucks, etc.).

***

[page 125]

It was forbidden to celebrate the Latvian Independence Day, November 18, in 1941 and in 1942. However, in 1943 the Germans allowed a limited celebration which the Latvians then turned into a massive demonstration of patriotism[180].

In January of 1944 General Jeckeln, the German chief of the SS and the police in Ostland, asked Bangerskis to draft older men for the defense of Latvian borders. According to Jeckeln, Hitler expected the Baltic States to secure their own territories against the approaching Red Army because Germans might soon be busy in the west against the Allies[181]. On February 2 General Commissar Drechsler informed the Self-Administration that the Germans no longer regarded Latvia as part of the Soviet Union (but he failed to define the new status of Latvia) [182]. On February 4 and 5 Dankers published an order drafting those born between 1906 and 1914 [183]. The new recruits were assigned to six new Border-Defense Regiments and were supposed to be released if the Red Army threat to Latvia diminished. However, soon some of the new recruits were sent as replacements to the battle units of the Legion[184].

In March of 1944 the underground Latvian Central Council submitted a memorandum, signed by 189 prominent Latvians, to Bangerskis and to some political leaders in the West[185] [186]. The memorandum condemned the present mobilization as illegal and demanded the restoration of Latvian independence so that a legal Latvian government could rally the people against the approaching Soviet menace[185]. In April several members of the Council were arrested by the Gestapo [German secret police] [187]. Professor Èakste was sent to the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig. When the Red Army approached in 1945, the camp inmates were ordered to march west in severe winter weather. Èakste died of exhaustion during that march[188]. The Council attempted to smuggle Dr. Kalniòð out of the country across the sea to Sweden in September of 1944. The motorboat was intercepted by the Germans, and Kalniòð was taken to Stutthof. He died in Austria in August of 1945 [188]. Bishop Rancâns became the head of the Council and was also deported to Germany where he was freed by the Americans at the end of the war[189].

On April 7, 1944 Col. Veiss was wounded by an artillery shell fragment at the l9th Division front. He died in a Riga hospital on April 17 [190] [191] [192]. Tens of thousands lined the Rîga streets [126] to honor the popular colonel in his last journey as he was taken to the Cemetery of Brothers[192]. Although decorated with the Knight’s Cross, he never forgot that in 1919 his brother was killed by a German bullet[193]. Even the Germans did not mistake the cause for which he had fallen: a Danzig newspaper headlined his death notice “For Latvia’s Freedom” [190].

On May 8 Col. Lobe replaced Veiss as the highest ranking Latvian officer in the l9th Division, i.e., as the divisional Infantry Commander[194].

***

The “Second Front” in the west was established on June 6 (D-Day), 1944, when the Allies invaded the Normandy coast of France. 100,000 troops were landed the first day, 2,000,000 within the next two months.

Hitler attempted to improve the morale of his people by promising that the war would be won by new secret weapons. The first of those, named V-1 (V stood for “Vergeltung” - retribution), was launched against London on June 12. It was a jet-propelled pilotless aircraft with a one-ton warhead. The V-1s caused considerable damage but were employed too late to affect the outcome of the war.

In the Pacific Americans invaded Saipan in June and defeated the Japanese in a large air and sea battle. Japan was bombed by B-29s for the first time.

Four days after D-Day the Soviets started a major assault on the Finnish front and eleven days later captured Viipuri[195]. On June 23 the Red Army began an offensive against the German Army Group Center, weakened by withdrawal of troops for the new front in France. Within a week large German forces were encircled at Vitebsk and Bobruisk. On July 3 the Reds captured Minsk and encircled 100,000 Germans east of Minsk, so that the German front now had a gap 250 miles wide for an unobstructed Soviet advance into Poland and Lithuania[196]. Vilnius was captured on July 13; Lublin on July 23; Brest-Litovsk on July 28. This German defeat was worse than the one at Stalingrad. Twenty-five or more German divisions were destroyed[197].

The German Army Group North yielded Pskov on July 18, and the Soviets pushed into southern Estonia and southern Latvia[198].

[page 127]

On July 20 an attempt on Hitler’s life by some army officers almost succeeded. He escaped with some injuries by pure luck[199] [200]. The conspirators wanted to end the war; and they had concluded (correctly) that Hitler would never concede defeat, and thus would ruin Germany.

***

Since the Latvian VI Corps belonged to Army Group North, at the end of June it escaped the disaster further south, but it came under heavy Soviet attack on July 10. It retreated in the direction of Opochka-Krasnoye and crossed the Latvian border on July 17, 1944, while the 3rd Latvian Border-Defense Regiment took up a defensive position at Krasnoye to secure the crossing of the river Zilupe[201]. Other Border-Defense Regiments fought south of Daugavpils[202].

During its retreat on July 16 the 32nd (3rd Latvian) Regiment of the l5th Division encountered an elite Soviet division supported by tanks which was already on the western bank of Zilupe. The Latvians forced a crossing of the river, but were then counter-attacked by the tanks. The commander of the regiment, Lt. Col. Kârlis Aperâts, was wounded and taken to the medical collection point, but the latter was invaded by Red tanks which simply ran over the wounded. Unable to overcome the much stronger division, hundreds of Latvians died there; only one in ten survived. Aperâts was awarded the Knight’s Cross posthumously[203] [204].

***

Already in April the Germans had requested the drafting of 7000 Latvian boys, aged 14-16, and 400 girls, all for service as Air Defense auxiliaries. However, the Self-Administration refused and consented only to invite the youths to volunteer. As the situation at the front worsened, in June and July the Self-Administration did agree to draft 17 and 18 year old boys, yet the Germans by-passed the Self-Administration and drafted in August those aged 15-17 [205].

On July 12 Hitler appointed General Jeckeln as the chief organizer of the defense of the Baltic area. Jeckeln announced a total mobilization of Latvian men, to be used either for front-line duty or for military [page 128] construction labor (building of airfields, defensive positions, etc.) [206].

***

Fighting without tanks, the German Army Group North was slowly retreating, and was in danger of being cut off from the rest of the German forces. Yet Hitler ordered it to hold the front in Estonia on both sides of Lake Peipus. The Soviets captured Daugavpils on July 27 [207].

On July 28 the Red tanks reached Jelgava, coming from the gap in Lithuania created by the disintegration of Army Group Center. There were no real front-line forces to defend the town, yet it was held for two days by 300 wounded from the Latvian Legion who were convalescing in Jelgava, by 600 new Latvian recruits, and by miscellaneous other small Latvian and German rear units. The wounded and the new recruits lacked weapons. The Germans started to burn down the town, and the Soviet bombers and tanks finished that job by destroying the famous castle. Eventually other German units arrived, but too late and too few[208] [209]. The Red tanks dashed on to Tukums, Íemeri, and the Gulf of Rîga, thus severing the land connection between Army Group North and the other German forces on July 31 - August 1 [207] [210].

The Latvian VI Corps had been withdrawn to the vicinity of Kârsava for a brief rest. Because of heavy losses the l5th and l9th Divisions could form only three battalions each[211]. The Germans decided to send the l5th Division to Prussia (by ships) for replenishment with the newly mobilized recruits and for training; the division departed in August and September[212].

The l9th Division was sent to the front at the Lake Lubâna on July 27 [213]. It held its position until August 6, repulsing several strong Red attacks. For example, when the Reds tried to cross the river Aiviekste with rafts, the 6th Regiment blew them apart with “panzerfaust” anti-tank weapons (literally “tank fist”, a primitive bazooka) [214]. However, north and south of the Latvians the front did not hold, and by August 6 the l9th Division was in danger of being surrounded; therefore, it was ordered to withdraw in the direction of Cesvaine[215].

On August 7 Lt. Butkuss with a company of 80 men surprised and scattered a Red battalion and captured their automatic weapons [page 129] and 11 artillery pieces. When the Reds recovered and counterattacked several times, the company put the new weapons to good use against the numerically much superior enemy and repulsed all attacks[216] [217]. On August 9 Butkuss led his outnumbered men in another surprise attack against a Red unit when he was wounded[218] [219] [220]. While in the hospital, he was raised to the rank of captain, skipping the rank of first lieutenant, and he was awarded the Knight’s Cross[221].

During the second half of August the l9th Division held the position at Cesvaine, blunting the Red attacks with their own counterattacks. The division received three replenishment battalions[222].

On August 16 the Germans began an attack from western Lithuania and East Prussia against the Soviet encirclement of Army Group North. Tukums was taken on August 20, thus re-establishing land communications between Army Groups North and Center[223].

The Germans still held most of Estonia and Latvia, although Latgale, eastern Vidzeme, and southern Zemgale were occupied by the Soviets. The Germans also held the western half of Lithuania. Faced with the prospect of renewed enslavement by the Reds, many Latvians, Lithuanians, and Estonians chose to flee their country. Some made it across the Baltic Sea to Sweden in small boats despite German and Soviet naval patrols. Some went to Germany. About 300,000 Latvians moved west, away from the approaching front, and took refuge in Courland[224].

***

After the Soviets had taken Lublin, they established there a puppet Polish government. When the Soviets approached Warsaw, the Polish government in exile in London ordered the Polish underground forces to rise and take the city from the Germans. The uprising by about 20,000 men took place on August 1 [225]. The Soviets then stopped their advance and waited until the Germans had massacred the nationalist Poles (it took two months to do that), even though Moscow itself had broadcast an appeal to the people of Warsaw to rise. Furthermore, the Soviets did not give any support to the Polish forces commanded by General Berling who attempted to break through to Warsaw from the Soviet-held territory, and they did not allow the planes of the Western Allies that had dropped supplies on Warsaw to land and refuel in Soviet-held Poland[226] [227]. The [page 131] Polish nationalists surrendered to the Germans on October 2. About 300,000 Poles were killed during the fighting, and nine tenths of the city was destroyed[228]. When the Soviets finally captured Warsaw on January 17, 1945, they could install their Lublin puppet government in Warsaw without having to shoot thousands of nationalists first because the Nazis had done most of their dirty work for them.

In the west the Allies landed in the south of France on August 15, 1944. Paris was liberated on August 24-25; Brussels on September 3; Antwerp on September 4. On September 11 the Americans crossed the border of Germany at Trier.

Rumania signed an armistice on September 12; Finland on September 19.

V-2s, the second of Hitler’s “miracle weapons,” hit London for the first time on September 8. The V-2 was a ballistic missile with a one-ton warhead[229].

In the Pacific the U.S. recovered Guam in August. The Allies opened a counter-offensive in Burma in September.

***

The underground Latvian Central Council managed to form their own military unit, disguised as a Home Guard unit, commanded by General Kurelis; the men were popularly known as “Kurelians.” The unit was organized in July 28, 1944 by a directive from Veide, the administrator of the Rîga township[230], for the officially avowed purpose of fighting Red terrorists 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[231]. Kurelis’ Chief of Staff was Capt. Kristaps Upelnieks, a clandestine member of the Central Council’s military committee[232].

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[231]. 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 Rîga to [page 132] northern Courland, leaving behind a group of 150 men to operate in the Soviet rear[233].

***

The Germans started to evacuate the l8th Army from Estonia in the middle of September, while the l6th Army in Latvia held open the narrow corridor along the Gulf of Rîga which connected Estonia and eastern Latvia to western Latvia, Lithuania and Prussia[234]. The Latvian l9th Division held the easternmost position in the front in Vidzeme because as the Germans north and south of the l9th Division retreated indifferently from this alien land, the Latvians fought tooth and nail and retreated only when ordered to do so by Army Group North. (In the entire German armed forces the 19th Division was among those most often mentioned in the daily bulletins of the Army[373]).

The Soviets captured Tallin on September 21, Valmiera on September 24. On September 26 the Reds assaulted the position of the 19th Division at More. The battle lasted for five days, day and night, against a nine times stronger Red force, supported by tanks. On the second day the Latvian artillery ran out of shells. Consequently, the Soviets frequently managed to burst into the Latvian trenches, and had to be killed or ejected in hand-to-hand combat. At the end of the battle those trenches were so full with Red corpses that the trenches had to be filled in. The next day the artillery received a fresh supply of shells, and the situation became less critical[235].

The battle at More was the last battle in Vidzeme. The Latvians buried their dead in graves with crosses buried under the ground instead of erected above ground so as to hide the locations of the graves, otherwise the Reds would desecrate them[236]. They were ordered to march to Courland on the night from October 6 to 7 [237].

At the end of September the Self-Administration was abolished[238]. In the first days of October the German military police rounded up all able-bodied Latvian men on the streets of Rîga and shipped them by sea to Prussia as slave labor[239]. Frequently the families did not know what had happened to the men when they did not come home: had they been killed in an air raid, shipped to Germany, or hurt in an accident?

On October 10 the Soviets captured Palanga in Lithuania on the [page 133] Baltic Sea, thus again cutting off Army Group North from Germany[240].

The 19th Division marched across a temporary bridge over the river Daugava south of Rîga during the night from October 9 to 10. Only the 19th Fusilier Battalion commanded by Capt. Laumanis marched through Rîga itself[241]. The Latvians are a singing nation. Their collection of ancient folksongs is the largest in Europe. The streets of Rîga have witnessed many fateful parades of jubilant singing Latvian soldiers: the Latvian Rifles going to the front in 1916; the Brigade of Northern Latvia entering in triumph in 1919, all showered with flowers and cheered on by the people on the sidewalks. That night the battalion marched through Rîga in grave silence, until the boys from the Aiviekste high school in a defiant spirit began their favorite song: “A white rose blossoms in my garden.” It was after midnight, yet many windows along the march route opened, and flowers were thrown in the dark at the singing marchers. There were no cheering crowds on the sidewalks, just some silver-haired mothers anxiously calling out: “Have you seen my son? He is serving in the … battalion.” And the hopeful mothers kept asking the same question to platoon after platoon until the last man passed by[242]. 

Rîga fell to the Russians on October 13, 1944 [240]. 

*** 

In September the Soviets entered Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. The Germans never had complete control of Yugoslavia because the partisans in the mountains, led by Tito and others, were never defeated. On October 20 the partisans and Soviets captured Belgrade. At the end of December the Soviets surrounded Budapest.

In the west the Allies took Strasbourg at the end of November. On December 16 the Germans staged a surprise counter-offensive in the Ardennes and created a large “bulge” in the Allied lines (hence the popular name “Battle of the Bulge”). However, by the middle of January this counter-offensive was stopped and defeated.

In October the Americans landed in the Philippines, and the Japanese were vanquished in the Battle of Leyte Gult. In December the Japanese were pushed out of northern Burma.

***

[page 134]

The German Army Group North, cut off from Germany by the new Soviet breakthrough to the sea in Lithuania, was renamed “Heeresgruppe Kurland” [Army Group Courland] [240]. It consisted of 32 infantry divisions (including the Latvian l9th), 2 tank divisions, plus miscellaneous Latvian units (four police battalions, the 106th Grenadier Regiment which was formed from some Border-Defense units, and others) [243]. Courland was held by this Army Group till the end of the war and was popularly known as “Fortress Courland.” Supplies from Germany were brought by ships. On the return trip the same ships evacuated some of the refugees from Courland to Germany because the large Latvian refugee population in Courland was burdensome. The Soviet Navy interfered very little with those ship convoys[244].

The Soviets and the defenders of Fortress Courrland fought six major engagements (popularly called “Grand Battles”) between October 1944 and March 1945, in which according to German sources the Soviets suffered 400,000 casualties and lost 2,600 tanks and 700 airplanes[245], yet gained nothing. Those six Grand Battles were probably among the most intensively fought battles in Europe during World Was II. In the rest of Europe one could trade space for time, and one could withdraw if the pressure was too great. In Courland there was no space to trade. In the first few months the Soviet offensives may have been motivated by a desire to prevent a re-establishment of a land link between Courland and Germany[246], but by 1945 there was no chance of another link-up, yet the Soviets continued to send their troops against Courland to be massacred. Perhaps the Reds made a major effort to eliminate the Courland bridgehead because they were afraid that at some point the Western Allies may seize the opportunity to land in Courland or at least ask the Germans to hold it against the Reds at the end of the war, the same as at the end of World War I. Not only the non-Russian nationalists but also the Reds could not understand why the Allies behaved so stupidly and gave the Soviets a free hand in eastern Europe. Therefore, the Reds expected a change in the Allied behavior soon. Since the summer of 1944 the Soviets taken prisoner related the same story: the Red Army was told to prepare for a war with “the western imperialists and capitalists” [247]. Even if the Allies would not intervene militarily in Courland, certainly the Soviet position at a peace conference would be more secure in regard to the Baltic States if they were entirely occupied by the Red Army. Consequently, the Reds expended [page 136] almost a half a million men trying to take Courland, yet in vain.

The 1st Grand Battle took place from October 15 to 22. The Reds attacked the 19th Division and their neighbors, the 504th German Grenadier Regiment, in the vicinity of Dþûkste. Four Soviet infantry divisions and two tank brigades were annihilated; the Reds gained a strip of land about a mile wide; the number of casualties in the 19th Division was considerable[248] [249].

After the 1st Grand Battle the 19th Division and the other Latvian units experienced a moral crisis. They expected that Courland would be abandoned and that the German divisions would be withdrawn to Germany either by sea or by land. Consequently, several hundred Latvians deserted the 19th Division and either joined the Kurelians or just hid in the forests. However, Hitler issued an order that Courland would be held (against the wishes of Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, Army Chief of Staff). When that order was publicized in the second half of November, many of the deserters returned[250].

In the 2nd Grand Battle the Reds attacked southeast of Liepâja in an attempt to capture that port. 80 divisions assaulted the Germans from November 1 to 15 in a front 8 miles wide. Despite the 10:1 advantage in manpower, the Soviets seized only a strip of land roughly 2 by 8 miles in size[251] [252].

Since the Self-Administration had been abolished in September, now the officers of the 19th Division raised the subject of Latvia’s independence with the German commanders of Fortress Courland. The Latvian civilians in the rear were administered by the local Latvian township officials who in turn had to report to a German civil administration, and there was no Latvian central civil administration for the whole of Courland. Since the defense of Fortress Courland depended heavily on the cooperation and the tolerance of the civilians in the rear, the Nazis were now willing to appease the Latvians by some concessions in regard to self-determination. The officers of the 19th Division were informed in the middle of November that a Latvian Provisional Government with Bangerskis as President was being organized in Berlin[253]. Ultimately a Latvian National Committee, headed by Bangerskis, was established in Germany, but it could not be called a “Provisional Government” because even in their death throes the Nazis did not want to release their grip upon their coveted Lebensraum.

The fact that deserters from the Latvian Legion joined the Kurelians [page 137] as a clandestine nationalist army was soon ferreted out by the Gestapo. Furthermore, some of the deserters who had not joined the Kurelians but had formed their own independent bands in the forests occasionally raided farms and villages for supplies, masquerading as Kurelians. Moreover, the parachuted Red terrorists (their largest unit was known as the “Red Arrow”) also occasionally performed some misdeeds in the name of the Kurelians[254]. Consequently, 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 Liepâja 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[255]. Some of the Kurelians escaped. General Kurelis was deported to Germany. 545 of his men were sent to the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig[256]. Thus ended the attempt to form a Latvian nationalist army opposed to both Soviets and Nazis.

While the Latvian Central Council had been weakened by the arrest of its leaders in 1944, it continued to function underground in Courland in the port city of Ventspils, headed by General Verners Tepfers. It organized the transport of Latvian refugees by fishing boats to the Swedish island of Gotland, the Swedish territory nearest to Latvia. The Council’s representatives were active in Stockholm[257].

The 3rd Grand Battle (also known as “the other Christmas Battle”) started on December 21 with a Soviet attack on Germans near Saldus[246] [258]. In the morning of December 23 the Soviets softened up the positions of the Latvian 19th Division and the German 21st Air Force Field Division at Dþûkste with an attack by 500 aircraft and a two hour intensive artillery bombardment. The 21st Division was reinforced by the Latvian 106th Regiment and by Latvian artillery. The bombardment was followed by an assault by a Red tank corps and several infantry divisions against the 21st Division and the left flank of the 19th Division[259]. By noon more than half of the men of the 21st Division were wounded or killed, and the Red tanks were already in their rear, ready to race for the port of Ventspils, with only the Latvian artillery between them and the port. Yet that afternoon the Latvian 24 guns won the duel against 190 Red [page 138] tanks and forced them to retreat, leaving burning hulks all over the battlefield[260] [261]. However, the break in the front line at the position of the 21st Division remained in Soviet hands throughout the 3rd Grand Battle.

The attacking Soviet force included two Latvian infantry divisions, the 43rd and the 308th [262]. The divisions were joined into the 130th Latvian Rifle Corps, commanded by Major General Detlavs Brantkalns, a Red Latvian from the Soviet Union who had survived Stalin’s purges[263]. The 43rd Guards Rifle Division was formed in the Soviet Union soon after the occupation of Latvia by Germans[262]. For the sake of Red propaganda the Reds formed military units named after all the non-Russian nationalities of the Soviet Union, even when the majority of the unit consisted of Russians. The 308th Rifle Division was formed in the summer of 1944 [262]. Both divisions were replenished with Latvians drafted in eastern Latvia occupied by the Reds, but the untrustworthy Latvians were given Russian officers. They had to fight because they knew that their families would suffer if they did not. Nevertheless, when the Latvians on the two sides of the front encountered each other during the 3rd Grand Battle, they frequently disengaged without firing upon each other. Consequently, after a few days the Reds withdrew the Latvian divisions from the front facing the Latvians and transferred them to a German front instead[264].

The flank of the Soviet breakthrough at the 21st Division was blocked on December 24 by the “Battle School” of the 19th Division, commanded by 1st Lt. Roberts Ancâns and consisting of 180 men receiving sniper training and instruction in the use of the panzerfaust [265]. By the evening the Battle School, together with a few Germans and a small Latvian artillery unit with 4 guns, occupied a lonely outpost surrounded by Reds near the junction of the 19th and 21st Division. The next day they repelled numberous Red attacks and blew up a dozen Red tanks[266]. To avoid annihilation by the Soviet artillery which had zeroed in their position, they spent most of their time outside their outpost assaulting the Reds grouping for attacks. They captured their Christmas dinner from the Red units which they scattered: American canned goods brought to the Soviets by the endless ship convoys which carried war materials to a regime dedicated to the enslavement of the world. For example, some of the attacking Soviet tanks were American Sherman tanks with a white American star still on them; the Soviets had thrown them into battle [page 139] without repainting the stars red[267]. The following morning, December 26, a few German self-propelled assault guns made it to the outpost and removed the wounded, but the Battle School was ordered to continue to hold the outpost because it was in a vital position on the flank of the Red breakthrough[268]. Only in the afternoon when Ancâns was wounded did it finally receive permission to fight its way out of the encirclement; 35 of the 180 made it back[269] [270]. Ancâns was awarded the Knight’s Cross on January 25 [271].

In the center of the 19th Division the Soviets managed a limited advance on December 26, capturing an important hill. That night a platoon commanded by warrant officer Þanis Ansons infiltrated the Soviet rear and approached the hill from behind, hoping to be mistaken for a Soviet replenishment unit. When the Soviets were not fooled and opened fire, the platoon assaulted the hill anyway and captured it in hand-to-hand combat[272] [273]. Ansons received the Knight’s Cross[271].

While Ansons’ platoon captured the hill from the rear, a company commanded by Cpt. Âdamsons (The Dreadful Moroccan) counterattacked the Soviet breakthrough from the front and restored the old front line during the night from the 26th to the 27th [274] [275]. Âdamsons was awarded the Knight’s Cross on January 25 [271]. Small pieces of territory changed hands several times each day. For example, a farm house named “Vanagi” [Hawks] was captured by the Reds at 10:15 A.M. on December 30; recaptured by The Dreadful Moroccan’s company at 10:45; seized by the Reds at 13:00; the Reds were evicted by the Latvians at 14:00; the Reds seized “Vanagi” again at 17:00; the Latvians recaptured it at 19:00 [276] [277].

In general the Soviets attacked with a numerical superiority in men of about 6:1 to 10:1. For example, 44th Regiment was attacked by the Soviet 21st, 28th, and 37th Divisions[278] [279]. The Latvian losses were heavy. The initial attack was directed against the German 21st Division with the attached Latvian 106th Regiment, and against the Latvian 42nd Regiment of the 19th Division. By December 29 the 106th Regiment had lost 850 of its 1,000 men; due to a lack of replacements it was disbanded on January 15 [280]. The 42nd Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. Nikolajs Galdiòð, had lost by December 25 900 of its 1,200 men[281], yet it continued to hold the flank position against the Soviet breakthrough at the 21st Division. In bitter fighting farmhouses changed hands repeatedly, attacks and counter-attacks swept to and fro over narrow strips of land, yet the Reds failed to [page 140] push back Galdiòð’ Regiment, and the breakthrough was contained[282] [283]. Galdiòð received the Knight’s Cross on January 25 [271].

The 3rd Grand Battle ended on December 31. The front was stabilized. The Reds had gained a few more square miles of territory at the expense of tremendous losses in men, tanks, aircraft, etc.[284].

The 4th Grand Battle was initiated on January 5, 1945 by the 19th Division in an effort to regain some territory so as to straighten out the front line and to retake a forest in which the Soviets could mass their troops unobserved. While the 19th Division made a frontal attack upon the Red bulge within the front line, the German 4th and 12th Tank Divisions tried to cut across the bulge from the flank. The attack succeeded. Farmhouse after farmhouse and bunker after bunker was taken in hand-to-hand combat against numerically superior forces. The 4th Grand Battle ended on January 9 [285] [286] [287].

***

On January 9 the Americans landed on Luzon in the Philippines.

On January 12 the Soviets opened a major offensive in Poland.

Since the Polish nationalists had been eliminated by the Nazis, the Reds now took Warsaw on January 17, Cracow on 19, Tilsit on 20, and encircled Poznan on 29.

In the middle of January Guderian got Hitler’s permission to withdraw 7 divisions from Courland[288] [289]. However, Hitler refused to consider a total withdrawal from Courland. At the end of January, after one of his regular evening meetings, he disclosed to Guderian and other officers present his reasons for the refusal: he wanted to conclude an honorable peace with the West so that he could concentrate all of his forces against the Soviets; according to Hitler the West was bound to wake up and to realize that the Reds were their real enemies, and if the Americans and the British would finally join the Germans in a war against the Reds, Courland would be an important bridgehead for a joint attack upon Leningrad[290].

***

The Latvian 15th Division was in a training camp 50 miles southwest of Danzig since September of 1944 because it consisted mostly of raw recruits drafted just before the Soviet advance into Latvia. [page 141] Only the officers and non-commissioned officers were veterans of the heavy fighting at Opochka and elsewhere. In January three battalions of volunteers were sent to Courland to replenish the 19th Division[291]. When the Soviet offensive made rapid progress in Poland, the 15th Division was ordered into battle on January 22, 1945, even though it lacked weapons, ammunition, transportation, and artillery. Nominally the 15th Division had 19,000 men, yet it had to leave one third of its men at the training camp because there were only enough weapons for two thirds of the division. The division was attached to the German 3rd Tank Army[292] [293].

The first Latvian units to encounter the Soviet advance were the unarmed Latvian construction regiments near Thorn. So many new recruits and veterans of the police battalions had been sent out of Latvia to the vicinity of Danzig into a Latvian Field Replenishment Depot that the 15th Division could not absorb them all. The formation of a third Latvian division was considered, yet ultimately most of the 10,000 men of the Depot were organized into construction regiments. The construction regiments were building fortifications near Thorn when they were surprised by the Soviet offensive; several thousand were captured[294].

The first battle of the 15th Division took place on January 23 when the 15th Fusilier Battalion recaptured Immenheim from the Reds, about 80 miles south of Danzig. The battalion liberated about 1,000 Latvians from the construction regiments which had been captured. The battalion also freed about a hundred British and French, former German prisoners of war, who had been “liberated” by the Reds. When the battalion commander asked them to choose between a German prison camp and Soviet “freedom,” they chose the Germans because they had seen enough of the conduct of their “comrades-in-arms” - the Russians[295]. The Soviet advance was marked by extreme brutality toward both soldiers and civilians. For example, in Wugarten the American prisoners of war witnessed the rape of women of all ages and the murder of sixteen[296].

The Fusilier Battalion also discovered the bodies of several Latvian soldiers and of civilians captured and then gunned down by the Reds[295]. Dozens of Latvians in the construction regiments at Thorn were murdered by the Russians when captured[294]. However, such treatment was not confined to Latvians; for example, all Russians from the Vlasov divisions were shot as soon as captured[297].

On January 24 the Latvian 34th Grenadier Regiment recaptured [page 143] Nakel. However, the lack of artillery, the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Reds, and the general disarray of the German front soon forced the 15th Division to retreat. It was surrounded by the Reds on January 29, yet it broke through the encirclement on February 3 at Landeck[298]. The Russians captured and murdered about 400 Latvians during that engagement[299].

***

The most controversial conference of the war took place at Yalta in the Soviet Union on February 4-12, 1945. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met to discuss post-war Europe and the war against Japan. At the one extreme Yalta has been described as another “Munich” at which a tired and ill Roosevelt was duped by Stalin into giving up Eastern Europe to Communism. At the other extreme Yalta was hailed as a milestone in the unity of the Big Three and a great victory for peace[300]. A number of agreements were reached: a United Nations Organization would be established; France would participate in the occupation of Germany; the idea of dismembering Germany was abandoned; the government of Poland would be reorganized to consist of both Red Poles and nationalist Poles, and free elections would be held in Poland. When Stalin broke the Yalta agreements and made a mockery of free elections in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the West pretended to be surprised. Yet after what had happened in the Baltic States in 1940 only a fool would have been surprised.

The Baltic States were not openly mentioned except in a curious context: Stalin proposed that the Soviet Union should have more than one vote in the United Nations; the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Lithuania were suggested as Soviet republics with their own membership and vote. Upon agreement by the West, the Ukraine and Byelorussia did become original members when the United Nations was founded later that year[301] [302].

One of the Yalta agreements provided for the return of the citizens of the Big Three who were liberated from Germans in territories occupied by another of the Big Three. After the end of the war this agreement was used to forcibly repatriate unwilling Soviet citizens to the Soviet Union from areas of Germany occupied by the British and Americans[303]. However, since the U.S. did not recognize the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union, Estonians, [page 144] Latvians, and Lithuanians were spared and allowed to remain outside the Iron Curtain as “displaced persons” [304]. In 1946 all forcible repatriations were stopped[303].

***

On February 5 the Americans captured Manila and on February 19 landed on Iwo Jima.

On February 5 the British and Canadians opened an offensive toward the Rhine.

On February 9 the Soviets reached and surrounded Königsberg. They captured Budapest on the l3th, Poznan on the 23rd.

***

On February 9 Guderian had another quarrel with Hitler about the troops in Courland. Guderian wanted to withdraw them so that they could be used in a counter-attack against the Soviet offensive in Poland. The two almost came to blows over the issue until finally Hitler agreed to a counter-attack but without the divisions from Courland[305].

The 5th Grand Battle in Courland started on February 12 with a Red attack against the Germans left of the 19th Division. Other attacks took place south of Liepâja where the Reds massed 21 divisions, and south of Tukums where 11 divisions tried to break through the German front and take the town; 4 of those 11 divisions were surrounded and destroyed[306] [307]. On February 16 the Reds started an offensive against the 19th Division. Again savage fighting took place for the possession of a few farmhouses. When the Reds managed a local breakthrough, the 1st Company of the 19th Fusilier Battalion counter-attacked, but lost the commanding officer in the fight. Corporal Eduards Riekstiòð took over the command of the company and in fierce hand-to-hand combat contained the breakthrough[308]. In the 6th Grand Battle Riekstiòð, while on a scouting mission with 10 men, captured 3 tanks behind the Russian lines and attacked a Russian regiment from the rear, dispersing them[309]. Riekstiòð received the Knight’s Cross on Arpil 5 [271] (At the end of the war Riekstiòð escaped to the West, yet later returned to Latvia, went underground, and was killed in a battle with the NKVD [374]).

By February 19 the 19th Division had regained all its previous [page 145] front line and the 5th Grand Battle was over in its sector[310]. The Red attacks near Liepâja ended on February 27 [311].

***

The Latvian 15th Division defended Kamin (about 70 miles southwest of Danzig) from February 11 to 13. On the 13th it was once more surrounded by the Reds because the Germans refused to permit a retreat. However, it fought its way out of the encirclement again. The last unit reached the division on the 15th [312].

A major Soviet attack started on February 24. The 15th Division and the rest of the German front retreated northwest; several times the 15th was again almost surrounded. By March 4 the division was at Damen, about 30 miles southeast of the port of Kolberg in the province of Pomerania, when it received the news that the Soviets had reached the Baltic Sea behind them and had surrounded Kolberg. The whole III Corps (also called the Tetow Corps), which besides the 15th Division contained also the French Charlemagne Division and several German divisions, was now cut off from the rest of Germany[313].

***

On February 1 General Bangerskis who was in Germany had submitted another request to the Nazis to re-establish Latvia’s independence[314]. On February 6 the Nazis informed Bangerskis that he could form a Latvian National Committee to organize the civil administration of Courland. Bangerskis interpreted those instructions as a permission to form a Provisional Latvian Government and together with Dankers invited about 50 Latvian leaders to the founding of the National Committee in the German city of Dresden on February 15 [315]. The representatives of the 19th Division were Lt. Col. Galdiòð and 1st Lt. Ancâns[316]. Since the 15th Division spent most of its time surrounded by the Reds or breaking out of encirclements, it was unable to send any representatives[317].

Two days before the scheduled ceremony in Dresden that city was destroyed in a bombing raid by 1,223 British and American aircraft; the number killed has been estimated at 135,000 [318]. The city had about 600,000 permanent residents, but in February there were about 1, 300,000 people because of an influx of refugees from the east [page 146] and because hundreds of thousands on non-German slave laborers were employed in German industry. The raging fires consumed oxygen, and people simply suffocated[319], among them possibly several thousand Latvians[317].

The founding of the National Committee was transferred to Potsdam on February 20. Bangerskis was elected President[320] and went to Courland to organize a civil government. However, whatever illusions the Latvians may have had about self-determination or even independent peace negotiations with the West, those illusions were soon shattered by the Nazis. The German SS General Behrend informed Bangerskis that the National Committee should not be regarded as a Latvian government and that he, Behrend, would be acting as an advisor and supervisor of the Committee[321] [322] [323]. The German military administration retained all power in Courland. Consequently, Bangerskis gave up all efforts to organize a Latvian civil administration and returned to Germany on April 4 [324].

***

On March 7 an American unit captured an undestroyed bridge across the Rhine at Remagen, and during the rest of the month the Rhine was crossed at several points by large forces. However, for strategic reasons the Supreme Commander General Eisenhower had decided not to try to capture Berlin. Furthermore, it had been decided at Yalta that Berlin would be in the occupation zone administered by the Soviets. By the end of March the thrust of the western armies was diverted south of Berlin, ignoring the political importance of the capital of Nazi Germany[325].

In the southeast the Soviets moved into Austria at the end of March. In the northeast Danzig was surrounded by the middle of March. The pockets of resistance at Königsberg, Danzig, and further down the Baltic coast contained many Latvians from the construction regiments, the Aviation Legion, and from the one third of the 15th Division which without weapons had been left at the training camp[326]. On March 28 the Reds took Gdynia, on March 30 Danzig. Yet resistance continued at Königsberg, Pillau, the Hela peninsula, and other enclaves on the coast.

On March 19 Hitler issued a “scorched earth” order: nothing should fall into the hands of the enemy undestroyed[327]. On March [page 147] 28 Guderian confronted Hitler once more with a furious demand for the withdrawal of the troops from Courland. Hitler shouted: “Never!” and relieved Guderian of his post as the Chief of General Staff[328] [329].

***

The 15th Division spent the first two weeks in March retreating west without food, except for occasional parachute drops by German aircraft. The Tetow Corps broke through the Soviet encirclement. The 15th Division had the rear-guard position and fought a bloody battle with the Reds at Zedlin on March 10 [330]. On March 13 the division crossed the river Oder at Dievenow into the province of Mecklenburg. In 50 days it had marched 600 miles, and it had fought 12 Soviet infantry divisions and a tank corps[331]. The division was exhausted and it had suffered heavy losses. It was allowed to rest the next few weeks. It also received replenishments from the various Latvian units scattered over northeast Germany[332]. The majority of the Latvian Field Replenishment Depot made it across the Oder. They were used to replenish both the 15th and 19th Divisions. About 2,500 men, commanded by Lt. Col. Rusmanis, were sent to Courland on April 12 via the sea from the port of Swinemuende [333].

Some of the Latvian units trapped near Danzig managed to escape. 176 men at Weichselmuende accidentally came across 3 small Latvian tugs and left March 27 for the Danish island of Bornholm, although the tugs were not seaworthy. One of them sunk, but the men were picked up by the other two, and reached Bornholm on March 29. From there the Latvians proceeded to Sweden[334] [335]. About 600 made it by sea to Swinemuende on April 5. They later joined the 15th Division[336]. A number of the Latvians from the 1st Police Regiment were evacuated from Kolberg to Swinemuende during the second half of March[337].

***

The 6th (and last) Grand Battle in Courland began on March 16 during the spring thaw and lasted until March 30. The Soviets suffered 74,000 casualties; 263 tanks were destroyed[338] [339]. The Germans near Saldus were pushed back a few miles. The 19th Division was replaced by a few German units and was used to counter-attack [page 148] the Soviet breakthrough. It stemmed the Soviet advance and regained some of the positions lost by the Germans[340]. In the somewhat confused and disorderly front line caused by the Red breakthrough and the German dispersion, the Reds penetrated as far as the headquarters of the Latvian 43rd Regiment. The commander of the regiment, Major Voldemârs Reinholds, gathered up two Latvian companies and led them in a counter-attack, repulsing the Reds and capturing a large amount of their weapons[341]. Reinholds was awarded the Knight’s Cross in May[271].

At the end of the 6th Grand Battle the Army Group Courland retreated a few miles in the center of the front to a previously fortified line which was the shortest line between Tukums and Liepâja[340].

***

On April 1 Americans landed in Okinawa.

Königsberg surrendered on April 9.

On April 12 Roosevelt died and was replaced by Truman as President.

On April 13 the Soviets captured Vienna. The Soviets began their offensive toward Berlin on April 16 and reached the outskirts of Berlin on April 23, while the Americans were content with taking Leipzig on April 19. The American and Soviet forces met at Torgau, about 60 miles south of Berlin, on April 27.

***

By April 4 the 15th Division was reduced from 19,000 men to 8,000 men. 1,000 had been sent to Courland, but the rest were lost during the heavy fighting in the northeast[342].

In the beginning of April the division was fortifying a defensive position between Neustrelitz and Neubrandenburg, about 50 miles north of Berlin. On April 11 the German commander of the 15th Division, Oberfuehrer Karl Burk, told the Latvian commanders of the regiments that there was a secret order to transfer the whole division to Courland[343] [344] [345]. The war was obviously lost. If the Western Allies did not intervene in Courland, going to Courland meant Russian captivity; if the Allies intended to intervene, surrendering now to the Allies could not hurt. Consequently, the Latvians decided that they would rather be taken prisoners by the Americans or British [page 149] than wind up in Courland[346]. A plan was worked out to reach the Western Allies by force, if necessary, defying German orders[347]. Furthermore, some of the German staff officers were in agreement with the Latvian position. They went to Swinemuende ostensibly to arrange ship transport and returned to report that no such transport was available[348]. On April 19 the division was ordered to raise a Battle Group of three battalions for the defense of Berlin. The Battle Group was commanded by Col. Janums. It was supposed to engage the Reds at Herzfeld, 10 miles east of Berlin, as part of the German XI Tank Corps. However, there was transportation enough for two battalions only. Thus the third battalion; the 15th Division Fusilier Battalion, stayed behind and left later separately. It never reached the rest of the Battle Group[349].

At the headquarters of the XI Tank Corps Col. Janums was told to report to the Commandant of Berlin instead. Taking advantage of the confusion in orders and the general disorder around Berlin, Janums took his Battle Group around Berlin in a clockwise direction, fighting several battles with the Reds on his way. On April 26 they reached a forest 4 miles northwest of Lindau. A scouting party returned to report that the Americans were a short distance away and the German forces in the vicinity were weak. Janums dispatched a delegation of four men to the Americans to negotiate a surrender. One of those returned with the necessary instructions, and the Battle Group surrendered shortly after midnight[350] [351] [352].

The lost Fusilier Battalion wound up in the defense of Berlin. By the time it reached the avenue Unter den Linden, it had only 80 men. Quite a few had decided to try to reach the Americans by themselves in small groups. The battalion was given the defense of the Hauptsicherheitsamt [Main Security Office] and later of the Luftfahrtministerium [Air Ministry], both important buildings in the vicinity of Hitler’s Bunker[353] [354]. Thus the man who had started World War II to secure the precious Lebensraum for his Germans in the Baltic States was in his final hours grudgingly defended by men from one of those three nations which he had planned to eradicate. Grudgingly, because the Fusilier Battalion much rather would have joined Janums’ Battle Group in American captivity. Yet the battalion fought the Soviets desperately because capture by the Reds meant almost certain death.

***

[page 150]

Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and shot on April 28.

Hitler named Admiral Doenitz as his successor and committed suicide by shooting himself in the right temple on April 30.

***

Some of the German commanders realized that Latvians could expect a worse fate than Germans in Russian captivity because nominally the Latvians were citizens of the Soviet Union. The comedy called “elections” which was staged in 1940 now made Latvian soldiers “traitors” to the Soviet Union. Consequently, those German commanders tried to help the Latvians to escape west. For example, some were evacuated from the Hela peninsula (north of Danzig) to Kiel by the German Navy[355]. However, other German commanders had adopted Hitler’s philosophy of utter destruction, and they tried to make sure that the Latvians were captured by the Russians. For example, the headquarters of the 3rd Tank Army attempted to take away the trucks of the Latvian 15th Division[356], and the division was ordered to defend a position near Goldberg (south of Rostock) [357]. The Latvians ignored German orders and moved west. The 15th Division surrendered to Americans and Canadians near Schwerin on May 2 [358].

The remnants of the Fusilier Battalion of the 15th Division, commanded by 1st Lt. Neilands, were still in Berlin on May 1. Hitler’s associates Goebbels and Bormann tried to negotiate a surrender of Berlin in exchange for a safe-conduct for themselves. They sent General Krebs, the Chief of the Army General Staff, to the Soviets with their proposal[359]. Neilands went along as an interpreter[360]. Of course, since the Soviets were in an almost complete possession of Berlin already, they refused to negotiate and demanded an unconditional surrender. Goebbels and his family died in the ruins of Hitler’s Bunker, but most of the Nazi officials attempted a breakout from the Soviet encirclement during the night from May 1 to May 2. Some succeeded. Berlin surrendered on May 2 [361] [362]. Neilands and his Fusilier Battalion wound up in a prisoner-of-war camp in a Berlin suburb. He and several of his men managed to escape from the camp and to reach the west[363].

***

[page 151]

The Latvians in Courland made one final attempt to form a provisional government of an independent Latvia. Without asking the Germans for permission, Col. Osis took the initiative in the organization of such a provisional government. A People’s Council was planned to convene on May 8 to elect a President of the Provisional Government. In the interim Osis acted as a temporary president. The first meeting of a temporary government was held on May 4 [364] [365]. It was planned to approach the Western Allies for help. However, since the Germans were the only military force which could lend assistance against the Russians immediately, Osis also sought contacts with the commander of the Army Group Courland, General Hilpert, and with Hitler’s successor, Admiral Doenitz[366]. Hilpert did not exclude the possibility that volunteer German forces could be lent to a Provisional Latvian Government[367]. However, since the Western Allies insisted on unconditional surrender on all fronts, such plans came to naught. Since Germany capitulated on May 7, the People’s Council was never convened.

***

Before surrender the Germans signed the last lot of decorations. The following Latvians received Knight’s Crosses: Sergeant Kârlis Sensburgs, 1st Lt. Andrejs Freimanis, 1st Lt. Roberts Gaigals, Major Voldemârs Reinholds[271].

The German surrender was signed at Eisenhower’s headquarters in Reims on May 7, to take effect on May 8. A second signing took place at Zhukov’s headquarters in Berlin on May 8 [368].

***

On May 7 a number of ships arrived in Courland to evacuate some of the troops to Germany. Also 35 German aircraft came in from Norway to evacuate the wounded. However, only 3 aircraft made it to Germany, the rest were shot down by the Soviets[369].

During the night from May 7 to 8 the Latvian 19th Division was ordered to withdraw from the front. The Germans considered a plan for a breakout to Germany by the 19th Division and the 12th Tank Division. However, the plan was rejected as impractical. The 19th Division was not given an order to surrender. Instead it was informed [page 152] on May 8 that the men of the division had been relieved of further duty[370]. Those who wished could now disappear into the forests or try their luck on the sea.

To prevent an evacuation the Reds bombed all ports continuously. The civilian casualties were heavy. While there was practically no fighting in the rest of Europe on May 8 (except in Yugoslavia where partisans had surrounded the remnants of a German army group [371]), in Courland the wounded and the dead filled the streets of the port cities[372]. And still some Latvians asked: “Aren’t there any Allied ships off the coast? Can it be true that nobody is coming to our rescue?” 

Courland was surrendered at 2 P.M. on May 8, 1945.
_________________________________________________________________

[1] Churchill, vol. III, pp.694-5.

[2] Freivalds et al., vol.I, pp.277-8.

[3] Ibid., pp.275-6.

[4] Rei, p.323.

[5] Vardys, Misiunas, p.14.

[6] Freivalds et al., vol.I, pp.268-274.

[7] Ibid., p.243.

[8] Rei, pp.325-6.

[9] Freivalds et al., vol.II, p.16.

[10] A.Silgailis, Latvieðu Leìions (Latvian Legion, in Latvian) (Imanta, Copenhagen, 1964), 2nd edition, p.10.

[11] Unams, p.37.

[12] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.280 & vol.II, p.25.

[13] Ibid., vol.II, p.27.

[14] Ibid., p.17.

[15] Shirer, pp.941-2.

[16] Unams, pp.49-51.

[17] Ibid., pp.51-6.

[18] Freivalds et al., vol.II, p.13.

[19] Werth, pp.207-9.

[20] Ibid., pp.228-230.

[21] Schuman, p.284.

[22] Werth, pp.273-8.

[23] G.F.Kennan, Memoirs (1925-1930) (Bantam Books, Inc., New York, N.Y., 1969), p.139.

[24] Churchill, vol.III, pp.433-444.

[25] Werth, pp.280-1.

[26] W.A.Harriman and E.Abel, Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin 1941-1946 (Random House, New York, 1975), pp.86-104.

[27] Werth, pp.281-4.

[28] Rei, p.329.

[29] Freivalds et al., vol.II, pp.19-23.

[30] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.252.

[31] Unams, pp.54-5.

[32] Bilmanis, p.404.

[33] Silgailis, p.12.

[34] Freivalds et al., vol.II, pp.41-4.

[35] Ibid., pp.89-90.

[36] Ibid., p.91.

[37] Unams, pp.47-9.

[38] Ìçrmanis, Latvieðu…, p.376.

[39] Unams, pp.6I-8.

[40] Rei, p.328.

[41] Rutkis, p.253.

[42] Samsons, vol.I, p.231, 500, 568.

[43] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.233.

[44] Werth, pp.239-245.

[45] Ibid., pp.249-250.

[46] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.178.

[47] Harriman, Abel, p.110.

[48] D.Kirby, Morality or Expediency? The Baltic Question in British-Soviet Relations, 1941-1942, in Vardys, Misiunas, op. cit., pp.160-1.

[49] Kennan, Russia…, p.355.

[50] Ibid., p.357.

[51] Werth, pp.583-5.

[52] Kirby, pp.161-2.

[53] Harriman, Abel, pp.121-2.

[54] Churchill, vol.III, p.630.

[55] Ibid., p.695.

[56] Juda, p.276.

[57] Kirby, p.164.

[58] Harriman, Abel, pp.135-6.

[59] Kirby, p.170.

[60] Werth, pp.364-9. 

[61] Shirer, p.934.

[62] Smal-Stocki, p.67.

[63] Schuman, p.279.

[64] Shirer, p.937.

[65] Solzhenitsyn, Parts V-VII, p.30.

[66] Ibid., pp.28-9.

[67] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.469.

[68] Solzhenitsyn, Parts V-VII, pp.29-31.

[69] Werth, pp.651-5.

[70] Calvocoressi, Wint, pp.467-9.

[71] Ibid., p.468.

[72] Samsons, vol.II, p.739.

[73] Ibid., vol.I, p.125.

[74] Freivalds et al., vol.II, pp.58-62.

[75] Ibid., p.137.

[76] Ibid., pp.111-3.

[77] Ibid., pp.123-8, and vol. V, pp.51-2, p.191.

[78] Ibid., p.111 and p.124.

[79] Ibid., p.64.

[80] Ibid., p.172.

[81] Ibid., p.138.

[82] Ibid., p.153.

[83] Lesiòð, p.15.

[84] Ibid., pp.27-8.

[85] Ibid., pp.29-33.

[86] Ibld., pp.34-8.

[87] Freivalds et al., vol.II, pp.153-9 & 103-6.

[88] Ibid., p. 314.

[89] Ibid., pp. 298-9.

[90] Ibid., p.240.

[91] Shirer, p.911.

[92] Werth, pp.380-2 & pp.411-2.

[93] Churchill, vol.IV, pp476-501.

[94] Harriman, Abel, p.163.

[95] Calvocoressi, Wint, pp.364-370.

[96] Ibid., p.441.

[97] Ibid., pp.474-8.

[98] Werth, pp.459-472 & pp.522-9.

[99] Harriman, Abel, pp.179-192.

[100] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.14-16.

[101] Ibid., pp.17-19, and vol.II, p.61 & p.372.

[102] Rutkis, p.257.

[103] Freivalds et al., vol.III, p.21.

[104] Ibid., vol.II, p.62.

[105] Ibid., p.122.

[106] R.J.Bender, H.P.Taylor, Uniforms, Organization and History of the Waffen-SS (R.J.Bender Publishing, San Jose, Calif., 1975), vol.4, pp.68-9.

[107] Freivalds et al., vol.III, p.34.

[108] Ibid., pp.20-23.

[109] Ibid., pp.25-30.

[110] Ibid., pp.32-33.

[111] Ibid., p.34 & p.255.

[112] Rutkis, p.257.

[113] Graber, p.74.

[114] Ibid., p.142.

[115] Ibid., pp.83-4.

[116] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.134-7, and vol.V, pp.7-9.

[117] Ibid., vol.III, pp.38-42.

[118] Bender, Taylor, p.71.

[119] Freivalds et al., vol.III, p.43.

[120] Ibid., p.46.

[121] Ibid., p.57.

[122] Ibid., pp.54-9.

[123] Silgailis, p.28.

[124] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.76-80.

[125] Solzhenitsyn, Parts V-VII, p.30.

[126] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.62-3.

[127] Ibid., p.33.

[128] Ibid., p.126.

[129] Ibid., p.68.

[130] Bender, Taylor, p.69.

[131] Rei, p.331.

[132] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, pp.289-290.

[133] Rei, pp.330-1.

[134] K.V.Tauras, Guerilla Warfare on the Amber Coast (Voyages Press, New York, 1961), pp.26-30.

[135] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.133-143.

[136] Ibid., vol.IV, p.11.

[137] Ibid., p.14.

[138] Werth, pp.592-611.

[139] Schuman, pp.268-9.

[140] Calvocoressi, Wint, pp.375-82.

[141] Solzhenitsyn, Parts V-VII, p.27.

[142] Graber, pp.l63-4.

[143] Solzhenitsyn, Parts I-II, pp.251-8.

[144] Smal-Stocki, pp.67-8.

[145] Bilmanis, p.405.

[146] Rei, pp.337-8.

[147] Rutkis, pp.258-9.

[148] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.167-172.

[149] Ibid., p.87.

[150] Ibid., pp.82-5 & p.93.

[151] Unams, pp.178-180.

[152] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.91-2; date given as November 15.

[153] Shirer, p.1104.

[154] Toland, p.967.

[155] Harriman, Abel, p. 227.

[156] Ibid., p.279.

[157] Bohlen, p.157.

[158] Juda, p.277.

[159] Harriman, Abel, p. 280.

[160] Bohlen, pp.157-8.

[161] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, pp.26-29, 48-51 and 65-72.

[162] Ibid., pp.30-32.

[163] Ibid., p.30, 49.

[164] Ibid., p.32, 174-5.

[165] Ibid., p.32, 36.

[166] Ibid., p.175.

[167] Ibid., vol.III, pp.205-212 & p.232.

[168] Vanadziòð, pp.34-35.

[169] Werth, p.781.

[170] Freivalds et al., vol.III, pp.219-248.

[171] Ibid., vol.IV, pp.30-42.

[172] Ibid., pp.56-62.

[173] Ibid., pp.129-132, and vol.III, p.249.

[174] Ibid., vol.IV, p.171.

[175] Silgailis, p.93.

[176] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, p.153 & p.158.

[177] Ibid., p.157.

[178] Ibid., vol.II, pp.264-273 & 301-312.

[179] Ibid., vol.III, p.128.

[180] Unams, pp.184-191.

[181] Freivalds et al., vol.III, p.109.

[182] Ibid., pp.119-120.

[183] Ibid., p.121.

[184] Ibid., vol.IV, p.115.

[185] Ibid., pp.259-262.

[186] Rutkis, p.259.

[187] Samsons, vol.II, p.264.

[188] Rutkis, pp.259-260.

[189] Bilmanis, p.405.

[190] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, pp.147-I51.

[191] Silgailis, p.110.

[192] Vanadziòð, pp.37-39.

[193] Ibid., p.7.

[194] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, p.152.

[195] Werth, p.776.

[196] Ibid., pp.782-4.

[197] Ibid., p.784.

[198] Ibid., p.785.

[199] Toland, pp.902-6.

[200] Shirer, pp.1048-55.

[201] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, pp.216-8 & p.231, and vol.V. p.23.

[202] Ibid., vol.IV, pp.120-8.

[203] Ibid., pp.224-8.

[204] Silgailis, pp.127-132.

[205] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, pp.265-6, and vol.VII, pp.104-119.

[206] Ibid., vol.IV, pp.286-9.

[207] Ibid., vol.V, p.20.

[208] A.Siòíis, Kurzemes Cietoksnis (Fortress Courland, in Latvian) (published by author, 1954), vol.I, pp.65-76.

[209] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.73-92.

[210] Werth, p.785.

[211] Freivalds et al., vol.IV, p.240; vol.V, p.24.

[212] Ibid., p.232, 238, 241.

[213] Ibid., vol.V, p.25.

[214] Ibid., p.30.

[215] Ibid., p.34.

[216] Lesiòð, pp.44-7.

[217] Siòíis, vol.I, pp.79-80.

[218] Ibid., pp.82-4.

[219] Lesiòð, pp.48-50.

[220] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.38 & 47 &64.

[221] Lesiòð, pp.50-1.

[222] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.40-2.

[223] Ibid., p.20.

[224] Ìçrmanis, Latvieðu…, p.384.

[225] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.482.

[226] Werth, p.789.

[227] Churchill, vol.VI, pp.128-145.

[228] Werth, p.801.

[229] Calvocoressi, Wint, pp.529-533.

[230] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.187-8, and vol.VII, p.192.

[231] Ibid., vol.VII, p.193.

[232] Ibid., pp.197-8.

[233] Ibid., vol.V, p.188.

[234] Ibid., p.21 & 55.

[235] Ibid., pp.55-9.

[236] Siòíis, vol.I, pp.98-100.

[237] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.60.

[238] Rutkis, pp.256-7.

[239] Siòíis, vol.I, p.108.

[240] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.22.

[241] Siòíis, pp.102-3.

[242] Ibid., pp.103-4.

[243] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.117-8 & p.130.

[244] Warner, p.230.

[245] Silgailis, p.185 & 190.

[246] Samsons, vol.II, p.198.

[247] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.208.

[248] Ibid., pp.118-123.

[249] Silgailis, p.162.

[250] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.124.

[251] Ibid., p.130.

[252] Silgailis, p.164.

[253] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.194-6.

[254] Ibid., vol.V, p.189; vol.VII, pp.194-5.

[255] Ibid., vol.V, pp.189-190.

[256] Rutkis, p.259.

[257] A.Küng, Kas Notiek Baltijâ? (What is Taking Place in the Baltic States? in Latvian, translated from Swedish) (Grâmatu Draugs, New York, 1974), pp.197-8.

[258] Silgailis, p.165.

[259] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.134-5.

[260] Ibid., p.135 & 152.

[261] Siòíis, vol.II, pp.19-21.

[262] Samsons, vol.II, pp.254-5.

[263] Ibid., vol.I, p.256.

[264] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.155.

[265] Siòíis, vol.II, pp.36-7.

[266] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.139.

[267] Siòíis, vol.II, p.86 & p.147.

[268] Ibid., p.124.

[269] Ibid., p.127.

[270] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.140.

[271] Ibid., vol.VII, p.374.

[272] Ibid., vol.V, pp.155-6.

[273] Siòíis, vol.II, pp.142-3.

[274] Ibid., pp.143-6.

[275] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.142.

[276] Ibid., pp.149-150.

[277] Siòíis, vol.II, pp.167-180.

[278] Ibid., p.168.

[279] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.150.

[280] Ibid., pp.163-5.

[281] Siòíis, vol.II, p.111.

[282] Ibid., p.171 & 178.

[283] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.139-150.

[284] Ibid., p.151.

[285] Ibid., pp.157-162.

[286] Silgailis, p.181.

[287] Ðiòíis, vol.II, pp.190-8.

[288] Ibid., p.199.

[289] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.171.

[290] J.Toland, The Last 100 Days (Random House, New York, 1965), p.38.

[291] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, p.67, 94, and 132.

[292] Ibid., pp.15-17.

[293] Bender, Taylor, vol.4, pp.84-5.

[294] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, pp.277-282.

[295] Ibid., p.179.

[296] Toland, The Last…, p.36.

[297] Solzhenitsyn, Parts I & II, p.255.

[298] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, pp.19-30.

[299] Ibid., p.331.

[300] Werth, pp.876-8.

[301] Churchill, vol.VI, p.357.

[302] Harriman, Abel, p.409.

[303] Bohlen, pp.208-9.

[304] Juda, p.278.

[305] Toland, The Last…, pp.78-9.

[306] Silgailis, pp.182-4.

[307] Siòíis, vol.II, p.206 & 236.

[308] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.175-6.

[309] H.Stoeber, Die Lettischen Divisionen (The Latvian Divisions, in German) (Munin-Verlag, Osnabrueck, 1981), pp.149-150.

[310] Ibid., p.172.

[311] Siòíis, vol.II, p.236.

[312] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, pp.32-5.

[313] Ibid., pp.40-5.

[314] Ibid., vol.V, p.197.

[315] Ibid., p.215.

[316] Siòíis, vol.II, pp.221-2.

[317] Ibid., p.225.

[318] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.534.

[319] Toland, The Last…, p.139 & 158.

[320] Siòíis, vol.II, pp.225-6.

[321] Ibid., p.227.

[322] Rutkis, p.258.

[323] Rei, p.337.

[324] Freivalds et al., vol.V, p.199.

[325] Calvocoressi, Wint, pp.534-6.

[326] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, pp.232-4.

[327] Shirer, p.1103.

[328] Toland, Adolf Hitler, p.969.

[329] Toland, The Last…, pp.304-5.

[330] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, p.48.

[331] Ibid., pp.50-1.

[332] Ibid., p.52.

[333] Ibid., pp.282-3.

[334] Ibid., p.233 & 237.

[335] Silgailis, p.230.

[336] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, p.234.

[337] Ibid., p.285.

[338] Silgailis, p.190.

[339] Siòíis, vol.II, p.293.

[340] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.172-4.

[341] Ðiòíis, vol.II, pp.255-6.

[342] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, p.17.

[343] Silgailis, p.234.

[344] Bender, Taylor, vol.4, p.86.

[345] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, p.86, 125, 166, and 294.

[346] Ibid., p.87, 125.

[347] Ibid., pp.294-5.

[348] Ibid., pp.166-8.

[349] Ibid., p.53.

[350] Ibid., pp.53-6.

[351] Silgailis, pp.235-9.

[352] Bender, Taylor, vol.4, p.87.

[353] Silgailis, pp.375-6.

[354] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, pp.208-210.

[355] Ibid., p.234.

[356] Ibid., p.297.

[357] Ibid., p.57 & 299.

[358] Ibid., pp.60-1.

[359] Shirer, p.1135.

[360] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, pp.208-9.

[361] Shirer, pp.1136-7.

[362] Toland, The Last…, pp.548-551.

[363] Freivalds et al., vol.VI, pp.209-10.

[364] Rutkis, p.258.

[365] Siòíis, vol.II, p.310.

[366] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.208-210.

[367] Siòíis, vol.II, p.311.

[368] Toland, The Last…, pp.574-5 & 587-9.

[369] Siòíis, vol.II, p.313.

[370] Freivalds et al., vol.V, pp.221-3.

[371] Toland, The Last…, p.582.

[372] Siòíis, vol.II, pp.314-8.

[373] Stoeber, p.11.

[374] Ibid., p.300.

See the maps:

German-Soviet fronts in World War II

The northern front in the first half of 1944

The front in the second half of August 1944

Fortress Courland, October 1944 - May 1945

The path of the 15th Division across Germany

Table of contents        Chapter VIII        Chapter X

HISTORIA.LV