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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Washington Post pities the collaborators

Anne Applebaum’s column in the Washington Post is mostly ditzy foreign policy neo-conservatism. Sometimes, however, she hits new lows. The protest against commemorating the end of the war against the Nazis is the lowest of her lows.

Here’s Applebaum’s assessment of May, 1945:

“Not every European country will be represented, however, because not everybody feels quite the same way about this particular date. In the Baltic states, for example, May 1945 marked the end of the war but also the beginning of nearly a half-century of Soviet occupation, during which one in 10 Balts were murdered or deported to concentration camps and exile villages. The thought of applauding the same Red Army veterans who helped "pacify" their countries after 1945 was too much for the Estonian and Lithuanian presidents, who have refused to attend. Although the Latvian president will attend the Moscow festivities, she's had to declare that she will use her trip to talk about the Soviet occupation. The president of Poland also has spent much of the past month justifying his decision to celebrate this particular anniversary in Moscow. By May 1945, after all, the leaders of what had been the Polish anti-Nazi resistance were already imprisoned in the Lubyanka, the KGB's most notorious Moscow prison.”

Gee, those poor Baltic states – funny that Applebaum doesn’t mention what they commemorate about the war won, apparently, by the wrong side. For instance, take poor Latvia. In September 2003, in keeping with the Applebaum spirit, the Latvian Defense Ministry helped celebrate Latvia’s contribution to the war – the Latvian SS.

The SS memorial was unveiled in the Latvian town of Lestene. The event was attended by the country’s government, religious and military officials. Three military orchestras of the Latvian Defense Ministry provided musical background for commemorating 'accomplishments and sacrifices' of the SS and its Latvian division in the name of Führer and Fatherland.”

You might think Latvia’s SS was a mere speck, but no – they managed a nice mass killing, 25,000 Jews, in the Rumbula Forest in 1942, for instance. Applebaum, who does remember the Katyn Forest, doesn’t seem to remember this negligible act of the brave Baltic state. Although we do know what the state thinks of it now, officially. The Latvian government has set up a memorial to the victims of the slaughter of the Riga ghetto, just to placate those pesky Western powers, but its heart belongs to the black shirts

Ah, Applebaum really missed her chance to expatiate on Latvia’s peculiar contribution to the great war for Lebensraum. I wonder why she missed telling the world that Latvia contributed 150,000 SS volunteers to the war effort, more than any other nation occupied by Germany? Surely she could have spared a word for the the wonders performed by Latvians in the cleansing of the Riga ghetto?

Applebaum must be pleased that the pro-stalinist left, who don’t understand the necessity of ridding Latvia of its subversive fifth column, are at least getting theirs. Protestors at Lestene have been arrested, and a Latvian court is considering fining them $14,000. While Applebaum might consider that such scum, seeking to blot the bright history of Latvia, deserve jail time, at least she can take some satisfaction in Latvia’s prompt protection of its historic sites.

2 comments:

Brian Miller said...

While true (I generally learn something here), I still agree with one of her basic points-the Russian rule over the Baltics was not something anyone but the most die-hard socialists would feel is positive? Did even the East Germans "deserve" the Stasi and the Hoeninger state?

roger said...

Brian, I don't doubt the crimes of Stalin. He was a mass murderer on Hitler's scale (although scale isn't everything, here -- the moral equation of class struggle with anti-semitism is ludicrous). But the issue, here, is about celebrating the end of the Nazi regime. It might be true that, for instance, we should remember the firebombing of Dresden, but we should remember it in its time and place and context. Certainly making the Latvian president a brave little moral figure, while mentioning nothing about the Baltic regions record of collaboration with the Nazis, or their less than complete condemnation of it, during the nineties, strikes me as absurd. Especially given Applebaum's record -- if she mentions France in the forties, it is an almost sure thing that she will mention French collaborators with the Nazis -- it has become a tic of the neo-cons.