The History of the Occupation of Latvia

Fake News: The Forest brothers Killed 80% of the Jews in the Baltic States.

Fake News: The Forest brothers Killed 80% of the Jews in the Baltic States.

Author: Māris Antonevičs

After NATO published an online short film about the Baltic resistance movement that followed World War Two, called “Forest Brothers. Fight for the Baltics”, a hysterical reaction from Russia, which has not subsided to date, followed. Among different accusations and inventions, the especially outstanding news was entitled as follows: “Expert: Forest brothers killed 80% of the Jews in the Baltic States”. This article was initially posted on RIA Novosti news agency’s website, and was later published by several other websites.

RIA Novosti refers to Mikhail Myagkov, the Director of the Russian Military Historical Society, who said: “During Hitler’s aggression, they served in the Nazi formations and guard units, eliminating Soviet prisoners of war. They participated in the Holocaust: 80% of the Jews in the Baltic States were killed at the hands of these collaborators.” It is especially indicative that this article has been translated into Latvian and published in the Latvian version of the website “Sputnik” .


“As simple as that, an imaginary figure has been chosen to ensure that it sounds loud and horrible. One hundred percent could not be written, the sound of it would be too banal, but 80%, 85%, 90%, whatever fits. The “expert” clearly lacks any documents or research results – it is just a loud phrase to be used for propaganda purposes,” the historian Zigmārs Turčinskis responds.

Turčinskis has spent years researching the national resistance movement, and he is the author of the book “Ziemeļvdzemes mežabrāļi, 1944. - 1953. gads: Latvijas nacionālo partizānu cīņas Valkas apriņķī un Alūksnes apriņķa rietumu daļā” (The Forest Brothers of Northern Vidzeme 1944 - 1953: Battles of Latvian National partisans in the Valka District and the Western Part of Alūksne District).

Among the 13 Thousand, Probably a Few

Who were the forest brothers? The precise number is unknown, but, according to estimates by Z. Turčinskis, there were around 13,000. They were very different people – people who have never before participated in military activities and have been evading mobilisation into the legion or the Soviet army, farmers, people who had been serving in the auxiliary police, former legionnaires, as well as people who were fleeing repressions.

“There were regional differences – in the area of Vidzeme and Latgale they predominantly consisted of people, who have deserted from both armies, in Kurzeme most of them were former legionnaires. This also predetermined the form of resistance. The forest brothers in Vidzeme and Latgale most frequently tried to avoid direct contact with NKVD force, except for the forest brothers in Stompaki and some other individual cases. While in Kurzeme, the legionnaires, who had experience of frontline battles, did not avoid clashes. Especially in 1945 and 1946, Kurzeme experienced fierce battles with the Soviet side, sustaining severe losses,” the historian describes.

If the Soviet government managed to capture forest brothers, court sessions were held, however, there is no information that charges for the killings of Jews were brought against them. “It was a popular movement consisting of different people, there is a possibility that some of them had participated in the shootings of Jews, I could mention three or four names. But does this give rise to bringing charges against the entire movement? Of course, not. Such people could be found among the personnel of the Soviet regime with an equal success rate. The Cheka also used them.

“For instance, there is a story from the Bauska region. One of the chairmen of a collective farm, a member of the Communist Party, had been sent on a business trip to visit colleagues in Belarus, and the local people there recognised him as a former war criminal. If we follow this logic, the Communist party could be equally well accused of Nazi crimes,” says Turčinskis.

The Holocaust – A Sensitive Topic

Who is responsible for the crimes of the Holocaust in the territory of Latvia? During the Nazi occupation 70,000 local and 20,000 foreign Jews died. As the historian Uldis Neiburgs narrates, before October 1941, the elimination of almost all Jews in the rural areas of Latvia occurred. It was organised by the operative group “A” of the German security Police SD under the command of Walter Stahlecker. Latvian auxiliary police was used for the detaining of Jews, confiscating their property, convoying of the detainees to shooting sites, as well as for killings.

Afterwards, the elimination of Jews in Latvia was taken over by the Commander of the German Security Police SD in Latvia, Rudolf Lange, and the senior head of the SS and the police in Ostland and Northern Russia, Friedrich Jeckeln. The auxiliary unit of the Latvian security police, headed by Viktors Arājs, actively participated in the killings of Jews in the territory of Latvia and beyond.

“No precise calculations have been performed in the historical research on exactly how many Jews were killed in Latvia by different German SS, SD, police and other structures, nor how many by the participants of Latvian self-defence or auxiliary police units. However, it is known that, for instance, the killers during the largest massacres of Jews in Rumbula on 30 November and 8 December 1941 (where 24,000 Riga Ghetto Jews and 1,000 foreign Jews were killed) were Germans, while the “Arājs Group” performed killings of at least 22,000 local Jews in different places of Latvia.

“Meanwhile, during the largest campaigns to eliminate Jews, in Liepāja and Daugavpils, the killings were performed both by German and Latvian units. This allows the assumption that different German, as well as Latvian units, were involved in the killings of the approximately 70,000 Jews of Latvia in comparatively equal amounts (50/50),” U. Neiburgs estimates.

However, even he confirms that such people occurred very rarely among the post-war national partisans. “I assume that Russian propaganda uses the information that national partisans killed 80% of Baltic Jews in order to discredit the national resistance movement, especially in the eyes of the international public, knowing the significance and sensitivity of the issue of the Holocaust,” the historian believes.

The Distinguished Falsifier

There are no historians in Russia who have researched the forest brother movement in the Baltic States, therefore there is no point in expecting any scientific facts from there. The aforementioned “expert” Mikhail Myagkov, who has expressed the absurd statement that forest brothers killed 80% of the Jews, prides himself with various titles. For instance, he is a lecturer at the famous Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), a professor, the representative of the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the advisor of the Minister for Culture of the Russian Federation.

“Why would Mr. Myagkov express such erroneous information? There are two obvious reasons: 1) such absolutely wrong calculations may be present in some documents of Soviet security institutions or other documents of Soviet origin that are uncritically used and retold, 2) it is a deliberate falsification without attempting to understand the subject matter, but simply voicing information that is required for the needs of propaganda.

Both of the aforementioned considerations allow for questioning of the professional qualifications of Mr. Myagkov as a historian, and confirms the situation in the study of history in Russia that has been observed for a long time; that several representatives of this field, especially officials occupying leading positions, are rather far from objective historical research, while being involved in the implementation of the objectives of Russian propaganda,” U. Neiburgs says.

The preparation of this report was supported by the Latvian Ministry of Culture

  • 1939 - 1940 Okupācijas priekšvēsture
    1939 - 1940
    Occupation prehistory
    • 23 August 1939
      The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany sign a non-aggression treaty.
    • 1 September 1939
      Germany attacks Poland – World War II begins; Latvia declares neutrality.
    • 17 September 1939
      USSR attacks Poland.
    • 5 October 1939
      As a result of military and political pressure, Latvia signs a “bilateral assistance” agreement with the USSR, allowing military army bases to be placed on Latvian territory.
    • 30 October 1939
      Nazi Germany signs an agreement with the Latvian government to transfer ethnic Germans living in Latvia to Germany.
    • 15 June 1940
      USSR attacks several border guard posts on the eastern border of Latvia.
    • 16 June 1940
      USSR presents Latvia with an ultimatum demanding Latvia allow unlimited Soviet troops to enter Latvian territory.
  • 1940-1941 Padomju okupācija
    Soviet occupation
    • 17 June 1940
      USSR occupies Latvia.
    • 20 June 1940
      A new government, created by Moscow and led by Augusts Kirhenšteins, is installed in Latvia.
    • 14-15 July 1940
      Rigged, non-democratic elections, which contravene Latvian election laws and the Latvian Constitution, take place; only one party participates – Latvijas Darba Tautas bloks [Latvian Workers’ Bloc].
    • 21 July 1940
      The illegally elected Parliament declares Latvia a Soviet Socialist Republic and requests that the USSR admit it to its Union. Kārlis Ulmanis steps down as president; he is arrested and deported to Russia the following day.
    • 5 August 1940
      Latvia is admitted to the USSR.
    • 13 August 1940
      The All-Union Communist Party (bolshevik) (AUCP(b)) Central Committee ratifies the constitution of the Latvian SSR.
    • November 1940
      The Soviet Russian Criminal Code officially becomes law in Latvia.
    • 14 May 1941
      The Soviet government and the AUCP(b) begins planning mass deportations and repressions of Latvian citizens by adopting the secret decision "On the deportation of foreign elements from the Baltic republics, Western Ukraine, and Moldavia ".
    • 13-14 June 1941
      The Soviet Union deports 15 443 inhabitants of Latvia.
  • 1941-1944/45 Nacionālsociālistiskās Vācijas okupācija
    Nazi German occupation
    • 22 June 1941
      Nazi Germany attacks the Soviet Union. Hostilities begin on Latvian territory along with Nazi occupation.
    • 16 July 1941
      Berlin creates the administrative region Ostland – Latvia is one of the four regions that make up Ostland.
    • July 1941
      The first mass annihilation of Jews begins – the largest actions take place in Riga, Daugavpils, and Liepāja, as well as in other smaller towns.
    • 30 November 1941
      Killing of Jews in the Riga Ghetto begins. In total, 70 000 Latvian Jews were killed. Thanks to the efforts of local citizens, 400 Latvian Jews were saved.
    • 5 December 1941
      The German army is defeated at Moscow.
    • 7 March 1942
      Nazi occupiers create the Landesselbstverwaltung – local administrative rule.
    • 29 января 1943 года
      Nazi occupiers adopt regulations for the arrest of Latvia’s Roma population and their incarceration in concentration camps.
    • 11 February 1943
      Orders are passed for the creation of a “voluntary” Latvian legion under the auspices of the SS; mobilization is often involuntary.
    • 13 August 1943
      Representatives of the four largest parties from the last Latvian Parliament found the Latvian Central Council (Latvijas Centrālā Padome – LCP) in Riga, which calls for the renewal of Latvian independence. Konstantīns Čakste is named head of the LCP.
    • 28 November 1943
      USA president Franklin Roosevelt, Great Britain’s prime minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin meet at the Teheran Conference. Stalin succeeds in gaining permission to have a free hand in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe after the war.
    • 22 March 1944
      189 Latvian politicians submit a resolution to the Nazi occupiers for the renewal of Latvian independence, which is denied.
    • 18 July 1944
      The Soviet army defeats German troops and crosses the Latvian border at Šķaune in Ludza county. The second Soviet occupation begins.
    • End of July – beginning of August 1944
      German occupiers allow General Jānis Kurelis and the chief of his headquarters, Captain Kristaps Upelnieks, to create a separate military unit. It cooperates with the LCP in the hopes of becoming the nucleus of the army of independent Latvia.
    • 8 September 1944
      The last LCP meeting to occur on Latvian soil takes place at which a declaration for the renewal of Latvian independence is adopted.
    • 20 November 1944
      Unable to control troops under the command of Kurelis, German SD units arrest all military personal at his headquarters. Eight officers are convicted and shot. The remaining military personnel are imprisoned in concentration camps.
    • 5 February 1945
      Leaders of the USA, GB, and the USSR meet at Yalta. During discussions, Soviet demands are met, and the Soviets occupy Latvia once again.
  • 1944/45-1953 Staļinisma terors. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    Stalinist terror
    • 8 May 1945
      WWII ends on Latvian territory; German forces in Kurzeme surrender, including the 19th Latvian Legionnaire division.
    • 3 October 1945
      The first meeting of members of the LCP who have escaped to Germany takes place in Lustenau, Austria. Latvian citizens in exile continue the struggle for Latvian statehood.
    • 6 October 1945
      Latvian SSR Supreme Council members accept Moscow’s decision to annex the city of Abrene and six neighbouring townships to the Russian SSR.
    • 10 February 1946
      Latvian SSR Supreme Council elections take place.
    • 17 February 1947
      In order to weaken communist rule in Eastern Europe, the USA begins transmission of the Voice of America, which is listened to in Latvian territory illegally.
    • 29 January 1949
      USSR Council of Ministers decide to deport members of the National Partisans and their supporters, as well as wealthy farmers (kulaks) from Latvia to Siberia.
    • 25 March 1949
      Soviet occupiers carry out the second mass deportation of Latvian inhabitants to Siberia – in total 42 322 people.
    • July 1949
      As a result of repressive Soviet occupation politics, the number of collective farms (kolkhozes) triples, creating 3857 kolkhozes.
    • 17 January 1953
      Latvian SSR Supreme Council adopts the decree creating a new Latvian SSR flag.
    • 5 March 1953
      Stalin dies.
  • 1953-1959 “Atkusnis”. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    • 12 September 1953
      Nikita Khrushchev becomes First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee (CPSU CC).
    • 14 May 1955
      Creation of the Warsaw Pact.
    • 25 February 1956
      At the CPSU 20th Congress, Khrushchev openly speaks of crimes committed by Stalin and condemns the Stalin “personality cult”.
    • 23 August 1956
      The uprising by the people in Hungary is put down by Soviet forces.
  • 1959-1985 “Stagnācija”. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    • 7–8 July 1959
      Latvian CP plenum condemns the national communists.
    • 13 August 1961
      The GDR closes the border to West Berlin; building of the Berlin Wall begins.
    • 10 October 1964
      Khrushchev is forced to resign as First Secretary of the CPSU CK; Leonid Brezhnev takes his place.
    • December 1965
      The Hydroelectric Station at Pļaviņas begins operation.
    • 27 May 1968
      Calls for ending censorship and freeing political prisoners in Czechoslovakia initiates the “Prague Spring” demonstrations.
    • 20 August 1968
      Soviet troops put down the “Prague Spring”.
    • 25 December 1979
      Soviet forces invade Afghanistan.
    • 10 November 1982
      Leonid Brezhnev dies; Yuri Andropov becomes First Secretary of the CPSU CK.
    • 9 February 1984
      Yuri Andropov dies. Konstantin Chernenko becomes First Secretary of the CPSU CK.
    • 10 March 1985
      Konstantin Chernenko dies.
    • 11 March 1985
      Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the leader of the CPSU CK and the Soviet Union.
  • 1985-1990/91 “Perestroika”. Padomju okupācija.
    Soviet occupation
    • 10 July 1986
      The first Latvian human rights organization Helsinki-86 is founded in Liepāja.
    • October 1986
      Widespread public support for the environmental protection of the Daugava River begins.
    • 28 February 1987
      The Environment Protection Club (Vides aizsardzības klubs – VAK) is founded.
    • 14 June 1987
      Helsinki-86 invites people to lay flowers at the Freedom Monument to commemorate the deportations in 1941.
    • 23 August 1987
      A protest takes place by the Freedom Monument to commemorate the signing of the Hitler-Stalin pact.
    • 27 April 1988
      VAK organizes protests against the proposed construction of a metro in Riga.
    • 1–2 June 1988
      The Latvian Creative Society organizes a plenum. Journalist, Art Academy professor, and member of the Supreme Council Mavriks Vulfsons publicly declares that Latvia was occupied in 1940.
    • 10 July 1988
      The Latvian National Independence Movement (Latvijas Nacionālās Neatkarības kustība – LNNK) is founded.
    • 16 July 1988
      VAK organizes a protest in Mežaparks at which the Latvian national flag is flown.
    • 8-9 October 1988
      Latvian National Front (Latvijas tautas fronte – LTF) founding congress. Dainis Īvāns is elected leader.
    • February 1989
      The pro-communist supporters of Moscow Interfront organize protests – they oppose proposed policies to stop migration to Latvia from other Soviet republics and to give the Latvian language official national status.
    • 5 May 1989
      Latvian SSR SC adopts a law granting Latvian national language status.
    • 23 August 1989
      The Baltic Way – a human chain over 660 km long is formed through all three Baltic countries to commemorate the 1939 Hitler- Stalin Pact.
    • 9 November 1989
      The Berlin Wall falls.
    • 18 November 1989
      Mass demonstrations for an independent Latvia on the banks of the Daugava with over 500,000 participants.
    • 18 March 1990
      Latvian SSR parliamentary elections.
  • Neatkarīga Latvija
    Independent Latvia
    • 4 May 1990
      Latvian SSR SC adopts the resolution for the restoration of Latvian independence.
    • 2 January 1991
      Soviet special forces OMON occupy the press building in Riga; there are armed attacks by OMON against other strategic government sites.
    • 13–27 January 1991
      Residents of Latvia create barricades in Riga to protect key locations from forces loyal to Moscow.
    • 3 March 1991
      Inhabitants of Latvia participate in a referendum on declaring an independent democratic state – two-thirds vote for restoring independence.
    • 12 June 1991
      Boris Yeltsin is elected president of Russia.
    • 19 August 1991
      Radical communist attempt a coup in Moscow – the August Putsch.
    • 21 August 1991
      Republic of Latvia Supreme Council declares the Republic of Latvia as an independent democratic state.
    • 22 August 1991
      Iceland is the first nation to recognize Latvian independence.
    • 24 August 1991
      The Russian Federation officially recognizes Latvian independence.
    • 17 September 1991
      Latvia joins the United Nations.
    • 30 December 1991
      The Soviet Union officially ceases to exist.
    • 14 February 1994
      Latvia joins the NATO program “Partnership for Peace”.
    • 12 March 1999
      The first post-Soviet nations join NATO – Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary.
    • November 2002
      Prague summit. NATO leaders decide to invite Latvia to begin negotiations for admittance.
    • 20 September 2003
      Referendum on joining the European Union.
    • 29 March 2004
      Latvia becomes a member of NATO.
    • 1 May 2004
      Latvia becomes a member of the European Union along with 10 other nations.