The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia has made a new documentary “Zedelgem”

The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia has made a new documentary “Zedelgem”

2015. gada 20. novembris

It is dedicated to the centennial of Latvian independence.

In February 1943, the Fuehrer of Nazi-Germany, Adolf Hitler, ordered the formation of a Latvian Legion under the aegis of Heinrich Himmler's Waffen-SS. It consisted of two divisions, numbered 15 and 19, and other units that were involved in war action under German High Command against the forces of the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. In order to circumvent the Hague Convention of 1907 that forbade the recruitment of inhabitants of occupied areas, the legionnaires were designated as "volunteers", although almost all were conscripts.

By the summer of 1944 it had become clear that Nazi-Germany had lost the war. The 15th Division, which had sustained heavy losses in battles against the Red Army on Latvian soil, was sent for reorganization to German-annexed West Poland. During the massive Soviet offensive in early 1945, the division and other Latvian units fought many heavy rearguard battles as they were inexorably retreating westward.

When the German capitulation was imminent, the highest Latvian commanding officers of the Legion – colonel Arvīds Kripēns, colonel Vilis Janums and major Pēteris Balodis, urged their soldiers preferably to surrender to British forces in closed units, rather than ending up in the US and French occupation zones. The main aim was to stay together, because it was unclear as yet how the Soviet militarists would deal with Latvian legionnaires.

In the end, 11,727 Latvian soldiers surrendered to the British forces, causing problems of finding facilities for internment. The Brits made an agreement with the Belgians to accommodate Latvian prisoners-of-war in Zedelgem, in a pre-war ammunition storage complex.

The documentary film Zedelgem is the story about eight months of emotional experiences and humiliation for the Latvian prisoners-of-war in this camp.

Film author and director is Andris Feldmanis, length - 57 min, language - Latvian with English subtitles.

The staff of the Occupation Museum of Latvia also congratulates the “DAUGAVAS VANAGI” (“Hawks of Daugava”) organization on its 70th anniversary with this documentary.

You can buy the DVD in the Museum

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