Table of contents        Chapter VII        Chapter IX

[page 80]



Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. On September 17 Stalin invaded Poland and seized his eastern half, and Poland ceased to exist.

In accordance with their guarantees to Poland Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3. However, very little action was taken beyond the declaration (it was called the “phony war”), and the Germans were able to hold the Western Front with very light forces and to concentrate most of their might against Poland. Warsaw surrendered on September 27. Several Polish Army units and 72 aircraft took refuge in Latvia [1]. Some Polish soldiers remained in Latvia, others went to England via Scandinavia. A Polish submarine was interned in Estonia.

On September 28 Ribbentrop was back in Moscow and traded Lithuania to Stalin in exchange for two Polish provinces which in the previous secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had been assigned to the Soviet Union [2] [3] [4]. To save his countrymen from the coming Red terror, Hitler ordered the evacuation of all Germans (including the descendants of the Baltic barons) from Latvia and Estonia [2] [4]; it was called a “repatriation.” The uninvited aliens who had overstayed their welcome by seven hundred years were finally departing.

On the same September 28 the Soviet Union demanded and got military bases in Estonia, and in the Kremlin Molotov and Stalin shuffled back and forth between meetings with Ribbentrop and with the Estonian Foreign Minister Selter [5]. The pretext for the demand was the escape of the interned Polish submarine from the harbor of [page 81] Tallinn. Molotov threatened the use of force if the demands were not met [6].

While the Baltic States could have raised a sizeable army (about 360,000 men in 72 hours [7]), they lacked modern weapons, their stores of ammunition would have been exhausted in a couple of weeks (and new supplies could not be obtained because of the war), they did not have any plans for coordinated action, and the Latvian border with the Soviet Union was not even fortified [8]. Faced with the choice of annihilation of their youth in a valiant yet hopeless fight or surrender to Stalin’s demands, the Estonian government signed a so-called “mutual assistance” pact with the Soviet Union, which turned over to the Soviet Union several Estonian naval and air bases, and let a garrison of 25,000 Soviet troops occupy those bases [9].

Next came Latvia’s turn. The Latvian Foreign Minister Munters was summoned to Moscow, and Stalin and Molotov presented an ultimatum: sign a pact within 48 hours or else [10]. To emphasize the seriousness of their threat, two Soviet tank corps, two cavalry divisions, and at least six infantry divisions were holding maneuvers at the Latvian border [11]. The “mutual assistance” pact was signed on October 5, giving the Soviets naval bases in Liepāja and Ventspils, a coastal artillery emplacement to control the Straits of Irbe, a number of air bases, and a garrison of 30,000 men [12] [13]. Lithuania signed a similar pact on October 10. The Soviet Union generously detached the disputed city of Vilnius from her occupied eastern half of Poland and bestowed it upon Lithuania [14]. It could afford to be generous since it planned to annex all of Lithuania, including Vilnius, shortly.

Article 5 of the Latvian pact stated [12] [13]: “The enforcement of the present pact shall in no way impair the sovereign rights of the contracting parties, including their political structure, their economic and social systems, and their military activities.” Similar articles were contained in the Estonian and Lithuanian pacts. The bases were leased to the Soviet Union; they remained the territory of the Baltic States. The peace treaty of 1920 and the non-aggression pact of 1932 remained in force [12] [13].

The Soviet garrison troops entered Latvia on October 29 [15]. At first the Red Army behaved well; actually there were few contacts between the Soviet troops and the Latvians. The leaders of the Soviet Union told their people daily that the Soviet Union was a workers’ paradise while the workers in capitalist countries were unemployed [page 82] and starving. As long as the Soviet people were isolated, this fiction could be maintained, but free contacts between the garrison troops and the people of the Baltic States would have quickly exposed the lies. Consequently, the Soviets allowed only officers accompanied by political commissars to go outside the bases [15].


Next came Finland’s turn. The Soviet Union demanded naval bases with Soviet garrisons and segments of land near Leningrad and Murmansk in exchange for land elsewhere. However, the land demanded by the Soviets contained the costly Mannerheim Line of fortifications, and thus would have left the Finns defenseless [16]. The Finns refused the Soviet demands, hoping that the threats were a bluff, expecting diplomatic and other help from the West, and relying on their fortifications and the naturally rugged terrain.

On November 30, 1939 four Soviet armies of 45 divisions attacked Finland [17] [18]. The Soviets met with disaster. The outnumbered Finns, led by the seventy-two year old Field Marshall Carl Mannerheim, cut the Soviet divisions to pieces.

The Soviets set up a rival Communist puppet government and announced that the Soviet troops had come to liberate the Finnish workers from capitalist oppression. Of course, nobody in the world believed them. Hitler was embarrassed, yet he stuck to his bargain with Stalin and instructed the German press, radio, and diplomatic missions to support the Soviet position and to suppress any sympathy for the Finns [19]. Mussolini was furious and lectured Hitler on his abandonment of principle for the sake of a temporary advantage [19] [20]. England and France organized the expulsion of the Soviet Union from the League of Nations on December 14 [21] and proposed to send an Allied expeditionary force to the aid of the Finns if Norway and Sweden would permit their transit [22] [23]. The map of Europe would certainly look different today if England and France had actually sent that force. The democracies would have been aligned against the dictatorships, which would have made sense ideologically; or a three-sided war between Germany, Soviet Union, and France plus England would have taken place, with Finland and the Baltic States on the side of France and England. The Soviet Union and Sweden were supplying Germany with raw materials, which were badly needed because of a British blockade. The Soviet Union even provided [page 83] a port for German submarines [24]. Consequently, an Allied attack on the Soviet Union and the presence of Allied troops in Sweden would strangle Germany economically without having to fight the German army [25] (the war in the West was still the “phony war” in which both sides exchanged propaganda instead of bullets). However, Sweden and Norway refused to allow Allied troops to pass through their countries; yet several thousand Swedish and Norwegian volunteers went to Finland to fight against the Soviets [26]. So did some from Estonia and Latvia.

The poor performance of the Soviet troops convinced Hitler that war against the Soviet Union would be easily won [27], and it convinced Stalin that the army, weakened by purges, needed reforms. Those reforms were made and probably saved the Soviet Union when Hitler attacked her later [28]. The Finns fought Soviet tanks with “Molotov cocktails” [29] [30], bottles filled with a flammable liquid, ignited by an ampule of sulphuric acid. In the fortifications near Leningrad 13,000 Finns repulsed a Soviet army eleven times stronger [29]. In the north a Finnish battalion stopped a Soviet division. At the middle of the front and at the Lake Ladoga front small Finnish forces massacred whole Soviet divisions [31].

France and England sent some military supplies; the U.S. offered non-military aid to Finland [21]. However, when the Soviets recovered from their initial surprise and massed new troops for a fresh offensive in February of 1940, the dwindling ammunition supply and the overwhelming numbers of Soviet troops began to have an effect upon the Finnish defense. The Soviets broke through the Finnish front, and Finland signed a peace treaty on March 12 [21] [25], surrendering large areas to the Soviet Union. Still, Finland did not suffer the fate of Poland, which was wiped off the map. Finland remained independent.


The apparent complete breakdown of international law and order in Europe left the Baltic States very vulnerable. Obviously, effective help from England or France could not be expected since such help had not been extended to Finland. Thus the Baltic States lived from day to day in anxiety, foreseeing doom and yet hoping that the storm might by-pass them.

Of course, the Baltic States did not realize that the Soviet Union [page 84] definitely had no intentions of honoring the non-aggression or mutual assistance pacts, and that the annexation of the Baltic States had been already decided. On October 11, 1939, a few hours after the signing of the last of the mutual assistance pacts, Soviet General Serov signed a secret NKVD (secret police) order with detailed instructions for the arrest and deportation of nationalists from the Baltic States when annexed [32] [33]. In the fall of 1939 the Red Army issued secret maps of the Baltic States, which identified them as Soviet republics [34] [35]. Thus in the winter of 1939-1940 the Baltic States were living on borrowed time.

In the following years the U.S. sent a tremendous amount of military supplies to the Soviet Union to vanquish Germany. If a fraction of those supplies had been available in 1939 to Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, perhaps neither Hitler nor Stalin would have dared to attack them. They did not lack spirited fighters, they lacked modern weapons. Hitler was defeated because those weapons were handed to Stalin, yet Hitler’s defeat did not end brutal tyranny in Europe. The Nazi tyranny was merely exchanged for the equally bloody Communist tyranny, victorious because of American weapons.


On April 9, 1940 Germany invaded Denmark and Norway. The British and French sent some troops to Norway but in a few weeks were forced to withdraw, and by June Hitler was in full possession of both Scandinavian countries.

Churchill replaced Chamberlain as the Prime Minister of Great Britain on May 10. On the same day Hitler ended the “phony war” and launched a real attack in the West. The Dutch were overpowered in five days. Belgium capitulated on May 28. The British Expeditionary Force in France and some French units were surrounded by Germans at the port of Dunkirk and were evacuated to England from May 27 to June 4 in a daring rescue operation by large and small boats. The French were retreating all along the front. Italy declared war on Britain and France on June 10. On June 14 Germans entered Paris, and on June 22 France signed an armistice. The Germans occupied the northern half of France, the southern half remained independent with the seat of government at Vichy. Thus in six weeks [page 85] Hitler became the master of the western part of the continent of Europe.


In the spring of 1940 the Soviet press started to publish articles attacking the Baltic States for various fictitious breaches of the mutual assistance pacts. For example, they claimed that some Red Army garrison soldiers had been kidnapped; actually a few soldiers had deserted without any Baltic help or involvement [36].

On May 17 the Latvian government passed a secret decree, which granted extraordinary emergency powers to the Latvian ministers Zarins in London and Bilmanis in Washington in case the Latvian government could not communicate with its diplomatic missions because of war conditions [37] [38]. The ministers were granted the right to appoint diplomatic representatives, to handle Latvian state funds, to issue orders to other Latvian diplomatic missions, and to defend the interests of Latvia. These powers came into force after the occupation of Latvia by the Soviet Union. As a result the last legitimate government of Latvia is still represented in the free world today. A number of free world governments, including the U.S., have never recognized the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union.

Despite public assurances (such as Molotov’s speech to the All-Union Supreme Soviet on March 29 [39]) that the Baltic States should not fear for their independence, the Soviet Union was just waiting for the right moment to set their troops in motion. That moment arrived when the attention of the world was focused on the fall of Paris in June 14.

On June 14, 1940 at 11:50 P.M. Molotov presented an ultimatum to the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs who at that time was in Moscow. Lithuania was ordered to permit free entry of unlimited numbers of Soviet troops and to form a new pro-Soviet government. A reply was demanded in ten hours. Molotov declared that Soviet troops would enter Lithuania regardless of what reply was given [40] [41]. The Lithuanian government yielded to the demands and Lithuania was occupied by Soviet troops on June 15.

The Latvian and Estonian Ministers in Moscow were given similar ultimatums on June 16, with eight hours granted for a reply [42] [43] [page 86] [44]. The Latvian Cabinet met in Rīga to consider the ultimatum. Some advocated armed resistance as a symbolic gesture even though it would have been hopeless because besides the Red Army at the Latvian-Soviet border other Soviet troops were already at the long unfortified frontier between Latvia and Lithuania [45]. President Ulmanis asked the German envoy in Rīga whether Germany would permit a fighting retreat of the Latvian Army and government to East Prussia and received a negative reply [46]. Some members of the Cabinet proposed to yield to the ultimatum under an international protest [47]. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Munters urged unanimous acceptance of the Soviet demands because otherwise the Soviet Union threatened to bomb all Latvian cities [47]. Consequently, the Cabinet issued a reply which consented to the admission of additional Soviet troops under the provisions of the mutual assistance pact. The reference to the pact was inserted because the pact guaranteed Latvia's independence [47] [48]. Thus Latvia allowed the number of Soviet troops stationed on her territory to increase, but she expected to retain her independence.

In accordance with an agreement reached with the Soviet legation in Rīga Latvian officers went to the frontier on June 17 to conduct Soviet troops to their assembly points. However, the Soviet officers rejected any Latvian assistance because they said that they were acting under battle orders [49]. Rīga was occupied that afternoon by strong tank and infantry forces. The Soviet troops took control of radio, telephone, and telegraph facilities [49] [50] [51]. The rest of Latvia and Estonia were similarly invaded on June 17. Thus an agreed-upon increase in the Soviet garrison troops was turned into a military occupation of the whole country.

Stalin sent a special emissary, Andrei Vishinsky, to Rīga to orchestrate the takeover of the country. Vishinsky had been Stalin’s chief prosecutor during the purges in the 1930’s, thus he had the required experience in lies and falsifications, cruelty and bloodshed. In consequence of a job well done in Latvia he later became a Foreign Minister and a delegate to the United Nations where he was best known for his violent attacks upon the U.S. On June 20 Vishinsky presented to Ulmanis a list of ministers of a new puppet government, approved by Moscow [52] [53], headed by Augusts Kirchenšteins, a professor of bacteriology whose brother Rūdolfs had been recently killed in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s purges [54]. The next day [page 87] the list of ministers was published in an announcement in the official government gazette, which was unsigned, a very unusual procedure [52]. Some of those ministers were not even citizens of Latvia.

An NKVD officer who was present at the similar government takeover in Estonia and who later defected to the West has described in his memoirs the basic plan for the stage productions which now took place in the Baltic States [54]. At first the communists were to stay in the background (there were only 967 communists in Latvia [55]); fellow-travelers were to be used to achieve the communist goals. One should try to create an impression in the outside world that the change of government has taken place because of a revolution by the people, not because of occupation by the Red Army (several “spontaneous” demonstrations were organized by imported Soviet agitators, escorted by the Red Army to make sure that the demonstrators, enlisted by threats, did not sneak away [56]. When the correspondent of the Chicago Tribune reported the truth, he was expelled [57]). One was to attempt to make changes, which appeared to conform to the constitutional requirements of the Baltic States so that the changes looked legitimate (yet the actual changes violated a number of Latvian constitutional procedures [58] [59]).

Helpless, the people responded by showing patriotism whenever possible. In the center of Riga a Freedom Monument had been erected in 1935 from voluntary donations from the people. In the first days after the Red occupation the Freedom Monument was covered by flowers, expensive roses and flowers of the field, brought by the rich and the poor, the old and the young. A few days later the Reds forbade the people to go near the monument [60].

Several high ranking Latvian officers committed suicide. A sergeant, Jānis Gailis, a veteran of the War of Liberation, shot himself in the Rīga Cemetery of Brothers, a national shrine in which those killed in World War I and the War of Liberation were buried [61].

The puppet government announced on July 5 that parliamentary elections would take place on July 14 and 15. Public declarations by Vishinsky and his puppets still promised a free and independent Latvia. A group of non-communists, who had not been part of Ulmanis’ government, headed by Atis Ķeniņš, attempted to register a list of candidates for the elections, but were arrested and deported to the Soviet Union [62] [63] [64] [65]. Only the single list approved by Vishinsky was permitted in the elections. The main problem of the [page 88] Reds was the possibility that people would abstain from voting. To prevent that it was announced that the passports of those who voted will be stamped; rumors were spread that those without a stamp would be considered enemies of the people [62]. The voters from factories and offices were marched in groups to the polling places [64] [66].

And yet the people managed to express their protest. For all practical purposes there was no secret ballot. A list of the candidates was given to the voter, and he could either drop the list into the ballot-box, or he could go behind a screen to make some changes. Of course, some reliable communist sat next to the screen and took down the names of the people going behind the screen. Therefore, almost no one dared to use that screen [67]. Still, the communist puppets estimated in private that valid votes were less than 16-18% of the total [68]; the people managed to invalidate the rest. However, that did not really matter. The percentage of the communist “victory” to be announced to the world had been decided in Moscow well in advance of the elections. By mistake the official results, supplied by the Soviet news agency, were published in a London newspaper hours before the polls closed [69] [70]. According to Soviet fiction 94.8% of those eligible voted, and 97.8% of the voters cast their ballots for the single communist list [71].

The “elected” puppet parliament assembled on July 21 and, confirming the worst fears of Latvians and contrary to the statements of Vishinsky up till now, asked for admission of Latvia into the Soviet Union as a federated republic, Stalin magnanimously permitted the extinction of a free and independent Latvia. It was absorbed by the Soviet Union on August 5, 1940; the same fate fell upon Lithuania on August 3 and upon Estonia on August 6 [72] [73] [74] [75]. Thus began an evil period of time popularly known as “The Ghastly Year.”

Ulmanis was deported to Northern Caucasus in the Soviet Union on July 21 [72] [73] [76]. According to Soviet sources he died in 1942 [77]. The deportation order for Balodis was signed on July 31 [78]. Arrests were conducted daily, but not all were lucky enough to be deported. For example, Goppers (who had participated with Briedis in Savinkov’s plot in 1918) was arrested on September 30 and was shot by NKVD in June of 1941 [79]. The Soviets settled a lot of old scores. The Latvians were disarmed and rendered helpless. Those [page 89] who might be leaders of resistance, either physically (officers) or spiritually (writers, politicians), were destroyed first because a nation without leaders is a nation no more [80].


Hitler was busy with the Battle of Britain, fought in the air, from July to September, 1940. He failed to win a superiority in the air, which was necessary for an invasion of the British Isles. Thus the war with Britain continued in the form of mutual bomber raids upon each other’s cities, skirmishes at sea, and ground action between the British and the Italians in North Africa. The Germans attempted to strangle British supplies by attacking their shipping with submarines (U-boats).

On July 31 at a conference with his military leaders Hitler announced plans to invade the Soviet Union in May of 1941 [81] [82]. He expected to defeat the Soviet Union in five months before winter set in. After victory he would annex the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic States [81].

On September 27, 1940 Germany, Italy, and Japan signed a Tripartite Pact in which they promised to come to the aid of each other in the event of an attack by any state not yet at war. In Novem­ber Hungary, Rumania, and Slovakia were forced to join the Tripartite Pact; in March it was Bulgaria’s turn.

On October 28, 1940 Mussolini invaded Greece but failed to make progress. Furthermore, the Italian forces in North Africa were defeated by the British in December and January. In March of 1941 Yugoslavia refused to join the Tripartite Pact. Consequently, Hitler diverted his troops south, and in March of 1941 a German force in North Africa under General Rommel began an offensive, which threatened Egypt. In April the Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia, and both countries were occupied by the end of the month. The island of Crete was conquered in an airborne German attack beginning on May 20.

This southern adventure delayed Hitler’s attack upon the Soviet Union, which he had scheduled for May. Perhaps the delay saved the Soviet Union. Hitler failed to capture Moscow before the arrival of winter in 1941 but he almost did so; a few extra weeks and perhaps [page 90] Hitler would have entered Moscow in triumph, the same as Paris.


Stalin, intimidated by Hitler’s swift successes, went to great pains to appease Hitler by liberal deliveries of grain and raw materials, which Germany needed badly because of a British blockade of the seas [83] [84]. In exchange Hitler officially recognized the annexation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union [85] [86], although he was not very happy about the lack of consultation before the occupation [87].

The United States and Great Britain did not recognize the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union (and they still do not). The Soviet takeover of the Baltic States was treated the same as the German takeover of Belgium, Holland, etc. The Baltic assets were frozen, and the Baltic diplomatic missions continued to function [88].

By the fall of 1940 private enterprises (e.g. apartment houses, factories, stores, etc.) in the Baltic States were “nationalized,” i.e., seized by the Soviet government. All farm land in excess of 74 acres was confiscated by the state. Even the 74 remaining acres did not belong to the farmer any more but to the state from which he held the land in perpetual tenure (which meant that the land could not be sold or bought) [89].

To the Russians, accustomed to famine and scarcity of consumer, goods under the “planned” Soviet economy, the Baltic States were a horn of plenty. Russian officials made up elaborate and ingenious reasons for going on “missions” to the annexed Baltic States; this gave them a chance to replenish their wardrobes and to buy other things not seen for years in Soviet stores [90]. By fixing the exchange rates between Soviet and Baltic money at unreasonable levels, the Baltic people were impoverished.

In accordance with the custom in the Soviet Union, the Reds rewrote the history of the Baltic States: the starving Baltic workers, oppressed by their bourgeois governments, had revolted and had overthrown their governments. This lie was repeated daily. At that I time this practice seemed silly and strange: who would believe such drivel since everybody knew the truth? Yet the same drivel has been repeated daily for dozens of years now. The new generations inside and outside the Soviet Union did not experience the truth, and people [page 91] outside the Soviet Union tend to believe anything, which is stated often enough. People inside the Soviet Union have learned to ignore official statements and to search for grains of truth among tons of misinformation garbage, but it is not easy.

The Latvian Army was transformed into the 24th Rifle Corps of the Red Army [91], also called the Territorial Rifle Corps. Those considered unreliable were dismissed or arrested. The unarrested were frequently called in to NKVD for interrogation, their homes subjected to sudden searches. Some sought refuge in the forests, others in the homes of friends in parts of Latvia where they were not known. Frequent changes of address turned into a national hobby. The knock on the door at night by NKVD became a steady feature of life under communism.

Yet such individual arrests made only a slight dent into the mass of Latvians considered anti-communist. Consequently, the NKVD staged a special operation to speed up the subjugation of the Baltic States. Under the direction of the specially imported Russian Jew Simon Shustin, who was the Commissar for State Security in Latvia [92], the NKVD prepared mass deportations.

To prevent resistance to the planned NKVD action, the 24th Corps had to be rendered powerless. In the beginning of June, 1941, a large fraction of the Latvians in the 24th Corps were released from active duty and were replaced by reliable Russians. Senior Latvian officers were ordered to Moscow to take “military courses”; some were arrested still in Latvia, the rest in Moscow. The Corps was sent to a camp for “training" and was surrounded on the night from June 13 to 14 by Russian units [93]. Thousands of Latvian soldiers and officers were arrested, some shot, the rest deported. The special NKVD operation started on the same night. During that one night and day 20,000 Lithuanians, 15,000 Latvians, and 10,000 Estonians were loaded into railway cattle cars and sent to Soviet slave camps [94], men, women, and children (3332 of the Latvians were children under the age of 16, 291 were less than one year old, 315 were more than 70 years old [95]).

The NKVD sent its trucks into the streets before the break of dawn. Some trucks got lost and never found the intended victims [96]. To increase its fleet of vehicles the NKVD requisitioned everything that moved, even the mortuary ambulances [97]. Each truck had a detachment of about half a dozen armed men and a list of the deportees (usually the whole family) to be picked up. The deportees [page 92] were given from 15 minutes to two hours to pack and get ready; a family could take about 200 pounds of clothes and food with them [98]. Taken to the railroad station, the deportees were relieved of all valuables (radios, photo cameras, watches) [99]. Most men were separated from their families and never saw them again, each was deported in a separate train to a different location [98] [100]. Sometimes children were parted from their mothers and deported separately [101]. 40 people were jammed into each cattle car, with a hole in the floor as a toilet [98] [102]. Some of the infants and small children died on the way and were buried along the railroad tracks [103].

When the Baltic people arrived in Siberia, the Siberians stripped them bare or bullied them into selling a good coat for a few potatoes. The people in the Soviet Union were so ill-clothed that the Balts really did look like capitalist millionaires [104]. The slave camps were run by the imprisoned thieves and other criminals who robbed and raped the new arrivals. For instance, the thieves knocked gold teeth out of the mouths of the new prisoners and drowned in the toilet those who refused to turn over their food parcels [105].

The Baltic deportees were scattered all over the Soviet camp system: Vorkuta, Potma, Kolyma, Kengir, etc. Forced to work in inhuman conditions, most perished. Some were shot upon arrival in the camps. The graveyard of the Latvian intelligentsia seems to be Solikamsk, while Norilsk turned into a burial ground for the Latvian officers [106]. After Stalin’s death in 1953 some survivors received amnesty, but there were very few survivors.

Not all deportees went peacefully; some escaped, some resisted. For example, Lt. Col. Kārlis Zālītis shot the NKVD officer who knocked at his door, then attempted to kill his wife and daughter. In the excitement he only wounded them. The last bullet he saved for himself and shot himself in the head. Unconscious but still alive he was transported to the NKVD headquarters, not to a hospital. He died there without regaining consciousness. His seriously wounded wife was sent to a hospital and recovered, but his lightly wounded daughter was deported to Siberia anyway [107].

The NKVD headquarters in Rīga had torture chambers constructed in their basement and also special rooms for killing [108]. The interrogation rooms had instruments to break the bones of arms and shins, to pierce feet, to squash noses or testicles, to pull nails or skin from hands, etc. [109]. 1355 persons are known to have lost [page 93] their lives in the NKVD headquarters. Hundreds of the mutilated corpses could not be identified, and some mass graves of victims may never be found; 4 of the found corpses were children under 6 years of age [110].

35,000 Latvians were deported or murdered by the Soviets in 1940 and 1941, almost 2% of the population (the equivalent in the U.S. would be about 4 million people) [111] [112]. This made the subsequent task of the Germans much easier. The Nazis also wanted to eliminate all leaders from occupied lands, and in the Baltic States the Soviets already had done part of that elimination before the German arrival. In May of 1941 Alfred Rosenberg, Hitler’s Commissioner for East Europe, had already drawn up a plan for the administration of the coming conquests in the East. The Baltic States and Byelorussia would first become a German protectorate, then “undesirable elements” would be banished on a large scale, and finally the Greater German Reich would annex those regions and settle them with German war veterans [113]. “Undesirable” meant “Latvian patriots” in either the Nazi or Communist lexicon.

The mass deportations of June 14 multiplied the number of Latvians seeking refuge in the forests. Several groups dug up hidden weapons and began an armed resistance. These national partisans obstructed several other smaller scale deportations after June 14 [114]. On the other hand, some men who had hidden in the forests before June 14 now came out when they heard that their families had been arrested. They voluntarily went to the NKVD, hoping to join their families in deportation, yet in vain since the usual practice was to separate the men from the rest of the families [115].


On June 22, 1941, Hitler launched “Operation Barbarossa” - the invasion of the Soviet Union. The three main thrusts were aimed at Leningrad (former Petrograd) in the north, Moscow in the middle, and the Ukraine and the Caucasus in the south. The Soviets were not prepared and suffered a series of spectacular defeats in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers were taken prisoner.

The German l8th Army reached the border of Latvia south of Liepāja on the first day of war. The tanks of the 4th Armored Group occupied Daugavpils on June 26. The Germans captured Liepāja and Jelgava on June 29, and reached the suburbs of Rīga on the same [page 94] day [116]. Before the German arrival the Latvian national partisans liberated several towns, blocked the flight of the Red Army, sabotaged railroad tracks, and cut telephone and telegraph lines [117]. The deportations of June 14 had turned most Latvians into passionate enemies of the Soviet Union. While the Germans were not regarded as friends, any enemy of the Soviet Union was a welcome ally.

The Latvians of the 24th Rifle Corps deserted and swelled the ranks of the partisans [118]. More Latvian officers were shot before the Soviets fled across the border. The Corps ceased to exist in August [119].


Italy, Slovakia, and Rumania also declared war against the Soviet Union on June 22; Finland on the 25th, Hungary on the 27th. Vichy France and Spain eventually also contributed troops to the war against the Soviet Union [120]; so did occupied Belgium, Holland, Norway, etc. The Pope hailed the Nazi fight against Bolshevism as a defense of Christian culture [121].

Yet Churchill was elated. Great Britain had fought Germany alone. She now had a cobelligerent, although an unsavory one, and one which she herself had almost fought during the Finnish Winter War. The day before the German invasion of the Soviet Union Churchill had remarked: “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons” [122]. The night after the invasion he made a radio broadcast offering help to the Soviet Union [123].

[1] O.Freivalds, O.Caunītis, A.-J.Bērziņš, R.Kociņš, V.Hāzners, eds., Latviešu Karavīrs Otra Pasaules Kaŗa Laikā (The Latvian Soldier During World War Two, in Latvian) (Ziemeļblāzma, Västerås, Sweden, 1970-1979), vol.I, p.43.

[2] Shirer, pp.630-1.

[3] Toland, p.676.

[4] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.209.

[5] Rei, p.266.

[6] Kavass, Sprudzs, pp.220-6.

[7] Anderson, p.129.

[8] Ibid., pp.130-5.

[9] Rei, pp.262-8.

[10] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.211.

[11] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.47.

[12] Rutkis, pp.244-5.

[13] Freivalds et al., vol.I, pp.49-52 (contains full text of the pact in Latvian and Russian).

[14] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.212 & pp.312-7.

[15] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.56.

[16] Schuman, p.266.

[17] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.103.

[18] Warner, pp.198-9.

[19] Shirer, p.666.

[20] Toland, p.689.

[21] Schuman, p.267.

[22] Shirer, pp.682-3, fn.

[23] W.S.Churchill, The Second World War (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1948), vol.I, p.573.

[24] Shirer, p.667.

[25] Calvocoressi, Wint, p.104.

[26] Warner, p.205.

[27] Churchill, vol.I, p.543.

[28] C.E.Bohlen, Witness to History 1929-1969 (W.W.Norton & Co., Inc., New York, 1973), p.100.

[29] Warner, p.204.

[30] Churchill, vol.I, p.541.

[31] Warner, pp.200-1.

[32] Kavass, Sprudzs, pp.464-8.

[33] A.Berzins, The Unpunished Crime (R.Speller & Sons, New York, 1963), pp.109-119.

[34] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.4.

[35] Freivalds et al., vol.I, pp.71-2 (includes a photocopy of the map).

[36] Ibid., p.58.

[37] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.290 & p.433.

[38] Bilmanis, p.393.

[39] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.288.

[40] Ibid., pp.332-4.

[41] Rei, pp.284-6.

[42] Ibid., pp.286-290.

[43] Kavass, Sprudzs, pp.291-5 & pp.434-5.

[44] Berzins, p.59.

[45] Ibid., p.60.

[46] Rutkis, p.247.

[47] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.296.

[48] Berzins, p.66.

[49] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.86.

[50] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.296.

[51] Berzins, p.68.

[52] Kavass, Sprudzs, pp.298-9.

[53] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.119.

[54] Rutkis, p.248.

[55] V.S.Vardys, Democracy in the Baltic States, 1918-1934: The Stage and the Actors, J.Baltic Studies, vol.10, pp.320-336 (1979).

[56] Berzins, pp.75-6.

[57] Ģērmanis, Latviešu…, p.366.

[58] Kavass, Sprudzs, pp.300-9.

[59] Rutkis, pp.249-252.

[60] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.87.

[61] Ibid., pp.136-9.

[62] Rutkis, pp.249-250.

[63] Berzins, pp.82-6.

[64] Kavass, Sprudzs, pp.303-6.

[65] Bilmanis, p.396.

[66] Rei, p.304.

[67] Ibid., pp.305-6.

[68] Rutkis, p.251.

[69] Kavass, Sprudzs, p.306.

[70] Berzins, p.88.

[71] Samsons, vol.II. p.293.

[72] Rutkis, pp.251-2.

[73] Kavass, Sprudzs, pp.306-3I0.

[74] Rei, pp.307-312.

[75] Berzins, pp.94-7.

[76] Ibid., p.108.

[77] Samsons, vol.III, p.583.

[78] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.140.

[79] Ibid., p.228.

[80] Solzhenitsyn, Parts V-VII, p.391.

[81] Shirer, pp.797-8.

[82] Toland, p.721.

[83] Kennan, p.344.

[84] Warner, pp.212-3.

[85] Bilmanis, p.400.

[86] Berzins, pp.97-8.

[87] Shirer, p.801.

[88] L.Juda, United States’ Nonrecognition of the Soviet Union’s Annexation of the Baltic States: Politics and Law, J.Baltic Studies, vol.6, pp.272-290 (1975).

[89] Rei, p.308.

[90] A.Werth, Russia at War 1941-1945 (Avon Books, New York, 1965), pp.112-3.

[91] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.165.

[92] Ibid., p.230.

[93] Ibid., pp.206-214.

[94] Rei, p.320.

[95] These Names Accuse (The Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm, 1951), p.32.

[96] Ž.Unams, Karogs Vējā (The Flag in the Wind, in Latvian) (Latvju Grāmata, Waverly, Iowa, 1969), p.25.

[97] Berzins, p.150.

[98] Rei, p.321.

[99] Berzins, p.152.

[100] These Names Accuse, p.31.

[101] R.Aizupe, Sešpadsmit Gadi Sibirijā (Sixteen Years in Siberia, in Latvian) (Alta, Toronto, 1974), p.46.

[102] Berzins, p.123.

[103] Rūtiņa U., Vēl Tā Gribējās Dzīvot (in Latvian, also available in English as Ruta U., Dear God, I Wanted to Live) (Grāmatu Draugs, Brooklyn, 1977), p.16.

[104] Solzhenitsyn, Parts V-VII, p.395.

[105] Solzhenitsyn, Parts III-IV, p.438.

[106] Rūtiņa U., p.152.

[107] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.240, and vol.II, p.10.

[108] Berzins, p.149.

[109] These Names Accuse, pp.29-30.

[110] Berzins, p.153.

[111] These Names Accuse, p.33.

[112] Berzins, p.154.

[113] Shirer, pp.832-3.

[114] V.Lesiņš, Butkuss (in Latvian) (Zelta Ābele, Stockholm, 1954), pp.29-33.

[115] Freivalds et al., vol.I, p.267.

[116] Ibid., pp.242-3.

[117] Ibid., p.268.

[118] Ibid., p.250 & pp.254-9.

[119] Samsons, vol.III, p.529.

[120] Schuman, p.280.

[121] Toland, p.774.

[122] Churchill, vol.III, p.370.

[123] Ibid., pp.371-3.

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