As far as I have been able to find out, media in English speaking countries so far have not reported on an ex-member of the Latvian legion of Adolf Hitler’s SS becoming chairman of the Latvian parliamentary committee on “ethnic minority” affairs. German language and, obviously, Latvian language media did report on this issue. See also here.
This is my translation from the German report by Markus Salzmann:
Latvian government appoints SS veteran as committee chairman
17 November 2010
Latvia’s government on 8 November chose a former member of the Waffen-SS as chairman of the parliamentary committee responsible for dealing with the Russian minority in the Baltic state.
The 86-year-old deputy Visvaldis Lacis will lead the parliamentary committee responsible for the implementation of the citizenship laws. Lacis is a member of the neo-fascist party “All for Latvia”, which in the elections of 2 October entered parliament. It calls for a ban on the Russian language in schools and the deportation of ethnic Russians who make up about one-quarter of the inhabitants of the country.
Lacis, who fought in the Second World War as a member of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen-SS against the Soviet Union, has published numerous articles and books which glorify Hitler’s Germany, the Waffen-SS and the war against the Soviet Union. He is revered by the Latvian neo-fascists and maintains close contact with Rightist hoodlum groups, which are notorious for provocations and violence against minorities. With them he celebrates every year the invasion of German troops in 1941.
Since the country gained independence from the Soviet Union virtually all Latvian governments have contributed to the mobilization of extreme right, anti-communist forces. Lacis also has been decorated for his services in the fight against the Soviet Union with medals. With his appointment as committee chairman, the partnership with the neo-fascists has reached a new quality.
The 39-year-old Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis even for a long time has been pushing to include the neo-fascists in his new government, but eventually he failed because of resistance in his own right-wing coalition “Unity”.
After the elections in early October about four weeks of long discussions and negotiations on the composition of the new government took place. Although the previous government parties “Unity” and “Union of Greens and Farmers” had 55 of the 100 parliamentary seats and quickly agreed to continue their coalition under Prime Minister Dombrovskis, a long debate over whether the government should include even ultra-right forces started.
In the end it was agreed that the ultra-right would not be officially included in the government, but the eight members of “All for Latvia” and “Fatherland and Freedom” still voted for Dombrovskis and confirmed him in office.
Even so, the government is interspersed with ultra-right figures.
Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Chairman of Dombrovskis’ “Unity”, on Tuesday just survived a no-confidence vote, following revelations that he had expressed in an e-mail exchange with a Latvian doctor living in the U.S., the same racist views as “All for Latvia “. His most ardent defender in the parliamentary debate on the confidence vote was former SS-man Lacis.
The use of neo-fascists and of stirring up ethnic tensions against the Russian minority are directly related to the economic difficulties of Latvia and the social attacks on the working class. Latvia has been damaged as badly as any other EU country by the international economic crisis. In 2009, the economy declined by 18 percent and, according to the Latvian Ministry of Finance, GDP will shrink again this year by at least three percent.
After about half of the hospitals in the country have been closed, there is already no longer sufficient capacity to care for patients. In the remaining hospitals there is a lack of medication. So many doctors and nurses have been sacked that even some necessary operations cannot be performed.
Public employees’ wages have been reduced by up to 60 percent. Even senior executives need a second job to make ends meet. In many cases the fear was expressed that a harsh winter would lead to many people dying because of the cold, because people can not pay the heating bills.
Dombrovskis and his government, despite the social consequences, are determined to make their cutback policies even harsher.
The involvement of extreme right forces in the government is used to suppress any opposition to the brutal austerity measures and social impoverishment of broad layers.
Update: a complete English translation is here.
Germany: The Bluff of the Brown Shirts: How Waffen SS Veterans Exploited Postwar Politics: here.
Suspected Nazi death camp guard Samuel Kunz dies before trial: here.