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Legionaires Cleared of SS Status

The collection below consists of four documents—two letters penned by J. Feldmanis, Chargé d’Affaires of Latvia in Washington, and two by officials of the Displaced Persons Commission: Commissioner Harry N. Rosenfield and Coordinator for Europe Robert J. Corkern The documents announce that the members of the Baltic SS Voluntary Legions are neither SS nor voluntary, that the Latvian units were not hostile to the Government of the United States under Section 13* of the Displaced Persons Act. Coordinator Corkern wrote that "the [Commission] received evidence showing membership in these units was due to conscription, a method [employed] by the Hitler regime, and that members of the Baltic SS were impressed for the most part for actual fighting on the eastern front."

Feldmanis' Letter to Rosenfield

L A T V I A N   L E G A T I O N
1346 Connecticut Avenue
Washington 6, DC.

The Honorable
Harry N. Rosenfield, Commissioner
Displaced Persons Commission
815 Connecticut Avenue
Washington 25, DC.

August 2, 1950

Dear Mr. Rosenfield,

Supplementing our conversation of July 24, 1950, concerning the Latvian refugees, former soldiers of the Latvian Legion, I have the honor to present to you some considerations and documents in my possession.

You will find enclosed my memorandum to the Secretary of State on July 21, 1949, which contains general information concerning the question.

In my aide-memoir of January 13, 1950, I explained the difference between the German SS and the Latvian Legion. I must stress that the soldiers of the Latvian Legion never had to perform other than military duties. Consequently, no member of the Latvian Legion participated in the dishonoring action against the Jewish population which was organized and executed only by the German Waffen SS. The last were members of the Nationalist Socialist Party and each had his party number. The Latvian soldiers of the Latvian Legion had no such number, of course, and were not members of the Nazi Party. The soldiers of the Latvian Legion were forbidden by an order of SS Hauptamt to wear the insignia SS but were obliged to wear a shield bearing Latvian colors. Only one case is known where a Latvian officer was decorated by the Germans and received recognition as an SS-man. This caused astonishment among the Germans, and later it appeared that it had been a mistake. The Latvian soldiers, as a general practice, received the previously worn uniforms of the members of the German SS. Before the Latvian soldiers could use this uniform, they were ordered to remove all SS indication. At this time, the SS formation was a very much privileged one, and the Germans never thought of extending these privileges to the Latvian soldiers, who were not considered as equal to the Germans, according to their race theory.

Further, you will find a copy from a document of the Nuremberg trial, which indicates that all men fit for service were sent into the Legion. Those who were not 100% fit were sent to the Commander of the Wehrmacht as auxiliaries, and those who were fit for work only were placed at the disposal of Gauleiter Saukel/ Chief of Forced Labor in Germany/.

I have, for inclusion here, information giving the following number of mobilized men in Latvia:

Mobilized in the Latvian Legion until 1-7-44 . . . . . . . 43,564
Wehrmacht Auxiliary Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22,744
Anti-Aircraft Pioneers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 01,600
Mobilized during the period 1.7.44. to 18.8.44 . . . . 13,333
Police Auxiliary Force . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22,262

Remark:
The following are approximate numbers.
At the first mobilization in Feb./March 1943, there were mobilized

In the Legion. . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,000
Wehrmacht Auxiliary Force. . . . 25,000
Forced Labor Service. . . . . . . 10,000

It results that in the Latvian Legion, there were approximately 57,000 men. During our conversation, you showed me a copy of a document from the Nuremberg trial, according lo which there participated some 300 Waffen SS in an anti-Jewish action in Latvia. I am quite sure that they have never been Latvians. And, even if we will admit that in these 300 war criminals, there were also a number of Latvians, the 57,000 honest Latvians should not be held responsible for the actions in which they have never participated.

If you should wish lo have any further information in this matter, I am glad to offer my full assistance.

Very truly yours,

J. Feldmans, Chargé d’Affaires of Latvia

Rosenfield's Letter to Feldmanis

Dr. J. Feldmanis
Charge d'Affaires of Latvia
Latvian Legation
1346 Connecticut Avenue
Washington 6, DC.

September 12, 1950

Dear Dr. Feldmanis:

Please pardon the delayed acknowledgment of your letter of August 2, 1950. By now, of course, you know the decision of the Commission. It has approved the following motion:

"That the Waffen SS. Units (Baltic Legions) are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the government of the United Stated under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended."

Sincerely yours,

Harry N. Rosenfield
Commissioner

Feldmanis' Letter to Rosenfield

L A T V I A N   L E G A T I O N
1346 Connecticut Avenue
Washington 6, DC.

The Honorable
Harry N. Rosenfield, Commissioner
Displaced Persons Commission
815 Connecticut Avenue
Washington 25, DC.

September 18, 1950

Dear Mr. Rosenfield,

This is to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of September 12, 1950, and to express to you my sincere appreciation for your cooperation in this problem by approving a motion favorable to the former Latvian soldiers.

Sincerely yours,

J. Feldmanis
Minister Plenipotentiary, Charge d'Affaires of Latvia

Corkern Internal Memorandum to Senior Officials

INTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM
US. Displaced Persons Commission Headquarters
Frankfurt, APO 757

To: All Senior Officers and Staff
From: Robert J. Corkern, Coordinator for Europe
Subject: Baltic Waffen SS Units

Date: November 28, 1950

  1. For your information we are forwarding excerpts of a letter from the Commission in Washington to this office further clarifying the Commission's policy regarding Baltic Waffen SS Units.

    A.   The Commission's policy on Waffen SS Units is as you stated, "that any Baltic National who qualifies as a displaced person will be considered for admission to the United States on the basis of his individual record and that the fact of membership in a Waffen SS Unit will not, in and of itself, be a basis for his exclusion." This is completely consistent with the Commission's statement of policy dated September 1, 1950.

    B.   The Commission directed that all Baltic soldiers' cases in suspension be reactivated immediately in accordance with the policy decision of September 1, 1950. For practical purposes, this meant all such cases held by the Frankfurt Review Panel were to be returned to the appropriate area offices for action, and that all such cases suspended on the area level were to be reactivated.

    C.   Cases that were formerly rejected on the grounds of service in the Baltic Legion fall in the same category as those suspended so far as eligibility for reactivation is concerned. However, although in suspended cases such reactivation is automatic, in rejected cases the sponsor or sponsoring agency must request reactivation of the cases. It should be noted that Baltic Legion cases rejected for reasons other than mere service in the Baltic Waffen SS would not be reactivated on the basis of the policy decision of September 1, 1950.

    D.   Policy of the Commission has been to consider either voluntary or involuntary membership in the Waffen SS, except in the Baltic Waffen SS, as a bar per se under Section 13. In the case of the Baltic Waffen SS units, it received evidence showing membership in these units was due to conscription, a method by the Hitler regime, and that members of the Baltic SS were impressed for the most part for actual fighting on the eastern front. After very careful consideration, the Commission finally decided that the Baltic Waffen SS units were not a hostile movement within Section 13 of the Act, and membership in these units was not a bar per se.

  2. The above has been prepared for use in the implementation of the Commission policy Statement of September I, 1950, concerning service in the Baltic Waffen SS Units.

Signature: Robert J. Corkern, Coordinator for Europe


* Section 13 of the Displaced Person's Act of 1948 reads as follows:

Section 13. No visas shall be issued under the provisions of this Act to any person who is or has been a member of, or participated in, any movement which is or has been hostile to the United States or the form of government of the United States.

 
   
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