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Culling Truth from "Truths"

Culling Truth from "Truths"

Prof. Andrew Ezergailis
Historians who study the Holocaust in Latvia face two formidable barriers, to pierce the twin shrouds of propaganda which both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union created. Both, for their own reasons, were intent on misleading the world about the killing of Jews in Latvia. Holocaust historians had the opportunity after the war to double-check Nazi propaganda about events in the West, but not in Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe. That means that the first, planning, phase of the Holocaust—pre-Wannsee—remains to be studied and many of its details confirmed. A primary duty of new historians will be to investigate the Holocaust more fully, to confront the Holocaust as it really happened. Neither the high revisionism of Arno Mayer[1] or Ernst Nolte[2], nor the lowest revisionism, of Holocaust deniers, is acceptable because neither corresponds to the Eastern European truth.
Holocaust in Latvia
The mass killing of Eastern European Jews by Nazi Germany commenced on June 22, 1941, the day that Germany invaded across the Soviet frontiers. Historian Andrew Ezergailis emphatically rejects the argument, of German provenance, that the decision to kill Jews came only in 1942, after the Wannsee conference and German defeat at Moscow. The trail of blood and paper is incontrovertible: the order to kill the Jews of Latvia came from the head of the Sicherheitsdienst ("SD"), Heydrich, to the Einsatzgruppe A leader, Brigadef├╝hrer Walther Stahlecker and his commando leaders. Yet one of the most persistent memes of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe is that the Germans were bystanders to the local population spontaneously wreaking destruction upon the Jewish nation, that the Nazis merely unleashed centuries-old, simmering, virulent anti-Semitism, that the Eastern Europeans viciously bludgeoned Jews—their neighbors—to death in the most unimaginable, horrific manner—Nazi propaganda which subsequently served the Soviets seeking to discredit its most recently acquired, and troublesome, nationalities. Only when we take nothing at face value, when we strip the shrouds of propaganda, does the truth of the Nazi horror in Latvia and Eastern Europe begin to emerge.

This site is dedicated to the preservation and dissemination of Professor Dr. Andrew Ezergailis' scholarship of the 20th-century history of Latvia and the Holocaust in Latvia.

[1]Mayer contends that there was no organized plan to destroy Europe's Jewry, that Hitler's anti-Semitic polemics were political, not policy, statements. In particular, he contends that the genocide of the Jews commenced in 1942 in response to the failure of Nazi deportation policy and deteriorating conditions on the Eastern Front. As such, the Holocast, lacking pre-planning, is no different from any other genocide. This view is connected to the Historikerstreit controversy in Germany in the 1980's. We should note that while the Latvian view is that they suffered genocidal policies under Stalin, there is no "equating" of genocides which denies that it was Hitler's goal, ab initio, to design and implement industrialized extermination of the Jews. The documentation of that intent and plan are incontrovertible based on Prof. Ezergailis' research.—Ed.
[2]Nolte's scholarship on fascism has evolved over his career, from a focus on the roots of fascism—Nazism in particular—in rejecting modernity to a focus on its commonality with other expressions of totalitarianism. Nolte provoked the Historikerstreit when he emphasized that the Bolsheviks originated the repressive and terroristic methods later employed by the Nazis; moreover, Nazism was at least in part a response to Bolshevism—and would have been different without it.—Ed.