Russian media releases declassified documents on the Holocaust – report

Russia has released new documents claiming that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were highly involved in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.

 Members of Latvian Auxiliary Police assemble a group of Jews, Liepāja, July, 1941. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Members of Latvian Auxiliary Police assemble a group of Jews, Liepāja, July, 1941.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

New documents on the Baltic states’ actions during the Holocaust have been declassified by the Russian Federal Security Service, according to a Thursday RIA (Russian state media) report.

The documents were released as part of the “No Statute of Limitations” project.

The document details the murder of “tens of thousands of Jews” in 1941 during the Nazi occupation by both the residents of the states and occupying forces. The states detailed in the report are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, countries that have since aligned themselves with Ukraine in light of the Russian invasion.

Lithuania’s participation in the Holocaust 

The report alleged that the Nazis had been amazed by the ferocity with which Lithuanians had absorbed antisemitic ideologies and the cruelty they were willing to show.

"When the German troops entered the territory of Lithuania, the Lithuanians' hatred of the Jews led to effective pogroms ... As a result of the pogroms, which were nevertheless carried out with significant action by the security police and SD, Lithuanians liquidated 3800 Jews in Kaunas and approximately 1,200 Jews in small towns,” RIA cites the report as saying.

A memorial marking the massacre site in Ponar (credit: COURTESY EZRA WOLFINGE/NOVA)
A memorial marking the massacre site in Ponar (credit: COURTESY EZRA WOLFINGE/NOVA)

Teams of up to eight people were reportedly first tasked with murdering any Jewish people in prison. Eventually, the murders advanced to any Jews in Lithuania. The report stated that this was carried out "systematically county by county." 

"As a result of many individual operations, a total of 136,421 people were liquidated," the report said, although this figure is likely to include non-Jewish groups that were also targeted by the Nazi’s ideology.

Some Jews were kept alive and placed in ghettos to use as slave labor. The report says that 15,000 Jewish people had been kept in Kaunas and Vilna, with a further 4,500 kept in Siauliai. According to RIA, These Jews were forced to work in the local airfield where they carried out tasks relating to "earthworks and other works."

Estonia’s participation in the Holocaust

According to the report, 2,000 Jews had lived in Estonia before the war, although this number is disputed, and there were none left after. There are now 1,971 Jews in Estonia, according to the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

The report continues to explain that in 1942, Hitler established an Estonian SS Legion. The report states that this legion participated in the massacre of civilians in Belarus, a country considered to be allied with Russia.

The SS legion, continued the RIA report, was responsible for the murder of Jews in the Minsk region.

In September 1943, the report continued, the 30th Estonian Schutzmannschraft Battalion participated in Aktion 1005, which involved the mass killing of civilians and prisoners of war.

The report conflicts with current historical understandings of Estonian Jewry

There is evidence that Jews have lived in Estonia since the fourteenth century, but a permanent Jewish community did not exist there until the mid-nineteenth century, explained the WJC.

When the Nazis invaded Estonia, the Soviet Union deported approximately 500 Jews as they were regarded as “dangerous social elements. 

The WJC claimed that, in contrast to what the report said, “Almost all remaining Jews – around 3,000 people -  were able to escape Estonia due to the amount of time it took for the Germans to eventually conquer Estonia.”

The WJC added that 1,000 Jews had been murdered by Estonian police in collaboration with the Nazis.

Latvia’s participation in the Holocaust 

According to the report, the murder of Jews in Latvia was carried out under the operation title “broad cleansing.”

The murder of Latvian Jews was carried out “through special teams, with the assistance of the elite forces of the Latvian auxiliary police."

RIA added that on November 9, 1941, 11,000 Jews were executed by Latvian and Nazi forces. In December, SS officers and a police leader issued orders which led to the execution of 27,800 Jews in Riga. Several days after this, a further 2,350 Jews were murdered in Libau.

"The systematic work to cleanse the East, in accordance with the main orders, had as its goal the possible complete liquidation of the Jews. This goal has been basically achieved," the report emphasized.