The Commemoration of the "Defenders"

In the Baltic, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock promotes the formation of the West in opposition to Russia and commemorates the “victims of communism,” but not Baltic victims of Nazism.

BERLIN/RIGA/TALLINN/VILNIUS (Own report) – In the shadow cast by the militarist formation of the West in opposition to Russia, signs are emerging of a shift in Berlin’s official commemoration policy. This is emerging from Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s schedule in the three Baltic countries, which began yesterday in Latvia. In addition to her talks with military authorities, in Estonia, today Baerbock intends to visit a monument for the victims of communism; however, no plans have been made for a visit to the victims of the Nazi occupiers and their Baltic collaborators, whose terror nearly wiped out the entire Jewish population. Out of deference to the Baltic countries, the German government has repeatedly abstained from voting in favor of UN General Assembly resolutions condemning the glorification of Nazism and its collaborators. Domestic Nazi collaborators are publicly honored in all three Baltic countries. Baerbock declared in the run-up to her trip, that above all the current issue is “defense” in face of Russia; “from the Baltic states, we can learn a lot”.

“Learning from the Baltics”

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s visit to the Baltic countries, beginning yesterday in Latvia, continuing today in Estonia, and ending tomorrow in Lithuania, is entirely devoted to the Ukrainian war and the militarist formation of the West in opposition to Russia. Baerbock will engage in an exchange of views with her counterparts and with the heads of states and governments of the three nations. Yesterday, a visit was also scheduled at the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence (StratCom COE) in Riga, which – with German participation – has always, since its founding in 2014, been focused primarily on the information war against Russia.[1] Tomorrow, Baerbock will continue to Rukla (Lithuania) to visit the NATO battlegroup, which is under German command and was just recently massively upgraded.[2] “We are enhancing our ability to defend ourselves,” remarked Baerbock before setting out on her trip; “When it comes to the ability to defend ourselves, we can learn a great deal from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.” Because, in the Baltic states, “people have for years been keeping a close and concerned eye on Russia,” the foreign minister declared. “I intend to listen very well and learn about their experiences and insights.”[3]

The Maarjamäe Memorial

Aside from her political consultations and an interchange of views at the Saksa High School in Tallinn, one of the partner schools in Berlin’s foreign cultural policy, with accent on the German language, Baerbock intends to make a commemoration policy visit to the Victims of Communism Memorial in Maarjamäe, a district in Estonia’s capital Tallinn. The decision to erect a monument was taken in 2015, and it was inaugurated in 2018. It commemorates the approx. 75,000 Estonians arrested after the Soviet invasion on June 17, 1940 or those who were arrested, deported or murdered – many of whom had been Nazi collaborators – in the aftermath of Estonia’s liberation by the Soviet Union from German occupation in 1944. According to official information provided by the foreign ministry concerning Baerbock’s trip, aside from the visit to the newly constructed monument in Maarjamäe, no other appearance is scheduled for the minister in relationship to World War II history. This applies also to another monument in Maarjamäe – dedicated to the memory of the Soviet soldiers, killed in the war against the German Reich, and particularly those, who lost their lives in the battles to liberate Estonia from Nazi occupation. In any case, it is in disrepair due to lack of maintenance.

“The Pivot against Russia”

The historical policy stance of Germany’s foreign minister is also significant, in as much as, the German Nazi occupiers and their Baltic collaborators committed unprecedented crimes on the territories of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Only around 10,000 of the 200,000 Lithuanian Jews and a mere 1,000 of the 70,000 Latvian Jews survived the extermination terror carried out by the Germans and their collaborators, whereas nearly three-fourths of the approximate 4,000 Estonian Jews were able to save their lives by fleeing to the Soviet Union. According to the official information, no commemoration of the Shoah has been planned for the minister. What is unclear, is whether there is a connection to these nations’ honoring Nazi collaborators, which is common to all three Baltic countries. Being honored with commemorative plaques are, for example, the Estonian, Alfons Rebane, a Waffen SS Standartenführer, or the Lithuanian Jonas Noreika, who signed orders to murder Jews. ( reported.[4]) In Latvia’s capital Riga, the annual commemoration celebrations in honor of the Legionnaires of the Waffen SS were held on March 16. They were honored as combatants against the Soviet Union. Years ago, a German journal noted that in the Baltics “fear of association with the Waffen SS is scant today;” “much more important” seems “to be, for many activists, the pivot against Russia.”[5]

Against Nazis and Collaborators

There is evidence that already in the past, the German government has shown tolerance toward the Baltic commemoration of the collaborators. This was apparent in resolutions that have been repeatedly passed by the UN General Assembly calling for the condemnation of the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism. The most recent such resolution was passed on December 16, 2021. It calls on all UN-member nations to take decisive action against racism and anti-Semitism, and expresses “deep concern about the glorification, ... of the Nazi movement, neo-Nazism and former members of the Waffen SS organization.“[6] The erecting of monuments and memorials, holding public demonstrations in the name of the glorification of the Nazi past, and the banalization of Nazi collaborators as “participants in national liberation movements” are specifically listed. Alongside the Baltics, these are practices that are particularly prevalent in Ukraine, where Nazi partisans, such as the collaborator Stepan Bandera, but also the OUN (“Ukrainian Insurgent Army”), which had participated in the Shoah, are honored with monuments and national days of commemoration. ( reported.[7])

Uncompromisingly Abstained

The UN General Assembly passed the resolution with a large majority, however, by far not unanimously: 130 states voted in favor, 49 abstained, 2 voted against, 12 did not participate in the voting. Ukraine and the United States voted “against.” The abstentions were mainly from the European countries, with Canada, Australia and New Zeeland, Japan and South Korea and a few of the Pacific nations dependent on the West – essentially, those countries that are applying sanctions on Russia because of the Ukraine war. Even Germany’s Red-Yellow-Green coalition government could not bring itself to vote in favor of the UN resolution, and thus not unambiguously condemn the glorification not only of Nazism, but also of its collaborators. As a justification for an identical resolution back in 2014, the German government had stated that, while rejecting “all glorification of Nazism uncompromisingly,” one, however, is of the opinion that the draft resolution has “sweepingly imputed a connection to Nazi crimes to persons engaged for the independence of the Baltic countries from the Soviet Union, in the 1940s.”[8] Therefore it is impossible for Berlin to support the resolution.


[1] See also Strategische Kommunikation.

[2] See also From the Baltic to the Black Sea.

[3] Europas Sicherheit neu denken – Außenministerin Baerbock reist in die baltischen Staaten. 20.04.2022.

[4] See also Von Tätern, Opfern und Kollaborateuren (III).

[5] Sven Felix Kellerhoff: Darf ein estnischer SS-Offizier geehrt werden? 25.06.2018.

[6] Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 16 December 2021. United Nations. A/RES/76/149.

[7] See also Of Perpetrators, Victims and Collaborators (II).

[8] Schriftliche Fragen mit den in der Woche vom 8. Dezember 2014 eingegangenen Antworten der Bundesregierung. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 18/3519. Berlin, 12.12.2014.