New NATO Film Unwittingly Glorifies Holocaust Collaborators
NATO must stand for Western values.
Vladimir Putin’s shameful “Zapad 17” military exercise, in regions bordering the eastern democratic lands of NATO and the EU — including the three Baltic states: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — is intended to intimidate their peaceful populations and to provoke regional unease. Not to mention the very real danger that various Russian troops will find one way or another “to stay in the region after the exercises are over,” in a very tired old Soviet spirit of things.
These Russian military exercises need to be exposed for what they are, and countered with stalwart determination. NATO’s commitment to its members must remain sacrosanct and permanent, while remaining true to the ideals for which it ultimately exists.
That makes it all the more critical for the North Atlantic alliance (and the EU) not to succumb to regional far-right, ultranationalist, chauvinist, Holocaust-revisionist, and antisemitic forces.
The movie glorifies the post-war Baltic “Forest Brothers,” who launched a guerrilla war against local Soviet rule. But the film contains no mention of the problems that need to be mentioned — such as the fact that a debatable proportion of the “Brothers” were recycled Hitlerist forces. Or that the vast majority of the tens of thousands of people that they killed were civilians.
Many of the “Brothers” harbored Nazi views of racial purity and hatred of their nations’ minorities, including the Jews, who had recently been subject to genocide. Various “Forest Brothers,” including some major leaders who are documented as having been Holocaust collaborators, are still glorified in the Baltics by statues, street names and public plaques.
For examples of this glorification, read some of the reports by our correspondent Evaldas Balčiūnas about the issue. More specifically, read the reports regarding the alleged Nazi collaboration of Antanas Baltūsis-Žvejas, Juozas Barzda, Konstantinas Liuberskis–Žvainys, Vincas Kaulinis-Miškinis, Juozas Krikštaponis (Krištaponis), Jonas Noreika, Adolfas Ramanauskas Vanagas, Juozas Šibaila, Sergijus Staniškis Litas, Vylius-Vėlavičius and Jonas Žemaitis.
It is sad that Mr. Balčiūnas’s work has not been rewarded with the public recognition that it deserves, but by a series of nuisance court cases and kangaroo prosecutions over the years.
The NATO film’s official description misleadingly implies that these “Brothers” were generally, or equally, comprised of people from “both sides of the war.” The film includes no mention of the related 21st century issues of glorification of Nazi collaborators in Eastern Europe (or the 1950s glee taken by the “Brothers” in the Holocaust).
While “Forest Brothers” relics are preserved as national shrines (courtesy of EU budgets), the last surviving anti-Nazi base of Jewish partisans who fled the Vilna Ghetto is being left to sink right into the earth.
Moreover, there is the danger that far-right East European Holocaust revisionism is working its way into Western discourse. This revisionist narrative is gradually being expanded to include new rewritings of history, unbeknowst to naive Western institutions. There has been, for example, a lamentably uncritical insinuation of Double Genocide revisionism into otherwise reputable European museums.
There have also been other episodes when the OSCE, the US State Department (particularly its Neocon faction), UNESCO in France and other sterling, stalwart Western democratic institutions have stumbled into collaboration with far-right East European revisionist forces.
NATO has heretofore wisely kept itself far from this slippery slope of East European ultranationalism and history-revisionism that is trying to infiltrate the West.
When NATO has a lapse in upholding Western ideals, principles and causes, — especially those for which the Allies sacrificed so much during World War II — it is incumbent upon genuine friends of NATO to point this out with utmost clarity. It is, moreover, incumbent on US embassies in the Baltics, particularly in Vilnius, to stop defaming (as “Russian lackeys”) those (including US citizens) who stand up to the far-right Holocaust revisionists, and work to advance the cause of human rights in the region.
As for the flawed NATO film, it could be ameliorated by an additional moment of explanation about the featured group’s Nazi connections. True, that might cancel out its value in the West’s informational war against Putinist aggression. But our information war, unlike Russia’s, needs to be based on Western values and historic truthfulness. An alternate solution suggests itself: Make a film about the many brutal evils and crimes of Soviet Communism, perhaps focusing on the very area where the Zapad 17 exercises are slated to be held.
As is often the case, there is a “simple” solution to what is being sold as a “complicated” problem.