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NAZI COLLABORATORS


Jan 15, 2012 / re-Akademediasrbija

By Carl Savich

In The Military Channel series Nazi Collaborators, in the episode “Hitler’s Executioner”, shown on November 8, 2011 at 10PM, blatantly fake images are used. The episode is on Latvian collaborator Viktors Arajs who led the Arajs Kommando group which was implicated in the mass murder of Latvian Jews during the German occupation of Latvia and Belarus during World War II.

The Arajs Kommando was formed on July 4, 1941, by German occupation forces as “Security Group Arajs”, the Arajs Kommando, or Special Commando or Sonderkommando Arajs which was made up of 500–1500 Latvian volunteers into auxiliary police units and militia. They aided the German occupation forces in the executions of Latvian Jews during the German occupation of Latvia from 1941 to 1944.

The Military Channel noted the theme of the show: “It’s a convenient fiction that the Germans alone were responsible for the Holocaust. The awful truth is that some of the worst offenders were not German. Few were worse than the Latvian Viktor Arajs, who actively participated in killing of 30,000 Jews.”

Arajs was accused of participating in the killing of Latvian Jews in the Riga Synagogue on Gogoļa Street on July 4, 1941. The Kommando was accused of complicity in the killing of approximately 26,000 civilians in Latvia and in Belarus. The mass executions were organized and carried out by German occupation forces but the Arajs Kommando provided logistics and security support. In 1942, he was promoted to the rank of police major. In 1943 he received the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer. Herberts Cukurs, a Latvian aviation pioneer, known as “the butcher of Riga”, was his adjutant.

Arajs escaped with retreating German troops in 1944 as Soviet Red Army troops advanced into Latvia. He was held in a British prison camp in Germany after the war. He worked as a driver for the British military occupation forces in Delmenhorst, in the British Zone of Occupation. In 1979, he was convicted by a German court of complicity in the mass murder of Latvian Jews in the Rumbula forest. He and his troops had escorted Latvian Jews to Rumbula where German forces had executed them. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in 1988 at the Kassel prison. Herberts Cucurs was murdered by Israeli Mossad agents in 1965 in Uruguay in an extrajudicial directed assassination.

The problem with this documentary is that it uses images from Pancevo and Kragujevac in Serbia to document mass executions of Latvian Jews. The mass executions of Serbian civilians are shown to illustrate the mass executions of Jews. In particular, the April 22, 1941 German Army or Wehrmacht executions of Serbian civilians in Pancevo, a town north of Belgrade, in Serbia, are shown in the documentary. The images used are from the color film footage shot by Gottfried Kessel of the propaganda company of the Gross Deutschland Regiment. Kessel was assigned to the Regiment and filmed the executions as they occurred. He also filmed the hangings of Serbian civilians on trees near the Pancevo cemetery. The images used in the documentary are those of Serbian civilians shot by a German firing squad against the Pancevo cemetery wall. Several white headstones with crosses can be seen behind the wall.

A German soldier is shown pointing a gun at wounded Serbian civilians who are finished off. Why is an image of the mass murder and execution of Serbian Orthodox civilians used to document the executions of Latvian Jews? These murders have nothing in common. The 36 Serbian civilians were rounded up at random in revenge for the killing of two SS officers by Serbian guerrillas. The executions were in retaliation for Serbian resistance and guerrilla activity. The Latvian executions were conducted by special German police units that targeted Jews for elimination. The Pancevo executions were conducted by the German Army or Wehrmacht while the Latvian executions were conducted by German police units, Einsatzkommando, the Sicherheitsdienst or SD, the Ordnungspolizei, or ORPO, mobile units assigned to the Eastern Front.

A second image shows German Army troops leading Serbian civilians from Kragujevac and the surrounding area to execution in October, 1941. The narrator, however, implies that the photograph shows members of the Arajs Kommando leading Latvian Jews to execution. When the image appears on the screen, the narrator voice-over describes the Arajs Kommando, leading the viewer to conclude that the photograph depicts them. One has to ask oneself: What is a photograph of Serbian civilians being led to execution in Kragujevac, Serbia have to do with Latvia in any case?

The Serbian civilians were executed as collective punishment or as reprisals for Serbian guerrilla attacks based on the ratio of killing one hundred Serbs for the death of a German soldier and killing fifty Serbs for the wounding of a German soldier. This photograph and the underlying event have nothing to do with Latvia. There are also other obvious tipoffs even if one did not know the source of the photograph that cast doubt on the narrator’s depiction of events. The military forces in the photograph are wearing standard issue German Wehrmach uniforms from 1941. That is, the photograph shows regular German Army troops not Einsatzkommando members or Arajs Kommando members, Latvian volunteers. This photograph is a definitive and a well-known one on the Kragujevac Massacre. It has appeared in all accounts of the Kragujevac Massacre, in the German magazine Der Spiegel, on Wikipedia, and on-online accounts. The U.S. Holocaust Museum even has this particular photograph on its website with the correct caption and explanation: “Germans escort people from Kragvjevac [sic] and its surrounding area to be executed”.

“In response to the capture of the 6th Company of the 920th Security (Landesschuetzen) Battalion by Cetnik resistance fighters in the town of Gorni Milanovac on 28 September 1941, the overall Wehrmacht commander in Serbia, General Franz Boehme, sent German troops to the area to carry out reprisal actions. One of the participating units was the 1st Battalion of the 724th Infantry Regiment, under the command of Major Koenig. Stationed temporarily in the town of Kragujevac, Koenig ordered a “comprehensive reprisal” for the loss of German troops with the 3rd Battalion of the 749th Infantry Regiment during its advance from Gorni Milanovac to Kragujevac, totaling 10 dead and 26 wounded. On 19 October, therefore, several villages in the vicinity of Groznice were burned and 422 people were shot. The following day, (October 20) operations continued in Kragujevac as German soldiers collected 2,300 men and boys for execution. The Serbs were held overnight on a public plaza and shot just outside of the town on 21 October 1941 by the 1st Battalion of the 724th Infantry Regiment.”

The photograph shows German soldiers leading Serbian civilians to execution sites in Kragujevac. How could the producers and researchers of the Military Channel documentary mistake this photograph? It is either an egregious mistake or flub of unbelievable proportions or it was used in reckless disregard of the truth and of historical accuracy. It makes no sense. What does the execution of Serbian civilians in Pancevo and Kragujevac have to do with the execution of Latvian Jews? Why use obviously fake images?

The issue is one of historical accuracy and a fundamental understanding of history. This case is a reductio ad absurdum. The researchers and producers of the Military Channel documentary have a total and complete disregard and contempt for accuracy and veracity. This is an absurd case because these photographs and film images are not disputed or ambiguous. It is inaccuracy to the point of delusion that approaches pyschopathological levels. Either the reasearchers are so incompetent and ignorant that they have no conception or comprehension of fact and history or they are consciously engaged in an organized and systematic plan of falsification or deception. It is hard to imagine anyone is that ignorant. Moreover, there is abundant documentation and photographic evidence of the atrocities and executions in Latvia during World War II. Why use images from Serbia showing the execution of Serbian civilians? This is an egregious and outrageous instance of falsification and deception. Images take precedence over fact. Any images will do. So long as the images are forceful and dramatic, or in color. This is definitely a dangerous precedent in historical research.

/ Serbianna /



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