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Nazi Collaborators on Trial during the Cold War: The Cases against Viktors Arājs and the Latvian Auxiliary Security Police


  • Plavnieks, Richards Olafs
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History


  • The Latvian Auxiliary Security Police, informally known as the Arajs Kommando after its founder and commander, Viktors Arājs, was a unique unit among the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Composed of a total of about 1,200 volunteers, it participated in all quintessential aspects of the Holocaust by Bullets in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union including raiding and looting homes; clearing ghettos; engaging in mass-shootings, anti-partisan operations, and reprisal actions; and the rest. The direct deaths of at least 26,000 Jews in Latvia may be laid at its boots, although this number does not reflect the unknown but considerable death toll the Kommando inflicted in the course of occupation duty in Nazi-controlled Belarus nor the assistance it rendered in other Actions such as providing the screen at Rumbula — the second largest mass shooting at the time behind Babi Yar. The defeat of Nazi Germany scattered the men of the Kommando who were not among the many who fell in combat during the Reich’s desperate death throes. The subsequent decades would see a variety of polities attempt to deliver justice to these criminals and discover the truth about their complicity in the Holocaust as a whole. All told nearly a third of the unit’s personnel faced some type of formal judgment and were subject to various penalties. The Soviet Union handled by far the largest number of cases, while both East and West Germany and the United States took up the rest. Each of these judicial systems — both Communist and liberal-democratic — involved in the prosecutions was unique, undertook the task at different times, and treated the defendants differently. This study seeks to view these legal systems through the prism of this one specific perpetrator unit with special awareness that the processes took place at different times and in the context of the ongoing Cold War. The explicitly comparative assessment of their relative merits and demerits is based not only upon the justice meted out to the criminals and how vigorously they were pursued, but also the volume of reliable historical data bequeathed to posterity by the investigations and the adequacy of the attempts to educate the public on the findings.

Date of publication May 2013, Keyword History. Resource type Dissertation. Rights statement In Copyright. Advisor Browning, Christopher R. Degree Doctor of Philosophy. Graduation year 2013. Language English. Publisher University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill