Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress accused Latvia and Lithuania of belittling the role of the Soviet Red Army during World War II in liberating eastern Europe from Nazi rule. He argued taking such an attitude is akin to denying the existence of the Holocaust. Lativa, Lithuania, and Estonia were taken over by the Soviet Union in 1940 creating extensive anti-Russian feeling. This anger toward the Soviet Union was exacerbated when thousands of Russians were settled in the three countries. The Nazis found many collaborators when they drove Russians out of those areas, and some, did assist in the killing of Jews. Thus, for many Baltic people, the “liberation of east Europe” by the Soviet Army marked once again being under Soviet rule. After the Baltic nations became independent, laws were passed against Russian residents even though thousands had been born in a Baltic nation. In addition, those who collaborated with the Nazis are often regarded as heroes.
President Putin expressed his nation’s anger in commenting: “We know that in several European countries laws prohibit the denial of the Holocaust, while the activities of Latvia and Estonian authorities are openly encouraging the glorification of Nazis and their collaborators. And, such facts remain unnoticed by the European Union.” It is unfortunate that Baltic leaders and educators have, on occasion, glorified those who collaborated with the Nazis. The Baltics remain a confusing area containing stories of bravery in aiding Jews and an equal number of stories depicting collaboration. President Putin has a valid point in his complaint that European nations do not acknowledge the debt they owe to the heroic Soviet troops who did more than any other armed force in defeating Germany.