This book is a list of names. It is also an endless gray line of prisoners forced to march through the streets of a conquered city. Those who did not share their fate should stop for a moment on the sidewalk of history and watch them pass by. Can you feel compassion towards this faceless gray multitude? Or does your compassion arise only when you look at another human face and think—it could have been me, they might have taken me, they might some day take me to march in these lines of prisoners?
Let us look back to the year 1941. The Baltic States had been occupied by the Soviet Union for one year, and people had been continuously taken away behind jail walls that suppress the sounds of gunshots and cries. On the night of June 14, ten thousands of persons in the countryside and the cities of Latvia were suddenly awaken by heavy pounding at their doors. This was an ominous sound, repeatedly heard in later years. It is also heard today and tonight—pounding at the doors by Cheka agents and the Soviet militia.
This horrifying and until then unknown experience of mass arrests and deportations in 1941 shocked the Latvian nation. It scorched the souls of the people and rallied them to resistance—to fight for their national survival. It also led to a later mass escape to the safety of the West.
Mass deportations—1941, 1945, 1946 and 1949. Arrests, orders to pack one's necessities, then into the trucks. Off to the railroad yards, into cattle cars, the doors shut,—and a dark journey into the unknown began. Trainloads of people—men, women, and children packed like cattle into the trains, heading east—into Russia. At some point husbands were separated from their wives, children taken away from their mothers;—destination still unknown.
The human flow of deportees, starting with streams of truckloads, converged into rivers of trainloads. These trainloads of Latvian prisoners briefly met with Estonian and Lithuanian prisoners in the far reaches of Russia, only to be separated again. Separated into boats—some to follow the Ob, some the Yenisei, or the Lena rivers. Many were destined towards the Siberian North, to the Arctic, further and further away from home. . .
On every prisoner's mind were these questions: Why have I been taken like this? Where are they taking me? How shall I survive? Where are my loved ones? Will I ever see them again?
Most of them never met again. Some died by a roadside, frozen to death in a blizzard;—others died of starvation, sickness, or exhaustion. Many were shot and then buried in unmarked mass graves of slave labor camps.
These new prisoners and deportees were introduced to a whole new world: the world of Gulag, the Soviet labor camps, and other sordid points of destination. Joining an army of about sixteen million prisoners in the Gulag, they often wondered why they had not listened when told of the mass arrests, deportations, executions, and starvations occurring in the Soviet Union, next door to their Baltic homes. Even today, in London, Paris, or Washington people may still wonder why they did not hear of these realities.
16,200 persons were scheduled for deportations from Latvia on June 14, 1941. Only a few managed to escape. In 1940/41 Latvia lost more than 40,000 persons in the terror of Soviet deportations and executions. In later deportations and executions by the Soviets, about four times as many persons were lost to Latvia. With time, as more records and population statistics are discovered, and new eyewitnesses come forward, these numbers grow in spite of the Soviet secrecy and cover-up. Altogether, about 600,000 prisoners were taken from the Soviet occupied Baltic States—Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Proportionately, the number of Baltic prisoners would be equal to a loss of 20 million in the United States or 5 million in Great Britain.
Who were these people taken from their homes in Latvia and then forced to march on and on like captured soldiers wounded and exhausted? They were men and women: some old, sick or crippled, some young and healthy, some very young. They came from all walks of life. They were office workers, farmers, businessmen, officers, laborers, clergy, students, government employees, professionals, and elected representatives. Some had been active in their communities and in different organizations, but they were basically people of modest means from a small democratic country without privileged classes or old families with accumulated wealth. Neither their country nor they as individuals constituted any direct or immediate danger to the huge Soviet State, yet they were marked by it to slave labor until their death.
Open the pages of this book and try to guess why the thousands of people listed here were arrested and deported. Two elderly women—63 and 65 years old, same last name, same address. Perhaps sisters? Someone's maiden aunts living in a small town on a back street? Who brought the ever-watchful eye of the suspicious state to turn toward these old women? Were one of their relatives in hiding perhaps, and thus the fury of the Soviet state was vented on two old and helpless victims?
Further, we find a family listed: a father, mother, and child. From the address we can see that they lived on a farm. He was 39, she 44, and the child only 6. Was this little boy their only child? Did he survive? Those who experienced the Gulag say that the very young almost always perished; older children had a greater chance of surviving.
Another family: a father, mother, and four children. After years in the Gulag, the mother and three of their children returned home; the father and one child died.
Another case: a father, a mother, and a 20-year old daughter. Only the daughter returned from the deportation, crippled by arthritis and toothless.
Many eyewitness stories tell of the fate of groups of Latvians. A group of 2,500 Latvians was deported in 1941 to prison camps in the Perm district, near Chusovoy, Vsesvatska railroad. A survivor of this camp, Roberts Verovs, reported that in 1952 there were only 17 Latvians left alive. Voldemars Krinte tells of camp no. 11 in Vorkuta where no barracks or tents awaited 1,200 prisoners. A mere wooden sign in a snow bank indicated the camp site—only 5 prisoners survived. Another survivor of a camp in Kalinin, veterinary doctor Edwards Atrens testifies that during 6 months in 1945, at least 50 Latvians died there of starvation and exhaustion.
There were 50 prisoner camps in the Usolog-Sollkamsk region, Perm district. Each camp had between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners. None of the 1,000 prisoners deported there from Latvia on June 14, 1941 survived. All but 17 of the 400 women and children deported to a desolate Yenisei River region of Siberia died in the harsh winter of 1942.
Many who suffered at the hands of the Soviets were young and innocent children. Ruta Upite, a Latvian girl who was deported twice to Siberia, cried out her sufferings in her diary "Dear God, I wanted to live!" On Bilina Island, Ob River, in the winter of 1943, she saw one-fourth of all Latvian in the group of 200 deportees die of cold and starvation in a period of four months. Her health was destroyed by the slave labor conditions in Siberia, and she died while still young.
The Latvian people did not submit meekly. Their armed resistance continued until the 1950's without outside help or publicity. This brought new arrests and deportations, with the suspected resisters and their supporters being persecuted. The largest mass deportations took place in the late 1940's, and they were used as an instrument to enforce the collectivization of the Latvian farms.
While these deportations from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and other countries under Soviet rule occurred, the democratic Western world paid scant attention. The Soviet Gulag prison camp system was the largest mass extermination of people in the history of mankind, but no one intervened. In Kolyma, the far northeastern part of Siberia where the Soviet need for gold was filled by prison work, there were at time tens of thousands of prisoners gathered in one place for a forced march to a new slave labor camp. They were an expendable and ever-renewable labor source. Among them were thousands of Latvians. The chances of survival were low. From a group of 2,500 Latvian prisoners who arrived in Kolyma gold mines in 1945, only 500 survivors were released two years later. While a visiting United States vice president and other dignitaries marvelled at the magnitude and success of Soviet projects at Kolyma, Lend-Lease tractors were burying masses of dead prisoners on the opposite side of the mountain.
The names of forced labor regions, camps and prisons like Vorkuta, Solikamsk, Norilsk, Dudinka, Magadan, Potma, Vyatlag, Vladimir, Kotlas, Novaya Zemlya, Kolyma, Karaganda, Mordavia, and many others bring memories of horror to their survivors. The names also remind those who escaped the deportations of the sorrow at having lost their fathers, mothers, children, relatives, and friends.
Those who honor life and humanity should demand that all Soviet prisons, slave labor camps, and mass graves be opened for international inspections. These inspections should include prison institutions now closed, as well as those still in operation. On the sites of some old defunct Soviet prison camps may now be sizeable towns, but most of the other sites are accessible and could be easily explored and investigated. There were no gas furnaces in the Soviet labor camps to dispose of the bodies, and the permafrost of the far northern regions keeps and also reveals secrets.
The many millions of people who died In the Gulag should be honored and remembered with monuments and historical markers. Future generations should be reminded of the crimes committed by the Soviet government, so that these evil forces are stopped from ever gaining the upper hand.
This book lists names, mostly of the deportees of 1941, which were compiled, however incompletely, after the first Soviet occupation of Latvia in the first edition of These Names Accuse (Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm, 1951). Additional names and information have been collected recently by the World Federation of Free Latvians, and are included here in the second edition. As evidence of individual tragedies, they help to corroborate and explain the tragic fate of over 150,000 unlisted prisoners and deportees from Latvia.
The Soviet authorities warn against testifying. Because of the fear of reprisals by the Soviet against them and their relatives, many survivors and witnesses of the deportations, executions, and horrors of the Gulag do not dare to testify. The Soviet files and documents are kept secret and have not as yet been investigated under Nuremberg type trials. The Soviet criminals against humanity, responsible for the deaths of many million of people, continue to live and rule untouched.
Today, a new generation of Latvians carries on the resistance to the Soviet dictatorial regime. They work in the underground democratic movement and are not Soviet dissidents, because their goal is the existence of free and independent democratic Latvia and Baltic States, separate from Soviet Union or any other form of a Russian empire. Their short-range demands are for the Soviet authorities to respect the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, and their own constitution. These freedom fighters suffer and die for their noble convictions, and they hope that the men and women of the world are listening and supporting them.
As you leaf through the pages of this book, remember that the names you see belong to humans who wanted to live peacefully, but whose lives were interrupted by the most horrid criminal acts which still continue today. The criminal is the Government of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics.
Dr. Ilgvars Spilners
World Federation of Free Latvians
- INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK
- Next Historical Introduction (Part 1)
- Historical Introduction (Part 2)
- Historical Introduction (Part 3)
- Historical Introduction (Part 4)
- Historical Introduction (Part 5)
- Historical Introduction (Part 6)
- Appendix 1, Deportation Order Nr. 001223
- Appendix 2, Deportee registration form
- Appendix 3, Deportee list
- Appendix 4, Trains and deportee counts
- Appendix 5, Order to deport General Balodis
- Appendix 6, Deportation trains
- Appendix 7, "All must be shot"
- Appendix 8, Release certificate
- Appendix 9, Baltezers victims (photo)
- Appendix 10, Dreiliņi mass grave (photo)
- Appendix 11, Prison yard corpses (photo)
- Appendix 12, Slave labor camps (photo)
- Appendix 13, 1st edition, List of names
- Appendix 14, Prison system (satellite view)
- Appendix 15, Wladimir prison (satellite view)
- List of Names, Key to list
- List of Names, First page of list (facsimile)
- List of Names, Pages listing those taken