ITEM: "The Workers of the Baltic States Under Russian Occupation", by the "Representative of the Free trade Unions of the Baltics", december 1943. 6 pages, 12.5x8 inches. Staple-bound. Offset printed. RARE. No copies located in the OCLC. $350
This rare, offset-printed publication comes from the representatives of the Free trade Unions of the Baltic States–a part of the International Federation of trade Unions (IFTU)--and is dated December, 1943, and is a witness to the brutal regimes that illegally and maliciously subverted the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
(The IFTU was a social democrat-like organization that existed from 1919 to 1945, and which was a largely European body after 1925 when its main American counterpart, the AFL, chose to disengage.)
The six-page pamphlet is interesting to me because it provides some details on the rape of the Baltics--the theft of their legal status as nations, the murder and deportation of those who disagreed with the ruling Soviet and then Nazi occupiers, and then, lastly, the murder of the Baltic Jews–which, in December of 1943, was not common reading material.
As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the Soviet Union moved into the Baltic states in June, 1940, after having compelled the thre nations to allow the establishment of Soviet bases on their soil. In June of 1940 the life of the Baltics changed dramatically, when the U.S.S.R. overtly took control in the three countries. At the beginning of the Soviet brutalities, elections were stolen, military forces were moved, and murder and deportations and arrests began in earnest. In beginning to kill the soul of these countries, the Soviet union established a “Commissariat of the Interior...was a powerful apparatus for carrying out persecutions and taking reprisals”, a euphemism of the early part of the pamphlet which would be replaced by mor direct language just paragraphs later.
But 25 November 1940 marked the final destruction of the independence of these countries when their national currencies were replaced by the ruble, allowing complete control by the Soviet Union, and plunging the countries into a malicious chaos, with the citizens now faced with an almost-order of magnitude change in their buying power.
The report continues on the disappearances of workers and intellectuals, which came quite early in the Soviet occupation. According to the document, tens of thousands of workers who were opposed to the new changes by the Commissariat of the Interior were arrested and deported to “enjoy a happy life” in prison. More shocking details would come, highlighting the deportations, arrest and executions of thousands of people–tens of thousands who would be sent to “labor camps” in northern Russia, selected from”secretly drawn-up lists by the Communist Party”.
There is in particular the mention of 14 June 1941–a bitter day in the history of the first Soviet occupation, though it seems that the author of the present paper did not yet have a full appreciation of the event, yet. Here the author mentions specially “equipped” railway cattle cars brought in from Latvia and used to deport 21,000 people from Lithuania, 11,000 from Estonia and 15,000 from Latvia. In point of fact the period of 14-17 June 1941 was when the Soviets imprisoned/deported/murdered 100,000 Balts.
After the Nazis trashed their non-aggression pact with the USSR and began their invasion (known as “Operation Barbarosa”) of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941the Russians began to run, replaced very quickly by the advancing German armies. The author writes that “we have no exact data” on the deportation and execution in the earliest days of the Nazi occupation, but the conservative guess was that 50,000 had been deported and 10,000 executed.
And then on to the Jewish question, where this paper reports that almost all of the Baltic Jews–by December 1943–were gone. “Gone”in being deported to work camps, or collected in slums, or murdered.
In the only underlining done in the printing of this pamphlet, we read that ‘All these murders are on the German conscience”, and then goes on to name the German officials responsible for the crimes.
In December 1943, when it was becoming apparent that the Germans were being turned in Russia, and that the Russians might return, there is this final plea from the pamphlet’s author:
“Do not allow the red Army to occupy our countries. Save our people from physical and legal annihilation.”
This was a fast summation of a complex and complicated situation I the Baltic states for these years, but I just wanted to give the flavor for the background of this December 1943 pamphlet. There were hundreds of references to mass killings and deportations (and vast rages of murders) that appeared in the press during this time period, but there was certainly not a collected resource for them all. This pamphlet–quite rare in itself, as I’ve found no copy in any world-wide library holdings referenced in WorldCat–is another example of disparate reporting on what would be seen just 20 months later as a monumental climax of injustices.