Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Allies Shoot Latvians for Live Target Practice

Masthead of the Latvian soldiers' newspaper in Zedelgem POW Camp, Laika Griežos (Through the Ages) in mimeograph purple.

“Most Latvian soldiers in Germany were at first kept in British prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. In the fall of 1945 most of them were transferred to a POW camp 2227 at Zedelghem in Belgium. They had naively expected the Western Allies to understand the reasons why they had fought on the side of the Germans. Instead of understanding, they at first received beatings, and occasionally they were used for live target practice by the guards. They were released during 1946 when the Western Allies concurred that the Latvians were not Nazis despite their SS uniforms.”

Visvaldis Mangulis in Latvia in the Wars of the 20th Century

Zedelgem is a microcosm of the Latvian experience in World War II.

Latvians only seeking to free their homeland after multiple invasions labelled and treated as Nazis, their self-help organization, Daugavas Vanagi being denounced by the Soviets as a Nazi front—charges of Nazism that still echo today.

The story of how Zedelgem came to be is the story of the Baltics of World War II. The town of Zedelgem is now working to save and preserve for posterity the last remaining bits of POW camp 2227 so that the story of what happened there can be told for generations to come. A story which above all else eloquently tells of the Latvian spirit and will to survive.

The project to preserve Zedelgem consists of several efforts. First is preservation of this, and other camps in the area, an effort supported by the town council. There is also an initiative to recognize the Flemish soldiers who also fought communism on the Eastern front—of course, this is more problematic, as Russia still officially denounces anyone who is anti-Soviet in WWII as a Nazi. Finally, there is a private initiative to publish a history of the the camp, the town, the events, and the history surrounding them. Together, these will be a lasting memorial to to both Flemish and Latvian soldiers who died at the Eastern Front.

We have been privileged to have been contacted to assist with this project in translating materials. We have been given permission to reproduce those here and will add them as work progresses.

POW camps in and around Zedelgem

Camp 2227, which was generally used for Baltic soldiers, was not the only camp in the area. Camp 2226 was used for Germans; other Zedelgem camps were used for other nationalities or for segregating POWs by military rank. Following is page from an inventory of POW camps which includes Zedelgem—the POW population across all camps totaled 63,459, including more than 16,000 in Camp 2227.

21 Army Group was under Field. Marshall Montgomery commanding.

We have resurrected the "official" Zedelgem POW camp web site www.zedelgem-pow-camp.be with new content. Unfortunately its original content was lost; it has only been partially captured at archive.org (in Dutch, Google translate works reasonably well).

...Timeline...These Names AccuseThese Names Accuse—Nominal List of Latvians Deported to Soviet Russia in 1940-41, second edition with supplementary list. Latvian National Foundation, Stockholm. 1982. (1942) History leading up to and including the Soviet invasion of the Baltics, the first Soviet occupation, and the first mass deportations of 1941. The originally compiled list of names was published in Riga in 1942. Documents, photographs, list of names (in progress). A Shepherd DiedViens Gans Nomira (A Shepherd Died). Margarita Kovaļevska, illustrator. 1942. A miniature booklet of a folk song, published by Tautas Palīdzība (Peoples' Aid) in war-time Latvia and given out for donations to help the orphaned and widowed, illustrated by a popular Latvian pre-war and diaspora artist—and who dated Peters' father while they studied together at the Academy of Art. Behind the Polish-Soviet BreakBehind the Polish-Soviet Break, Alter Brody, introduced by Corliss Lamont. Soviet Russia Today, New York. 1943. After the Poles rightfully blamed the Katyn massacre on the Soviets, the USSR denounced (per Molotov's letter, included) the accusation as a "Hitlerite slanderous fake." Within two weeks the USSR severed relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile. Beyond alleging Polish lies, Alter Brody's monograph goes on to characterize the Polish people as an ungrateful scourge upon history—portending the post-WWII portrayal of anti-Soviet Eastern European nationalists as fascists. Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943. Latvian Legation, Washington, DC. 1944. The Latvian diplomatic corps reports on Latvia's third year under Nazi occupation, recounting still-fresh events. What Latvian Wishes From This War?What Latvian Wishes From This War? Alfreds Bīlmanis. Latvian Legation, Washington DC. 1944. As head of the Latvian Foreign Ministry's press division, Alfreds Bīlmanis (1887-1948) actively promoted independent Latvia's interests abroad. His war-time monograph, subtitled: "Background, Current Situation, Hopes for the Future"—written while there was still hope for Latvia's post-war freedom—dispels still-prevalent misunderstandings regarding the historical inter-relationships of the Baltics, Europe, and Russia. Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Latvians whose only "crime" was to fight to free their homeland after multiple invasions are called Nazis and shot as target practice. Today, official Russia and others invested in the "Latvians are Nazis" meme keep the lie alive. Skalbe's Collected WorksSkalbe — Kopoti Raksti (Collected Works), Pirmais Sējums (Volume One), Kārlis Skalbe. Auseklis, Stuttgart. 1947. Authorized by UNRRA. Excerpted and translated poetry. Exiles' Calendar 1947Latviesu Trimdinieka Kalendars 1947 (The Latvian Exile's Calendar 1947). Complete facsimile (Latvian) and poetry translations; published in the D.P. camps, 1947 Fischbach Song FestivalDziesmu Diena Fišbachā (Fischbach Song Festival), Kārlis Puriņš. Viktors Puriņš. 1948. Latvians in the Displaced Persons camps of Fischbach and Märzfeld in Nuremberg and environs gather to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the First Latvian Song Festival. Album of 24 pictures, with foreword by composer and Fischbach DP camp elder Jēkabs Poruks. European Unification and LatviaEiropas apvienošanās kustība un mēs (The European unification movement and us), Modris Gulbis, 1948. The necessity of a European Union to the welfare of the European continent and to Latvia Anna Dārziņa Post Card SetLatvian folk costumes, Anna Dāŗziņa. Esslingen DP Camp, Jānis Liepiņš, ca. 1949. Artist Anna Dāŗziņa's illustrations of Latvian folk costumes. Set of 18 postcards.

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