Meza Kaki – SS-Jagdverbände Ostland

15th Latvian SS division, 32nd company, 2nd batallion in parade in Riga.

Latvian independence, General der Waffen-SS und Polizei Friedrich Jeckeln,  Commander of SS and Police in Courland, promised that after the war Latvia would indeed regain its statehood. Nothing concrete came of these negotiations and over the next few days Jeckeln met with the obstinate Kurelian (named after General Jānis Kurelis group (the so-called “kurelieši”)) leaders several more times with nothing to show for his troubles. Having run out of patience, early on November 14 Jeckeln ordered German security forces to surround the main Kurelian camp. They disarmed and arrested nearly 600o men, including Upelnieks and Kurelis. On November 19 a military court in Liepaja tried a number of the captive Kurelian officers and sentenced Upelnieks and six others to death, a sentence carried out the following day. Jeckeln spared the aged Kurelis, since for many Latvians he had become a national symbol, and shipped him to Danzig instead. He then dispersed the rest of the Kurelians, except for 454 deserters whom he deported to Stutthof KZ. Eventually as many as 750 Kurelians were sent to Germany, of which thirty-four of the most incorrigible remained in Stutthof and most of the rest were assigned to the 15th Division, which at that time was regrouping in West Prussia.

Not all Kurelians surrendered without a fight. A battalion of some 400 men under Lt. Roberts Rubenis resisted the Germans, and a firefight erupted, continuing intermittently for several days, peaking on November 18-19. Many Kurelians fell, including Lt. Rubenis. The fleeing survivors skirmished with the pursuing Germans until December 9, when they finally scattered and melted into the woods. Some continued to resist as nationalist guerillas, another seventy to ninety joined the communist underground. In this engagement the Germans killed some 160 Kurelians, but they had also suffered casualties of their own. The clash between the Rubenis band and German security forces was the only significant instance of armed anti-German resistance by noncommunist Latvians One should add that it came unintentionally, a spontaneous response to German attempts to disarm and liquidate the unit, not as a planned uprising initiated by the Kurelians. It was this single, accidental incident that earned for the Kurelians inclusion in the annals of the Latvian anti-German resistance

Realizing the failure of the Kurelians to become a viable anticommunist partisan band, as early as October 1944 Jeckeln organized another group for that purpose, the SS-Jagdverbände Ostland (the Hunting Commandos), popularly known as the Meza Kaki, or the (Wildkatze) Wildcats . Trained and organized in the Reich under the watchful eye of Otto Skorzeny, the legendary SS commando officer whose daring raid rescued Mussolini from imprisonment, the Wildcats, unlike the Kurelians, remained under strict SD control. With many Baltic Germans serving alongside select Latvians, the Wildcats functioned as a counterinsurgency and intelligence- gathering band. Incredibly the first group of 150 Latvian recruits left for Wildcat training in the Reich on November 16, aboard the same ship that transported the hapless, captive Kurelians to incarceration at Stutthof Kz. The Wildcats launched operations in late 1944 and continued their anti-Soviet resistance into 1945 and even after the German capitulation in May. Just as some former Kurelians fought for the pro-Soviet under- ground, other Kurelians eventually came out of hiding and joined the Wildcats. Since the Wildcats clearly were a German fabrication, by no stretch of the imagination can they be regarded as part of the anti-German resistance. After the war some of them persisted with their anti-Soviet activities as part of the nationalist partisan movement known as the Meza Brali, the Forest Brothers.

The restoration of Latvian sovereignty was one of the constant points of interest for the Latvian operative staff of the Jagdverband Ostland (including the Wildkatze). The members of the staff positioned themselves as freedom fighters who are fighting for independence along with the armed forces of the Nazi Germany and that the leadership of the Latvian operative staff of the SS-Jagdverband should be the core of the restored Latvian state, meaning that the members of the operative staff were to take leading positions in the restored Latvian state. The Latvian National Committee (henceforth — LNK) was created by the representatives of the Latvian refugees, non-governmental organizations, soldiers at the front lines and representatives of Latvians in Germany with the backing of the Reichsfuehrer H. Himmler in Potsdam on February 20, 1945. The LNK became an operative interest for the Latvian operative staff of the SS-Jagdverband even before its official creation. The Wildkatze not only followed the creation of the LNK very closely, but also paid attention to the leading personnel, the selection criteria for the leadership of the LNK as well as its actions in Kurzeme. Special emphasis was put in monitoring the disposition of the residents and their attitude towards the newly created organization. The Wildkatze also made a thorough analysis of the LNK and included the information in their monthly intelligence reports. The disposition of local residents to the LNK was a major issue and usually made up to 40-50% of the intelligence reports. One can assume that the interest in the activities of the LNK was of interest for the Wildkatze was because the restoration of Latvian independence was perceived as the basis of their existence and the LNK was one of the ways to this goal and it was also a rival. The analysis of the LNK activities made by the Information unit of the Wildkatze, based on thorough analysis of the political situation and the disposition of local population reveals the weak points of the LNK — the pro-German character of the organization and the lack of support from the local populace. The Latvians residing in Kurzeme region were skeptical and negative towards the LNK. Most of the population of Kurzeme did not believe the LNK and are very cautious in their judgments (the main reason was their general lack of confidence in Germans and the LNK was a pro-German organization). The conclusion of the Wildkatze was that the LNK has come too late and that the Germans had already ransacked Kurzeme and scattered the population. The LNK is just a pawn in the international game started by the Germans and would be used by the Germans exploit the last reserves of strength of Latvian nation. One can conclude that the materials created by the analysts of the SS-Jagdverband are no different than the modern opinion on the lack of popularity of the LNK and are fairly objective historical sources. One must also note the courage it took for the Wildkatze to criticize the LNK project and to point at the imminent defeat of the Nazi Germany for the reports were sent to the highest leadership of the SS-Jagdverband and it was a well known fact that the penalty for popularization of defeatist ideology was death.

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