NATO has produced and published a miniature, 8-minute documentary on “Forest Brothers”. As you can imagine this caused quite the Twitterstorm as numerous accounts—from disgusted Russians, but also anti-militarist Americans—rushed to point out NATO was valorizing Nazi collaborators. Keep in mind NATO has lengthy history appointing Nazi Generals in charge of the western alliance: General Hans Speidel, Admiral Friedrich Guggenberger, Hennig Strumpell… General Reinhard Gehlen who headed Hitler’s Anti Orthodox-Christian Desk founded the CIA!
Now the Forest Brothers, the anti-Soviet nationalist guerillas in the Baltics in the wake of WWII, are a complex phenomena. Firstly Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were a fertile recruiting ground for the German auxiliary police the Schutzmannschaft, or Schuma. Its members served as executioners in mass Nazi-orchestrated massacres in the east. The membership of the Forest Broterhood was sprinkled with these perpetrators of the Holocaust, and of anti-partisan reprisals who after the Nazi defeat at Soviet hands had nowhere else to go.
Additionally, the leaders of Lithuanian nationalist resistance had largely steered clear of collaboration with the Nazis (Lithuania had its own beef with the Germans over Memel), and Forest Brothers in Lithuania were largely composed of fighters who had sat out WWII. That was not the case in Estonia and Latvia. Here the nationalist movement collaborated extensively with Nazi Germany and as a result most of the Forest Brothers were former members of the Latvian and Estonian Wafffen SS legions.
Technically the bulk of Latvian and Estonian Waffen SS veterans were conscripted rather than volunteered for collaboration with the Nazis, but there is a caveat in that Germans prescribed conscription because they regarded Latvians and Estonians reliable anti-Soviet fighters with high morale. Indeed, numerous Latvians are proud to this day that Latvian SS legions held out in the “Courland Pocket” longer than Berlin itself, and fought until the final German capitulation on May 9th.
In sum, while it would be unfair to say every single Forest Brother had been a Nazi collaborator it is true that the Forest Brothers phenomena as a whole, except in Lithuania, came heavily tinted with Nazi collaboration.
Needless to say the NATO video clip does not acknowledge any of these complexities – instead it opts to valorize Latvian Forest Brothers as valiant fighters “against the occupying Soviet forces”.
The lack of context in praising former Waffen SS legionaries is perhaps understandable given NATO’s other pastime on Twitter: signaling support for the LGBTQ community.
Just two months ago NATO Deputy Secretary Rose Gottemoeller marked the “International Day Against Homophobia” at the NATO headquarters with a custom-made NATO/LGBT flag.
You didn’t think it was possible to back gays and ex-Nazi collaborators at the same time? Clearly you don’t know NATO.