Wartime Latvia: Viktors Arājs, Hell’s Plowman
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After establishing a brief history of Latvia and its relationship to Germany, Russia, and the Jewish minority in the country, this chapter reconstructs and analyzes the actions of the Arajs Kommando and the historical context both deep and immediate in which they occurred, the collective biography of the unit, and the various hypothetical motives of its members. It aims to help account for their volunteerism in the Nazis’ project to exterminate the Jews even though, as Latvians, they emerged from a culture that was at most only mildly anti-Semitic. Chief among a variety of posited factors is a militant and traumatized anti-Soviet sentiment gained through the first year of the USSR’s occupation of Latvia and misdirected by the Nazis against Jews.