United States. Congress. House. Select committee o.

Baltic States investigation. [First interim report] (Volume pt. 1) online

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Numerous facts of that time show that the then rulers of Latvia, Lithuania,
and Estonia tried to destroy these treaties, which aroused great dissatisfaction
with such politics among the masses of these Republics and caused these circles
to lose the confidence of their own people. This was clearly shown in the
democi-atic elections to the Latvian and Lithuanian Diet and to the Estonian
Parliament in .July 1940. Those who, on the basis of universal, equal, direct,
and secret suffrage were elected to the Latvian and Lithuanian Diets and the
Estonian Parliament, expressed their unanimous opinion on basic political
questions. An the peoples of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania expressed their
sovereign will by a unanimous opinion in favor of setting up the Soviet form
of government in these Republics, and for the inclusion of Lithuania, Latvia,
and Estonia in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The representatives of the United States of America, of England, and of some
other delegations, deliberately kept silent about it, in the same way as they
kept silent about another very important fact — that as far back as September
and October 1939, the Soviet Union had signed mutual aid pacts with Estonia,
Latvia, and Lithuania. These pacts provided for obligations under which the



56 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Soviet Union and the aforementioned Republics equally pledged themselves to
give each other every possible assistance, including military aid, in case of a
direct attack or danger of a direct attack by any great European power ; they
pledged themselves to protect the state boundaries ot these Republics and the
sovereignty and inviolability of these states. In their speeches the geatlemeu
of the Anglo-American camp have tried to ignore or to hide these facts ; tliey
thus juggled with facts and events, making an attempt to present the ease in
such a way as to show that allegedly the national rights and interests of
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were violated ; while actually these pacts and
fulfillment by the Soviet Union of the obligations deriving from them pre-
vented the transformation of these countries into a colony of Hitler Germany,
with no rights of its own.

The gentlemen of the Anglo-American bloc have likewise concealed everything
that has happened within the last 12 years and which is the result of the just
national policy based upon the principles of Lenin and Stalin. The consistent
application of this noble policy explains those wonderful achievements which
became characteristic of the Soviet Baltic Republics after they had established
a Soviet regime.

We were asked here what happened since the year 1933 to the Baltic Republics.
It is easy to reply to this question. If one compares — said the Vice Chairman
of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union, Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria, at
the 19th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party — if one compares the
Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian Republics with Norway, Holland, and Bel-
gium, one will see that in the Soviet Republics the tempo of the industrial
growth is incomparably quicker than in the aforementioned capitalist countries
of Europe. From the beginning of 1952, the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
surpassed the prewar level of industrial production by 2.4 times, the Latvian
Republic by 3.6, the Estonian by 4.1, while Norway, Holland, and Belgium by
that time surpassed the prewar level of industrial production only by a very
small margin, even though the economy of the Soviet Republics had suffered
considerably greater losses as a result of the war.

That is the end of this particular record.

Mr. IvjERSTEN. In this speech reference is made, is it not, to the
Soviet-claimed free and democratic elections in these Baltic nations,
resulting in the sovietization of the three Baltic nations? That is
one point Vishinsky makes in his speech, isn't it ?

Mr. LiELNORS. Yes, sir.

Mr. Kersten. Another point is that Vishinsky at that time com-
pared the Baltic nations with Norway, Holland, and Belgimn, and
used as his authority to prove that these Baltic nations had increased
their economy and became better, his authority was none other than
Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria ; that is true, is it not?

Mr. LiELNORS. That is correct.

Mr. Kersten. And he has since fled the Soviet regime?

Mr. LiELNORS. That is right.

Mr. Kersten. He was purged, rather?

Mr. LiELNORS. That is right.

Mr. Kersten. That is all, Mr. Lielnors.

Mr. LiELNORS. Thank you.

Mr. McTiGUE. Our next witness will be Mr. Alfreds Berzins.

Mr. Kersten. Mr. Berzins, raise your right hand, please.

You do solemnly swear that you will tell the whole truth, and noth-
ing but the truth, so help you God ?



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 57

TESTIMONY OP ALFREDS BERZINS, LATVIAN MINISTER OF
PUBLIC AFFAIRS FROM 1934 TO 1940

Mr. Berzins. I do.

Mr. McTiGUE. Will you identify yourself, please, Mr. Berzins?

Mr. Berzins. Yes. My name is Alfreds Berzins. I was born in
Latvia, October 31, 1899. I was an officer in the liberation group. I
was elected to the Latvian Parliament from 1934 to the Communist oc-
cupation of June 17. I was Minister in Latvia for Public and Social
Affairs.

Mr. Kersten. Are you hard of hearing, Mr, Berzins ? Do you have
some difficulty with your hearing?

Mr. Berzins. I have a little difficulty with my left ear.

Mr. Kersten. Hovv' did that happen?

Mr. Berzins. It was bitten in the German concentration camp by
Nazis.

Mr. Kersten. You spent some time in a Nazi concentration camp ?

]Mr, Berzins. I spent 34 months in Sachsenhausen concentration
camp.

Mr. INIcTiGUE. What position did you occupy in the last legitimatp
Latvian Cabinet ?

Mr. Berzins. I was Minister for Public and Social Affairs.

Mr. McTiGUE. How long did you occupy that position ?

Mr. Berzins. From 1934 to the time the Communists came in in
Latvia, in 1940.

Mr. McTiGUE, W^ere you in Latvia at the time the ultimatum was
issued by the Soviet to the Latvian Cabinet ?

Mr, Berzins. Yes, I was.

Mr. McTigue. Will you tell us something about that, please ?

Mr. Berzins. This I can tell you.

You listened to the speech of Mr. Vishinsky's which was made in
the United Nations. Vishinsky told to all the world that the Latvian
people were willing to go into the Soviet Union. I can answer, here,
that it is lies, that the nation was never willing to go freely into the
Soviet Union as one subjugated people.

The Latvian people have fought for liberation over 100 years. Our
freedom was achieved with blood, in wars. Mr. Vishinslry lies.
We can qualify Vishinsky as the greatest murderer of the Latvian
nation.

The truth is otherwise. On the 3d of October, the Latvians were
pressed to sign a mutual assistance pact in Latvia. After this mutual
assistance pact, the Russians had about 20,000 Red army and navy
personnel in Latvian territory.

This was proposed to our Foreign Minister by Stalin, himself : That
the mutual assistance pact means nothing, that Latvia could give some
part of her independence.

After 8 months, the Soviet Union accused Latvia, and Molotov
handed an ultimatum to our Minister or our Ambassador in Moscow.
The history of this ultimatum w^as such that from the 9th to the 15th
of June, the Red army attacked our border guards, on our east
border. They killed two border guards, one woman, and one child.
Other peoi:)le were kidnaped and brought over the border to the Soviet
Union.



58 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

On the 16th of June 1940, we held our festival in the east of Latvia.
a song festival.

Mr. McTiGUE. That song festival is a great national event in
Latvia ; is it not ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes.

Mr. McTiGUE. It is a gathering where approximately 100,000 people
assembled for the singing of songs ? It is a national holiday ?

Mr. Berzins. That is correct. It was a national holiday.

Mr. McTiGUE. This was on the 16th day of June, and you were
there?

Mr. Berzins. Yes. It was a song festival held each year. The
fifth year had the same festival, and then they had one this year.

Mr. McTiGUE. You were there instead of the President ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes. The President liked to go for openings of the
song festival, but after the action of the Red army of our border
guards, he could not leave Riga, and he sent me to replace him in this
song- festival opening.

I went there the 15th of June, 1 day before the opening of the song
festival. I was in telephone connection with Riga, at the residence
of our President of State.

At the 15th of June, in the night, from the 15th to the 16th, it was a
quiet day.

I might go a little back, before I left Riga, we had information that
the Lithuanian President of State had left Lithuania and was going
in exile. I met President Ulmanis for the last time and I begged him
too, to go out of the country and save his life from Communists, be-
cause it was clear that when the 15th came, the Red army occupied
Lithuania and that the same w^ould happen to Latvia and Estonia, too.
It came true.

Ulmanis refused to leave the country, and the answer was that I
was with my people all the days, the happy and unhappy days. He
said he would not leave his people in the most dangerous hour which
would come.

Mr. Kersten. You, a few moments ago, stated that with regard to
this recorded speech of Vishinsky, that Vishinsky participated in the
murder of freedom in Latvia.

Mr. Berzins. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. Do you know as a matter of fact whether or not
Vishinsky personally was involved in the takeover of Latvia ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. And you were going to tell us about it.

Mr. Berzins. That is right ; I will tell about it.

Mr. Kersten. Go right ahead. Pardon the interruption.

Mr. Berzins. Come the 16th of June, I was in Daugavpils, and be-
fore noon there was no news from Moscow and there were some dan-
gerous events. There was one moment, approximately about 12
o'clock, that when it was proposed that our President come to Daug-
avpils at 12 o'clock, as the President told me later in a telephone
speech. The Foreign Ministry received a telegram from Moscow,
from our Ambassador. In this telegram it was said that in short time
to follow would be one very important telegram. This telegram came
at 2 o'clock, June 16, 1940. It was the Soviet Russia ultimatum which
was handed from Molotov to our Ambassador in Moscow.



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 59

Shortly before the starting of the song festivals, President Ulmanis
telephoned me once more and told me that this ultimatum was the
same as that of 2 days before in Lithuania, and he said Latvian free-
dom was finished. He told me not to lose my nerve, because in this
song festival were together approximately 100,000 people, and if they
had knowledge that Soviet Russia would occupy Latvia, naturally it
would breed panic in this great mass of people.

At 5 o'clock was the opening of the song festival and I could tell
to these people not all truths. I said that we were living in a very
dangerous time, because war is in the world, and we don't know what
can hapi^en tomorrow. It might be tomorrow will be a very bad
scene in Latvia, and that the people, we hoped, would be as patriotic
as they had for the past 20 years in free Latvia.

We opened by singing our national anthem. The people had no
knowledge about the ultimatum, but the feeling was that there would
be coming some very bad days. The people coming to the song festi-
val from our Russian border could tell that close to the border were
stationed very strong Russia Red army units, tanks, guns, motorized
infantry, and so on.

The people did not understand that it was merely some demonstra-
tion, but that in a short time the Red army masses would cross our
east border.

At 6 o'clock on the same day, on the 16th of June 1940, there was a
meeting of the Cabinet members in Riga.
Mr. Kersten. Were you there ?

Mr. Berzins. No, I was not there. I was at this time in Daugavpils,
Mr. Chairman.

In this meeting was adopted the Soviet ultimatum, because we could
not resist with our small forces.

They have regularly, in our army each year, drafted from 13,000 to
15,000 youths for service for 12 months. We have officers in our
regular army and the lowest commissions, 2,500 to 3,000.
Mr. Kersten. How large was Latvia?
Mr. Berzins. About 2,800,000 inhabitants.
Mr. Kersten. Go ahead.

INIr. Berzins. In this small army we have not enough ammunition ;
we have rounds for guns for about 6 or 7 days of fighting. On the 15th
of June the Red Army invaded the country." The Red Army blockaded
our Baltic seaports. The ships we had oii the Baltic Sea were sent by
the Red Navy back to our ports.

So, on the 16th of June we were cut from the whole free world.
Naturally, we could not resist with our very small forces the Soviet
Red Army masses.

On the 17th of June, shortly after 7 o'clock, my train from Daugav-
pils came to Riga. I visited President Ulmanis and reported what
happened in Daugavpils in the song festival.

At 10 o'clock the same day was an emergency meeting of our cabinet
ministers. This meeting was not long. President Ulmanis asked of
all members who were with me in Daugavpils — ^he told about the ulti-
matum once more. All the cabinet members agreed we could not resist
because it would mean to destroy our country and it would mean the
deportation of our soldiers who would be war prisoners in Soviet
hands.



60 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

On the I7th of June, between 1 and 2 o'clock, the first Red Army
troops arrived in Riga. The first troops were coming from Lithu-
ania. The Red Army troops, without our knowledge and without
asking, immediately occupied the Riga radio, telephone, and tele-
graph stations. We were kept from communication with the West in
all ways. We could not use the radio, telegraph, telegrams, and tele-
phone.

It was approximately 2 o'clock on the 17th of June, 1940, when I
went to Soviet Ambassador

Mr. Kersten. Pardon me. You mentioned before that there had
been a meeting of the cabinet, of 11 members?

Mr. Berzins. Yes, there were 11 members in the cabinet.

Mr. Kersten. Were you a member of the cabinet?

Mr. Berzins. I was a member of the cabinet.

Mr, Kersten. What was your position?

Mr. Berzins. I was Minister for Public and Social Aifairs and Act-
ing Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister left our country.

Mr. Kersten. Of those 11 ministers, how many, if you know, are
still alive?

]Mr. Berzins. I am the only one.

Mr. Kersten. You were just telling about a phone call to the Soviet
Ambassador. Tell us about that.

Mr. Berzins. I called the Soviet Ambassador Derevianski and asked
him if we could understand why the Red Army had occupied our com-
munications system.

He excused himself and said there was some bad misunderstanding
and told me that the army is not made up of the politicians and some-
times they go their own way. He said he would clear the question and
after a short time call me back,

Mr, Kersten, This is the Soviet Ambassador telling you this ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes, the Soviet Ambassador,

I did not get called back, but after an hour or so I called Derevianski
a second time and I get the answer the he is very sorry, but we cannot
broadcast anything without music, that the Red Army was still staying
and would not leave our radio.

We started at 3 o'clock with music, and no speeches or other text
could be read.

Shortly after 3 o'clock started a second meeting of our cabinet. At
the same time in the Riga station was a square. On one side was the
police headquarters and on the other side was the Riga railroad station,

Mr. Kersten, You said all information was cut off, except music
over the radio, is that right ?

Mr, Berzins, That is correct,

Mr. Kersten. In other words, had the Communists succeeded in
cutting off all communications in the country at that time?

Mr. Berzins. Yes, outside Latvia.

Mr. Kersten. That was on the outside. On the inside, as I under-
stand it, all you could play over your radio was music ?

Mr. Berzins, Yes, Only in Riga, and the telephone in Riga was not
kept up,

Mr. Kersten, You were telling us about the public square.

Mr. Berzins. We received before information from our secret po-
lice, from the Soviet Ambassador, that there is an organized mob on
this square for the greeting of the Red Army.



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 61

Mr, Kersten. Do you mean the Soviet Embassy in your country was
organizing a mob ?

Mr. Berzins That is correct.

Mr. Kersteist. Tell us about that.

Mr. Berzins. Organizing a mob for the greeting of the Red Army
on this place. It was a Communist-organized mob. Naturally, more
hundreds of people were coming to see what happened, so there was a
crowd at this place. They attacked our policemen with knives and
stones. Some 4 or 5 were wounded. As the police were going to
destroy this mob, the Red Army asked to do it.

Then came a telephone call from the Soviet Ambassador. We were
told we were using force against the people who were coming to greet
the Red Army, and that that is an unfriendly act from our government.

So, from one side the Red Army asked to destroy the mob, and the
Soviet Ambassador protested against this action.

It was from approximately 3 to 7 o'clock, this mob on the square, and
afterward by the police the mob was thrown out from the square and
Riga ; at 7 o'clock, on the 17th of June was all quiet.

The same day I got a telephone call — I had one direct line with
President Ulmanis — I get on this direct line a call, before 11 o'clock,
on the 17th of June, and President Ulmanis told me that Vishinsky
was coming to Riga, tliat he had called him by telephone from the
Soviet Embassy, and shortly after 10 o'clock, he came for a short
visit.

Mr. McTiGUE. Vishinsky was coming to see President Ulmanis ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes; and told the President that he was a special
envoy from the Soviet Government to carry out creation of a new gov-
ernment and other events connected with the Soviet ultimatum.

Mr. Kersten. On what date did Vishinsky come to Latvia ?

Mr. Berzins. It was the 17tli of June. It was at night on the same
day the Red Army came to Latvia.

Mr. Kersten. He went to the President's castle, is that right ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. Proceed.

Mr. Berzins. On the 18th of June, our Foreign Minister wanted
to meet Mr. Vishinsky and called the Soviet Ambassador for a lunch.
Pie got the answer that Vishinsky was sick from making the long trip
and he could not leave the Soviet Embassy.

We received information from the police that at the same time some
Latvians were going and coming at the Soviet Embassy. At this time
Vishinsky and his aid, Vieteroff — Vieteroff was the second Soviet in
Riga.

There was one old Communist in Latvia

Mr. McTigue. He was an official in the NKVD ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes ; he was such an official, but his official title was
secretary in the Soviet Embassy in Riga.

Mr. Kersten. So, operating under the guise of a diplomat, he was
really an NKVD head, to operate and organize the Communist under-
ground in Latvia ; is that correct ?

Mr. Berzins. That is correct.

Mr. Kersten. Using the Embassy as an espionage nest, to help
take over Latvia ?

Mr. Berzins. That is correct.



62 BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION

Mr. Kersten. And during: the time, as I understand it, that Vishin-
sky was there at the embassy, telling your people that he was in-
disposed, there were certain Latvians who were going to the embassy
and seeing somebody in there ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes. Some Latvians were chosen as members of the
people's government. They were called to the Soviet Embassy.

I could mention that Vieteroff is now Soviet Ambassador in Den-
mark.

Mr. Kersten. The same man who helped take over Latvia is now the
Soviet Ambassador in Denmark?

Mr. Berzins. That is right.

Mr. Kersten. He was an NKVD man ?

Mr. Berzins. That is right.

Mr. Kersten. On the 18th of June, nothing else happened?

Mr. Berzins. Nothing else happened. It was quiet in Riga and all
over the country. On the 19th, that was Wednesday, before 11 o'clock
there came to the castle in Riga, to see our President Ulmanis, Vishin-
sky. He brought a list of names which was from Vishinsky, appointed
as ministers in the new Latvian Government.

I might stress the point, Latvia was, as Vishinsky said at this time,
an "independent" country, and Vishinsky, an officer from a foreign
government, had presented a list of Cabinet members in Latvia and
as Vishinsky presented the President with the names, he could not
read the names.

Mr. Kersten. What was Vishinsky's official title in the Soviet Gov-
ernment at that time ; do you know ?

Mr. Berzins. He was Vice President at this time.

Mr. Kersten. In the Soviet Cabinet ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. You were telling about Vishinsky having a list of
names that he had prepared, handing this list to your President.

Mr. Berzins. Yes.

Mr. Kersten. The list of names of the people who should be in the
new Latvian Government ?

Mr. Berzins. That is correct. Ulmanis asked for Vishinsky, could
he possibly make some corrections or suggest other names in this list
of ministers. Vishinsky excused himself and told our President that
it would be impossible because he has an agreement with all these
people from Moscow.

Mr. Kersten. In other words, these were the Moscow-approved
members of the new Latvian Government?

Mr. Berzins. That is correct. It was the answer of Vishinsky that
Moscow had approved all the names of the ministers for the new Cabi-
net, and he did not believe that Moscow would make any changes,
that Ulmanis could not reject any of them.

Mr. Ulmanis told Mr, Vishinsky, "Mr. Vishinsky, I don't under-
stand. Am I from this moment a prisoner of yours and a prisoner
of Moscow, and I must obey what you order me to do?"

It was a great surprise for us all that in this Cabinet were only two
known Communists, the Minister of the Interior, Lacis, and the Chief
of Secret Police, Latkovsky.

Mr. Kersten. Do you know how many names were on this list ?

Mr. Berzins. It was not the full 11.



BALTIC STATES INVESTIGATION 63

There were on this list such names: Prime Minister Kirchensteins ;
Minister of Defense Dambitis; Minister of Interior Lacis; Minister
for Public Affairs Blaus; Minister for Education Lacis; Minister of
Justice Paberzs; Minister of Communications Jagars; and Deputy
Minister of Interior Latkovsky.

There were eight names.

Mr. KJERSTEN. In other words, eight members would be the head
of the new Government ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes. Vishinsky could not get so many traitors in
1 day who wanted to be Ministers in Vishinsky's puppet government.

Mr. Kersten. So the known Communists were the Minister of In-
terior and the head of the Secret Police ?

Mr. Berzins. Yes. They were so-called "fellow travelers" who were
not Communists. There were some intellectuals, some journalists, one
was a professor, some writers, and so on. They were not politicians.

Mr. Kersten. How about the head of the new Government ? Who
was he?

Mr. Berzins. The head of the new Government was Professor
Kirchensteins.

Mr. Kersten. Who was he ? What was his first name ?

Mr. Berzins. August.

Mr. Kersten. Who was he?

Mr. Berzins. He was a professor, and was a known guest of the
Soviet Ambassador.

Mr. Kersten. He was a professor where ?

Mr. Berzins. Biology.

Mr. Kersten. Where?

Mr. Berzins. In Riga, in the Latvian University.

Mr. Kersten. What did you know about his background, this new
Soviet-sponsored head of the new Government?

Mr. Berzins. He was chairman of the Friendship Society between
Latvia and the Soviet Union. It was one organization. The Soviets
liked to organize such an organization as being one place where could
come together intellectuals, and it was in this association they were
educated as Communists.

So he was head of this Friendship Association. He was very often
a guest in the Soviet Embassy.

Myself, in my official capacity, I saw the Soviet Ambassador, too.
I told Kirchensteins that he was feeling himself like in his own home
in the Soviet Embassy. I saw he was going in the kitchen and brought
caviar and champagne, and so on.

It was natural that he was once long before chosen by the Soviet
Embassy, by Vieteroff, as one man who could be serving in this puppet
government.

Mr. Kersten. Had he been a professor at the university for some
time?

Mr. Berzins. Yes. He was a long time a professor in the university.

Mr. EJERSTEN. Go ahead.

Mr. Berzins. On the same day, at 3 o'clock, the 19th of June, was
the last meeting of the Latvian Government. It was a short one. Pres-



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