Culture and Life
by Rob Gowland
A couple of weeks ago, the Sydney Morning Herald's "Column 8" reported that a statue of a crocodile had been unveiled in Latvia in honour of one Arvids von Blumenfelds, a Latvian emigrant to Australia who had apparently distinguished himself as a crocodile shooter. A day or so later the paper announced that Blumenfelds was probably a "colourful" Coober Pedy identity named Harry von Blumantels. A retired croc shooter he was known locally as "Crocodile Harry". Was he, the paper wondered, the model for Crocodile Dundee? To show just how colourful he was, "Column 8" quoted from a 1975 book Ghosts of the Big Country, in which the author, Keith Willey, recounts meeting this "Crocodile Harry" at Borroloola in 1966. Willey describes Blumantels as "a Latvian who had fought with the Germans against Russia during the Second World War". (You'll notice how they always say that such people fought "with the Germans" not "with the Nazis" and that they fought "against Russia" (or "against the advancing Russians") — they never say the person fought "against the Allies". But in WW2, that's exactly what he was doing, fighting with the Nazis in support of their efforts to enslave us all, including the Latvians.) "Column 8" did note that Blumantels was a "town character" in Coober Pedy, the sort of outrageous character who "is said to have caused uproar at an Anzac Day march by singing in German and goose stepping". This "town character" has been accused before of being a war criminal, and why not? Those Latvians who collaborated with the Nazi invaders were not conscripted: they volunteered their services to help the conquering "master race" who were bombing their towns, burning their villages and massacring their fellow citizens. Pro-Nazi collaborators from the Baltic States (like Latvia) were commonly used in the punitive detachments that meted out "punishment" to districts where partisans were harassing the Germans. They were used for this work because their combination of class hatred for "Reds" and racist hatred for Slavs and Jews made them particularly cruel, ruthless and vicious. For similar reasons they were also frequently used as guards in the numerous concentration camps set up across Germany and Eastern Europe (and the conquered parts of the Soviet Union). Here too they earned a reputation for extreme brutality and cruelty. Latvian traitors were prominent in the Nazi units that tried to crush the resistance in Byelorussia by destroying utterly tens of thousands of villages and burning their inhabitants alive. But even if our Harry was merely a regular soldier in the service of the Fuhrer, he would have been fighting for the enslavement — for generations to come — of not only the Baltic people and the people of the Soviet Union, but the people of the whole world. He would have been fighting" against" the Allies and "for" Fascism, "against" democracy (bourgeois or socialist, depending on which of the Allies you were in at the time) and "for" a bestial dictatorship. In the Soviet Union, when not involved in slaughtering recalcitrant civilians, he would have been engaged in deliberately destroying the infrastructure, the economy and the culture of the Soviet people: their factories, transport system, raw materials, livestock, food stocks, dams, power stations, government structures and records, theatres, art galleries, libraries, schools, and much, much more. The aim was to loot the country of all its wealth and then to obliterate it as a nation, replacing its population, as they were taken away for slave labour, with new Aryan settlers from Germany. The Nuremberg Tribunal correctly branded this genocidal policy of deliberate destruction a war crime. Von Blumantels would presumably have had few qualms about waging war against the Reds on behalf of the most reactionary elements of the ruling class, on behalf of fascism. He came from the landed gentry — note the "Von" — and his parents had probably been frightened out of their wits by the near-success of the Revolution in Latvia in 1917-1920. Only British and German intervention had saved them from the "horrors" of socialism then. Now Hitler and the German Nazis were going to save them from it once and for all. Or so they must have thought. Of course, in the upshot the people of the Soviet Union, including the people of Latvia, at incredible cost in human lives and suffering, trounced Hitler's forces and went on to storm Berlin, the very centre of German imperialism. Terrified collaborators, desperately trying to pass themselves off as refugees from the fighting, mingling with the genuine victims of Nazi invasion and enslavement, soon found that while their own countrymen would have liked to string them up by their balls for their innumerable, inhuman crimes, there were those in the West who were just as keen to help them to escape retribution. A Papal network aided numerous Nazis and Nazi collaborators to escape to safety in the Americas, Australia or South Africa. Arthur Calwell, Catholic Minister for Immigration in the Chifley Labor Government, established an immigration procedure that saw military activity against Australia's erstwhile ally the Soviet Union as evidence of a migrant's suitability to enter Australia. Such an overtly anti-Communist policy was not altered by Chifley's successor in government, the pro-Nazi, extreme anti-Communist Robert Menzies and his Liberal Party. So now we end up in a situation where Nazi collaborators, who betrayed their country to the butchers who would enslave it, are described as "town characters"! I would have thought "pond scum" more accurate.