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Alfrēds Riekstiņš (January 30, 1913 - September 11, 1952) was a Latvian Legion soldier, who later collaborated with British Intelligence to fight the Soviet Union.

Alfrēds Riekstiņš was born in Matkule, Tukuma County, Latviamarker.

Occupation and war

On June 17, 1940, the Soviet Unionmarker commenced the occupation of Latvia.

In June 1941, this was followed by Nazi Germany's occupation. In 1942, similar to tens of thousands of Latvian citizens who "volunteered" and were illegally drafted to fight Soviets in Nazi Germany's military for hopes of free Latvia, Alfrēds Riekstiņš enlisted into 24th Talsu Battalion of Self Defense (Schutzmannschaften).

On January 23, 1943, following Hitler's verbal «permission and order» (written order of February 10, 1943) to form Latvian SS Volunteer Legion, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler ordered reformation of 2nd SS Infantry (Motorised) Brigade into Latvian SS Volunteer Brigade. On April 18, 1943, 24th Battalion of Self Defense was withdrawn from the front line in the vicinity of St. Petersburgmarker, Russia and was subsequently renamed the 1st Battalion of 2nd «Imanta» Latvian SS Volunteer Regiment, subordinated to 2nd Latvian SS Volunteer Brigade.

In 1945, Riekstiņš was in Latvia serving with the 19th SS-Fusiliers Battalion of 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS , defending Courland bridgehead, that surrendered only after the capitulation of Germany. He was promoted to Corporal (Waffen-Unterscharführer der SS) on April 22, 1945, and awarded the Knights Cross (Ritterkreuz).

Post-war

After the capitulation of Army Group Courland, on May 9, 1945, Riekstiņš choose not to surrender to Soviets and instead made successful escape by boat to Swedenmarker where he lived in Göteborgmarker. Riekstiņš sought a possibility to return to Latvia to fight for resistance against the Soviet annexation of Latvia and, beginning of the 1950s, was recruited by the British Secret Intelligence Servicemarker.

Having completed training in Germany, Riekstiņš together with two other agents was parachuted into Latvia on August 30, 1952. Betrayed by the Soviet spy ring in Britain ("Cambridge Five"), Riekstiņš found his hiding place surrounded by NKVD soldiers less than two weeks later. Riekstiņš didn't seek surrendering - having used up all of his ammunition, he used his cyanide capsule and committed suicide on September 11, 1952.

September 12, 1992 on the 40th anniversary of his death, a commemorative stone was erected at the place of his death; his final resting place remains unknown to this day though it is probable that his body was dumped in a mass grave.

Miscellaneous

The Latvian Legion's attachment to the SS, unit designations and ranks were considered a formality. Latvian and Estonian soldiers like Alfrēds Riekstiņš and Alfons Rebane, regardless of whether they volunteered or were drafted, were not members of the Nazi party.

In 1949-50, United States Displaced Persons Commission investigated the Estonian and Latvian "SS" and found these military units to be neither criminal nor Nazi collaborators. On 12 September 1950, Harry N. Rosenfield, the United Nations Refugee Relief Association commissioner, wrote to Jūlijs Feldmanis, Latvia's chargé d'affaires in Washington, saying that «the Waffen-SS units of the Baltic States (the Baltic Legions) are to be seen as units that stood apart and were different from the German SS in terms of goals, ideologies, operations and constitution, and the Commission does not, therefore, consider them to be a movement that is hostile to the government of the United States under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act, as amended.»

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