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January 30, 1913|
Matkule, Tukuma County, Russian Empire
|Died||September 11, 1952
|Years of service||1941-1945, 1950-1952|
Alfrēds Riekstiņš (January 30, 1913 - September 11, 1952) was a soldier of the Latvian Legion who later collaborated with British Intelligence to fight the Soviet Union.
Occupation and war
On June 17, 1940, the Soviet Union commenced the occupation of Latvia. This was followed in June 1941 by Nazi Germany's occupation, part of its invasion of the Soviet Union. In 1942, like tens of thousands of Latvian citizens who "volunteered" and were illegally drafted into Germany's military to fight the Soviets, Alfrēds Riekstiņš enlisted in the 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 the Latvian SS Volunteer Legion, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the conversion of the 2nd SS Infantry (Motorised) Brigade into the Latvian SS Volunteer Brigade. On April 18, 1943, the 24th Battalion of Self Defense was withdrawn from the front line in the vicinity of St. Petersburg, Russia, and was subsequently renamed the 1st Battalion of the 2nd "Imanta" Latvian SS Volunteer Regiment, subordinated to the 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 (Latvian 2nd), defending Courland bridgehead, which 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).
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.
After the capitulation of Army Group Courland, on May 9, 1945, Riekstiņš, instead of surrendering to the Soviets, escaped by boat to Sweden, settling in Göteborg. Riekstiņš sought to return to Latvia to fight for the resistance against the Soviet annexation of Latvia and, at the beginning of the 1950s, was recruited by the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
Having completed training in Germany, Riekstiņš and two other agents were parachuted into Latvia on August 30, 1952. Betrayed by the Soviet "Cambridge Five" spy ring in Britain, Riekstiņš found his hiding place surrounded by NKVD soldiers less than two weeks later. Riekstiņš fired all of his ammunition, then committed suicide by swallowing his cyanide capsule on September 11, 1952.
On September 12, 1992, 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.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia: The Volunteer SS Legion in Latvia