"The Arajs Kommando: A Case Study of Eastern European Holocaust Perpetrators"
Richards Plavnieks is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying under the supervision of Professor Christopher Browning. He received an M.A. in history (2008) at the same institution and a B.A. in history (2004) at Stetson University in Florida. For his Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellowship, Mr. Plavnieks conducted the concluding phase of research for his dissertation, “The Arajs Kommando: A Case Study of Eastern European Holocaust Perpetrators.”
Mr. Plavnieks is the recipient of numerous honors and fellowships, including a Holocaust Claims Conference Academic Fellowship for Advanced Shoah Studies, a Short-Term Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD) Stipend, two Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship Grants, and a Student Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Grant. Mr. Plavnieks has been a teaching assistant in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, editorial assistant for the Department of Social Studies of Harcourt School Publishers, a research assistant and teaching apprentice for the Department of History at Stetson University, an investigator for the Stetson University Honor System Council, and an intern with the Collections Department of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Florida. Mr. Plavnieks has already presented preliminary findings from his dissertation at Yad Vashem in Israel. Together with his native English, he has language skills in German, Russian, and Latvian.
During his tenure at the Center, Mr. Plavnieks researched the significance of the Latvian Auxiliary Security Police – the so-called “Arajs Kommando,” an all-Latvian volunteer Holocaust perpetrator unit. His research did not only focus on the various factors that contributed to the actions and motivations of its members, but also on the greater significance of their participation in the Holocaust, the extent of which may have directly encouraged the Nazis to recruit ever-larger cadres of Eastern European paramilitaries in the service of their genocidal aims. Several of the Museum’s archival collections were essential to Mr. Plavnieks’ research, including KGB Archives of War-Crimes Trials, East German War Crimes Trials, and materials from the Latvian State Historical Archives.
Mr. Plavnieks was in residence at the Mandel Center from October 1, 2010 to April 30, 2011.