Jerusalem – The Simon Wiesenthal Center praised the public criticism by Latvian leaders of the march of extremist Latvian nationalists held today in Riga, but warned that the unprecedented celebration of the Nazi occupation of the city, held today in the middle of the Latvian capital, would have dire consequences unless a legal means were found to prevent such events in the future. In a statement issued here today by its Israel director, Holocaust historian and chief Nazi-hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Center noted the unequivocal denunciation of the march by President Valdis Zatlers, as well as the criticism voiced by Prime Minister Dombrovskis and Foreign Minister Ronis, and urged the Latvian leaders to find legal means to prevent such demonstrations in the future. He emphasized, however, that such events did not occur in a vacuum and that Latvia’s failure since independence to prosecute Nazi war criminals, its attempts to glorify the members of the Latvian SS battalions which fought for a victory of the Nazi Germany, and its reluctance to fully acknowledge the scope and role of local Nazi collaborators in the mass murder of Jews explain why such an unprecedented event was taking place in Latvia.
According to Zuroff:
“Unfortunately, there is far too much local sympathy for Latvians who committed the crimes of the Holocaust as long as they fought against the Soviets. The only way to eradicate this distorted perception of Latvian history is to tell the whole truth about the critical role played by Latvians in the mass murder of Jews and other victims of the Nazis, and to stop trying to create false historical symmetries between Nazism and Communism. Legal measures to stop the glorification of Nazi Germany are important, but the best long-term solution is truth in history education.”