March 26, 2016
Latvian lawmakers to participate in annual SS march through capital
by Sam Sokol

Around sixty seven out of seventy thousand Latvian Jews died in the holocaust, he said.

Sympathizers rally at the Freedom Monument in Riga to commemorate the Latvian Legion of the Nazi Waffen-SS, March 2015. (photo credit:ILIYA PITALEV / RIA NOVOSTI / AFP)

Latvian SS veterans and their supporters, including several members of parliament, are set to march in the capital Riga next Wednesday in an event that has become an annual tradition.

At least several members of the All for Latvia party will march in the event, which marks the unofficial holiday of Latvian Legion Day, which honors those who fought in the German-organized, anti-Soviet Latvian SS Legion -a component of the Waffen SS- according to reports by the Baltic Course and TASS news agency. A countermarch is also expected to be held.

“Wednesday’s march of SS veterans is another example of the systematic efforts of post-Communist eastern European countries to rewrite the narrative of the World War Two and the Holocaust,” argued Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter and the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office.
“It is incomprehensible how people who fought for the victory of Nazi Germany, the most genocidal regime in human history, can be honored in a country which is a member in good standing of both the European Union and Nato,” he continued, asserting that reports of parliamentarians participating only added to the “outrage.”

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center has monitored and protested against these marches for several years and will continue to do so as long as [people] attempt to portray those who fought alongside the forces of Nazi Germany as freedom fighters who supposedly paved the way for Latvian independence.”

He explained that while the unit in question did not participate in Holocaust crimes, many of its members played an “active role” in the liquidation of their country’s Jewish population -as well of Jews from other countries deported to Latvia- prior to enlisting.

Around sixty seven out of seventy thousand Latvian Jews died in the holocaust, he said.

According to the Baltic Course news website, many Latvians were forced into service in the Legion and “saw the German army as a lesser of two evils.”

“For many of these soldiers, the choice to join the Latvian SS Legion was a result of the brutal Soviet occupation between 1940 and 1941, during which tens of thousands of Latvians were executed or deported to Siberia. Many soldiers naively believed that, if they helped Germany win the war, Latvia might be rewarded with independence or autonomy,” the site asserted.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Lithuanian ultra-nationalists are slated to march in Vilnius less than a month after a similar parade in the city of Kaunas in which participants screamed slogans in honor of Holocaust collaborators.

“There were the usual nationalistic slogans and they announced that they are honoring the heroes of Lithuania who are being discredited by the enemies” of their country, Zuroff, who attended that event, said in a phone call from Kaunas at the time. “All of those are people who murdered Jews during the Holocaust.”

The Lithuanian Jewish community recently demanded that their government release a list of Nazi collaborators whose contents it has thus far declined to disclose.

Many former Soviet countries, especially in the Baltics, subscribe to what is known as the double genocide theory, in which Nazi and communist crimes are equated and said to be of a similar nature.

Ukraine, which last year passed a law honoring members of a militant nationalist organization which participated in the Holocaust, came under fire in early 2016 after announcing a contest to revamp the Babi Yar massacre site in Kiev in a way that would turn it into a generic symbol of human suffering rather than a quintessential emblem of the Holocaust. The Ukrainians subsequently backtracked.