As a rather important date is closing in, March 16, the commemorative day of Legionnaires, I'd like to say something I had to long before. Last year I was not quite satisfied with TBT's reporting on the issue. TBT wrote that Latvian legionnaires of two Waffen SS Volunteer divisions No.15 and 19 "swore allegiance to Fuehrer." It sounded ironic.
What I can say, firstly, they were not at all volunteer units; it was just a name because under an international convention it was prohibited to conscript soldiers from occupied territories. Do you really think that in the heat of war, in January 1943 when the crucial grand battle of Stalingrad took place, when the formation of these units was started, it was possible to choose to go to war or stay at home, especially under occupation power? There were cases when if someone was evasive, close relatives were killed. Under Nazis there were four drafts. Altogether not less than 100,000 men were drafted; surely all of them were not legionnaires. On the opposite side there were not less than 200,000 men from Latvia. Almost every man in Latvia was taken away from home, with no alternative; they were taken either by one army or another. It was compulsory. It was war time, the bloodiest war in human history. No ceremonies, no choices to make[â€¦]
I don't see any reason why the soldiers of one side must be condemned, just because they were on the losing side, on the wrong one? Is it fair? As we know The War Crimes[â€¦]
Every man drafted to do service in the military has to swear an oath. There are no exceptions. I myself had to do my service in the Soviet Army at the beginning of the 1980s. Two years after my first year at the Latvian University. I was obliged by law. Dodging from the army service was punishable under the Penal Code. So I also swore allegiance to the Communist Party and government of the Soviet Union. Do I feel ashamed? Not in the least because at the time I also had communistic ideals as many youngsters raised under totalitarian ideology and I had no choice as well[â€¦]
There is a place neither for glorification nor for aggressive condemnation. The official Latvian position on the issue remains unstable and confused. To my mind, it's because of the brainwashing of the Soviet years. The legionnaires simply are double victims. At first they suffered from Nazi compulsion and afterwards they became victims to the Soviet version of history.