Numerous arrests made at Legionnaires Day events

  • 2010-03-16
  • TBT Staff

Marchers gather every year to commemorate the soldiers of the Latvian Legion.

RIGA - Police have been forced to detain several people at this year's Legionnaires Day parade as marchers and protesters hurled insults at one another. No violence has been reported.

Legionnaires Day, which takes place every March 16, commemorates the Latvian Legionnaires -- a group of Latvian soldiers that fought on the side of Nazi Germany in WWII against the Soviet Union. More than 1,000 people took part in the procession this year.

The day sparks great controversy every year as former soldiers and their supporters march to the freedom monument to lay flowers. Protesters organize an annual event as well in opposition to the event.

Though all events were initially banned by the city council this year, they were given the go-ahead following an appeal.

Two people were detained while shouting anti-semetic slogans outside the Dome Church in the morning. Several more people were detained as the event came to its climax near the freedom monument.

A few dozen protesters were in attendence, wielding signs reading "Stop the legionnaires' march!" and "What are you proud of, gentlemen?" Another demanded the resignation of parliament.

A total of 140,000 people were called up to form the Latvian Legion and about 50,000 of them died in the war or deportations following the restoration of Soviet rule in Latvia.

In 1950 Washington published a declaration about Baltic SS legions having being special units to be distinguished from other German SS troops and not regarded as movements harmful to the United States government.

The Germans needed additional manpower to hold back the Soviets and began conscripting young Latvians into two special Latvian divisions of Waffen-SS units. The Germans had created such combat units in Estonia, Finland and many other occupied countries, and despite the “SS” designation, they had nothing to do with the Gestapo.