March 16 memorial day plans fought in court

  • 2014-03-14
  • From wire reports, RIGA

The Administrative District Court in Riga on Thursday, March 13 partly overturned Riga City Council's decision to ban persons participating in the March 16 events at the Freedom Monument from using loudspeakers, reports LETA. The court permitted the "Association against Nazism" to use loudspeakers during its rally from 11 11:30 a.m.

The association's representative, Vladimirs Buzajevs, said that the restrictions regarding the use of loudspeakers were disproportionate as the "Association against Nazism" had already agreed to change the venue for its protest. Therefore, no physical altercations would be possible between the persons participating in events commemorating the Latvian Legion and protesters, he said.

The Limbazi branch of the "Daugavas Vanagi Latvija" association will organize a procession following the service in Riga Cathedral on March 16, when about a hundred people will slowly walk through the Old Town to place flowers at the foot of the Freedom Monument in memory of the Latvian Legionnaires. The event will continue from 11 1 p.m. The "Gustavs Celmins Center," which originally wanted to hold a separate event at the "Laima" monument near the Old Town, has decided not to and instead will join the "Daugavas Vanagi" procession.

However, Valerijs Oscenkovs, in holding to an old and tired version of Russian propoganda, will organize a protest against what he claims is the "glorification of Waffen SS veterans in Latvia" at Dome Square from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Finally, the association "Paspelesimies" will organize a number of various events in the vicinity of the Freedom Monument that will run from 6 1 p.m.with the goal of informing the public about the battles fought by the Latvian Legionnaires. Although the events will cover a significant area, they will involve about ten people in total.

Oscenkovs is ignorant of history. The March 16 Latvian Legion Day is the day of remembrance of Latvian Legionnaires. Latvian Legion Day was established in exile by "Daugavas Vanagi." March 16 was chosen as the most appropriate date because on March 16, 1944 both divisions of the Latvian Legion fought alongside for the first time against the Red Army. It was the only battle in World War II led solely by Latvian commanders.

Many Latvians, who were forcibly called up to join the Latvian SS Legion, saw the German army as a lesser of two evils -  evils represented by the totalitarian regimes of the Soviets on one side, and Nazi forces on the other. The Baltic States were caught in the middle of the war, one started by Soviet Russia itself, colluding together with Nazi Germany.

For many of the Latvian 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.

Latvian Legion Day is an unofficial holiday.