Several hundreds of people remember Latvian Legionnaires by Freedom Monument in Riga

  • 2023-03-16
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Today, several hundreds of people in a procession and by laying flowers by the Freedom Monument in Riga remembered the Latvian Legionnaires, soldiers that were drafted to fight on the side of the German forces in World War II, LETA observed.

A procession to the Freedom Monument followed a church service at the St.John's Church.

Participants of the procession were carrying Latvian, Estonian and Ukrainian national flags and were signing songs. There were Saeima lawmakers from the National Alliance among participants of the procession.

The police officers were on the site, observing the event. 

LETA also observed one person protesting against the event - Andrejs Pagors (Latvia's Union of Russians, LKS), an aide to MEP Tatjana Zdanoka (LKS) and Jelgava city council lawmaker. Pagors was holding a poster, saying that Latvian Legionnaires gave oath to Adolf Hitler and killed residents of Zlekas village.

Soon Pagors was escorted by the police away from the Freedom Square. 

There were no other major incidents and the flower laying ceremony ended calmly.

March 16 is an unofficial date for remembrance of Latvian Legionnaires. Legion Day was established in exile by the Daugavas Vanagi association. 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. 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.

In Latvia the Legionnaires are being commemorated for fighting against the Soviet occupation and for Latvia's freedom but the Nazi connection causes great controversy abroad with Russia in particular taking the opportunity to trumpet about rebirth of Nazism in Latvia, and every year there are groups of pro-Russia activists holding demonstrations in Riga on March 16 to protest marking of the Latvian Legion Day.