Richard Howitt, British Labour Member of the European Parliament, and spokesperson for the European Parliament Human Rights Sub-Committee today issued the following text of his statement which will be read out in Riga this Sunday March 16th.
Today brings the seventeenth annual march in Riga, Latvia glorifying Waffen SS forces from the Nazi era which brought death and destruction to our continent and which today’s European Union was supposed to consign to history.
I am pleased to hear that the Latvian Government has forbidden Ministers from attending the march this year, but condemn the Latvian High Court’s decision of 2013, forcing the Riga Mayor to apologise for all the years of trying to ban it.
Coming from Britain, I am saddened that the governing Conservative Party from my country chooses to ally itself in a common European Group with the Latvian “For Fatherland and Freedom Party,” whose Member of the European Parliament is on record as supporting this sickening celebration, even supporting its previous status as a public holiday in the country.
I am also shocked at the report that the British Conservative MEP who was head of his European group in 2012, is reported to have personally refused to sign the petition against the celebration , despite 7,000 people worldwide having done so.
The party of Government of my country should not sit with a party which has proposed the Waffen SS troops be renamed “liberation fighters.”
They are a scar on my own country.
What they should remember is that almost all of Latvia’s 70,000 Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Whether local boys were forced to don the SS uniforms or were eager volunteers, celebration of their actions not only insults the memory of the victims but also honours Nazism itself.
Today, the British Labour Party stands with all victims of the Second World War, all who condemn fascism, all who oppose antisemitism and other forms of racism, to express our horror at those who seek to rewrite history in order to justify those who would spread bitterness, hate and division in a new century.
This year sees the 100 years centenary since the beginning of the First World War, and people throughout Europe will come together to remember the horrors of both wars of the twentieth century and celebrate the fact fascism was defeated and not victorious.
When survivors of Nazi concentration camps in 1945 stood holding signs saying “never again,” they could not have foreseen what is happening today in Riga. These are the people we should be commemorating and this is the message we should remember.
RICHARD HOWITT MEP