by Florian Gutsche
RIGA—While Veterans of the Latvian legion of the Waffen-SS are allowed to march on tomorrow’s March 16th “Day of Legionnaires,” a group of antifascists from Germany was arrested while trying to enter Latvia to protest peacefully against the public glorification of the Waffen SS.
As has been the case each year since March 1991, there will be a lavish public commemoration for members of the Latvian Waffen SS that will culminate in a far-right rally at the capital city’s cherished Liberty Monument. The Latvian legion of the Waffen SS was deployed on the 16th of March in 1943. Amongst others members of the commando was Viktors Arājs, who had participated earlier, in 1941, in the murder of many Jewish citizens of Latvia.
International pressure achieved the formal “privatization” of the holiday in 1998, so it can no longer be pinned directly on the government, though high officials have supported it and turned out in many of the intervening years.
The few Latvian citizens who organize protests against this despicable Nazi-glorifying rally face heavy repression, including phone surveillance, travel restrictions, and the state using its influence on hotels and event centers to prevent them from renting accommodation to anti-fascist groups for even one day a year.
This year members of The Association of Victims of the Nazi Regime and the Federation of Antifascists, both in Germany, are determined to join the protest against the glorification of the Waffen SS in the heart of a European Union capital.
Five members of this delegation, Thomas Willms, Markus Tervooren, Günther Hoppe, Lothar Eberhard and Werner Müller were arrested when they tried to enter Latvia. Cornelia Kerth, the chairwoman of the Association of Victims of the Nazi Regime was prevented from boarding her flight to Riga.
Already today, on the 15th of March at 1800 hours (6 PM CET), there will be a peaceful and orderly protest against this outrageous situation outside the Latvian Embassy in Berlin, at Reinerzstraße 41/42.
We call for:
An end to public commemorations of the Waffen SS.
Formal recognition of the massive Baltic cooperation with Nazi genocide.
Freedom for “Latvia without Nazism” and other anti-Nazi organizations in Latvia.
Immediate release of the arrested antifascists from Germany to enable them to protest tomorrow’s Waffen SS rally in central Riga.