300 people march in Riga to commemorate Latvian SS unit

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March 18, 2007 09:48

Dozens of police in riot gear flanked the procession to prevent a repeat of clashes that have marred the annual commemoration in recent years.

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About 300 people marched in downtown Riga on Friday to honor Latvians who fought in a Waffen SS unit during World War II. Dozens of police in riot gear flanked the procession to prevent a repeat of clashes that have marred the annual commemoration in recent years. No incidents were reported during the march, which ended at the Freedom Monument in the center of Riga. Later Friday, Latvian nationalists and anti-fascist groups were planning separate demonstrations. Some Latvians regard the Latvian Waffen SS, also known as the Latvian Legion, as heroes who fought not for the Nazis, but for Latvian independence against Soviet occupiers. Soviet forces occupied the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in June 1940, but were driven out by the Germans a year later. The Red Army retook the Baltics in 1944, and reincorporated them into the Soviet Union. About 250,000 Latvians ended up fighting alongside either the Germans or the Soviets - and some 150,000 Latvians died in the fighting. Nearly 80,000 Jews, or 90 percent of Latvia's prewar Jewish population, were killed in 1941-42, two years before the formation of the Latvian Waffen SS unit - which some Latvians claim shows the unit could not have played a role in the Holocaust. But an unknown number of Latvian


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