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Riga police on Thursday evening prevented several dozen people from conducting their planned march which was set to commemorate the Nazi occupation of the Latvian capital on July 1, 1941, following a year of Soviet occupation, Latvian National News Agency LETA reported.
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The march had initially been denied a permit by the Riga Municipality, but on Tuesday a district court ruled that a small extreme-Right group may go ahead with its procession. The Latvian prime minister and foreign minister had criticized the ruling, but could not legally prevent the march from taking place.
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It was the local Riga police that found what appears to be a creative way of preventing the event, by detaining march organizer Uldis Freimanis for questioning on Thursday two hours before the parade's onset, as reported by LETA. According to local law, a march must be attended by its organizer. It was unclear on which grounds Freimanis was called in by police.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, historian, Nazi-hunter and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, who had in an earlier statement praised the Latvian leaders' public criticism of the possibility of such a celebration of Nazi occupation, expressed on Thursday night satisfaction over the ultimate prevention of the march, while reiterating the larger problems in Latvia paving the way to such occurrences.
“There are only so many times you can intervene on technical grounds to stop such events,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “Latvia needs for their law to be interpreted in such a way to prevent Nazi glorification, or at least to have legal recourse to stop this kind of initiative.”
“The real problem,” Zuroff continued, “lies in the deeply rooted issues
concerning the Latvians' failure to honestly confront the scope and
extent of Latvian participation in the Holocaust,” evident in the
country's failure since independence to prosecute Nazi war criminals and
its attempts to glorify the members of the Latvian SS battalions who
fought for a victory of the Nazi Germany.
“Unfortunately,” Zuroff said in the statement, “there is far too much
local sympathy for Latvians who committed the crimes of the Holocaust as
long as they fought against the Soviets. The only way to eradicate this
distorted perception of Latvian history is to tell the whole truth
about the critical role played by Latvians in the mass murder of Jews
and other victims of the Nazis, and to stop trying to create false
historical symmetries between Nazism and Communism.”
“Legal measures to stop the glorification of Nazi Germany are
important,” Zuroff concluded, “but the best long-term solution is truth
in history education.”