Latvian group to celebrate Nazi invasion in court-sanctioned
Zuroff warns: It’s part of a slippery slope.
By JONAH MANDEL
A Latvian district court ruling on Tuesday has paved the way for the first-ever post- World War II march on Thursday in celebration of a Nazi occupation.The march will go ahead after a small, extreme-Right group successfully petitioned against the Riga Municipality’s refusal to allow the event marking the 69th anniversary of the country’s “liberation” by the German Army on July 1, 1941, following a year of Soviet occupation.“This is so outrageous; it is incomprehensible,” Dr. Efraim Zuroff, a historian and Nazihunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.“Though it is a marginal group, this is part of a slippery slope,” he said, citing the annual March 16 parade in Riga that glorifies hundreds of Latvian veterans who fought on the side of the Third Reich.“This event marking the entrance of Nazis to Latvia is a celebration not only of the murder of Jews by the Nazis, but also celebrating their murdering of communists, gypsies and mentally disabled,” he stressed.Zuroff also noted the joint announcement issued by Latvia’s Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Foreign Minister Aivis Ronis on Wednesday, in which they expressed concern and consternation over the planned march.While “very encouraged” by that announcement, Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev remained concerned at what he called yet another expression of historic revisionism seeking to equate the severity of Hitler’s crimes to Stalin’s.“Despite being held by a small and marginal group within Latvian society against the will of Riga’s municipality, the march is an expression of the intense struggle within societies, primarily in Balkan states, to form a national identity through the interpretation of the historic events from the 20th century,” he told the Post. “On one side are the forces that struggled against fascism, and on the other are those who express a nationalism that identifies with Nazism and nationalism, and want to express their anger and hatred at the communist regime, which inflicted much pain and suffering upon them.”Without ignoring the murder and destruction that Stalinism brought, Shalev said, “every event should be perceived, taught, recognized and noted distinctively. The unique horrors of the Nazi regime and the disaster it brought upon the Jewish people must be taught as such.”In 2009, the European Parliament adopted a resolution promoted by Baltic states that declares August 23 a European day of remembrance for victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. On that day in 1939, the Moltov- Ribbentrop nonaggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union was signed.“Simplistically put, the resolution blurs the character of Hitler’s crimes and binds them together with Stalin’s. We are doing our best to promote and enhance the educational forces that understand the gravity of the devastation in such an approach, including in Latvia,” Shalev said.“Even in a democratic regime, you need to know when to draw the line,” Shalev said of the court’s decision to allow Thursday’s march. “We understand and support Riga’s municipality’s desire to prevent the event, and are doing all that we can to encourage the forces that want to present things according to the historic truth. This is a battle over consciousness.”It remains to be seen what effect the march will have on Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s official visit to Latvia that begins on Sunday.
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