Latvians honor Nazi allies from World War II

RIGA, Latvia — About 1,500 Latvians on Sunday celebrated Legionnaires Day — which their government abolished in 2000 — by paying tribute to World War II veterans who fought alongside Nazi troops.

After a church service in the Lutheran Cathedral in Riga, the capital, the marchers went to the Freedom Monument, where they laid roses in the red and white colors of the Latvian flag, closely watched by police and security guards.

A few dozen anti-fascist demonstrators, including from Germany and Latvia’s Russian-speaking minority, protested at a nearby park behind police barricades, shouting: “Shame!” and “Fascism will never end!”

Police said their abundant presence and the cold, windy weather helped keep tensions under control at the annual event, which stokes ethnic animosity between Latvians and minority Russians. Seven people were arrested for minor offenses.

Former Environment Minister Einars Cilinskis, of the right-wing National Alliance, who was dismissed Friday for announcing he would participate in the procession, ignored Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s orders not to attend.

The Jewish human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, denounced the march and welcomed the ouster of Cilinskis.

“We welcome the steps taken by the Latvian government against the minister who indicated his intention to participate in the march,” the group said in a statement.

Latvia, which gained its independence after World War I, was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, then by Nazi Germany a year later, and again by the Soviets in 1944. The country restored its independence in 1991, after nearly five decades of Soviet occupation, in the wake of the Soviet collapse.

About 250,000 Latvians fought alongside either the Germans or the Soviets — and about 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 couldn’t have played a role in the Holocaust.

Many Latvians honor war veterans on Legionnaires Day, but ethnic Russians who account for about one-third of Latvia’s 2.3 million population, see it as glorifying fascism.

More in Local News

Fatal car crash reported on Highway 92 near Lake Stevens

The 3 p.m. accident and investigation stopped traffic in both directions near Machias Road.

Mayor tries new tactic to curb fire department overtime

Stephanson says an engine won’t go into service when the only available staff would be on overtime.

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Paine Field fire chief will be allowed to retire

In his letter, the airport director noted Jeff Bohnet was leaving while under investigation.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Firefighters come to the rescue and give mom new stroller

Donations to the Good Neighbor Program covered the $143.20 cost.

County frees up $1.6M for Everett’s low-barrier housing

The plan appears on track for the City Council to transfer land ahead of next month’s groundbreaking.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Most Read