REMEMBRANCE DAY OF THE LATVIAN LEGIONNAIRES (Latvian : Leģionāru
piemiņas diena) or the LATVIAN LEGION DAY is a day on 16 March, when
soldiers of the
Latvian Legion , part of the
Waffen-SS , are
commemorated. It was made an official remembrance day in
1998 but the Latvian government abolished the day as an official
commemoration in 2000.
The day has been controversial as the Legion was a
Nazi unit and the
Remembrance day of the Latvian legionnaires as a
Nazi honouring event.
Others hold that the Legion was a purely military unit fighting
Soviet Union that had occupied
Latvia in 1940 and was not
itself responsible for any of
Nazi war crimes .
* 1 Origins
* 2 History
* 3 Controversy
* 4 Traditions
* 5 Participating organizations
* 5.1 Organizations that have demonstrated against the events
* 6 References
* 7 External links
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Remembrance day of the Latvian legionnaires was established in
exile by the Daugavas Vanagi veterans' organisation. The date of 16
March was chosen because in 1944 both divisions of the Latvian Legion,
the 15th (1st Latvian) and the 19th (2nd Latvian) fought alongside for
the first time against the
Red Army . It was the only battle in World
War II led solely by Latvian commanders.
From 16 to 18 March 1944 a heavy battle was fought on the eastern
shore of the
Velikaya River for Hill "93,4", a strategically important
height, defended by the 15th and the 19th
Waffen-SS divisions. On the
morning of 16 March the Soviet assault began, and the defenders were
forced to withdraw, but the Soviets did not break the Latvian
Legionnaires' resistance. On 18 March a counter-attack by the 15th
Division, led by Colonel Arturs Silgailis, recaptured the hill with
minimal losses. The Soviets did not try to attack there again.
Latvian Legion, 1943
Remembrance day of the Latvian legionnaires has been observed in
Latvia since 1990. In 1993, MP Juris Dobelis of LNNK invited his
colleagues to commemorate the anniversary of the Legion, supported by
the Chairman of the Parliament,
Anatolijs Gorbunovs . It was set as
an official remembrance day in 1998. In 1998 the procession to lay
flowers at the base of the
Freedom Monument drew the attention of
foreign media and the following year the Russian government condemned
the event as a glorification of
Nazism . In 2000 the Latvian
government abolished the day as an official commemoration day due to
EU objections, however the day is still observed unofficially and has
since evolved into a political fight between Latvian nationalists and
those opposed to the celebration. In 2005, a counter-demonstration
was dispersed by police, arresting some of its participants; the
march itself was condemned by the
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Simon Wiesenthal Center . In 2006
the Latvian government tried to bring the situation under control by
fencing off the
Freedom Monument , with
Riga City Council
Riga City Council claiming it
required restoration. However, this statement was later questioned, as
politicians named various other reasons for the move, the enclosed
area was much larger than needed for restoration, and the weather did
not seem appropriate for restoration. The
Freedom Monument is one of
the most important symbols of Latvia, therefore the move caused
discontent in general society. The government was criticized for being
unable to ensure public safety and freedom of speech. Latvian mass
media compared the actions of government officials with the actions of
Soviet officials in the late 80s and reported that no other government
before had fenced off a monument for political reasons. It was also
speculated that the actual reason for the government's actions was
preparation for the upcoming
NATO Summit 2006 in Riga. The unapproved
events took place despite the ban and 65 participants were arrested by
Latvian police, two of the arrested nationalists were citizens of
Estonia . In 2006, laws requiring approval to arrange gatherings were
ruled out as unconstitutional . On March 16, 2007, the government
mobilized the police force to guard the vicinity of the monument and
the day went by relatively peacefully. The veterans' organizations
Daugavas Vanagi and Latvijas Nacionālo karavīru biedrība (National
Association of Latvian soldiers) have announced that they dissociate
themselves from ultra-radicals who organize processions at the
monument and advised patriotic Latvians to attend other events. In
2008 the confrontation was limited to verbal arguments and insults.
In 2012 there were around 1500-2000 people in the procession and 1200
police officers were employed to maintain order in Riga. About 100
counter-demonstrators watched in silence. Three people were detained.
Valdis Dombrovskis told all his coalition ministers to
stay away but several MPs from the National Alliance took part.
As a part of the
Waffen-SS , the
Latvian Legion is seen by some as
Nazi unit, while others point out that it fought only the
Soviet Union which had previously occupied and annexed Latvia, it is
not responsible for
Holocaust (since it was founded more than a year
after Latvian Jews were murdered or sent to concentration camps) or
Nazi war crimes and should be viewed as a separate entity (being
recognized as such by e.g. USA). Some of the
Latvian Legion soldiers
such as the
Arajs Commando were, however, part of death squads prior
to them joining the legion.
Russia alleges the Legion was engaged in
punitive actions against partisans and the civilian population on the
territory of modern Latvia,
Although primarily formed by conscription , it was officially named
Volunteer Legion to circumvent the international law prohibiting
drafting inhabitants of occupied territories by the occupying power.
Nonetheless, although the position of the defenders of Latvian Legion
is gaining more and more ground, some researches underline that the
Latvian Legion does in fact possess all the features attributed to a
criminal organisation by the Nuremberg Tribunal and that its actual
glorification is a form of glorification of Nazism, which poses a
threat to compliance with the principles of international law.
On 16 March 2012
Efraim Zuroff during his visit to Riga to protest
against the legionnaires march, stated in an interview to Latvian
State television LTV1 that the "Latvian SS Legion was not involved in
the crimes of the Holocaust" but also stated, as he has done each and
every year since 1999, 'although these units were not involved in
crimes against humanity, many of their soldiers had previously served
in the Latvian security police and had actively participated in the
mass murder of civilians, primarily Jews.
In 2011, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance
adopted a report on Latvia, expressed "concern as regards the
authorisation of certain public events to commemorate two incidents
and the authorities’ reaction in this connection. As concerns the
first incident, every year, on 16 March, a gathering commemorating
soldiers who fought in a Latvian unit of the Waffen SS is held in the
centre of Riga. In this connection, ECRI regrets that, in spring 2010,
an administrative district court overruled a decision of the Riga City
Council prohibiting this march" and recommended "that the Latvian
authorities condemn all attempts to commemorate persons who fought in
the Waffen SS and collaborated with the Nazis. ECRI further recommends
that the authorities ban any gathering or march legitimising in any
way Nazism". In 2013, UN
Special Rapporteur on racism submitted a
Latvia concerning the events of March the 16th.
Traditionally a memorial service is held in
Riga Cathedral , after
which the participants go in procession to the
Freedom Monument where
they lay flowers. The participants then travel to the Legionnaires'
Lestene parish .
Organizations whose members have been seen to participate in events:
* National Alliance - Latvian nationalist political party.
Traditionally members flag rally at the
Freedom Monument when
* Gustavs Celmiņš Centre – an organisation seeking to revive the
Organizations that support veterans of the Legion and participate in
* Club 415 - Latvian nationalist youth organisation.
* National Front of
Latvia - Latvian nationalist organisation.
Parties whose members have been seen to participate in events
Union of Greens and Farmers
Union of Greens and Farmers - a green/agrarian and conservative
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK - a right-wing conservative party
New Era Party
New Era Party - a centre-right liberal conservative party
* People\'s Party - a centre-right conservative party
ORGANIZATIONS THAT HAVE DEMONSTRATED AGAINST THE EVENTS
National Bolshevik Party
National Bolshevik Party - Unofficial Russian radical
* National Democratic Party
* Antifascist Committee of
* For Human Rights in United
* Night Watch
Wikimedia Commons has media related to LATVIAN LEGION DAY .
* ^ Minutes of the Supreme Council, March 16, 1993(in Latvian)
* ^ Law "On holidays and remembrance days" with amendments,
* ^ A B 16. marts Latviešu leģiona vēstures kontekstā by
Antonijs Zunda, professor of Latvian University, retrieved on
* ^ Latvian Police Stops Unauthorized SS March The Moscow News,
2006-03-16, retrieved: 2007-03-17
* ^ У памятника Свободы произошла
* ^ "Content Search". wiesenthal.com. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
* ^ Brīvības pieminekļa koka mētelītis Politika.lv 2006-03-14,
* ^ A B Latvijas jaunāko laiku vēsturē ierakstīta jauna 16.
marta lappuse Archived press coverage regarding 2006-03-16
(Neatkarīgā; Diena; Latvijas Vēstnesis; Latvijas Avīze; Nedēļa),
retrieved on 2007-03-17
* ^ Constitutional Court\'s judgment in case 2006-03-0106 (in
* ^ Policija Rīgas centrā gatavojas 16.marta pasākumiem Delfi.lv
2007-03-16, retrieved: 2007-03-19
* ^ \'Daugavas Vanagi\' un Latvijas Nacionālo karavīru biedrība:
Nepolitizēsim 16.martu delfi.lv 2007-03-13, retrieved: 2007-03-19
* ^ A B C Leģionāru piemiņas pasākums noritējis bez
starpgadījumiem Delfi.lv 2008-03-16, retrieved: 2008-03-16
* ^ "Events by
Freedom Monument went peacefully". baltictimes.com.
Retrieved 16 March 2015.
* ^ "Involvement of the Lettish SS Legion in War Crimes in
1941-1945 and the Attempts to Revise the Verdict of the Nuremberg
Tribunal in Latvia". Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to
the United Nations.
* ^ Kazyrytski, Leanid (2016). "Latvian SS-Legion: Past and
Present. Some Issues Regarding the Modern Glorification of Nazism".
Criminal Law Forum. 27: 361–385. doi :10.1007/s10609-016-9286-3 .
* ^ "Remembrance day of the legionnaires went peacefully" (in
Latvian). LTV Panorāma. 2012-03-16.
* ^ "Wiesenthal Israel director joins demonstrators against march
Waffen-SS veterans and supporters in Riga". Operation: Last Chance.
* ^ Report on
Latvia (fourth monitoring cycle) CRI(2012)3 Paras.
* ^ Communications report of
Special Procedures A/HRC/24/21 p. 23
* ^ "Ночной дозор" пробирался в Латвию
группами (in Russian). DELFI.lv. 2008-03-16. Retrieved
Latvian Legion Day, 2008
* Leģiona atceres dienā tomēr gaidāmas jauniešu akcijas(in