Latvian veterans of the SS, Hitler’s infamous special security force, have paraded in the capital Riga with younger sympathisers. It is an annual event but this year’s is particularly high-profile, coming less than two months before the 60th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany. The ex-soldiers called on their president to pull out of World War Two commemorations in Moscow on 9th May.
They argue they were patriots by fighting against the Soviets who later inflicted 50 years of occupation on Latvia. The argument has some resonance in Latvia, but nearly as many Latvians fought with the Red Army as the number who joined the Germans’ ranks.
The march could also damage the image of the Baltic state, which became a member of the European Union last year. It has provoked anger among the country’s Russian minority and Jewish leaders, the remnants of a community that was decimated during the Nazi occupation.
Moscow has said that, by allowing the march to go ahead while forcibly removing some anti-fascist demonstrators, the Latvian authorities have displayed a “depraved logic.” Latvia’s government has stressed it is not involved in the SS commemorations in any way.