National Alliance repeats March 16 memorial request

Take note – story published 5 years ago

The National Alliance union of parties wants to make March 16 an official memorial day, reported LSM's Latvian-language service February 25.

The party wants to have the coalition discuss the possibility on February 25. 

This initiative will be discussed in the Saeima if at least one other political party supports the initiative. The party put forth the same initiative a year ago and it was voted down by the parliament. 

March 16 was the date in 1944 on which both divisions of the Latvian Legion fought against the Red Army during World War II. 

Similar numbers of Latvians fought on both the German and Soviet sides after seeing their independent state removed from the map by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and then enduring successive occupations.

The day invariably gets Latvia bad international publicity, mostly but not exclusively coming from Russia, which says it's a Nazi supporter rally or an attempt to justify Nazism. 

Though March 16 is not included on the nation's official calendar of events several hundred people always turn out to parade through the center of Riga and pay tribute to Latvian soldiers who served in the Latvian Waffen SS Legion and fought on the side of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Controversy inevitably follows with participants saying they are honoring freedom fighters and opponents accusing the event of rehabilitating and glorifying fascism.

For more on the complex history and controversy surrounding the Latvian Legion, the Latvian Foreign Ministry has prepared materials HERE including a downloadable fact sheet HERE.

The Latvian Army has produced a short film about the history of the Legion HERE.

A less controversial commemoration of those who fought in the Latvian Legion also takes place on March 16 at the regimental cemetery in Lestene.

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