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Latvian Legion After World War II
 
Aftermath of World War II 
 
In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal declared the Waffen-SS to be a criminal organization, making an exception of people who had been forcibly conscripted. Throughout the post-war years, the Allies would apply this exception to the soldiers of the Latvian Legion and the Estonian Legion. The US Displaced Persons Commission in September 1950 declared that:
 
"The Baltic Waffen SS Units "Baltic Legions" are to be considered as separate and distinct in purpose, ideology, activities, and qualifications for membership from the German SS, and therefore the Commission holds them not to be a movement hostile to the Government of the United States." 
 
Even before this decision, around 1,000 former Latvian Legion soldiers had served as guards at the Nuremberg Tribunal, guarding Nazi war criminals. Afterwards, during the Berlin Blockade, they took part in securing Allied facilities involved in the Berlin Airlift and later also were guarding USA Army headquarters. 
 
During the Soviet period, the Latvian Legion were described as having been illegally conscripted by Nazi Germany in 1943, with no indication of being war criminals or Holocaust involvement. For example, the Soviet film I remember everything, Richard also known as "Rock and splinters in its uncut release" made during the 1960s during "Cold War" at the Riga Film Studio, while being full of Soviet propaganda clichés, clearly illustrates recognition of several essential aspects with respect to Legion soldiers, amongst those: that they were front-line soldiers, they were mostly forcefully conscripted, they were not supporters of Nazi ideology, they did not take part in Holocaust. This contrasts sharply with Russia's post-Soviet stance, which denounces the Legion as Waffen SS war criminals and uses the Legion issue to assert political and ideological pressure on Latvia on the international scene.
 
In 1946 the coalition government of Sweden led by the Social Democrats, despite strong protests from many sectors of Swedish society, extradited soldiers from the Latvian Legion also some "Estonian Legion and Lithuanian Soldiers" who had fled to Sweden and were interned there to the USSR in an event that became known as Baltutlämningen. In the 1990s the Swedish government admitted that this had been a mistake. Surviving Baltic veterans were invited to Sweden in 1994, where they were met by the King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden Margaretha af Ugglas and participated in various ceremonies commemorating the events surrounding their extradition. Both the King and the Minister for Foreign affairs expressed their regret for Sweden's past extradition of Baltic Legion soldiers to the Stalinist USSR.
 
Allegations of War Crimes Involvement
 
Whether or not the Latvian Legion was involved in war crimes is a matter of controversy. Many Latvian historians maintain that the Latvian Legion itself was a front line combat unit and did not participate in any war  crimes and state that the Latvian Legion, being an organization of conscripts, was exempt, qua organization, "from the opinion rendered at Nuremburg trials, consistent with findings by post-war Allied authorities. Nor has any Latvian ever been accused of any war crime while a member of the Latvian Legion".
 
However, as earlier members of the Latvian fascist movement "Pērkonkrusts" and Holocaust participants such, some 600 members of "Arajs Kommando"  later made it into the Legion, the presence of these individuals as well as allegations against police battalions subsequent to the formation of the Legion  have been used to denounce the entire Legion as War Criminals. 
 
Latvian Legion Day
 
From the 16th to the 18th of March 1944 a heavy battle was fought on the eastern shore of the Velikaya River for Hill "93,4", a strategically important height for both the Soviet and German armies. It was defended by the 15th and the 19th Waffen-SS divisions. On the morning of the 16th of March the Soviet assault began, and the defenders were forced to withdraw, but the Soviets did not manage to break the Latvians' resistance. On the 18th of March in a counter-attack by the 15th Division, led by Colonel Arturs Silgailis, the hill was recaptured with minimal losses. After that the Soviets did not try to attack there again. The 16th of March was the first occasion in World War II when both Latvian divisions fought together in the same battle and was the only battle in World War II led solely by Latvian commanders. Thus in the years after the war, the 16th of March was chosen by the Latvian Legion veterans' organization in Western exile, Daugavas Vanagi, as the day of the Latvian Legion.
 
In 1990, Legion veterans started commemorating the 16th of March in Latvia. In 1998 Latvia's Saeima "Parliament" voted this to be an official national remembrance day. The word "Legion" was, however, "excluded from the remembrance day's name", in order to include all those who fought against the Soviets, both during World War II, and as resistance fighters afterwards. International pressure forced the Saeima to remove the 16th of March from the list of "State remembrance days" in 2000.
 
The 16th of March events have been quite confrontational in recent years, with Latvian Nationalist Organizations, such as "All For Latvia!" and "National Power Unity" marching in support of the Latvian Legion, and predominantly-Russian organizations "For Human Rights in United Latvia" holding protests and attempting to block the marches. Due to a particularly harsh controversy around the official commemoration of the Latvian Legion Day in 1998, the Latvian officials refrain from its official honoring. Currently, the official position of Latvian authorities is that the Day is a primarily private business of the veterans and their relatives.
 
Latvian Legion Day
 
      
                                                                                                       Latvian Legion Day, 2008
 
Latvian Legion Day or the Remembrance day of the Latvian Legionnaires, Latvian: "Leģionāru piemiņas diena" is a day on the 16th of March, when soldiers of the Latvian Legion, part of the Waffen SS, are commemorated. It was made an official remembrance day in Latvia in 1998 but the Latvian government abolished the day as an official commemoration in 2000.
 
The day has been controversial as the Legion is seen by some as Nazi and the Legion Day itself as a Nazi honoring, while others hold that the Legion was a purely military unit fighting against the Soviet Union that had occupied Latvia in 1940 and was not itself responsible for any of Nazi war crimes.
 
Origins 
 
Latvian Legion Day was established in exile by the Daugavas Vanagi veterans' organization. The 16th of March was chosen because in 1944 both divisions of the Latvian Legion, the 15th "1st Latvian" and the 19th "2nd Latvian" fought alongside for first time against the Soviet Army. It was the only battle in World War II led solely by Latvian commanders.
 
From the 16th to the 18th of 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 the 16th of March the Soviet assault began, and the defenders were forced to withdraw, but the Soviets did not break the Latvian Legionnaires' resistance. On the 18th of 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.
 
History
 
      
                                 Latvian SS-Legion marching on Latvian Independence Day, 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 in 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 the EU objections, however the day is still observed unofficially and has since evolved into a political fight between opposing to this date and Latvian nationalists. In 2005, a counter-demonstration was dispersed by police, arresting some of its participants; the march itself was condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In 2006 the Latvian government tried to bring the situation under control by fencing off the Freedom Monument, supposedly, as it was announced by Riga City Council, for 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 didn't 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 the 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 the 16th of March 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 persons were detained. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis told all his coalition ministers to stay away but several MPs from the National Alliance took part.
 
Controversy
 
As a part of the Waffen SS, the Latvian Legion is seen by some as being Nazi, 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 Jewish people 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, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. 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.
 
On the 16th of March 2012 "Efraim Zuroff" during his visit to Riga in his interview on Latvian State television LTV1 clearly admitted that "Latvian SS Legion was not involved in the crimes of the Holocaust".
 
Traditions 
 
      
                               Flowers at Freedom Monument
 
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 Cemetery" in Lestene parish.
 
Participating Organizations
 
Organizations whose members have been seen to participate in events:
  • All For Latvia! - Latvian nationalist political party. Traditionally members of "All For Latvia!" flag rally at the Freedom Monument when procession arrives.
  • Gustavs Celmiņš Centre – an organization seeking to revive the fascist Pērkonkrusts movement.
Organizations that support veterans of the Legion and participate in events: 
  • National Power Unity - Latvian nationalist political party. 
  • Club 415 - Latvian nationalist youth organization. 
  • National Front of Latvia - Latvian nationalist organization.
Parties whose members have been seen to participate in events
 
Union of Greens and Farmers - a green/agrarian and conservative political alliance 
  • For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK - a right-wing conservative 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:
 
Note: These are organizations that are "Socialist-Communist Parties" with allegiants to Moscow Russian
 
National Bolshevik Party - Unofficial Russian Radical Organization. 
  • National Democratic Party 
  • Antifascist ommittee of Latvia 
  • For Human Rights in United Latvia 
  • Night Watch
 
Conclusion: 
 
Today the Latvian Legions and its History is the most misunderstood and controversy Latvian unit that fought during World War II. If your are a Russian or a descent of a Joseph Stalin's Socialism Educated families, this was and is their thinking and it is their thinking to this day, if you were a member of the Latvian Legion, you was a Nazi and there for a  traitor against the motherland and was to be treated as such when captures. They were shot on the spot. For the Soviet Union Red Army Soldiers and Commissars had it in their mind that they were recapturing former Soviet Union territory that was once part of the Soviet Union and there for since there's from there first invasion and occupation and that is how they treated them and anyone that helped them or sheltered them once World War II was over. This was how Joseph Stalin and his NKVD during World War II and the reinvasion of Latvia then after World War II the KGB treated anyone who went against Stalin and his monomaniac thinking. If you were a Latvian and who fought with the Latvian Legion, you were fighting for Latvia freedom and independence, once again. For Latvia became a Free  Independent and a Neutral Country at the end of World War I and until it was forced by Joseph Stalin in mid-June 1940 and after first extracting a Latvian agreement under duress, to which Stalin personally threatened the Latvian foreign minister, in Moscow during negotiations, to the stationing of Soviet Union Red Army troops on Latvian soil, and prier to being invaded on the 16th of June 1940 and occupied on the 17th of June 1940 against the will of the Latvian people. The Latvian Legion was created in 1943, even thought it was created under the Nazi Army and with the consent of Hitler, and fought with the Nazi Army to fight the invading Soviet Union Red Army, it sole reason was to defeat the invading Soviet Union Red Army and being reoccupied. Once this was done, they would then turn their gun on the Nazi and defeat them and once again become a free and independent country. The Latvian Legion was made up of solely Latvians and their devotion to free and keep their country free For the Latvian Legion did not except and part of the Nazi ideology to this, the Nazi Command knew this and accepted it. Every year, the remaining members of the Latvian Legion and their relatives and dedicated Latvians celebrate on the 16th of March, "Latvian Legion Day" or the "Remembrance Day of the Latvian Legionnaires" to which so many people think this is wrong because they fought with the Nazis and the Nazis are associated with the holocaust and so much evil doings. I will say this, you people who think this is wrong; you needs to take the time and study just what Joseph Stalin and the NKVD, later KGB after World War II, did during 1932 to his death on the 5th of March 1953 to his own people "Russians" and to other people in other countries that the Soviet Union occupied. To the Russian people you still celebrate on the 1st of May, earlier "May Day" in the former Soviet Union was "International Workers' Day". Parades on this date were to show the people that communism was making them strong by displaying their military hardware and manpower. Since 1992, "May Day" is officially called "The Day of Spring and Labor", and remains a major holiday in present-day Russia. "While the Latvian people were being persecuted, murdered, jailed, or shipped to force labor camps or "Gulag" in rail carriages' that one wouldn't put a dog in, you came to Latvia and took over their residents, jobs and even now you are trying to take away their language, culture and change it's history! People of the World, you have your celebrations, so let Latvia have there's!"