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Nazi March Banned in Latvian Capital

Latvian President: troops cannot be held responsible for murder of Jews during WWII; march banned to prevent "threats to public security."
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 3/7/2012, 10:47 PM

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Latvia's capital announced it would be banning demonstrations on March 16, the date of a controversial annual march honoring troops who fought on the side of the Nazis during World War II.   

The Riga city council said it received applications from eight different organizations wanting to stage demonstrations and counter-demonstrations on the date, but rejected them all, the European Jewish Press reported.

The council noted that the restrictions had been imposed to "avoid possible provocations and threats to public security."

Jewish groups condemn the parade that commemorates the Latvian Legion, which served as a combat unit of Nazi Germany's Waffen-SS, every year. 

Yet President Andris Berzins has called attacks on the march attempt to "blacken the reputation of the Latvian state."   

Berzins said that the troops sought to defend Latvia against the Soviets and were not war criminals.

Upon the German invasion in 1941, many Latvian troops hailed the Nazis, who systematically murdered about 70,000 of Latvia's 85,000 Jews, as liberators. 

The Latvians began torturing and murdering the Jews, whom they blamed of disloyalty, as they preferred Soviet rule to Nazi genocide.

Veterans argue that the Legion was founded in an attempt to ward off the Soviet advance in 1943, after most of Latvia's Jews had been slaughtered, arguing they cannot be held responsible, said the European Jewish Press.