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An official march was held in Latvia on Thursday commemorating the Nazi conquest of the country 69 years ago.

The march, organized by extreme rightist-fascist organizations, was upheld by a local court in Riga, over the opposition of Latvia’s president, prime minister and foreign minister.

Latvia, a small republic on the western edge of what was the Soviet Union, was overrun during World War II first by Soviet Russia (1940), then Nazi Germany (1941), after which the mass slaughter of Jews began, and then Russia again (1944). Though Latvia has allowed annual parades of Latvian veterans of SS units that fought in World War II, this is the first time a parade is commemorating the actual conquest of Latvia by the Nazis.  Officials did not accept the organizers’ explanation that the goal was to “honor Latvians who were drafted into the Germany army to fight the Soviets.” 

President Valdis Zatlers said that Latvian independence was not restored on July 1, 1941: “On the contrary, the subsequent period in time brought along vast devastation to our country, where people of various nationalities living in Latvia were murdered.” A joint statement by the prime minister and foreign minister was more blunt, saying, “"freedom of speech cannot apply to the propagation of Nazism." 

Dr. Ephraim Zuroff, head of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Arutz-7 that the march marked the crossing of a red line: “This is the first time a European country has taken such a step of glorifying the Nazi conquest… Unfortunately, we see that in the Baltic nations, of all places, whose citizens were partners in the Nazi crimes, anti-Semitism is raising its head.”

He said that in western European countries, such as France, Holland, Belgium and Greece, “they cooperated with the Nazis – but only at the beginning of the war, in rounding up the Jews but not in actually murdering them. In eastern Europe and in Serbia, the locals took part in the destruction as well. That’s why it’s so grave when we see shows of admiration for the Nazis in these countries.”