Latvia Minister Fired for Nazi Veterans March

Environment Chief Plans To March With Former SS Members

Riga Rally: Latvian veterans of a pro-Nazi group march in Riga. The annual demonstration has taken on new significance with the tension over Russia’s confrontation with Ukraine.
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Riga Rally: Latvian veterans of a pro-Nazi group march in Riga. The annual demonstration has taken on new significance with the tension over Russia’s confrontation with Ukraine.

By JTA

Published March 14, 2014.

Latvia’s prime minister said she would fire a cabinet minister planning to march with local SS veterans.

Einars Cilinskis, Latvia’s minister for environment and regional development, said he would attend the March 16 rally in Riga, Reuters reported Friday.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s spokesman Andis Blinds said: “Taking into account that the minister has said today he would join the march and would not resign by himself, the prime minister will later today sign an order for his dismissal.”

Now in their 80s and 90s, many of the Latvians who joined the armed wing of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party were led by the Latvian SS commander Viktor Arajs. He and his troops were responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews.

Of 70,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania during German occupation, only 200 survived the Holocaust, according to the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

In the Baltic nations, many people today admire Nazi collaborators because they fought for independence against the Russians, who occupied the Baltic nations until the 1990s.

Efraim Zuroff of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told JTA he intended to participate in a counter-demonstration in Riga against the Nazi march.

Earlier this week, Zuroff attended a small counter-demonstration in Vilnius, in Lithuania. Zuroff and five other people were there to protest the glorification of the Lithuanian Nazi collaborator Juozas Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis at a nationalist march of 2,000 people in the center of Vilnius.

Admirers of people like Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis and Arajs “are the spiritual heirs of those who committed the crimes of the Holocaust,” Zuroff said. “It is unthinkable that they should march through European Union capitals and cause unimaginable pain to Holocaust survivors and their families.”



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