Latvian March Honors Veterans Who Fought Alongside Nazis

RIGA, Latvia (AP) -

About a thousand people marched on Monday to pay tribute to Latvians who fought in German Waffen SS units against the Soviet Union during World War II, despite jeering from protesters who say the parade glorifies fascism.

The annual march has become a public relations headache for Latvian leaders.

Participants say they are simply honoring the so-called legionnaires for trying to defend Latvia against the Red Army. But protesters, many of them from Latvia’s ethnic Russian minority, call the march an insult to the millions who fought and died in the struggle against Nazi Germany.

Latvia was invaded by both Soviet and German forces during WWII and remained occupied by the Soviet Union until 1991. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center called the march an attempt to hide the crimes of Nazi collaborators in Latvia.

Nearly 80,000 Jews, or 90 percent of Latvia’s prewar Jewish population, were killed in 1941-42.