The 16th March is for some a commemorative day of Latvian Legion soldiers who fought under the Waffen-SS during World War II. In 1998 the government made it an official commemorative day but very soon after that in 2000 it was cancelled. Never the less each year there are legionnaires and they supporters who march to Freedom Monument of Latvia to remember March 16 1944 when both Latvian divisions for the first time fought together against the Red Army and it was led only by Latvian commanders. There is the opinion that it is Nazi honouring event so there is always demonstrations near the Freedom Monument against it. It is a very, controversial day.
To understand why there are people who want to have this commemorative day we should look back at June 17 1940 when Latvia was occupied by the USSR’s military forces. The following year is often called the “Terrible year” as it was a very tragic period and a big change to the relatively prosperous 1930’s. In the coming year, properties, factories and companies were nationalized and owners did not get any compensation for that. Many political opponents were arrested, disappeared in jails, were killed or deported to Siberia. More than 15 000 people were deported to Siberia by USSR on June 14 1941.
When the Nazi German army came to Latvia they were seen by some as liberators and there was a hope that Latvia will be an independent country again. It was, simply just another violent occupation regime. During the mobilization some joined the legion voluntarily.
Today (March 16 2016) legionnaires and their supporters will gather at St. John’s Church for church service and then walk to the Freedom Monument to remember these soldiers. Also, an antifascist organization will hold demonstration and lay flowers in front of the Freedom Monument to remember victims of the Waffen-SS.
For some the Second World war is still not over.