Only seven decades have passed since the Holocaust, and its perpetrators are honored in an annual street march.
Hundreds of people marched in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in honor of former Waffen SS members, who fought alongside Nazi Germany during World War II on Thursday.
The march was allowed by the Riga municipality despite protests. Several Latvian lawmakers were among the marchers.
The participants held Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian flags. Aging war veterans led the procession to Riga’s Freedom Monument, where they laid flowers and sang traditional songs.
The veterans’ march has been harshly criticized by a number of international organizations, including the European Jewish Congress, as well as by governments worldwide.
Many of the Latvian SS were directly involved in the extermination of Latvian Jewry during the Holocaust.
Every 16 March, veterans observe Latvian Legion Day. On 16 March 1944 both divisions of the Latvian Legion fought alongside the Soviet Red Army for the first time. It was the only battle in World War II led solely by Latvian commanders.
In 2015, 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 between 1941 and 1942. Legionnaire supporters say that was before the Latvian Legion was created, but Zuroff said some of the legionnaires, “had actively participated in the mass murder of Jews before joining the Waffen SS.”