Latvian Government Calls for Investigation of Wartime Book

The Latvian Foreign Ministry has called on the country’s Prosecutor General’s Office to determine whether a recently reprinted book contains anti-Semitic propaganda or glorifies Nazi ideology, according to Latvia’s official news agency.

The book, titled “The Fearful Year,” describes crimes committed against Latvians during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic nation between the summer of 1940 and Nazi Germany’s invasion of the country a year later.

The book, originally published in the Nazi-occupied Latvian capital of Riga in 1942, was reprinted in 1997 by a local publisher who is an activist with the ruling Fatherland and Freedom Party. The party’s leadership has dissociated itself from the reprinting of the book.

The controversy surrounding the book erupted last week after Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin sharply criticized the decision to reprint the volume, saying it was an attempt to justify the crimes of Latvian members of the Waffen-SS against Jews and Russians. In its statement, Moscow also implicated the government in the decision to reprint the book.

The Latvian Foreign Ministry rejected the accusation, but did say Latvian officials would not participate in this year’s commemoration of Latvian members of the Waffen-SS, which is traditionally held in March.

Russia, Israel, several European nations and Nazi-hunters protested after several high-ranking officials joined in last year’s march of Latvia’s Nazi war veterans.

Some experts say that the number of Holocaust victims in Latvia, estimated to be in the tens of thousands, would have been smaller were it not for the support Nazi squads received from the local population and for Latvian participation in Nazi-allied military units.

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