Latvian march to mark Nazi invasion condemned

(JTA) — Latvian leaders and international Jewish groups condemned a scheduled march in Riga to mark the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Latvia.

A Latvian district court ruled Tuesday that a small group of ultra-rightists could for the first time since World War II celebrate the Nazi occupation of the country, overturning a Riga City Council ban on Thursday’s event.

Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Foreign Minister Aivars Ronis said in a joint statement Wednesday that they were upset by the ruling and that "freedom of expression cannot extend to Nazi propaganda."

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is scheduled to visit Latvia on July 4 for a commemoration of the genocide of Riga’s Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League in a statement Wednesday condemned the march. Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, in the statement pointed out that the Nazi invasion of Latvia 69 years ago led to the murder of 90,000 Latvians, including 70,000 Latvian Jews and 2,000 Roma. 

"To celebrate this anniversary and present the Nazis as the ‘liberators’ of Latvia is the height of insensitivity to the victims of Nazism in Latvia and across Europe," Foxman wrote.

"We appreciate the statement of Latvia’s prime minister and the foreign ministry condemning this event.  However, we are concerned that this incident is part of a larger trend among nationalists in the Baltics and elsewhere in Eastern Europe to equate the Nazi genocide with the repression and crimes of the Communists."

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, also criticized the march.

"To celebrate the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Riga on July 1 is to celebrate the mass murder of all those victimized by the Nazis in Latvia — primarily Jews, but also Communists, Gypsies and the mentally ill," Zuroff said in a statement.

NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia also condemned the march and called on Latvian officials to respond.

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