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Latvian minister to be fired for endorsing SS vets

(JTA) — Latvia’s prime minister said she would fire a Cabinet minister planning to march with local SS veterans.

Einars Cilinskis, Latvia’s minister for environment and regional development, said he would attend Sunday’s rally in Riga, Reuters reported Friday.

“Taking into account that the minister has said today he would join the march and would not resign by himself, the prime minister will later today sign an order for his dismissal,” Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma’s spokesman Andis Blinds said.

Now in their 80s and 90s, many of the Latvians who joined the armed wing of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party were led by the Latvian SS commander Viktor Arajs. He and his troops were responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews.

Of 70,000 Jews who lived in Lithuania during German occupation, only 200 survived the Holocaust, according to the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem.

In the Baltic nations, many people today admire Nazi collaborators because they fought for independence against the Russians, who occupied the Baltic nations until the 1990s.

Efraim Zuroff of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center told JTA he intended to participate in a counter-demonstration in Riga against the Nazi march.

Earlier this week, Zuroff attended a counter-demonstration in Vilnius, Lithuania, with five others to protest the glorification of the Lithuanian Nazi collaborator Juozas Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis at a nationalist march of 2,000 in the center of Vilnius.

Admirers of people like Ambrazevicius-Brazaitis and Arajs “are the spiritual heirs of those who committed the crimes of the Holocaust,” Zuroff said. “It is unthinkable that they should march through European Union capitals and cause unimaginable pain to Holocaust survivors and their families.”

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