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18:26 GMT +3 hours25 December 2014
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Waffen SS Veterans March in Riga

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Hundreds of Waffen SS veterans and their supporters held a march in the Latvian capital Riga on Friday to mark Legionnaire's Day, which commemorates Latvians who fought for the Germans during World War II.

Hundreds of Waffen SS veterans and their supporters held a march in the Latvian capital Riga on Friday to mark Legionnaire's Day, which commemorates Latvians who fought for the Germans during World War II.

Anti-fascist organizations all over the world decry the controversial event. But the annual holiday has its defenders, including Latvian President Andris Berzins, who has argued it is foolish to assume that Waffen SS veterans were criminals and that they deserve the public's respect.

SS veterans and their supporters, including parliamentary deputies and flag-waving young people, joined the march through downtown Riga.

A group of protesters, some dressed as Nazi concentration camp prisoners, gathered at Freedom Monument chanting, “Shame, shame! We won’t let Nazism be!”

Riga’s Duma had voted to ban the event, which honors veterans of the SS Latvian Legion. But a court overturned the ban.

The Latvian Legion, formed by the Nazis in 1943, comprised two Waffen SS divisions.