Latvian President Andris Berzins said on Tuesday the nation should bow to its Waffen-SS veterans, many of whom died for their fatherland, the LNT TV channel reported.
The announcement came ahead of March 16 celebrations of the anniversary of the Latvian Waffen-SS Legion’s founding in 1943. The date is marked by a parade of former Latvian Legion members in Riga, an event traditionally criticized by anti-fascist organizations in the country and abroad.
"Many Latvian residents were forcibly drafted to serve in the German army," Berzins said in an interview with the LNT. "In 1950 the United States acknowledged that Latvian legionnaires committed no military crimes. Moreover, they were later rehabilitated even by the Soviet Union,” he said .
“Saying they are criminals is beyond common sense. We should bow to them instead,” he added.
The Latvian Legion consisted primarily of about 150,000 ethnic Latvians in two divisions - the 15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) and the 19th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Latvian). The 19th Division remained active until May 1945 and was among the last of Nazi Germany's forces to surrender at the end of WWII.