The Latvian government should financially support former members of the Latvian Legion the same way it helps others who were repressed during the country’s half-century of occupation, says the head of the World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība, or PBLA).
In an April 19 letter to Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, PBLA Chairman Mārtiņš Sausīņš wrote that about 2,000 former Legionnaires are still alive in Latvia. Of those, about 200 receive compensation from the German government, but the rest do not.
“Latvian Legionnaires also were victims of foreign occupation, because almost all of them were illegally mobilized and did not voluntarily sign up to fight under a foreign power,” Sausiņš said, according to a translaton of the letter.
After the German army in 1941 drove the occupying Soviet forces from Latvia, two divisions of ethnic Latvian soldiers—the 15th and 19th—were formed in 1943 under the command of the Waffen SS. Historians figure that only about 15 percent to 20 percent were actual volunteers, while the rest were drafted.
Estimates vary about how many soldiers served in the two divisions. Sausiņš in his letter cites “more than 115,000.”
For those surviving Legionnaires who have not already received compensation from Germany, the PBLA also urged the Latvian government to help them by contacting the German government.
On another matter, the PBLA urged the Latvian government to activate an agreement with Russia about finding the remains of Latvian soldiers and reburying them in Latvia.
In addition, the PBLA letter asks the Latvian government to work on preventing attacks on the honor of Latvian soldiers in Latvia and abroad. In the days before and after the March 16 parade and memorial ceremony in Rīga honoring veterans of the Latvian Legion, a number of foreign press reports referred to the soldiers and their supporters as Nazis. Protesters at the Freedom Monument in downtown Rīga expressed their displeasure with the march by displaying signs noting the number of people murdered by the Nazis in several locations in Latvia during World War II.
No immediate response from Dombrovskis to the letter has been announced. Jānis Andersons, head of the PBLA’s representative office in Rīga, told Latvians Online in an email that within the past year the organization has had no discussions with the Latvian government about the issue.
© 1995-2023 Latvians Online
Please contact us for editorial queries, or for permission to republish material. Disclaimer: The content of Web sites to which Latvians Online provides links does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Latvians Online, its staff or its sponsors.