- During and after World War II, Latvia came under the occupation of two totalitarian regimes – those of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Through repression and terror, the totalitarian Nazi and Soviet powers forcibly drafted many people in the occupied Latvia to join the armed forces of one or the other state.
- The State of Latvia has been consistent in condemning the crimes against humanity committed by both totalitarian regimes – Latvia denounces the Holocaust and mourns its victims.
- The people of Latvia, who during World War II were subject to horrors of war on one or the other side of the battle-front, commemorate their fallen on different dates. The battles between the Soviet and Nazi troops in March 1944 caused major fatalities among Latvian men unlawfully drafted into the Nazi German army.
- Since the restoration of independence, the Latvian government has consistently pursued an approach that Latvia commemorates its fallen soldiers on 11 November (the Lāčplēsis Day) – the day we remember our heroes. As a democratic country, Latvia respects and also guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. 16 March is not an official remembrance day, and people, on their own private initiative, pay their respects to the fallen soldiers. The senior officials and members of the government do not participate in those commemorative gatherings in the centre of Latvia’s capital city.
- The chapters of history are not written only in black and white. It is essential to be aware of the difference between those who committed crimes and those who died in combat at the battle front. Today, rather than creating new front lines, we must seek jointly to explore the tragic lessons of history in order to prevent politicization, radicalism and the spread of extremist ideas.
During the Second World War many tragic events took place in occupied Latvia, impacting and affecting all its residents – not one but two ruthless occupations, the Holocaust, illegal conscription of able bodied men into foreign armies, mass deportations of the civilian population – and going through all this, Latvia lost one-third of its population. One of those tragic chapters of history is also related to the so-called Latvian Legion, a military unit that was created illegally.