Several German anti-fascists were arrested in Latvia on Tuesday after arriving to protest an annual march by former Nazi collaborators and their supporters.
The marchers, whose ranks included a number of parliamentarians, made their way through the capital city of Riga on Wednesday in an annual show of support for the anti-Soviet Latvian Legion – a locally-raised unit of the Waffen-SS.
Five members of the Berlin-based Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime/ Federation of Anti-Fascists (VVN-BdA) – Thomas Willms, Markus Tervooren, Günther Hoppe, Lothar Eberhard and Werner Müller – were detained by Latvian officials after landing in Riga on Tuesday, the group said. In addition, the organisation’s leader, Cornelia Kerth, was denied permission to enter the country and was prevented from boarding an Air Baltic flight from Germany.
In a statement released on the day prior to the march, the group accused Latvian authorities of “repression” against Latvian protesters.
“For years, the march of Waffen-SS admirers enjoys the protection of the Latvian government. The few anti-fascists who protest against the right deployment will be handled by politicians and the media as enemies of the state,” the VVN-BdA accused, adding that the five detained protesters were given a choice of deportation or two-days incarceration.
Around 40 protesters were present at Wednesday’s march, according to local media and were prevented from coming within several hundred meters of the SS supporters.
Thirteen members of parliament were reported to have participated in the march.