Calls to ban Baltic neo-Nazi marches

The Latvian "Legionnaires Day" march in Riga, which honours those who fought on the side of Nazis

The Latvian "Legionnaires Day" march in Riga, which honours those who fought on the side of Nazis

International petitions are being put together to urge the governments of Lithuania and Latvia to ban upcoming marches by neo-Nazis through their respective capitals.

The "Legionnaires Day" march in Riga by Latvian war veterans who fought for the Nazis is due to take place on March 16. And on March 11, neo-Nazis will hold a parade in Vilnius on Lithuania's independence day.

Monica Lowenberg, whose uncle was sent to the Riga Ghetto concentration camp when he was 19, is behind the petition to persuade the Latvian government to stop the Riga march.

Riga was the scene of one of the most numbing Holocaust atrocities in the region. In a period of about ten days, close to 30,000 Latvian Jews including women, children and the elderly were taken out of the city's ghetto and shot into mass graves.

Ms Lowenberg said: "I have no problems with people wanting to remember people who have died in the war, or those who want to repent for things they have done. What I have a problem with is that a number of these men marching or men being remembered are being publicly honoured by state officials being rewarded with the title 'hero' when, in reality, a number of them were involved in mass murders."

Disturbingly, the Riga march is supported by Latvian officials and MEPs such as Robert Zile, who sits alongside UK MEPS in the new European Conservatives and Reformists party in the European Parliament.

In the UK, Conservative MP for Harrow East Bob Blackman tabled an Early Day Motion urging the Latvian government to block the Riga march. Twenty-five MPs from across the political spectrum signed the motion.

Latvia's ambassador to the UK, Eduards Stiprais, wrote in a letter to the signatories of the EDM: "There are no war crimes attributed to Latvian units of the Waffen SS." John Mann MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, responded that this was "apologist claptrap".

Olga Zabludoff, a Lithuanian writer and publisher who lives in Washington DC, is behind a campaign against the March 11 parade in Vilnius. Her petition, titled "Ban Neo-Nazis from Desecrating the Dignity of Lithuania's Independence Day", is addressed to the Lithuanian envoy to the United States.

Last updated: 10:32am, March 15 2012