Riga is the capital city of Latvia. Located on the Baltic Sea,
Latvia, a scenically beautiful country to behold, is one of the former
Soviet states. Riga is a city rich in culture in history and even in
human and natural resources.
On Sunday, in Riga, three thousand Latvians came out to join a
parade. It was a parade to honor those Latvians who belonged to and
fought in and defended the honor of a notorious SS Unit known as the
Three thousand people came out and joined that parade. Did I make
myself clear? Three thousand Latvians flocked to the city of Riga to
participate in a pro-Nazi rally.
It happened this Sunday - in the year 2008, in a European capital.
As Americans, we think that most people think the way we do. We
think that not to think the way we do is bad, or wrong, thinking. We
think that our understanding of right versus wrong is universal. We
think that the reason others do not think the way we think is because
they have not heard the power of our argument, that they would be
convinced if they had As Westerners, we think that our belief system is the correct system, the most evolved system, the
most popular system. In actuality, we are deluding ourselves. Our view
of the world is insular, it is short sighted and it is narrow-minded.
Look no further than Riga, March 2008.
Latvia, along with the rest of the USSR, was invaded by the Germans
in 1941. Then, as now, Riga was the capital of Latvia. According to a
census taken in 1935 there were 43,672 Jews living in Riga. After the
war there were 150 Jews, survivors from Riga.
Most of Riga's Jews were murdered in a place called Rumbla, a
"killing fields" located only seven miles outside the city. There, on
two separate days, first on November 30th and then on December 8th,
1941 the Nazis - with the help of the local Latvians, mowed down 25,000
The Jewish Ghetto in Riga, like most Jewish ghettos created during
World War II, was situated in the most densely populated area of the
Jewish community. In Riga that area was called Maskava. In Riga, like
in every other city under their control, in order for the Nazi massacre
of the Jews to succeed the Germans needed local assistance. The
assistance that the Latvian community of Riga gave to Nazi Command came
in the form of the Latvian Legion, proud members of the German SS.
We now know, the proof is in the numbers, that local Latvians today, are still proud of their members of the Latvian Legion.
Was there a counter demonstration? There was - and we should be
thankful that there was, but their well intended shouts of "disgrace"
and "Hitler is Dead" and their few numbers pale in comparison to the
pomp and glory of the Pro Nazi parade.
The lessons of the mass murder of the Jews at the hands of Nazis
have not sunken in very well in Europe - even in those places where the
lessons are most needed. Mass murder is still celebrated. Local mass
murderers are encouraged to strut their stuff in style.
The most important lesson we can draw from the citizenry of Riga is
not to be deceived. Realize that the values and issues that we hold
dear are unique to us. We can try to influence others to adopt our
values, we can even bribe them to behave in ways that we deem
appropriate, but in their hearts seldom do they truly adopt our values
and our sense of right and wrong.
We are who we are because we think that what the Nazis did was wrong. Some of the world still does not agree.