A panel of experts spoke out in favor of the removal of the monument in memory of the Latvian SS in Zedelgem in Belgium, a reported the Territories-Mémoire.be website.
The report was drawn up by a commission of 15 Belgian and international historians specializing in the issue. The group to rule on the “inappropriateness or not of the monument erected by the municipality of Zedelgem in memory of the Latvian prisoners of war held in a nearby camp at the end of the Second World War”.
“Unanimously, the panel considers that the erection of a monument in memory of the Latvian Legion in Zedelgem, in a public square (…) was an inappropriate act. Such a monument would be controversial in Latvia itself and can only be a source of confusion and controversy not only in Zedelgem but also internationally ”, concluded the commission, which pleaded for its debunking.
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The statue, installed in the town of Zedelgem, in Flanders, near Bruges, was erected in 2018. It commemorates the prisoners of war held by the British army in this town between 1945 and 1946. number of 12,000, were all Latvian legionaries, SS fighters.
The mayor of Zedelgem, Annick Vermeulen (CD&V), the ambassador of Latvia in Belgium, Ilze Rūse, and Valters Nollendorfs, president of the Museum of the occupation of Latvia, participated in the inauguration ceremony of this “Latvian hive for freedom “.
On the monument, it is stated that it “symbolizes freedom in all its aspects”, without recalling that prisoners of war were commemorated by this symbol all SS fighters of the Latvian Legion.
“Bees are peaceful creatures who do not attack anyone on their own accord. They only sting when threatened. They then start to fight for their own beehive, their family and their freedom ”, it is also written on the plate, without it being specified that the fighters of the Latvian Legion committed war crimes in Belarus, in Poland, Russia and Latvia. The Sonderkommando Arājs, a Latvian SS paramilitary unit, is responsible for the extermination of tens of thousands of Jews.
“If evoking the presence of Latvian prisoners of war is not really disturbing when it is done in a neutral and purely factual way, to render them the honors and the poseurs as victims is another step which it was not necessary to franchise – except to flatter certain Latvian nationalist currents – and which I would never have dared to franchise, especially without knowing the precise liabilities of these men ”, commented a few months ago Pierre Müller, historian specializing in the Second World War who is preparing a thesis on the Allied prison camps in Belgium.
– CCLJ (@CCLJ_BE) April 19, 2021
In a letter to the magazine Greetings, the mayor of Zedelgem, Annick Vermeulen, had responded to the controversy that has existed since the inauguration: “The municipality of Zedelgem does not want to leave any doubt that it condemns the horrible acts of war which took place under German domination of the Nazis. Therefore you know that we are particularly touched and saddened when it is implied that our commune supposedly honors the members of the Waffen SS and / or understands to pay them homage by the symbol of the hive, this evoked work of art. “
She added that the monument defended the idea of freedom in all its aspects, “both this great general desire for freedom during imprisonment, and the freedom regained by the many prisoners of war upon their release. (…) The municipality of Zedelgem emphasizes that the work of art was erected in memory of universal freedom and is not honored or commemorated by a group or a section of prisoners of war ”.