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Liveblogging World War II: July 1 1941

Helmars Rudzitis:

July 1, 1941: Then on July 1... our national anthem "Dievs, sveti Latviju" resounded from an open window on Martas Street. It was being broadcast by Riga Radio.

It is hard to express the joy we felt on hearing these sounds. The anthem had never sounded so magnificent, so inspiring. Only those who experienced this moment can understand this feeling. We immediately went out into the street. People were streaming in from all sides. The streets filled with joyful people, with smiles on their faces, which had not been seen for a long time. Strangers embraced each other. Latvian national flags appeared in front of some houses.... If German soldiers appeared, the crowd welcomed them with applause and cheers.   It is hard to describe the elation that reigned in Riga's streets that day. It was extraordinary, something that could never happen again. This day can be understood only by those who were there. The terrible nightmare year was over. That day no one thought about what was to come. The joy at being liberated -- and this time the word so abused by the Bolsheviks can perhaps be used in its true meaning -- overshadowed any thought of the future. Even the Social Democrat Cielens writes in his memoirs that this time the Germans were truly "liberators." The barbaric deportations had raised hatred of Stalin's empire to its highest level.   Mountains of flowers were laid at the foot of the Freedom Monument. Everyone wanted to place at least one flower by the symbol of Latvia's freedom. Several German armored cars were parked in the square by the National Opera. Slender, blond, athletic, smiling youths stood by the cars.... Perhaps it was an ephemeral elation that reigned that first day of July, but it was everywhere. That day no one realized that we had gone from one occupation to another. That day no one realized that the Latvian people would not regain even partial freedom, that the Latvian people would have to go through new, difficult trials. That day we still did not know that Hitler, so close to victory, instead of giving nations freedom and gaining their friendship, in his senseless intoxication and hunger for power would lose everything and destroy his own country. We understood the reality later, not on that first day of July.