Jewish Historical Sites in Latvia


The earliest encounters between local residents and Jews are dated back in the 14
th century, when Latvia was under the ruling of the knights of the Livonian Order. However, special decrees banned the Jews from settling down here for more than next 200 years.

The first Jewish settlements appeared on the map of Kurzeme (Courland) in the late 16th century. The first Jewish community was formed in 1571 in Piltene, where Jews were allowed to purchase property and build homes and prayer houses. By the 19th century, some 23,000 Jews lived in Courland.

The first Jews came to Latgale from Western Ukraine and Byelorussia in the mid-17th century. The Jewish community of Riga started forming in the late 18th century. 

The positive contribution of the Jews to the swift development of industry and trade in Latvia in the late 19th century cannot be overestimated. The biggest woodworking factories, the majority of timber and grain trading, large flax mills, flax export companies and distillery businesses, were concentrated in the hands of the Jewish business people. The Jews owned 10 banks in Riga.

After the 1881, the wave of anti-Semitism hit the Russian Empire. In accordance to the new law the Jews, lived in Riga, Mitau, and Libau, whose actual trade was different to the officially registered one, were forced to move back to the pale of settlement. The Jews were banned from working in the Government organizations and their access to the university education was restricted. The anti-Semitic views were quite frequent in the conservative part of the Latvian society. Such democratically orientated Latvian public figures, as Krishjanis Valdemars, Augusts Deglavs, Rudolfs Blaumanis, Rainis, and others, sympathized with the Jews and stood against anti-Semitism.

There were different reactions to these negative changes. Many Jews have emigrated, mainly to the USA, the Great Britain and South Africa. Some of them joined various socialist political groups. The various Zionist groups also started operating.

The WWI had a catastrophic impact on the Latvian Jews. In accordance to the orders of the Russian military command, tens of thousands Jews were deported into midland provinces of the Russian Empire in 1915, on the suspicion of the espionage in favor of Germany. Some 75,000 Jews became refugees. The majority of them settled in Russia. Less than a half of those left, returned to their homeland after the war.

Independence of the Republic of Latvia was proclaimed on the 18th of November 1918. More than a thousand Jewish soldiers and officers fought for the independence of their home country in 1918–1920.

All the ethnic minorities of the independent Latvia were guaranteed equal political rights and cultural autonomy. The Jewish citizens of the newly born country were highly politically active, and the spectrum of the Jewish political parties was rather broad. During several years between 1922 and 1934 from 3 to 6 members were elected to Saeima (Latvian Parliament) from Jewish political parties. Several Town and City Councils had elected Jewish members.

The Management Department for Jewish schools was opened within the Ministry of Education.

The contribution of the Jews to the Latvian culture was priceless. The Folk Jewish Academy of Music functioned in Riga in the early 1920s. During the 1920s–1930s, two Jewish theatres performed here. Many well-known Latvian musicians were of Jewish origin.

Despite the fact that the Jewish community of Latvia was quite Europe orientated and secular, the religious life was also highly active. There were some 200 Jewish religious communities in the country.

The Latvian Jews played a crucial role in the formation and development of the State financial system. During the 1930s, almost a half of the Latvian Jews worked in retail and sales, about one third – in industry, significant number worked as medical and freelance professionals and in the transport industry.

When Karlis Ulmanis came to power on the 15th of May 1934, all political parties and public organizations, including the Jewish ones, were disbanded. The economic activity of the Jews was restricted. This policy resulted in withdrawal of the Jewish investments and emigration of the Jewish business people and professionals. At the same time Latvia took in several thousand Jews, who fled the Nazi occupied Europe. 

By the end of the 1930s, some 93,000 Jews lived in Latvia. Almost half of them – 43,000 people resided in Riga.

Latvia fell under the Soviet rule in 1940. All the banks, industrial plants and retail businesses, including the Jewish owned ones, were nationalized. Among some 15,000 Latvian citizens deported to Siberia on the 14th of June 1941, about 2,000 were Jewish. 

Nazi troops occupied Latvia in the early July 1941. There are more then 200 sites in Latvia, where the mass executions of the Jews were carried out during the WWII. More than 70,000 Latvian Jews as well as Jews deported from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and other European countries were exterminated there. 

Only 14,000 members of Latvian Jewish community survived the WWII. Jews from other regions of the Soviet Union relocated to post-war Latvia and by 1959, its Jewish population increased to more than 36,000 people.

Latvia became one of the centers of the Zionist, dissident, and Jewish national movements in the Soviet Union. Jewish activists struggled for the right to emigrate to Israel and to openly honour the memory of the Holocaust victims. Many activists were arrested for printing Jewish books, newspapers, and magazines, learning Hebrew language and the Jewish history, which were all made illegal under the Soviet rule. More than 1/3 of the Latvian Jews emigrated to Israel, the USA, and Western Europe in the 1970s.

The Jewish life in Latvia revived from the nonexistence during the 1980s, when social and political systems of the USSR became more liberal. The Jewish communities was established in Riga, Daugavpils, Liepaja, Rezekne, Jurmala, Ventspils, Jekabpils, Ludza and Jelgava. The Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia was founded in 2003 and unifies 13 communities from 9 Latvian cities.

At present, Jewish community of Latvia has 10,000 members, which makes it the largest among the Baltic States.

 

 

Aizpute

Hasenpoth

 

Distance from Riga 186 km (A9, P115)

 

The Jewish community of Aizpute, founded in 1751, was in fact one of the first Jewish communities in the Duchy of Courland. In 1881, 1/3 of the overall town population, were Jews. By 1935, the 534 Jews made up 15,6% of the total population of Aizpute.

The Nazi troops entered the town in the late June 1941. On the 3rd of November 1941, all 386 Aizpute Jews were ordered to gather in the synagogue. Shortly after that, they were transported into the forest to the south from the town and executed by firing squad.

Synagogue, Atmodas, 16. This oldest existing synagogue in Latvia was built in 1751, and renovated in 1935. The Small Synagogue was built nearby in 1875, and renovated in 1933. After the WWII the two buildings were connected and have been used as the Town Palace of Culture since 1955. The original paintings on the ceilings can still be seen.

Mikvah, Krasta St, on the banks of the river Tebra, near the synagogue. Despite the building currently being neglected, the original 19th century arched ceilings can still be seen in the basement.

The Jewish Bridge is situated near the synagogue and connects the banks of the river Tebra. The bridge received its current name in the 19th century.

Cemetery, situated just outside of the town, 200 m from the end of Kalvenes St. The cemetery was built in the late 18th century. A large number of the gravestones remain in their original places. A select few of these are unique and are made in cast iron with markings molded onto them. These markings are written in German language using the Hebrew alphabet.

Misiņkalns Town Cemetery. The remains of the victims of the Holocaust were re-buried here.

Aizpute Museum of Regional Studies, Skolas, 1. A part of the exhibition is dedicated to the history of the Jewish community in Aizpute.

 

 

Bauska

Bauske

 

Distance from Riga 66 km (A7)

 

The first Jewish settlement of the descendants of the Lithuanian Jews appeared on the right bank of the river Mēmele in the early 17th century.

By the 18th century Bauska had a functioning synagogue and a Jewish cemetery. The local Jews were granted permission to settle and live in the inner town in 1820. The 3,631 Jews, who lived in Bauska in 1881, made up 60% of the entire city population.

World famous Rabbis lead Jewish community of Bauska for several decades. Among them were Mordekhai Eliasberg (In service as Rabbi: 1862–1889) and Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (In service as Rabbi: 1895–1904).

By 1935, the total population of Bauska consisted of 4,904 people, 778 of whom were Jewish.

Nazi troops occupied Bauska on the 28th of Juny 1941. The mass extermination of the Jews in Bauska was complete by the mid-August 1941. Only two of them survived to see the liberation of the town on the 30th of July 1944.

 

Synagogues, Rīgas,35. The original timber synagogue was built in the 1820s. The brick one was built nearby in 1840. The new building also included the Rabbis’ living headquarters. One of the Rabbis who lived here was famous Rav Kook. Both synagogues were burned down on the 4th of July 1941. Photo: 1930s

Hasidic Prayer House, Kalnu, 2. It was built in 1938.

Kosher Slaughter House and Butcher Shop, Rīgas, 37. The building was constructed in the late 19th century.

Day Clinic, Rīgas, 51. An unprecedented act of cruelty was committed here in the mid-July 1941. 56 Jewish male, 9 of whom were boys from 8 to 15 years of age, were forcibly brought here and sterilized. All of them, but one, who managed to escape, were executed in the early August 1941. The former day clinic currently ventures the offices of the local newspaper.

Mikvah, Upes, 3. The building was converted into a residential house after the WWII.

Jewish Religious School, Kalnu, 20. The Rabbi’s and the teacher’ living headquarters were also situated in this building, which currently is not in use.

Nahman Yankelovich’s Printing House, Rūpniecības, 5. The first local newspaper «Bauskas Sludinājumi», founded by Nahman Yankelovich, was published here from 1893 to 1915.

The Likvertene Forest, on the 8 km mark on the road from Bauska to Vecsaule, turn off the right side of the road and travel 1 km into the forest. In accordance to different pieces of evidence from 700 to 800 Bauska Jews were killed here during two nights in August 1941.

Bauska Museum of Regional Studies and Art, Kalna, 6. A part of the permanent exhibition is dedicated to the history of Bauska Jews.

 

Dagda

Dageten

 

Distance from Riga 301 km (A6, P61)

 

The Jewish community was formed here in the early 19th century, at which time a cemetery was also opened. The first reliable information about the number of Jews in the locality is dated back in 1847. The records state that 77 Jews lived in Dagda in that year. By 1897, the number of Jewish people in the town increased to 1,026, making up 68% of its total population. The statistics for 1935 showed, 589 Jewish residents in Dagda, which was equal to 53% of its overall population.

 

Dagda was occupied by the Nazi troops in the early July 1941. On the 25th of July 1941, a large group of Dagda Jews were forced to march to Daugavpils ghetto. The Jews, who remained in the town, were shot at the local Jewish cemetery on the 1st of August 1941.

 

Synagogues, Corner of Skolas St. and Rīgas St. The three synagogues, built in 1897, underwent reconstruction in 1920s. The buildings are currently being used as shops.

Cemetery, Pļavas, 6. It was opened in the early 19th century. The monument in memory of the victims of the Holocaust was unveiled here after the WWII.

 

Daugavpils

Dinaburg, Dvinsk

 

Distance from Riga 232 km (A6)

 

Founded in 1275 as a castle, the settlement was officially designated a city in 1582. During the course of its history the city had different names: Dinaburg, Borisoglebov, Dvinsk (since 1893), and finally Daugavpils (since 1920).

The local Jewish community was established in the late 18th century. The first reliable information about the number of Jews in the city is dated back to 1784, when 1,773 Jews were officially registered here. Dinaburg was the first city in Latvia, where since 1785, the local Council had Jewish members.

Shortly before the WWI, the number of Jews permanently residing in the city increased to 55,686, which made up 49 % of its total population. It was the biggest number of Jews ever lived in Daugavpils.

World famous Rabbis lead the Jewish community of Daugavpils for several decades. Rabbi Meir Simcha HaCohen also known as Ohr Sameach (1843–1926) and Rabbi Yosef Rosen – Rogachover Gaon (1858–1936) were among them.

By 1910, Dvinsk Jews had 34 functioning synagogues, hospital Bikur Holim, a nursing home and a Jewish theatre.

Dvinsk match factory employed 676 people and was the biggest in the Russian Empire in the late 19th century. The owner of this manufacturing plant was Shlomo Zak, a member of the local Jewish community. The 11,106 Jews, who lived in the city in 1935, made up 25% of its overall population. In the 1920s–1930s, the Daugavpils Jews owned more than 100 businesses. During this period 4 libraries, 10 youth clubs, 4 teachers’ clubs and several other Jewish organizations functioned in the city. Several yeshivas and Cheders, a Talmud Torah, 7 Jewish primary and 2 secondary schools also were in operation in Daugavpils. The number of synagogues in the city increased to 40.

Among Latvian citizens, deported by Stalin’s regime on the 14th of June 1941, 174 were Jewish.

The Nazi troops occupied Daugavpils on the 26th of June 1941. The 1,150 Jews shot dead in the early July 1941, were the first victims of the Holocaust in Daugavpils. The order to set up a ghetto was issued by the Nazi administration on the 15th of July 1941. On the 28th of October 1943, all the ghetto prisoners were transferred to Riga-Kaiserwald concentration camp.

Only 500 Holocaust survivors returned to their home town after the WWII. Some Jews from other republics of the former Soviet Union also moved to Daugavpils.

The city Jewish community was revived in the late 1980s. At present about 400 Jews permanently reside in the city. Both religious and secular Jewish communities are currently in operation. The synagogue and several Jewish organizations are functioning in Daugavpils.

 

Synagogue “Kaddish”, Cietokšņa, 38. The synagogue was built in 1850. The reconstruction of the building became possible in 2005-2006 thanks to the financial support of the children of the famous American artist Mark Rothko. Currently it is the only functioning synagogue in Daugavpils. Museum “Jews in Daugavpils and Latgale” is also situated here. The building is included in the List of Local Protected Monuments.

The Great Communal Synagogue, Lāčplēša, 39. 220 people could attend services in this synagogue, built in 1840. During the Soviet period it was converted into a gym. The building is included in the List of Local Protected Monuments and is currently being used as a shop.

Apter Synagogue, Sakņu, 29. It is considered that the synagogue was named after the Rabbi, who built it and served here. At present the fully reconstructed building is at the disposal of the local Jewish community.

The House, Solomon Mikhoels was born in, Mihoelsa, 4. The famous actor and the theatrical director, the head of the State Yiddish Theatre in Moscow and the famous public figure Solomon Mikhoels (1890–1948) was born here on the 16th of March 1890. The memorial board, marking the actor’s centenary, can be seen on the façade of this house.

Monument to Mark Rothko, 18 Novembra, 2, (on the bank of the river Daugava). This monument, designed by Romualds Gibovskis to commemorate the centenary of the Dvinsk-born leading abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko (1903–1970), was unveiled in September 2003.

Jewish Secondary School, Saules, 38. The municipal Hebrew secondary school was opened here in 1935. In 1939/1940 academic year, the school employed 18 teachers and had 187 students. The building is included in the List of Local Protected Monuments.

Jewish Handicraft School, Varšavas, 21. The building was designed by engineer J. Movshenzon and built in the early 20th century. The school was closed down in 1940. The building, included in the List of Local Protected Monuments, currently ventures the College of Transport.

The Memorial Plate to Grszegosz Fitelberg, Mihoelsa, 58. The memorial plate, designed by Olga Baumane, was unveiled in 2005. Grszegosz Fitelberg (1879–1953) – the Polish composer, conductor and violinist of the Jewish origin was born in Dinaburg.

The Communal Cemetery, 18 Novembra, 220. The Jewish part of the cemetery was designated shortly after the Old Jewish cemetery was closed down in the mid-1950s. The world famous Rabbis Meir Simcha HaCohen and Yosef Rosen were re-buried here. There also are several areas of the compact (100 to 200 graves) Jewish burials in the other two sections of the cemetery. Some headstones were made before the WWII. The monument in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is situated near the cemetery chapel.

The Bridge Fortress, Lielā, 1. It is currently being used as a prison. The Jewish ghetto was situated here from the mid-July 1941 to the 1st of May 1942. More than 15,000 Jews from Daugavpils and many other towns and schtettles of Latgale, and the refugees from Lithuania were kept prisoner here. Some 9,000 of them were exterminated.

Mežciems Monument in Memory of the Victims of Fascism, traveling from the city border towards Riga, on the 6 km mark turn off to the right and travel 1 km into the forest, following by a turn to the left and another trek of 100 m. The original monument was unveiled in 1960. Later, in 1989, the remains of the executed Jews were re-buried here. The monument in memory of the victims of the Holocaust was opened in 2007.

The Monument in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, 18 Novembra, 66a. It was unveiled in 2007 on the site of the mass execution of 1,150 Jews beyond the town prison.

The Memorial for the Victims of the Holocaust, traveling on the road from Daugavpils to Riga turn off the road to the right at the 7th km of your journey, follow the path 100 m into the forest to reach this landmark. Designed by sculptor Oleg Marinoha, the memorial was opened on the 10th November 1991. There centerpiece monument displays the words “In memory of the Children of Israel”, written in Yiddish. The 16 stones, surrounding it, show the names of the countries occupied by the Nazis during the WWII and the numbers of Jewish victims in each of them.

Daugavpils Museum of Regional Studies and Art, Rīgas, 8. The permanent exhibition displays the highest quality copies of the paintings by Mark Rothko. A section of the museum is dedicated to life and works of composer Oskar Strok, (1892–1975) – “The King of Tango”, born in Dvinsk.

 

Jaunjelgava

Neustadt, Friedrichstadt

 

Distance from Riga 85 km (A7, P85, P87)

 

Neustadt, the original name of the town, was changed to Friedrichstadt in 1646 and to Jaunjelgava in 1920.

The first Jews came to Friedrichstadt from the surrounding villages, Lithuania and Byelorussia. The local Jewish community was formed in the early 19th century. At the same time a cemetery, (which does not exist any more), was built. By 1881, the 4,128 Jews, who lived in the town, made up 71% of its overall population. The local Jews were mostly shopkeepers or timber and flax traders; some of them owned medium-scale manufacturing plants.

A public Jewish school was opened in the town in the mid-19th century, followed by a Talmud Torah in the early 20th century. At that time many Jewish children attended local German schools and studied the Jewish subjects after classes. A Cheder Metukan was opened here in the early 20th century.

At the beginning of the WWI, the leaders of the Jewish community were taken hostage by the town authorities and were subsequently exiled into the depth of Russia.

During the period of the independent Latvian Republic, a Jewish primary school, Hebrew language classes, and several charity funds were opened in Jaunjelgava. The 561 Jews, who lived in the town in 1935, made up 26% of its overall population.

The Soviet administration disbanded all Jewish organizations in 1940. Several wealthy Jews were deported to Siberia in 1941.

After Jaunjelgava was occupied by the Nazi troops, the local Jews were kept prisoner in the synagogue. By the end of August 1941, all Jaunjelgava Jews were exterminated.

 

Cemetery, Meža, 12. It was opened in 1848. Several hundreds headstones and the ruins of the Beit Tahara can still be seen at the cemetery. The remains of some 500 Jewish victims of the Holocaust were re-buried here after the WWII. The monument in their memory was unveiled in the 1950s, and restored in 2003. The descendants of Uri Shatz – the former elected member of the Jaunjelgava Town Council, sponsored the recent thorough restoration of the cemetery.

 

Jekabpils

Jakobstadt

 

Distance from Riga 143 km (A6)

 

 

Jekabpils was merged with Krustpils in 1962.

The Jewish community of Jēkabpils was registered in 1810. Its members were mostly descendants of Lithuanian Jews. A Beit Midrash, 3 synagogues, and several Jewish public organizations functioned in the town. A yeshiva was opened in 1830. From 1850, until the WWI a Yiddish school for boys was in operation in Jekabpils. A public library with the reading hall was opened in 1901.

By 1881, the Jewish community of Jekabpils had 2,254 members, which made up 41% of the whole population of the town. More than 150 Jewish homes and community buildings were destroyed in Jēkabpils during the WWI. By 1935, the 793 Jews, who lived in the town, made up 14% of its overall population.

The Nazis occupied Jēkabpils on the 29th of June 1941. In a few days, all the local Jews were ordered to gather in the synagogues. They were kept prisoner there until September 1941, when all of them were brutally murdered in the Kukas swamp near the town.

At present the Jewish community of Jekabpils consists of about 40 people.

 

Cemetery, Saules and Nameja Junction. It was opened in the early 19th century. Some of the headstones exist since the time when the cemetery started functioning. The remains of the Jekabpils Jews, murdered at the Kukas swamp were re-buried here and the monument in their memory was unveiled in the 1950s.

 

Jelgava

Mitau

 

Distance from Riga 42 km (A8)

 

The 18th century was the time of the formation of the Jewish community in Jelgava. At the same period Jewish Street (Dobeles road at present) as a designated residential area, appeared on the map of the city. Most of the Jews came to Jelgava from Scotland and Northern Germany. A Chevra Kadisha was founded and a cemetery was opened here in 1730. However, the Jews were not allowed to build their houses in the inner city. The first synagogue and the first Beit Midrash in Mitau were opened in 1784. Only in 1793, the local Jews were granted permission to live within the city boarders. The local Jewish community was officially recognized in 1796, when Courland became a part of the Russian Empire.

Reuben Joseph Wunderbar (1790–1853) glorified Mitau by writing the history of the Jews of Livonia and Courland and contributing greatly to the Jewish secular education. Levi Ovchinsky (1871–1941), the author of “History of Kurzeme Jews” was a Rabbi in Mitau. The Jelgava residents Prof. Max Laserson (1887–1951) and Rabbi Mordekhai Nurok (1884–1962) were elected members of Saeima (Latvian Parliament).

The 2,039 Jews, who lived in the city in 1935, made up 6% of its total population.

The Nazis occupied Jelgava on the 29th of June 1941. By the mid-September 1941, all the Jews, present in the city on the day, when the occupation began, were exterminated.

There are now 50 members in Jelgava Jewish community.

 

The Choral Synagogue, Ūdens, 1. It was built in 1860. The building was destroyed in July 1941. The Faculty of Economics of the Agricultural University is currently situated on this site.

Hospital Bikur Holim, Viestura, 15. The hospital welcomed patients of any background, but the poor Jews could avail of free medical care. At present, the building ventures Jelgava TB Hospital.

Cemetery, Miera, 1. It was opened in 1729. A small section of the cemetery with a few remaining original headstones still can be seen.

Monument to the Victims of the Holocaust, traveling the Miera St. away from Jelgava, 1 km past the city border take the turn off to the right into the forest and travel a further 1 km to reach this monument. The memorial stone dedicated to the executed Jews of Jelgava was unveiled in November 1992. The exact spot of the execution is situated 500 m to the right from the monument.

 

Jurmala

 

Distance from Riga 25 km (A10)

 

The settlements on the sites of modern Jurmala already existed in 16th century. Schlok (Sloka) – the settlement of traders, started developing in the late 18th century, and by the mid-19th century the resorts of Kemmern (Kemeri) and Rigaer Strand were in operation. They were designated towns in 1920 and later in 1959 were merged, became a city, and received the name Jurmala.

The first Jews came to Sloka in the late 18th century. It was the nearest to Riga settlement, where the Jews had permission to reside permanently. The majority of Riga Jews were officially assigned to Sloka Jewish community until the 1840s. However, very few Jews were actually living in Sloka. The 107 Jews lived here in 1878, made up 10% of its entire population.

According to the decision of the local Baron, the owner of the land along the seaside, the Jews were strictly forbidden to live in the coastal villages of Assern (Asari), Karlsbad (Melluzi and Pumpuri) and Majorenhoff (Majori). This decree was abolished in 1920. Only the Jewish merchants of the first guild (the “aristocracy” of capital and industry) were allowed to permanently live in Bilderlingshof (Bulduri) and Edinburg (Dzintari).

The only part of Jurmala, where the Jews had unconditional residential rights was Dubbeln (Dubulti). It became the favourite holiday venue for the wealthy Jews of Riga since 1870s. By the late 19th century, the absolute majority of the people taking holidays here were Jewish. The Great Summer Synagogue was built here. During the same period, a Jewish cemetery was opened in Dubulti. The cemetery was destroyed in the 1950s.

The Jewish community of Jurmala was established in the 1920s–1930s. Several new synagogues were built during the same period. Among the 7, 865 people, who lived in Jurmala in 1935, 180 were Jewish.

Jurmala became a rehabilitation resort for the Wehrmaht soldiers in July 1941. Five local Jews were killed in the synagogue in Bulduri on the 21st of July 1941. After that, the entire building was blown up. Obeying the order of the German military administration, the Jews of Jurmala moved to Riga, where they shared the tragic fate of their fellows.

The Jewish life in Jurmala was revived in the late 1980s. Some 300 Jews live in the city at present.

 

The New Synagogue, Majori, Viktorijas, 33. It was built in the 1930s. After the WWII, the synagogue was converted into a children's sport school and then into a DIY shop. The building is currently not in use.

The Great Summer Synagogue, Dubulti, Ceriņu, 12. It was built in 1904 and reconstructed in 1939. After the WWII, the synagogue was converted into an indoor market. Currently it is not in use. The building is included in the List of Local Protected Monuments.

 

 

Kandava

Kandau

 

Distance from Riga 91 km (A10, P130)

 

The local Jewish community was formed in the early 19th century. In 1863, the Jews made up 55% of the total population of Kandava. By 1881, the 775 Jews, who lived here, made up the majority of its population. During the WWI, in 1915, the Jews of Kandava were deported into the depth of Russian Empire. Those returned home found the Jewish communal buildings and privately owned houses destroyed. In 1935, the town Jewish community had 68 members.

In the early July 1941 Kandava was occupied by the Nazi troops. All the local Jews, who remained in the town, were executed in Elku woodlands in August 1941.

 

Synagogue, Lielā, 31. It was built in 1880 and reconstructed in 1937. Rabbi Menakhem Mendel Zak (1873–1941) served in this synagogue. He later became the Chief Rabbi of Riga and was killed in Rumbula in 1941. After the WWII, the building was used as a granary. It was converted into a cinema in the 1950s. The property is currently not in use.

Mikvah, Pils, 7. The mikvah was built in the late 19th century, using natural sources of spring water. After 1950, it was converted into a public bathhouse. The building at present ventures a guesthouse.

School, Tirgus laukums, 5.

Cemetery, 3 km mark from the town border on the Kandava–Sabile road, on the right hand side. It was built in 1840, and functioned until the beginning of the WWII. During the war and later, during the Soviet period, the cemetery was destroyed and has been neglected since. Only a few remaining headstones can still be seen.

Elku Woodlands, 10 km mark from the town border on the Kandava–Rūmene road. This is the place of the mass execution of the Jews of Kandava in August 1941. The site of the actual execution was marked after the WWII. The memorial stone was unveiled in 2006.

 

Kraslava

Kreslawka, Kraslau

 

Distance from Riga 265 km (A6)

 

The Jewish community of Kreslawka started forming in 1764. Until the late 18th century, all Latgale Jews were assigned to Kraslava kehilla (kahal). In 1897, the 4,051 Jews, who lived here, made up 51% of total population of the borough. By 1935, the Jewish community of Kraslava consisted of 1,444 members, which made up 34% of its overall population.

Moisei Rabinovich (1882–1941), the designer of Kraslava coat of arms, became the first Jewish Mayor of the town. Several synagogues and prayer houses, a Jewish primary school, and various Jewish public organizations functioned in town at that time.

When Kraslava fell into the hands of the Nazis in the early July 1941, a large group of Kraslava Jews were shot dead in the town. The remaining Jews were transported to Daugavpils ghetto, where the majority of them were exterminated.

Now just a few Jews reside in Kraslava.

 

The Big Prayer House, Skolas, 6. The original timber house was built here in 1781. It was subsequently replaced by the brick building, which currently is being used as a residential property.

Cemetery, end of Lielā St and Spīdolas St. The cemetery was built in the 18th century. Some headstones dated back in the 19th and early 20th century. The newer graves can also be seen. A monument in memory of the Jews of Kraslava perished on the fronts of the WWII is one of the landmarks of the cemetery.

The Monument in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Lielā St, near the cemetery. It was unveiled in 2007.

Monument in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Miesnieku, 8. It was unveiled in 2007.

The Memorial on the Spot of the Execution of Kraslava Jews, Avgustovka, the beginning of Ūdrišu St.

Kraslava Museum of History and Art, Pils, 8. A part of the exhibition tells the history of the local Jewish community.

 

Krustpils

Kreuzburg

 

Distance from Riga 143 km (A6)

 

The earliest written record of Kreuzburg is dated back to 1237. Krustpils ceased to exist as an autonomous town in 1962, when it became a part of Jekabpils.

The local Jewish community, formed by the late 17th century, is one of the oldest in Latgale. A cemetery was opened in the 18th century. The 3,164 Jews, who lived here in 1897, made up 76% of the total population of the town. By 1935, the number of Jews lived in Krustpils decreased to 1,043 Jews and made up only 28,5% of its entire population. In total 5 synagogues and prayer houses functioned in the town during the 19th and the early 20th centuries.

Nazi troops occupied Krustpils on the 28th of June 1941. Mass arrests of the Jews began on the 6th of July 1941. At first, the arrested people were kept prisoner in the local slaughterhouse. Later they were transported to the buildings of the Jewish school and the sugar factory. Some of the Jews were sent to work on the neighbouring farms. During the late August and the early September 1941 all the Jews remained in the town were shot in Spungeni woodlands and at Kaķīši swamp near village of Spungeni.

 

Jewish School, Rīgas, 182. More than 150 pupils attended this secular Jewish school during the early 1930s.

Cemetery, Asote, Following the Rīgas St towards Daugavpils located 1,5 km past the town border. This is the only Jewish cemetery, which was opened in Latvia after the WWII. During the 1950s, the Old Jewish cemetery was closed down and the headstones were brought to the new one. The remains of the Jews from Krustpils and Gostiņi, executed in 1941, were re-buried here in 1958. The monument in their memory was unveiled here in 1959.

 

Kuldiga

Goldingen

 

Distance from Riga 150 km (A10)

 

The Jews were granted permission to live here only after 1795, when Courland became a part of the Russian Empire. A Chevra Kadisha started functioning in Kuldiga in 1801. Soon after that a synagogue, a Jewish school, and a Talmud Torah were built.

The 2,330 Jews, who lived in the town in 1835, made up 57% of its overall population. By 1935, only 646 out of 7,180 people, who lived here, were Jewish.

The Nazi troops entered Kuldiga on the 1st of July 1941. A large group of the town Jews were shot in the near forest at the early days of the occupation. The remaining Jews were transported to the Padure woodlands a few kilometres from the town and shot there. Only a small number of Jews, hidden by the local residents, escaped the extermination.

 

Synagogue, 1905 gada, 6. The building was erected in 1875. In 1941 the local Jews were kept prisoner here. After the WWII, the synagogue was used as a granary and in 1958 it was converted into a cinema. The building is currently undergoing the reconstruction and will venture the new town library with a section, designated to display exhibits, related to the history of the local Jewish community. The Beit Tahara and the Small Synagogue, built in 1862 and converted into a garage during the Soviet time, can be seen in the courtyard of the main building. After the renovation works in 2010-2011 in these premises the Main District Library is situated.

Cemetery, Liepājas St. It was opened in the early 19th century as a multi-denominational communal cemetery, divided into Lutheran, Catholic, Russian Orthodox, and Jewish sections. The park was set out on its grounds in 1970. More than 20 headstones can still be seen in the Jewish area of the former cemetery.

Jewish School, Smilšu, 6. It was opened in 1926. The lessons were conducted in German and Hebrew. The building presently ventures the municipal school of music.

 

 

Liepaja

Libau

 

Distance from Riga 218 km (A9)

 

The local Jewish community was founded in the late 18th century. The first prayer house was officially opened in the city in 1799, and the first synagogue was built in 1806. The Jewish community opened a cemetery and a Chevra Kadisha in 1803. During the last quarter of the 19th century, two synagogues were built in Liepaja. The Major or Choral Synagogue was built in the historic centre of the city and the other one – in its new part. By that time, many Jews from Russia, Poland, and Lithuania settled in Liepaja. The majority of them were living here illegally. However, the Jewish community continued to grow and by 1897 it had 9,454 members. The overall population of Liepaja during that period consisted of 64,489 people.

Liepaja was one of the largest transit ports for the Jewish emigrants. During the period between 1906 and 1910, more than 100,000 emigrants from the Russian Empire went through Liepaja port, on their way overseas. The 7, 379 Jews, who lived it Liepaja, made up 13% of its total population in 1935.

On the order of Stalin’s administration, 181 Liepaja Jews were deported to Siberia on the 14th of June 1941. Tragically, the majority of them died in exile.

When Wehrmacht solders entered Liepaja in the late June 1941, there were some 7,000 Jews in the city. The Jews from the suburbs were also transported to Liepaja. During the first few days of the Nazi occupation, 33 Jews were shot dead in Raina Park in the city centre. On the 8th and the 9th of July 1941, hundreds of Jewish men were transported from the local prison to the seaside, south from the lighthouse, where they were executed by firing squad. By the end of July 1941, the mass executions began in Skede. During the period between the 15th and the 17th of December 1941 the occupants and their local collaborators shot dead 2, 773 people. Only 20 or 30 Jews survived the war by going into hiding in the city. Just a few hundreds Jews lived in Liepaja after the WWII. The majority of them came from other parts of the Soviet Union.

The local Jewish community was revived in the late 1980s. Some 400 Jews live in Liepaja at present.

 

The Great Choral Synagogue, Kuršu, 11/13. The synagogue, built in 1868, was destroyed in 1941.

Prayer House, Kungu, 21. Currently the building is at the disposal of the local Jewish Community. It also ventures museum “Jews in Liepaja.”

Prayer House and Almshouse Moshav Zekeinim, Kungu, 21, in the courtyard. It was built in 1911.

Hospital Linas Hatzedek, Bāriņu, 11.

Jewish Secondary School, Bāriņu, 12. This building ventured a Jewish primary school and a public Jewish secondary school.

Hebrew School, Kuršu, 20.

Sholem Aleichem School, Rožu, 8. The school opened its doors to the pupils for the first time in 1919 and functioned until 1940. The only Yiddish school in Liepaja was attended by 336 students in 1921. In 1926 it was named after world famous Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem.

Jewish Primary and Secondary Schools, Kūrmājas, 13. A Jewish primary school functioned here from 1935 to 1937. The building ventured a public Jewish secondary school from 1937 to 1940.

Spot of the Executions of the Liepaja Jews, Zvejnieku, 7. The systematic executions of the Jews were carried out here from the late July to the early October 1941.

Residential House, Tirgoņu, 22. It was used as a hiding place for the Jews during the Holocaust. Robert and Johanna Sedul sheltered 11 Jews in this house from 1943 to 1945. There is a memorial board dedicated to the saviours on the front wall of this building.

Chevra Kadisha, Klaipēdas, 41.

Cemetery, Cenkones, 18/20. It was built in the 19th century as a part of the local Livu Cemetery. The monument in memory of the Jews, who fought and perished in the Latvian War of Independence in 1919, is one of the landmarks of the cemetery. The memorial wall with the names of 6,428 Liepaja Jews died during Holocaust and in the Soviet concentration camps, was unveiled in 2004.

The Monument in Memory of Liepaja Ghetto, Kungu, 29. The ghetto was set up between Kungu, Apšu, Dārza, and Bāriņu streets in summer 1941, when not more than 800 surviving Jews remained in the city. All the ghetto prisoners were transported to Kaizerwald concentration camp in Riga in autumn of 1943. Later they were sent to different concentration camps in Germany.

Shkede Memorial, 15 km north from the city centre. In accordance to different pieces of evidence from 6,500 to 7,000 people, among them 3,640 Jews, 2,000 Soviet POWs and 1,000 Latvian civilians were shot dead in these dunes between 1941 and 1945. The memorial, representing a giant menorah lying on the ground, was designed by sculptor Raimonds Gabalins, and opened in June 2005. The quotes from the Bible are carved on the sides of the square columns placed beside the menorah, made of rough stones brought from different parts of Kurzeme.

 

Livani

Lievenhof

 

Distance from Riga 170 km (A6)

 

The Jews, who settled here in the early 19th century, came from Lithuania. Prior to the WWI, the Jews made up more than half of the total population of the town. During that time prayer houses, a cemetery, a Jewish school, and a kindergarten functioned in Livani.

Due to the fast approaching front line, many Jews left the town in 1915. A Yiddish primary school was opened here in 1921. The total population of Livani in 1935 consisted of 3,527 people. Making up just 28% of the overall population, the Jews owned 44% of the small-scale businesses.

On the 29th of June 1941, the Nazi troops occupied Livani. A few weeks later, all the local Jews were executed.

 

Cemetery, Meža St. It was opened in the mid-19th century. The last burial took place here in 1940. The cemetery was partially restored by Pastor Klaus-Peter Rex and his youth group from Germany in 2007.

 

Ludza

Lutzin, Ludzen, Lucyn

 

Distance from Riga 272 km (A6, A12)

 

There is some evidence of the first Jews settling here in the 16th century. The local Jewish community was formed in the early 18th century. By 1815 the 1,176 Jews, who lived here, made up 67% of the total population of the town.

Ludza was an important Jewish religious centre. The famous Rabbis from the Altshuler, the Tsiuni and the Donchin (DonYehia) families lead the Jewish community for more than 150 years. There were 8 synagogues and prayer houses in the town in the 1930s.

The 1,518 Jews, who lived in the town in 1935, made up 24% of its overall population.

Thirteen Jewish families were deported from Ludza to Siberia on the 14th of June 1941.

The Nazi troops entered Ludza on the 3rd of July 1941. The Jews were forced to relocate into a ghetto. Most of them were exterminated during several mass executions. Some 120 Jews were transported to Daugavpils and Rezekne, where they later died.

After the WWII not more than 100 Jews lived in Ludza. However, until the late 1980s the town Jews attended the synagogue and matzoth were made locally. Later due to the emigration in the 1980s, the number of Jews in the town decreased. The Jewish community of Ludza was revived in 1990s and now consists of 15 members.

 

The Great Synagogue, Pirmā maija, 31. One of the oldest synagogues in Latvia, it was originally built in 1801 and reconstructed in 1937. Now the synagogue is not in use.

Monument to the Victims of the Holocaust, at the lakeside near the synagogue. The monument was unveiled in 1991.

A Jewish School, Raiņa, 14. A Yiddish primary school was opened here in 1919. The school had 209 pupils in 1935. The building was extensively reconstructed and converted into a residential house.

Cemetery, E. Soikāna St. This one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Latvia was opened in the mid-18th century and is currently in operation for burials.

 

Preili

Prelli

 

Distance from Riga 204 km (A6, P63)

 

The first Jews settled here in the early 19th century. The Jewish population of the town in 1847 consisted of 284 people. By 1897, their number increased to 1,375. A Jewish school and 4 synagogues were opened in Preili in the late 19th century.

The 847 Jews, who lived in the town in 1935, made up 51% of its whole population.

On the 28th of June 1941, Preili was occupied by the Nazi troops. Some 800 local Jews and the refugees from other areas were executed during July and August 1941.

 

Synagogue, Brīvības, 8. The wooden synagogue was built in 1865 and reconstructed in 1938.

The Cemetery, Cēsu St. It was built in the early 19th century, and was opened for burials until 1964.

Monument in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Cēsu St, near the cemetery. It was opened in 2004 by the initiative and with the financial support of David Zilberman. The quote from the dairy kept by the local Jewish girl Sheina Gram from 22nd June 1941 until her tragic death on the 8th of August 1941 is engraved on the monument.

 

Rezekne

Rositten

 

Distance from Riga 242 km (A6, A12)

 

The earliest written records of the Jews in the locality are dated 1712. The Jewish community of Rezekne was formed in the last quarter of the 18th century. It deserved to be mentioned that eight blocks especially designated for the Jewish houses were included in the original city development planes, designed in the 1770s–1780s. The first records of a Jewish prayer house in Rezekne can be found in the documents dated 1784. By 1861, Rezekne Jews had 6 functioning synagogues and prayer houses.

The 1,072 Jews, who lived in the city in 1815, made up 90% of its overall population. By 1897, the number of Jews in Rezekne reached 6,478.

During late 19th – early 20th century, some Rezekne Jews emigrated to the USA and South Africa. Many local Jews became refugees during the WWI, many moved to Riga and Palestine during the 1920s and the 1930s. By 1935, the number of Jews in Rezekne decreased to 3,342, making up just 25% of its total population.

In contrast to other places, the women's education was rapidly developing in the city. A private girls’ school was opened in 1885, a Cheder for girls started functioning in 1908 and a Jewish folk school for women was in operation since 1912. There were also a Jewish primary school, a public Jewish secondary school, several Zionist, youth, and sport organizations in the city.

Rezekne was occupied by the Nazi troops on the 3rd of July 1941. The mass executions of the Jews started the following day at the Jewish cemetery in the village of Ancupani. The Jews fit for hard labour were initially transported to Daugavpils ghetto and later – to Kaiserwald concentration camp in Riga. Of all Rezekne Jews, only two adults and a few children survived.

The Jews moved to Rezekne from other towns and cities to join those, who came back to their home town after the WWII. By 1950 a few hundreds Jews lived there. The services in the Green Synagogue recommenced. By the 1970s, when the majority of the local Jews either emigrated to Israel or moved to Riga, the Jewish community life almost stopped. It was revived in 1980s and by now, there are 39 members in the Jewish community of Rezekne.

 

The Green Synagogue, Krāslavas, 5. Built in 1845, it is the oldest existing wooden synagogue in Latvia. The building renovation is planned in 2012-2013. The Green Synagogue is included in the List of Local Protected Monuments.

Cemetery, Upīša, 91. It contains of two parts: the old part (where the graves are dated prior to 1940) and the new one. There are two monuments in memory of the victims of the Holocaust at the cemetery. The first monument was opened in late 1940s at the lower part of the cemetery at the actual spot of the execution of the Jews. The second one was unveiled in 1989.

Monument in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, corner of Dzirnavu St and Krasta St. It was built in 2006 on the spot where 120 Rezekne Jews were shot dead.

Memorial to the Victims of the Nazi Terror, Ančupāni Hills, 1 km from the Rīgas St and Viļakas St junction. Some 15,000 people, among them 6,000 Jews from Rezekne, its suburbs and from several European countries were shot here during the WWII. The memorial, designed by sculptor Rasa Kalnina-Grinberga, was unveiled in 1973.

Latgale Museum of Culture and History, Atbrīvošanas aleja, 102. A part of the exhibition is dedicated to the history of Latgale Jews.

 

Riga

 

The earliest written records of the Jewish traders, arrived in Riga, are dated back in the late 15th–early 16th century. Originally, the Jews were not allowed to live in the inner city. The first three Jewish families were granted permission to settle in the suburbs of Riga in 1764. The status of “Schutzjuden” – the “Protected Jews,” for those contributed to the city treasury and therefore allowed to live in Riga, was set out in the 18th century. At the same period, a Jewish inn was opened outside of the city walls in Moscow Suburb.

The Jews from the nearest settlement Schlok (Sloka) were granted permission to trade in Riga in the late 18th century. Gradually more and more Sloka Jews settled in the city. The Chevra Kadisha was opened here in 1765. The first synagogue started functioning in the city in 1780. The Jewish community of Riga was registered in 1783. However, it only became officially recognized in 1842.

By 1881 the local Jewish community consisted of 14,222 members, which made up 8,4 % of the overall city population. Several Jewish secular schools along with traditional Jewish educational institutions functioned in Riga in the late 19th – early 20th century. There was also a range of cultural, educational, and public Jewish organizations in Riga.

During the WWI, in 1915 a large group of Jews was exiled from the city.

Riga became the Capital of the independent Latvian Republic in 1920. By that year, the local Jewish community consisted of 24,725 members. The 1920s–1930s was the time when the Jewish life in Riga was flourishing: The Community Council was elected, Jewish hospitals, charity organizations and theatres were opened. The Jewish newspapers and magazines were published in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, and Russian languages. The Jewish children could attend any of 12 primary and 2 secondary Jewish schools. The Jewish Folk University and the Jewish Folk Music Academy functioned in the city.

More than 20 prayer houses and minyans along with 5 synagogues conducted services in Riga during the 1920s. The centre of Chabad was transferred here after Lubavitcher Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn moved his residence to the city.

Riga became the heart of the Zionist movement in Eastern Europe in the 1920s–1930s. Such organizations as “Beitar,” “Keren Kayemet", and several Zionist left wing youth centres worked here.

By 1935 the number of Jews in Riga reached 43,672, which was equal to 11,3 % of its whole population.

After Latvia fell into the hands of the Soviet Union in 1940, all the Zionist organizations were disbanded. The Hebrew schools were closed down. Many famous Jewish public figures were deported on the 14th of June 1941.

The Nazi troops occupied Riga on the 1st of July 1941. Some 30,000 Jews were present in Riga on the first day of the occupation. Almost all of them were shot in Rumbula forest. Only 164 Jewish Holocaust survivors were found in Riga after its liberation from the Nazis.

During the WWII the total number of the local Jewish community members decreased by 2/3. After the war, the Jews returned to their home city from evacuation, from exile, from the fronts and the concentration camps. Some Jews from other towns and cities of the Soviet Union also moved to Riga.

Since the 1960s, the Latvian Capital once again became one of the centres of the Jewish national and Zionist movements. The underground newspapers were published and the underground theatre performed here during that period. By 1970 the Jewish population of Riga consisted of 30,580 people. About 1/3 of them immigrated to Israel during the 1970s.

Latvian Society of the Jewish Culture was formed in 1988, marking the resurrection of the Jewish community in Riga. The first Jewish school in the Soviet Union was opened in the Latvian Capital in 1989. At present the Jewish community of Riga has more than 8,000 members.

 

Peitav Schul (Synagogue), Peitavas, 6/8. The synagogue with the Art Nouveau façade and the interior of Ancient Egyptian style, designed by architects Hermann Seuberlich and Wilhelm Neuman, was built in 1905. It was the second biggest and one of the most beautiful temples in Riga after the Great Choral Synagogue. During the Holocaust it escaped the tragic fate of other Riga synagogues. It was not burned down because of its location in the city center in dense surrounding of other buildings. During the WWII it was converted into a warehouse. After the war Peitav Schul was one of very few functioning synagogues in the USSR. Now it is the only operating synagogue in Riga. Thanks to the financial support of the European Union, the Latvian Government, the Council of the Jewish Communities of Latvia and the private donations, the synagogue underwent renovation in 2007–2008. The building is included in the List of State Protected Monuments.

Memorial on the Site of the Great Choral Synagogue, Gogoļa, 25, corner of Dzirnavu St. One of the most magnificent temples in Riga was designed by Paul von Hardenak and built on this site in 1871. It was famous for its choir and the cantors. As many as 1,000 people could attend the synagogue at a time. Sharing the tragic fate of other synagogues in Riga, the Great Choral Synagogue was burned down together with the people, locked up in it on the 4th of July 1941. The exact number of the victims remains unknown until now. In 1993 the memorial, designed by architect Sergey Ryzh, was opened on the site of the destroyed synagogue. The decorative elements of the original building, found during the archaeological excavations are incorporated into the structure of the monument, representing the walls of the burned down temple.

Monument to Zanis Lipke and all the Saviours of Latvian Jews. Gogoļa, 25, corner of Dzirnavu St. It was designed by Elina Lazdina, and unveiled on the 4th of July 2007. The falling wall symbolizes the threat of extermination of the Jewish people. The names of the 270 Latvian residents who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust have been engraved on the 7 columns supporting the wall. The central column displays the portrait of Zanis Lipke, who saved more than 50 Jews from Riga ghetto. He was the first Latvian citizen, honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

Jewish School, Lāčplēša, 141. The first secular Jewish school was opened in Riga in 1840. Rabbi Max Lilienthal, the famous German educationalist of Jewish origin was the founder and the first principal of the school. Later the prominent Jewish historian Rabbi Reuben Joseph Wunderbar also taught here. This property was bought in 1887, and later converted into a school, which was in operation until 1941. During the Holocaust it was used by Judenrat – the Jewish Ghetto Council. After the WWII, one of the city schools functioned here. Currently the building ventures Jewish Private Secondary school “Chabad.”

Ghetto (1941–1943), a part of the city, bordered by Maskavas, Jersikas, Ebreju, Līksnas, Lauvas, Lielā Kalna, Katoļu, Jēkabpils, and Lāčplēša streets. In the late August 1941, all Jews present in Riga were ordered to relocate to the ghetto. Some 30,000 people became its prisoners. About 25,000 Jews were exterminated in Rumbula forest during two mass executions, which took place on the 30th of November and the 8th of December 1941. The Jews deported from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia were also kept prisoner in Riga ghetto from the late 1941 until its disbandment on the 2nd of November 1943.

The Old New Synagogue – Altnaie Schul, Maskavas, 57. The original small timber building, rented by Riga Jews and used as a prayer house, was built on this site in 1780. This oldest synagogue in the city was replaced by a brick building in 1843, and reconstructed according to the plans of architect Reingold Schmeling in 1889. At that point, the synagogue received its unusual name “The Old New Synagogue”

On the 4th of July 1941, it was burned down together with the people, which took refuge in it. After the WWII, the building was reconstructed and converted into a residential house.

Hospital Bikur Holim, Maskavas, 122/128. Society “Bikur Holim” caring for the sick was founded in Riga in the 19th century. Hospital Bikur Holim was opened in 1924 thanks to the donation of the Jewish philanthropist Ulrich Milman and with the support of the American branch of JOINT. Dr. Isaac Yoffe was the General Manager of the hospital, which provided services in General Medicine, Neurology, and General Surgery. Dr. Vladimir Mintz, the Head Surgeon of Bikur Holim was the first surgeon in Latvia, who operated on open heart and brain. During the Holocaust the building was used by the Nazi authority as a military hospital. In the Soviet times, one of the city hospitals functioned here. Hospital Bikur Holim re-opened its doors to the patients in the early 1990s.

The Old Jewish Cemetery, Līksnas, 2/4. It was opened in 1725. The Old Jewish Cemetery received its present name shortly after the New Jewish Cemetery started functioning in Šmerlis in the 1920s. The prayer house and the Beit Tahara situated at the cemetery were burned down on the 4th of July 1941. Estimated 50 people perished in the blaze. Some 1,000 people, killed on the streets of the ghetto during the late November 1941, were buried here in two mass graves. The members of the resistance group were shot and buried here on the 31st of October 1942. During the Soviet times, the graves were destroyed and Communist Brigades Park was set out on the site of the cemetery. However, a few fragments of several headstones can still be seen. To commemorate the fact, that the Jewish cemetery was situated on this site, the park is now called "The Old Jewish Cemetery".

The Rumbula Memorial Site, the Spot of the Mass Execution of the Jews, Maskavas, 455. 25,000 prisoners of Riga ghetto were shot in Rumbula forest on the 30th of November and on the 8th of December 1941. Some 1,000 Jews, who were transported here from Germany in the early morning of the 30th of November 1941, became the first victims. The Rumbula Memorial was opened on the 29th of November 2002 on the site where the mass execution took place. It was designed by architect Sergey Ryzh. Boarders mark six mass graves, located in the forest. The large menorah towering in the centre of the area in the shape of the Star of David, covered with rocks. The names of the Jews executed here are engraved on them. The paving stones, forming the Star of David bear the names of the streets of Riga ghetto. During the construction of the new monument the original one was carefully preserved. It was unveiled in 1964 thanks to the efforts of the Riga Jewish activists.

Bikernieku Memorial Site, the Spot of the Mass Execution of the Jews, Biķernieki St, central part of the forest. Some 35, 000 people, among them about 20, 000 Jews from Latvia, Austria, Germany and Czechoslovakia were shot dead here between 1941 and 1944. The memorial, designed by architect Sergey Ryzh, was opened here on the 30th of November 2001. The black granite cube, representing an altar, stands in the centre of the memorial. The granite stones with paths between them, surrounding the altar, remind a visitor about a traditional Jewish cemetery. There are small plaques alongside the paths showing the names of Kiel, Bremen, Prague, Riga, Vienna, and other places where the people were transported from and condemned to death. Deeper inside the forest there are graves marked with symbolic stones.

Monument in Memory of the Victims of Kaiserwald Concentration Camp, Meža and Viestura junction. Kaiserwald concentration camp was set up in autumn 1943. Surviving inmates of Riga, Liepaja and Daugavpils ghettos, the Jews from Lithuania, Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia were kept prisoner in Kaiserwald and its branches. Starting from summer 1944, the prisoners of Kaiserwald were transferred to concentration camps in Germany. The last transport left Kaiserwald just days before Riga was liberated from the Nazis. Some 18,000 people were imprisoned in Kaiserwald concentration camp during the course of its existence. The monument, designed by sculptor Solveiga Vasiļjeva was opened on the 29th of June 2005.

A Jewish Club and Theatre, Skolas, 6. The building, designed by architects Edmund Trompovski and Paul Mandelstamm, was constructed in 1913–1914. After it was fully reconstructed, the Jewish Theatre was opened here in 1926. The famous Hebrew Habimah Theatre performed on its stage in 1926, and 1938. The Nazi authorities used the premises as an officers' club. During the Soviet period, the building ventured the House of the Political Education. The property was returned to the Jewish community in the early 1990s. At present, it has become a home for several Jewish public organizations, museum “Jews in Latvia”, kosher café Lehaim etc. The building is included in the List of State Protected Monuments.

 

Sabile

Zabbeln

 

Distance from Riga 126 km (A10, P130)

 

The first records of the Jews in the town are dated in the early 19th century. The Chevra Kadisha was registered in Sabile in 1809. By 1891, the total population of the town reached 1,400 people, including 873 Jews. By that time 2 synagogues functioned in Sabile. By 1910, the Jewish community of Sabile had 700 members, which made up 43% of the overall population of the town. The local Jews were deported during the WWI, in 1915. Tragically, not all of them survived to come back. By 1935, the 280 Jews, who lived in the town, made up only 15% of its overall population. However, they owned a half of the local businesses.

When in 1940 Latvia fell into the hands of the Soviet Union, the Jewish social life in Sabile died out completely. Privately owned businesses were nationalized and later, in the mid- June 1941, the wealthy Jews were deported to Siberia.

The Nazi occupation of Sabile started on the 1st of July 1941. All Sabile Jews were forcibly brought to one of the local houses only to be later taken away and executed in the woodlands approximately 5 km away from the town.

 

Synagogue, Strauta, 4. It was built in 1875. During the Holocaust the synagogue was converted into a public bathhouse. The building ventured a sport school from 1950 until mid-1980s, when it was converted into a warehouse. It underwent reconstruction in 2001 and currently ventures Centre for Modern Art and Cultural Heritage.

 

Cemetery, Meža St, 300m to the left from the main road, nearby the area where TV spire is located. It was opened in 1809. Only several headstones can still be seen. A select few of these have engravings in German language on them.

 

Talsi

Talsen

 

Distance from Riga 1115 km (P120, A10)

 

The Jewish community was formed in mid-19th century, when a synagogue, a private minyan, and a Beit Midrash started functioning. By 1881, the local Jewish community had 1,398 members, which made up 41% of the total population of the town. A private Cheder was the only place of education for the Jews in Talsi until 1905. Many Jewish children attended local German schools. A municipal Jewish primary school started functioning in 1920. In 1935, among permanent residents of Talsi, 499 were Jewish. Making up only 12% of the overall population, they owned 41% of all local businesses, mostly in the textile industry, jewelry and woodworking. All the Jewish religious and social life stopped in 1940, when Soviet period began. All privately owned businesses were nationalized and the wealthy Jewish families were deported to Siberia in mid-June 1941.

Talsi was occupied by the Nazi troops on the 1st of July 1941. All local Jews were ordered to gather in Beit Midrash. They were then transported to the artillery shooting grounds 12 km outside of the town, and killed. Only a few Jewish families returned to their home town after the war. About 10 Jews currently reside in Talsi.

 

Synagogue, Kalnu, 5. It was built around 1850, and underwent a reconstruction in 1937. After the WWII the synagogue was converted into a residential house.

Summer Synagogue, Kalnu, 5a. It was built in 1857 and was reconstructed in 1922. Since after the WWII the synagogue has been used as a residential house.

School, Kalnu, 7. It started functioning in 1920. After the Jewish school in Sabile was closed down in 1935, it became the only Jewish school in this part of Kurzeme. Currently, the building is being used as a residential house.

Cemetery, following K. Mīlenbaha St, after crossing the city limits, this cemetery will be 100m to your left. It was founded in mid-19th century, and was opened for burials until the WWII.

The Monument in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, situated in the forest near the Jewish cemetery. The memorial stone was unveiled to mark the spot, where the executed Jews of Talsi were re-buried.

Talsi Museum of Regional Studies, Mīlenbaha, 19. Some of the museum's exhibits tell of the history of Talsi Jewish community.

 

Tukums

Tukum

 

Distance from Riga 63 km (P98 and A10)

 

Jews were allowed to settle in Tukums only when Kurland became a part of the Russian Empire. The Jewish settlers came to Tukums from the neighbouring estates of the local aristocrats and from East Prussia. By 1850, the 2,887 Jews, who lived in Tukums and its suburbs, made up 47% of its total population. More Jews came to Tukums from Lithuania in late 19th century.

There were 3 synagogues in the town during that time. During the period of the independent Latvia a public Yiddish primary school, a Jewish kindergarten, a library, a theatrical group, a chorus and several Jewish charity organizations functioned in Tukums.

In 1928 three Jewish members were elected to the Town Council. By 1935, the Jewish population of Tukums consisted of 953 people. Making up only 12% of the whole population of the town, the Jews owned 48% of the local businesses.

When Latvia fell into the hands of the Soviet Union in 1940, all the Jewish organization stopped functioning. Several wealthy Jewish business families were deported to Siberia in 1941.

Tukums was occupied by the Nazi troops on the 1st of July 1941. During the mid-July 1941, the local Jewish men were transported to the area near Valgums Lake. The men were forced to dig the mass graves, after that they were killed. On the following day, the remaining Jews of Tukums were executed on the same site. Only one woman managed to escape.

During the 1950s, the local Jewish community had some 250–300 members. Not more than 10 Jews reside in Tukums at present.

 

Synagogue, Brīvības, 8. It was built in the early 19th century. The synagogue was damaged by fire in 1865, but was restored in 1869, and fully reconstructed in 1910. The building was in use as a car repair workshop during the WWII. After the war, it was converted into a granary and later ventured a local children's sport school. It currently ventures a gym.

Small Synagogue, Elizabetes, 8. It was built in 1866. During the 1920s the religious school classes were held in this building. The town Jews were kept prisoner here in 1941. The building was fully reconstructed in 2003. It currently is being used as a pharmacy.

Rabbi's House, Brīvības, 9. It was built in the late 19th century. The house functioned as a synagogue from 1945 to 1960. During the 1960s, it was converted into a factory. The decrepit building was demolished and replaced by the new one in 2003.

Jewish Secular School, Uguns, 8. The school, sponsored by the local Jewish community functioned from 1835 until the WWI. The lessons were conducted in Yiddish and German. During the 1920s the premises were at the disposal of a Jewish kindergarten. The headquarters of “Ezra” charity foundation were in operation here for several years from 1935.

School, Lielā, 28. A primary school worked in this building during the 1920s.

School, Lielā, 31. A Yiddish school was opened in this building in the 1930s. The building currently ventures one of the town schools.

Cemetery, end of Klusā St. The first Jewish burial in Tukums took place in 1799. The last one was carried out in 1973. The old part of the cemetery is well preserved and the tomb of the Lichtensteins rabbinical dynasty can still be seen.

 

Valdemarpils

Sasmacken, Sasmaka

 

Distance from Riga 120 km (A10, P126, P125, P120)

 

The local Jewish community was formed in the late 18th century. In this period, a synagogue and a cemetery were built here. In the mid-19th century, 84% of the overall town population were Jewish. The 1,197 Jews, who lived in Valdemarpils in 1881, made up 67% of its total population. In 1935, among 1,135 local residents, 159 were Jews. Despite making up just 14% of the population of Valdemarpils, the Jews owned half of the local businesses.

By the time, when the Nazi occupation began, 117 Jews were present in the town. The unfit for work, elderly people, the disabled, and the young children were exterminated on the night of the 26th of July 1941. The remaining 56 people (an 11 years old girl among them) were transported to the turf-cutting field 5 km away from the town and killed there on the 7th of August 1941.

 

The Summer Synagogue, the Winter Synagogue, and the Rabbi's living headquarters, Ezera, 1. The first synagogue in Sasmaka was built in the late 18th century, later followed by another one. In the late 1930s, both synagogues were reconstructed. During the Holocaust, the buildings were used as vaults for the valuables, taken from the executed Jews. During the Soviet period, the Town Council used the converted synagogues for different purposes. The three buildings included in the List of State Protected Monuments. At present, the property is privately owned.

Cemetery, Ezera St. It was founded in the late 18th century on the hill near Sasmaka Lake. It was opened for burials until 1940. The cemetery has deteriorated at present; however, the remaining headstones are preserved and arranged in a group at the top of the hill.

 

 

Varaklani

Warkland

 

Distance from Riga 202 km (A6)

 

The Jewish community started forming after 1772. In 1897, the 1,375 Jews, who lived in the town, made up 75% of its overall population. By 1935 there were 952 Jewish residents in Varaklani. They made up 58% of its entire population. This was the highest percentage of the Jews among all towns and cities in Latvia of that time.

The Nazi troops entered Varaklani in the early July 1941. On the 4th of August 1941 all the Jews remaining in the town were executed beyond the Jewish cemetery. After the war not more that 10 Jewish families lived in Varaklani. At present, only one Jew lives in formerly “the most Jewish” town in Latvia.

 

Cemetery, Kapsētas, 10a. It was opened in late 18th – early 19th century. Some graves have been restored. The last burial was carried out in 1988. There are two monuments in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the Beit Tahara at the cemetery.

The White Synagogue, Skolas, 3. This is the only one of three town synagogues, which was not destroyed. The brick building erected in 1817, was reconstructed in 1925. At present, it is being used as a shoe repair workshop.

 

Ventspils

Windau

 

Distance from Riga 184 km (A10)

 

There is evidence that Y. Kaufman Lipshitz, arrived from Prague in the late 18th century, was the first Jew in Ventspils. Other Jewish settlers came to Ventspils from the surrounding villages, the neighbouring town of Piltene, from Prussia and Lithuania. However, they obtained the status of legal residents only in 1795, when Courland became a part of the Russian Empire.

485 Jews lived in the city and its suburbs in 1835. Some 5,000 Jews, who lived in Ventspils just before WWI, made up 19% of its total population. A synagogue, several private minyans, and hospital Bikur Holim were opened in the city.

The Ventspils Jews, sharing the fate of the majority of their fellows in Courland, were deported into the midlands of Russia in 1915. After the WWI, the Jewish community of Ventspils was re-established, and by 1920, it had 863 members, making up 11% of whole population of the city.

By 1935 among 15,671 residents of Ventspils 1,246 were Jewish.

During the period of the independent Latvian Republic, the City Council opened the Jewish primary school and the Jewish community opened the secondary school.

The majority of Ventspils Jews were involved in a variety of businesses. They played a meaningful role in the economy of the city, especially in timber, grain, and leather trading.

After Latvia became a part of the former Soviet Union in 1940, the businesses were nationalized and their former owners were deported. Almost 1/5 of the Latvian citizens exiled from Ventspils were Jewish.

The Nazi troops occupied Ventspils on the 1st of July 1941, at which time about 1,000 Jews were present in town. In the mid-July all the Jews were ordered to gather in the synagogue and in several other buildings at Kuģinieku, Ostas and Tirgoņu streets near the river. During three days of the third week of the Nazi occupation several hundreds Jewish men were shot in the forest 2 km outside of the city. In the late September 1941, other 200 people were killed in the same place. The elderly women and the children were kept prisoner in the synagogue. On the 3rd and the 17th of October 1941, all 533 of them were shot dead in Kazinu forest.

The Jewish community of Ventspils was revived in the late 1980s. At present the city Jewish community consists of 50 members.

 

Synagogue, Sinagogas, 9. The Summer Synagogue, built in 1856, was reconstructed in 1930s. The building is currently not in use.

Jewish Community and School Building, Užavas, 8. It ventured public Yiddish primary school and secondary school, taught in German and, since 1934 – in Hebrew. The latter one was funded by the local Jewish community. The building currently ventures the offices of the regional Government organizations.

Building, which during 1930s ventured the offices of the Jewish youth organization “Herzylia,” Pils, 40.

Cemetery, Saules St, in the forest. It was opened in 1831. In the same year, the Chevra Kadisha started functioning. The last few burials took place here shortly before the WWII.

Kazinu Forest, end of Vasarnīcas St, on the left-hand side of the road. This is the spot of the mass execution of the Ventspils Jews in October 1941.

 

This material has been published with the financial support of the European Union and State of Latvia. The content of this material is the sole responsibility of the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union and State of Latvia.


  

Back

Subscribe for news