Obj. ID: 42930
Modern Jewish Art Holocaust Memorial at the Site of the Ruined Great Choral Synagogue in Riga, Latvia, 1989, 1998
To the main object: Great Choral Synagogue (ruins) in Riga, Latvia
Who is Commemorated?
Jews killed in synagogue destruction
A memorial boulder was installed on the anniversary of the killing in 1989. It is inscribed with the date of the massacre.
The memorial consists of some exposed synagogue walls including part of one wall and two stairways. These have been excavated to the level of the original tile floor of the synagogue, a portion of which is exposed.
A single modern stylized metal menorah, with a small Magen David superimposed, is set high upon a wall but it is very hard to see.
A small metal plaque with a dedicatory and explanatory inscription in Latvia, Hebrew in English was affixed in 1993 to one of the walls.
On the boulder:
ת'נ'ב'ב'ה' [=תהי נפשם צרורה בצרור החיים ]
4 / VII
Translation: May their souls be bound in the bundle of life. 4 July 1941
The inscriptions on the plaque in Latvian, Hebrew, and English are almost identical.
The inscription in Latvian reads:
1941. – 1945. Gados Latvija
noslepkavoto ebreju pieminai
Liela harala sinagoga uzcelta
Fasisti nodedzinaja sinagogu
1941. Gada 4 julija liesmas aizgaja
doja simtiem evreju.
Memorials uzselts 199. Gada
- Mandels Kaplans (DAB)
– par odgu
Solomonam Kušlikam no rezeknes:
The inscription in Hebrew reads:
לזכר היהודים שנרצחו והישמדו
בית הכנסת הגדול נבנה בשנת
ב 4 ביולי 1941 הועלה בית הכנסת
באש על ידי הנאים ונשרף, כאשר
מאות יהודים נעולים בתוכו.
הי"ד [=השם יקום דמם]
לוח זכרון זה נקבע ב 1993 בתרומותיהם
- מד מנדל קפלן מהדרא"ס לכבוד סולומון
- ניצולי השואה מלטביה, החיים בארה''ב
- ממשלה, ארגונים עיבריים ואזרחים מלטביה
- אזרחים מישראל, ארה''ב, קנדה, שבדיה, גרמניה וארצות נוספות.
תנצב''ה [=תהי נפשם צרורה בצרור החיים ]
Translation: In memory of Jews killed in Latvia 1941-1945 / The Great Choral Synagogue was built in 1871 / On July 4, 1941, the synagogue was burned down by Nazis, with hundreds of Jews locked inside. May God avenge their blood / This memorial was built in 1993 thanks to donations made by: Mr. Mendel Kaplan (SAR) in honour of Solomon Kushlik from Rezekne; Jewish Survivors of Latvia loving in the USA; The Government of Latvia, public organizations, and individuals from Latvia; Individuals from Israel, USA, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and other countries. / May their souls be bound in the bundle of life.
The inscription in English reads:
In Commemoration of Jews Killed in Latvia 1941-1945
The Great Choral Synagogue was built
Nazis burned down the
Synagogue on July 4, 1941.
Hundreds of Jews died in flames.
This memorial was built in 1993 thanks to
donations made by:
- Mr. Mendel Kaplan (SAR) – In honour of
Solomon Kushlik from Rezekne
- Jewish Survivors of Latvia from the USA
- Public organizations,
individuals, and the Government of Latvia,
- Individuals from Izrael [sic], Sweden, Germany,
Canada and other countries
Jewish Community of Riga
The Choral Synagogue was originally constructed in 1868-71. It was a large Renaissance-style building famous for its choir and cantors, including Baruch Leib Rosowsky and Herman Yadlovker Mandel, whom non-Jews also came to hear sing on Jewish holidays.
The building was burned to the ground on July 4, 1941 with Jews inside – possibly including an unknown number of Lithuania Jewish refugees. The exact number of victims is unknown. Estimates have been as high as three hundred Jews killed in the destruction, but this number – and all others proposed - has been contested. After the war, the ruins were demolished and the area was paved as part of a public square. There was no mention of the history or fate of the synagogue.
Beginning in 1988, a memorial was conceived and executed by the Jewish community of Riga. In 1989, a memorial boulder was installed on the site on the anniversary of the killing. It is inscribed with the date of the massacre but no other information.
In 1993, an expanded project was created from excavated ruins of the synagogue. Originally, plans called for the excavated ruins to be covered, and within there would be a small museum/or exhibition, an idea similar to what was subsequently done in Vienna when remains of the medieval synagogue were excavated in the course of erecting a new Holocaust monument. Lack of funds, however, derailed the ambitious Riga project.
The final project by architect Sergey Rizh exposes some original walls of the synagogue and creatively reconstructs others. A few of the decorative elements found in the excavation embedded in the walls. Still, there was little informational material included at the site except for a small metal plaque embedded in one of the walls.
Sometime in the 1990s, about the time of the opening of the synagogue memorial, the day of the synagogue destruction, was designated the official day of Holocaust remembrance in Latvia.
On July 4, 2007, a new memorial – the Saviors Monument – was also dedicated immediately adjacent to this synagogue memorial. This large new monument overwhelms the older memorial.
"Holocaust Memorial Places in Latvia," a website by the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Latvia, http://memorialplaces.lu.lv/memorial-places/riga-and-riga-district/riga-25-gogola-street/., http://memorialplaces.lu.lv/map/ (accessed April 12, 2023)
Lenskis, Ilja, Holokausta piemina Latvijā laika gaitā 1945–2015 = Holocaust Commemoration in Latvia in the Course of Time, 1945–2015 (Riga: Muzejs “Ebreju Latvija,” 2017), p. 93.