Riga – Riga Ghetto and Holocaust Museum

The country’s Holocaust museum opened in 2010 and it has a large outdoors display and also several exhibition rooms in buildings along the side.

A railway transportation carriage which is in memory of the tens of thousands of Jews who were transported from Germany and then into Riga. The exhibit is known as “the one-way ticket” as very few of those transported survived.

The inside of the railway carriage.

The entrance to one of the outdoor exhibits and the memorial wall.

A blanket used by Joseph Perlman when he was living in the Riga ghetto.

The inside of the “3,000 fates” exhibit which is dedicated to the Jews who were sent from Theresienstadt Ghetto from 1941 until 1942. At the rear is a painting of Bremen railway station from where the transportation started, a station I visited just a few months ago. Along the side are 230 memorial plaques marking individuals who were transported from Bremen.

Just as one example from along the long wall, this screen lists those who were transported from Cologne to Riga on 7 December 1941. The list of survivors is at the base, it’s just a handful of those who were deported, thought to total over 25,000.

On the other side of the screens are a list of Latvians who died during the Nazi period. The screens go on all the way down to the end, there are tens of thousands of names (around 70,000). The stones on the ground are cobbles which have been brought from a street which was part of the Riga ghetto.

A close-up of just one screen.

The room of names.

It’s very difficult to get a sense of the numbers involved here and I remember when I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau there was a mention that you have to try and personalise it and just think of one individual. That way, the individual can be remembered and understood, as knowing that millions died is beyond comprehension. In this case, the individuals mentioned were Karel Mendl and Jiri Mendl.

In one of the rooms there is a recreation of what an apartment in the Riga ghetto might have looked like. I suspect very many wouldn’t have looked as comfortable as this. Interestingly, unlike in cities such as Warsaw, the ghetto buildings have mostly survived in Riga, around 250 still stand today.

The display is located in a two-storey wooden house which was brought to this site in 2011 from where it stood in the Riga Ghetto. The house, which would have been built originally for a small family, would have housed around thirty people living in the ghetto.

Many buildings in Latvia were destroyed by the Nazis, including nearly all those of significance to the Jewish community. Some models have been commissioned to show what the buildings used to look like, with the above being Liepāja Synagogue (a town in the west of the country).

In one of the displays there’s a special exhibit which focuses on just a handful of families. On the information board one of the family members has written:

“Share them as they are yours too. Their souls will reappear, those who otherwise would be permanently dead. The Talmud says that ‘you are really dead only when nobody tells your story'”.