LATVIA'S HISTORY: EDUCATION, REMEMBRANCE, RESEARCH
September - October 2007 (40)
- Documentary film in production on our historical experience
- Funding provided for memorial to Zanis Lipke
- Memorial site in Dundaga
Documentary film in production on our historical experience
At Liepaja in September, the film studio Devini was in production on a documentary film entitled Controversial History. One of the main heroes of the film is Edward Anders, a U.S.-based scientist and ex-resident of Liepaja who had travelled to the documentary-shooting in his native town from San Francisco.
"The documentary film is planned as a story about the historical experience of people of various nationalities – Latvians, Russians, and Jews – and their point of view concerning the Latvia of today and its future development" says Uldis Neiburgs, historian and author of the screenplay. "To a considerable extent, these people symbolise the life of various ethnic communities in pre-war Latvia. The swift changes brought about by World War II followed by the Soviet/Nazi/Soviet occupations created controversy that continues to exist in the community of Latvia today.
Only owing to a fortunate coincidence, the family of Edward Anders managed to escape the soviet deportations of 14 June 1941. Together with his mother he managed to survive the Holocaust, when approximately 6000 Jews of Liepaja, including his father and grandparents, altogether 25 relatives died.
The filming team visited the Liva cemetery, where, in 2004, thanks to the initiative and donations of Mr. Anders and his companions, a memorial wall was created with the names of Jews of Liepaja – Victims of Nazism and Communism.
Despite heavy rain and wind, the filming team and Mr. Anders managed to find the 270 meter long and 8 meter wide execution site at the Skede seaside, where 2739 Liepaja Jews were killed on 15 December 1941. Mr. Anders managed to establish this place with the help a U.S. satellite photo several years ago.
Thanks to the initiative and donations of Mr. Anders and his Liepaja-based companion Voldemars Bans, memorial plaques with historically precise information in Latvian, Russian, and English languages about the people of various nationalities, who died here, was put up in Skede.
Mr. Anders experienced especially emotional moments, when for the first time after 60 years, he visited his former apartment in Uliha Street – his childhood and adolescence family home.
The hero of the documentary showed his wife and the filming group the yard of the then Investigation Prison in present-day Tiesu Street, where he arrived on the morning of 14 December 1941 together with approximately 1000 Liepaja Jews, who were killed the next day in the Skede dunes.
The documentary will be ready in 2008, promised the director Inara Kolmane. The team will also film other heroes in other places in Latvia after which post-production will take place. The documentary Controversial History will appear on screens in 2009.
Liepaja City Council (21.09.2007)
Funding provided for memorial to Zanis Lipke
On 6 September, the executive committee of the Riga City Council supported the provision of funding for the creation of a memorial at Kipsala to honour Zanis Lipke, the rescuer of Jews.
The executive committee backed the provision of 11,000 lats, and this was the final decision.
The memorial will be dedicated to the Jews who died during WWII, and the focus of this site will be linked to memories of escape, hope, faith, and keeping the values humanity high in a time when it was on the verge of extinction. This place will remind us about Zanis Lipke who saved the lives of more than 50 Jews.
The memorial is planned to be created on land belonging to the Lipke family which is leased out to a museum by the Zana Lipkes Memorial association. Lipke's daughter-in-law, Arija Lipke, and his grandson live close-by and next to their house stands a shed that covers a bunker, in which more than 50 Jews escaped death during WWII.
As the authentic shed is situated too close to the dwelling house, it is planned to build a new shed for the purposes of the museum, from which the hidden pit could be searched for via labyrinths on the inside.
The authors of the idea intend that Kipsala, with this memorial could become a significant and interesting place for people from around the world to visit in order to show respect and keep common memories high.
The idea to create the memorial emerged several years ago when Zanis Lipke's memorial plaque was unveiled at Kipsala.
Zanis Lipke, an ordinary dock worker became the most distinguished rescuer of Latvian Jews. He directed the rescuing of more than 50 people in Riga and Dobele. When Mr Lipke died in 1987 the Latvian Jewish community set up a monument on his grave and the Israeli memorial centre Yad Vashem awarded Mr Lipke and his wife Johanna the title Righteous among the Nations.
According to information available to historians, during WWII, members of the local Latvian population hid and rescued more than 400 Jews. The number of rescued would have been higher; however, many of the Jews who had hidden were found and killed. More than 30 rescuers were arrested and subjected to repressions, and only eight survived and returned from concentration camps.
Memorial site in Dundaga
On 2 October, the opening ceremony of the memorial site devoted to Latvian and European Jews killed at the Dundaga concentration camp took place near Ciekuru house on Panu hill at Dundaga, Talsi district. A memorial stone was unveiled by the Dundaga Rural Municipality Council and the Latvian Council of Jewish Congregations and Communities. The memorial stone was erected in 2007 by the Latvian Council of Jewish Congregations and Communities but the memorial site was landscaped by Dundaga Rural Municipality Council. In 1943-1944, several thousand Jews from Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland were incarcerated and died in Dondangen (Dundaga) concentration camp. For the construction of roads, buildings, firing ranges, and other objects several thousand Jews from Latvia and other European countries were brought and incarcerated in the Dundaga concentration camp. Most of the 6000 camp inmates died of hunger, diseases, and forced labour.
In June 1944, an order was received from Berlin to stop all work. The surviving Jews were hurriedly forced to go on foot to Ventspils and Liepaja to be further sent to the Stutthof concentration camp in Poland.
As Vaira Kamara, the Dundaga Secondary School Deputy Head Teacher in extra-curricular matters, said, a project developed by Dundaga Secondary School pupils in 2006 on the collection of historical evidence related to the Dundaga concentration camp was recognised as one of the best projects and was also applied in the creation of the memorial site. The opening ceremony was attended by officials from the Latvian Foreign Ministry and the Secretariat of the Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration, as well as by diplomats accredited to Latvia, residents of Dundaga parish, and representatives of Latvian Jewish community.
Newsletter "Latvia's History: Education, Remembrance, Research" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the media and official sources