This year, the celebration of the 102nd anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Latvia took place without traditional commemorative events due to restrictions caused by Covid-19.
On November 18, to honor Jewish soldiers, who fought and defended the independence of Latvia and died in the Freedom war, flowers were laid and a prayer was said by representatives of the Liepaja Jewish Community, in co-operation with the foundations “ Liepājas ebreju mantojums” and “Uniting History” on the Jewish cemetery. The short ceremony was organized near the monument to Jewish soldiers, killed near Liepāja during the Independence war in 1919.
Extracts from the monument’s dedication speeches in 2019
I. Lensky, Director of the Museum “Jews in Latvia”: “Today’s ceremony is not an ordinary event, we must remember that this is the first monument to the fallen Jewish soldiers erected in Latvia. Similar monuments were planned in other cities, later two of them appeared in Riga, but in Daugavpils it was never erected. It is surprising that this monument survived all future regimes that were not very friendly towards the independence of Latvia and those who died defending its freedom. The participation of Jews in the struggle for independence is a well-known fact and has been repeatedly approved. Every time when we talk about the participation of Jews in this war, it is not just a political or military story. We are also talking about more local things – about people defending what was dear and important to them – their city, their homeland. The lives of each of these people deserve research, but this work is not yet completed. There is a wonderful book by Professor Erik Jekabson – “Forgotten soldiers – Jews in the Latvian army 1918 – 1940”, just about them. And the restoration of this monument is a good dedication to the centenary of the Republic of Latvia and the War of Independence ”.
“This is a very important time for Latvia,” said Gunars Ansins, Deputy Mayor of Liepāja. “We are celebrating the centenary of our country. And the people who helped Latvia become independent, defended their country and died for its freedom are very important. It doesn’t matter if they were teachers or workers, Latvians or Russians, Jews or Estonians. We were together at that terrible time …”
Military historian Juris Raķis:
“When the enemy troops approached Liepaja, it was clear that everyone stood up to defend their city. Native city of Liepaja was defended not only by soldiers, but also by civilians. Everyone was eager to fight, regardless of age and nationality. Latvians, Russians, Jews … Jewish high school students, boys of 14-15 years old, ran away from school, some with the permission of their parents, some without. They went to the Defense headquarters and enrolled in the defenders of their homeland. Of course, these boys were not given weapons. But in those historical days of the battle for the defense of the city, they were providing connections, supplied the soldiers with food, in other words, helped as best as they could. The headmaster of the gymnasium let the boys leave their lessons, but on one condition – so to speak, from nine in the morning to three in the afternoon they were in the war, and then quickly back to school, since the following day there would be a written test.
The War of Independence was a people’s war, indeed. The Western Volunteer detachments of Bermont-Avalov, were defeated in an attempt to occupy Riga on November 11 (now this day is celebrated as the Day of Lačplēsis), then tried to occupy Liepāja. The battles for Liepāja began on November 14, 1919. “