From the history of Reunions
1. In the 1950s, Holocaust Survivors founded the Association of Jewish Survivors from Estonia and Latvia in Israel. Amongst them were not only pioneers who built the first Kibbutz before WWII but also survivors of the Holocaust and Society deportation. Since then, regular meetings of Survivors and their descendants have taken place. This period saw the start of what became a significant tradition: the World Reunion of Latvian Jewry.
2. The Jews of Liepaja (Libau) origin were grouped under the leadership of Gershon Yuval (Grisha Landman, one of the first scout members of the 52th pack of Jewish scouts). The leadership of this group passed to Professor Solomon Feigerson who as a boy survived the Liepaja ghetto and concentration camps.
3. The Association of American Jewish Survivors from Latvia was set up headed by the current Liepaja branch leader George Schwab, also a Holocaust survivor who as a boy of 10 lived in the Liepaja ghetto.
4.The first World Reunion of Latvian Jewish Survivors of ghetto and concentration camps was organized in Riga by Marger Vestermanis and Alexander Bergman.
5. In 1993 a group of Liepaja (Libau) Survivors headed by George Schwab, Gershon Yuval and Solomon Feigerson visited Liepaja. Their meeting with a handful of Survivors still living in Libau (as they called their hometown) was unforgettable and all the more moving as all were aware that hardly any Liepaja Jews had survived WWII.
It is difficult to imagine, as they arrived in the beloved city of their youth or childhood, the mental anguish of these American Libau Survivors at the memory of their departed relatives after all the physical hardship they themselves had suffered during those years,
6. This first meeting became the start of a tradition, namely the organization of regular meetings of Liepaja Jews (Reunion of Liepaja Jewry). Such occasions have provided a regular opportunity for survivors, their children and grandchildren to meet, piecing together their memories of pre-war Liepaja, the horrors of the Holocaust as well as evoking memories of some miraculous rescues carried out by courageous Gentiles who became the Righteous among the Nations.
7. In 1984, the Association of Liepaja Survivors in Israel published their first booklet consisting of information regarding Liepaja Survivors, their addresses and contact details.
8. The second edition contained a small collection of memoirs by Liepaja natives about the city and pre-war Jewish life. It was published in 1985. Their reminiscences were written in Yiddish, German and English and the booklet is available in English on the internet under the title “A Town Named Libau”.
With support and permission from JewishGen, the Liepaja Jewish Heritage Foundation is preparing Russian and Latvian editions due to be published in mid-2015.
9. In 1988 the first meeting of Liepaja (Libau) Survivors was held in Israel. Raya Westermann–Mazin addressing the participants declared : “My husband (who wasn’t a Libausche) used to say: “This, your Libau, is the strangest place I ever heard of. About 9000 Jews lived there and the Nazis killed more than 90% but wherever you go, you meet at least one Libausche”.
Our heritage is a unique phenomenon of devotion and a deep love for Libau, our small but beautiful city on the shores of the Baltic Sea. All who leave Liepaja (Libau), for whatever reason, sooner or later develop an irresistible yearning to return : to the sea, the city’s unique beach, parks, to its streets steeped in history and, above all, to return to their roots.
10. In 1993, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, subsequent reunions of Liepaja Jewry took place under the auspices of the World Reunion of Latvian Jewry. This was followed by reunions in 2007 in Israel, in 2011 in Riga and Liepaja and in 2014 in Liepaja.