A. MEMORIAL TO THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST (1941–1945)
1. The name Shkede (Šķēde) is associated worldwide with the tragic events which took place in December 1941 affecting the Jews of Liepaja as well as those of Bikernieki and Rumbula. Here on the Baltic Sea coast, the centuries old Jewish Community of Liepaja was virtually wiped out.
2. During World War II mass executions took place in Shkede (Šķēde) which included Jews, Soviet prisoners of war and other civilians following the Nazi policy of mass annihilation of civilians in Liepaja during the German occupation. The cold west winds blowing through the bleak coastal sand dunes at Shkede (Šķēde) have revealed traces of terrifying events, namely the mortal remains of thousands of genocide victims.
3. In the 1950s, an obelisk was erected in the sand dunes of Shkede (Šķēde) with the engraving “In memory of 19,000 Soviet patriots of Liepaja”, dedicated to the innocent victims of the World War II. This took place in Soviet times and followed the decision of the LSSR NKVD Authorized Representative and the Extraordinary State Commission of Inquiry.
4. The idea of commemorating for all time those Jews who died in the sand dunes of Shkede (Šķēde) was the initiative of the Open Public Foundation “Liepaja Jewish Heritage”, also known as the Liepaja Jewish Heritage Foundation, when a competition was launched. Participants were given the challenge of designing a Memorial in the sand dunes of Shkede (Šķēde) which would take the form of an artistic structure of solid architectural and environmental design in conformity with the canons of Judaism regarding memorial sites.
It would also serve as a place where visitors could reflect on the tragedy that befell the innocent women, children and elderly who were slaughtered only because they were Jews.
5. The winner of the competition was Raimonds Gabalinsh (Gabaliņš), an artist and sculptor from Liepaja with his project “Kaddish”. The Memorial is a horizontal Menorah created from cut fieldstone from Kurzeme. The flames are symbolized by large granite steles (slabs) with carved Hebrew inscriptions. The total area of the Memorial covers 4120 square metres. A single granite stele alone weighs 7 tons.
6. The poetic texts have been taken from the “Lamentations of Jeremiah” and include authentic translations into English, Latvian and Russian.
7. The project was endorsed by the Latvian President, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Liepaja City Council, the Liepaja Jewish survivors and their descendants from around the world, by Latvian and foreign public activists and public officials, the Jewish Community Council of Latvia and the Liepaja Jewish Religious Community.
Construction of the Memorial in Shkede. 2005
8. Historians, building contractors, office staff, museum employees, environment experts and quantity surveyors were all involved in bringing this project to fruition.
9. The Memorial construction project was headed by one of the founders of the Foundation – Sergey Zaharjin in co-operation with Yakov Berlin, architect Raimonds Gabalinsh (Gabaliņš), Ilana Ivanova, Rosalia Sukhar and Edward Kaplan. It was dedicated on 04 June 2005 in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to Latvia, numerous dignitaries and Holocaust survivors.
B. THE ALLEY OF THE RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS
1. “The Righteous among the Nations Alley” is a symbol of deep respect to the lasting and eternal memory of those who rose to defend Jews during times of persecution and great tragedy.
2. 26 Gentiles from Liepaja have received the honorific distinction of “Righteous Among the Nations”, acknowledging and rewarding human heroism and the victory of good over evil. Each individual (in certain cases posthumously) has received a medal and certificate of honour, their names immortalized in Yad Vashem on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem.
3. 2014 saw the celebration of the 215th anniversary of the founding of the Liepaja Jewish Community, 25 years since its revival and the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Liepaja Jewish Heritage Foundation.
4. The Jewish Survivors of Liepaja, their children and grandchildren as well as members of the Liepaja Jewish Community are aware that the post-World War II revival of Jewish life would not have been possible without the heroic intervention of these courageous Gentiles who risked their own lives and those of their relatives to save Jewish citizens from certain death. Their courage also helped to save, not just lives but the Jewish way of life and traditions.
5. In keeping with the Yad Vashem tradition, the Liepaja Jewish Heritage Foundation and the Liepaja Jewish Community took the decision to create an Alley of the Righteous among the Nations” at Shkede. The Alley was dedicated during the World Reunion of Liepaja (Libau) Jewry on 9 July 2014 in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to Latvia, other representatives of the Diplomatic corps, officials of the Liepaja City Council and members of the Liepaja public.
6. The Alley is located at the entrance to the Holocaust Memorial in Shkede. 26 thuyas (blue spruce trees) were planted, each one in honour of one of Liepaja’s Righteous Gentiles and each with its own granite stele with the individual’s name engraved on it.
7. The awareness of the fine line between life and death which the potential victims and their courageous rescuers trod was the philosophical reason behind the choice of location for the Righteous among the Nations Alley. Leading to the unmarked graves of Holocaust victims, there stand today symbols of hope honouring those courageous people who, despite the risk to their own lives, the lives of their families and sometimes their children, provided rescue and shelter to Liepaja Jews during World War II.