Victims of the Holocaust (1941–1945)

The Memorial complex is currently closed to visitors due to works involving the shoring up of the dunes aimed at protecting the coastline from erosion and preserving the Memorial’s integrity and survival.

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1. The name 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 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 1955, an obelisk was erected in the sand dunes of 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 Šķēde was the initiative of the Open Public Foundation “Liepājas ebreju mantojums”, 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 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 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 Community

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 Gabaliņš, Ilana Ivanova, Rosalia Sukhar and Eduard Kaplan.

10. The dedication of the Memorial took place on June 3, 2005 in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to Latvia, numerous representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, public figures, Holocaust survivors of Liepaja Jews and their descendants and residents of Liepaja.

Sergej Zaharjin and George Schwab
Dedication of the Memorial to Liepāja Jews – Victims of the Holocaust. Šķēde. June 3, 2005