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New Exhibition at the Restored Memorial in Salaspils

09.02.2018

Built during the 1960s near Riga, this object of modern architecture has regained its expressive appearance and is inviting visitors in remembrance of the victims of totalitarian rule.

The Salaspils Memorial Ensemble was created by Latvian architects (G. Asaris, O. Ostenbergs, I.  Strautmanis, O. Zakamennijs) and sculptors (Ļ. Bukovskis, O. Skarainis, J. Zariņš) widely recognized during the Soviet era. The message it carries is emotionally impactful, preventing people from forgetting the tragic events that have unfolded when one totalitarian regime gave way to the next one.

The authors’ intention was to make the memorial start with a majestic wall that symbolizes the boundary between life and death.

Monumental concrete sculptures “Māte” (“Mother”), “Nesalauztais” (“Unbreakable”), “Pazemotā” (“Humiliated”), and others look as if they were growing from the ground. The general mood is amplified by the heartbeat of a digital metronome, which visitors can hear throughout the territory of the ensemble.

After its restoration in 2017, the Salaspils Memorial Ensemble, recognized as one of the largest monument complexes in Europe, has regained its original expressiveness. A new exhibit was added, and its authors include experienced professionals working at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

The exhibition is located both indoors in the memorial and outdoors. In the multimedia room, visitors can familiarize themselves with video evidence of former Salaspils concentration camp prisoners. The information is available in Latvian, English, and Russian.

The location Salaspils Memorial Ensemble was built on has long since had a bleak past. Particularly heinous chapters of history are connected to World War II. The Salaspils concentration camp existed here from 1941 to 1944, built during the occupation regime set up by National Socialist Period Germany, where civilians, including children, and political prisoners, national resistance movement members – around 3 000 people in total – were killed or died due to horrifying living conditions. Among them were Latvians, Jews, Russians, Poles, Belarusians, and other nationalities from various countries. Estimates show that around 23 000 people were imprisoned in the Salaspils concentration camp when it was in operation.

The Salaspils Memorial Ensemble, both as a memorial site for victims of totalitarian regimes and as an emotionally impactful example of combining modern sculpture with architecture, leaves an impression not only on locals, but also on foreigners interested in history and tourists in general.