In one of the most blood curdling crimes perpetrated by the Nazis in Riga, on 4 July 1941 (three days after taking control of the city from the Red Army) they herded hundreds of Latvian and Lithuanian Jews into the basement of the Great Choral Synagogue and then burned the building to the ground. Everyone therein perished.
Officers from the Riga Fire Department attended the burning, on orders only to ensure that the fire did not spread to nearby properties.
Two others of Riga’s four synagogues were burned down on the same day with additional deaths. The fourth (Peitav Shul), in the Old Town was spared, only because there was a higher risk that a fire would spread to adjacent buildings. It was converted to a warehouse. Today, reconverted, Peitav Shul is the only functioning synagogue in Riga.
Today, the ruins of the Great Choral Synagogue and a salvaged metal menorah remain as a memorial to those who died in the synagogue on 4 July 1941 and to all Jews who lost their lives on Latvian soil, at the hands of the Nazis during WWII. A memorial stone inscribed ‘4 July 1941’ was later added to the site.
The very thought of what happened here brought shivers to my spine when I visited.
Horrific though this act was it merely marked the beginning of a wave of ‘pogroms’ to annihilate Rigan, and Latvian, Jews. When the Nazis took Riga on 1 July 1941 there were approximately 40,000 Jews in Riga. When they left in 1944 there were around 250 (some reports state less).
Address: Gogola, 25
Directions: Between Dzimavu Iela and Jezusbaznicas Iela