German traces in Latvia: Rumbula victims' memorial

Take note – story published 2 years ago

The beauty of Rumbula’s solitary forests is deceptive. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed here by the Nazis in the Second World War. A memorial stands in their remembrance.

Hidden in the Rumbula forest, the memorial is a reminder of one of the largest mass-murders of Jews in the Second World War. In just two days – November 30 and December 8, 1941 – German police units and Latvian collaborators shot 25,000 Jews.

The victims were assembled in columns and driven away to the Rumbula forest to be killed en masse. The majority of them were Latvian Jews taken there from the crowded Rīga Ghetto. But about 1,000 Berlin Jews deported from Germany were killed there, too. Just two people survived the Rumbula massacres.

An extensive historical discussion started in Latvia only after independence was reinstated in 1991, putting a stop to the Soviet tradition of remembrance that excluded the systematic extermination of European Jews. But there are ongoing difficulties in critically assessing local involvement in the events.

A memorial stone officially declaring that the victims in Rumbula were Jewish was set up in 1990. It is placed at the driveway leading to the territory. Thanks to international funding, a more noticeable memorial ensemble was finally set up in 2002. It was based on Sergejs Rižs’ design. 

Retreating upon the advance of the Red Army, German invaders started hiding the tracks of their crimes. Enslaved laborers were forced to dig up graves to burn the corpses of the people who had been killed here. Locations of mass graves are now marked with pillars and blocks of concrete.

A four-meter menorah is situated in the center of the memorial. This seven-branched candlestick is surrounded by a sea of granite stones onto which names of the Jews that were killed here are inscribed. 

The German Traces series was first published as part of the Goethe Institut in Rīga project “German Footprints in Latvia” ("Vācu pēdas Latvijā" The linked mobile application "German Footprints in Latvia" can be downloaded at and

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