Renovated Salaspils memorial opens important new exhibition spaces

Take note – story published 5 years ago

The Salaspils Memorial, a key location in the holocaust history of occupied Latvia has finally unveiled its new permanent exposition, which will tell visitors about the complicated history of the Salaspils camp and will allow them to learn more about the no less complex story of the creation of the memorial itself. 

The memorable monumental entrance gallery, whose concrete structures have been restored for the first time in half a century, have also undergone tremendous transformations, reports Latvian Radio.

The heavy grating door leads to the memorial more than a hundred meters long inside the entrance gallery. On its outer walls - the familiar inscription "Behind these gates is only the earth", but what were previously only empty walls are now complemented by a concentrated message about the history of the Salaspils camp.

The tragic story of Salaspils camp is now "highlighted and easier to see" says museum director Zigmars Gailis.

The first floor exposition tells about the history of the formation of the camp and about the various prisoners' groups passing through Salaspils camp from 1941 to 1944. "Throughout the exposition, starting from the 2nd floor, there are glass stands with different prisoners' stories, memories of their time at the Salaspils camp," says Gailis.

The biggest changes since autumn, when the Latvian Radio visited the Salaspils Memorial to mark 50 years since its establishment are on the second floor gallery. The gray concrete walls are complemented by a timeline story about the creation of a memorial itself, which in the past was an untold story.

On the third floor, overlooking the monumental concrete sculptures of the Salaspils Memorial, the symbolic explanation of each sculpture and the context of the time of its creation can also be read. At the end of the gallery there is a symbolic camp barracks, but on the outside, a bit away from the memorial - a glass plate with the former location of the Nazi camp.

"The work was quite major in both the repairs and the exposition parts. But the result, especially for the repairs, is not even noticeable at times. The new roofing and flooring is, in my opinion, so organically integrated into the existing ensemble that a lot of things slip past the simple eye of the observer," says the director of the museum.

The restoration work was led by architect Līga Gaile, but the new exposition is based on the definitive study of historian Uldis Neiburgs and his colleagues who worked on uncovering the history of Salaspils camp for more than a decade. You can read about his groundbreaking work in a previous LSM story HERE.

The Salaspils camp is a painful but important opportunity to explain the history of Latvia in the 20th century in an international context, as both Latvian Jews and political prisoners, plus prisoners from different countries came to and through this camp, and in the end, the German prisoners of war themselves.

"It all merges into a common story, and I think it will be very important for the future so that the memorial fulfills the function of helping us better understand the various issues of history, rather than simply opposing different groups of society to each other," says Neiburgs.

The exhibition is open to visitors from 10:00 to 15:00 in winter and 10:00 to 17:00 in summer. Details of its location and surrounding area can be viewed HERE.


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