Jewish Heritage Europe

Heritage & Heritage Sites

GENERAL

Jewish Historical Sites in Latvia

The most comprehensive online directory of Jewish heritage sites in Latvia, published on the web site of the Jews of Latvia Museum in Riga and compiled with aid from the European Union.

There is detailed historical information and description of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, Holocaust memorials and mass graves, as well as other sites in two dozen towns and cities around the country: Aizpute, Bauska, Dagda, Daugavpils, Jaunjelgava, Jekabpils, Jelgava, Jurmala, Kandava, Kraslava, Krustpils, Kuldiga, Liepaja, Livani, Ludza, Preili, Rezekne, Riga, Sabile, Talsi, Tukums, Valdemarpils, Varaklani, Ventspils.

Lo-Tishkach has surveyed Jewish cemeteries in Latvia. You can search on its interactive Database and also download a 2009 report on legislation regarding cemeteries.

INDIVIDUAL SITES

You can find information on Jewish sites in Latvia on the web site of the Jews of Latvia Museum, as listed above — we provide here further information on some sites that have other online resources.

AIZPUTE

Synagogue

Atmodas 16

Built in 1751 and remodeled in 1935, the oldest existing synagogue building in Latvia. The so-called “Small Synagogue” was built nearby in 1875, and renovated in 1933. The two buildings were connected after World War II and since 1955 the site has been used as the town’s  House of Culture. Original paintings on the ceilings can still be seen. Remains of a 19th century Mikveh can be found near the synagogue buildings on Krasta street, on the bank of the Tebra river.

The Jewish Cemetery, established in the late 18th century, is  located just outside town, about 200 meters west of Kalvenes street. The cemetery is neglected, with about 100 gravestones; some are rare examples of cast iron with molded epitaphs in German using the Hebrew alphabet.

There is an exhibition on local Jewish history in the Aizpute Regional Museum (Skolas 1).

DAGDA (Dageten)

Jewish cemetery (Pļavas 6) founded in the early 19th century. Local Jews were executed at the site on Aug. 1, 1941, and a monument there commemorates the victims.

The synagogue (corner of Skolas and Rigas streets) was built in 1897 and remodeled in 1926; currently used as shops.

IAJGS cemetery project page on Dagda

List of names of people buried in the Dagda cemetery.

KehilaLinks photographs of the Dagda cemetery

Photo gallery of Dagda Jewish cemetery from 2009

DAUGAVPILS (Dvinsk)

Several synagogues (one used as an active synagogue and Jewish museum); destroyed Jewish cemetery; Holocaust and other monuments and memorials. Click to see general list of Jewish heritage sites in Daugavpils.

Kaddish Synagogue

Cietokšņa Street
Tel: +371 (0) 2 954 8760
Email: rochko@inbox.lv

Built in 1850, the synagogue is a small corner building with a central bimah and wooden ark. The building was restored and rededicated in 2005 and serves the local Jewish community — one of just two active synagogues in Latvia (the other is in Riga)..

The synagogue also houses the Museum Jews in Daugavpils and Latgale.

Click to see photos of the synagogue

The Great Communal Synagogue

Lāčplēša, 39. 220

Built in 1840 and converted into a gym during the Soviet period. Listed as a local protected monument,  it is currently used as a shop.

Apter Synagogue

Sakņu, 29

Believed to  named after the Rabbi who built it and served here. The building has been reconstructed.

Jewish Cemetery

The old Jewish cemetery, established in the lat 17th century on Sunezers peninsula near Gubisces lake was destroyed under the Soviet regime in the 1970s. The area is now a park, located behind Daugavpils 15th Secondary School. The cemetery is marked by a memorial stone there designed by the artist Juris Pundurs, erected in September  2013. There is a Holocaust Memorial at the current Municipal Cemetery.

Bet Hatfutsot article about the Jewish history of Daugavpils

JELGAVA

Jewish Cemetery

Located at Miera st, 1. Founded in the early 18th century; destroyed by the Nazis, with a few matzevot remaining in one small section.

360 degree panorama of the abandoned Jewish cemetery

LUDZA

Great Synagogue

Pirmā maija, 31
Tel: +371 65723931

The historic Great Synagogue  — dating from around 1800 and the oldest surviving synagogue in the country — was rededicated on August 11, 2016 after a detailed restoration that included restoring the wooden structure and also interior painted decoration. The only synagogue in Latvia to preserve an inner cupola, the building now houses a  branch of the Ludza Museum with a multimedia exhibition on Jewish life, culture and local Jewish history as well as a section on the World War II Ludza Ghetto. Initially it was a wooden building, but probably in early 20th century it was covered with bricks. Its inner cupola also was probably added around that time.

The €250,000 restoration project was mainly funded by a more than €200,000 grant from the European Economic Area (EEA). Other funding came from the city and state.

See our post about the renovation

Jewish Cemetery

E. Soikāna St. 

Latitude: 56.551581
Longitude: 27.712470

One of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Latvia,  opened in the mid-18th century

REZEKNE

The so-called Green Synagogue

5 Kraslavas Street
Tel: +371 26615683

A wooden structure built in 1845 and in use until the 1990s, the synagogue was rededicated in January 2016 after a more than €700,000 renovation process that lasted a decade and was mainly financed by the EEA. The building houses a wooden architectural heritage center and cultural space with an exhibition about Jewish heritage.

The synagogue is a one-and-a-half story square-plan building with a shallow four-slope roof.  The windows of the ground floor have semicircle lintels, and above them are “blind windows”.  Inside, benches, bimah and Ark are still intact, but these may not be original to the building.  A one-and-a-half story glazed gallery is above the main entrance.

Watch a video of the dedication:

Read the January 2013 JHE report (and cross post from Samuel D. Gruber’s blog) about the restoration

See EEA report about the restoration project, with pictures

Jewish Cemetery

Located at Upīša, 91. The old section has graves from before 1940; the new one has later burials. There are two Holocaust monuments, one dedicated in the late 1940s at the lower part of the cemetery at the place where Jews were executed. The second one was unveiled in 1989.

Latgale Museum of Culture and History

Atbrīvošanas aleja, 102. 

The museum has an exhibition on the history of Latgale Jews.

RIGA

Jewish quarters and Holocaust-era ghetto

Maskavas street, the Moscow highway, has long been the focus of Jewish settlement in Riga. The main historic sites are at the city-center end of this road; the Nazi-era ghetto was further out, beyond the railway station, around Lacplesis and Ludzas Streets. The Old Jewish Cemetery lay within this latter area; a plaque on a wall close to the cemetery commemorates the fact that Jews were interned in the ghetto from late 1941, prior to being executed in the Rumbula and Bikernieki killing fields around Riga.

Peitavas Street Synagogue

Peitavas street 6 / 8
Riga, LV – 1050
Tel: Rabbi Mordechai Glazman – +371 672 04 022
Email: rabbi@dza.lv

This, Riga’s only surviving synagogue — and one of only two active synagogues in Latvia — is located at the southern edge of the old city. The building was designed by Herrmann Silverlich and Wilhelm Neuman and built in 1905; it was the first structure in Riga to display Perpendicular Art Nouveau, a style that was to have a major impact on the city’s architecture; in this case, the design is intermingled with Egyptian and Moorish motifs. It was one of four Choral Synagogues in Riga, and  the second largest after the Great Choral Synagogue on Gogola Street (Gogol-Shul) which was destroyed along with other synagogues by the Nazis in 1941. During World War II the Germans used the Peitavas synagogue as as a warehouse; Torah scrolls and other treasures were hidden and thus survived. Restituted to Jewish community ownership in 1997, the building was rededicated in August 2009 after a two year restoration process.

360 Degree Panoramic View of the Synagogue, plus other photos of it

Jewish Cemeteries

Old Jewish Cemetery (now a park)

Liksnas St

This cemetery, founded in 1725, served the Jewish community until, in 1920, it was replaced by a new one in Smerli. The Nazis ravaged the site, robbing it of many of its old gravestones. The mass graves of those who died in the Riga ghetto are believed to have been dug here. Destruction of the cemetery continued after the war. What remained of its enclosing wall was torn down, and it became the Park of the Communist Brigades. Only in recent years has its identity been restored, though little else has changed. It is still a municipal park, but the Jewish community has erected a large memorial stone in the shape of a Magen David.

New Jewish cemetery – Smerli cemetery

Lizuma iela 4, Rīga, LV-1006

This large and well-maintained cemetery, founded in the mid-1920s, contains more than 22,000 burials.  German, Russian, Hebrew and Latvian are the main languages used in epitaphs. There is a large ceremonial hall at the cemetery entrance, which was  restored with financial help from the city council. A large memorial to Zanis/Janis Lipke, a Latvian who saved many Jews, stands to the right of the entrance. The cemetery contains various monuments to those who died in the Holocaust and whose resting places are not known.

Smerli cemetery web site, with map and searchable database

Rumbula Holocaust Memorial Site

Maskavas St, 10 km from the city center

The notorious Rumbula killing field lies in the south-east suburbs of Riga. Here, about 25,000 Jews were murdered on two days, 30 November and 8 December 1941. The site was maintained as a memorial during the Soviet period, and the large mass graves were kept visible, but it remained poorly marked and maintained. In 2002, thanks to an internationally-funded effort, the memorialization of the site was entirely redesigned and refurbished.

Today, the entrance to the site is marked by a two-story high, 10-meter wide iron sculpture that hangs over half of the six-lane Moscow highway. The main memorial consists of a large iron menorah surrounded by rough stones bearing the names of 1,300 of the victims. Various older, more modest memorials at the site were preserved during the renovation.

The project to create this memorial played a major role in a national reassessment of Holocaust history in Latvia. The monument is at once striking, subdued and tasteful. The refurbishment of the areas of the mass graves, and the new markers (large rough stones set on each mound) are simple and sobering. Devices such as the repeated use of cast concrete stele, each with a Magen David and the dates of the killings, help tie the site together visually.

Bikernieki Forest Holocaust memorial site

Some 35,000-40,000 Jews were murdered at Bikernieki forest, on the outskirts of Riga. They came from across Europe, and are now buried at the site. In 2001, an impressive memorial was dedicated here. As many non-Jews were also killed here, the symbolism is not as overtly Jewish as at Rumbula, but comparable designs and devices are used at both locations. The central area consists of a great mass of stones, as at Rumbula, but in a more organized grid pattern, with labels indicating the cities from which people were deported. A large central stone beneath an open canopy has inscribed on it a passage from the Book of Job in four languages.

VISKI

Jewish Cemetery

GPS: 56.055964 , 26.798017
Tel: +371 654 76748

Email: taka@dnd.lv

The cemetery was established in the early 19th century. It’s fairly well-preserved, surrounded by a masonry wall with a gate. The oldest legible stones date from the mid-19th century.

Click to see pictures