The opening of the Memorial Synagogue Garden took place at 35 Riga Street in Bauska on October 15.
The event was organized by Bauska County Municipality and the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia. Officials of Latvia, foreign diplomats, ancestors of Bauska Jews from Latvia, Israel, USA and the Great Britain, historians, members of non-governmental organizations and the Jewish community, as well as residents of Bauska participated at the ceremony.
This event is special for our community. This is a site where the Grand Synagogue was standing until 1941, when it was burnt down by the Nazis in July 1941. For more than 15 years we have been trying to erect a memorial at this site, but constantly facing various obstacles from the city authorities. The current composition of Bauska County Municipality not only approved creation of the memorial, but also took the actions necessary and provided support in order to implement this project in the shortest term possible.
You are kindly invited to get acquainted with the history of Bauska Jews and creation of this memorial.
The Jews have lived in Bauska from the 17th century. In the 19th century the Jewish community made up the majority of Bauska’s population and contributed to the city’s economic development. Bauska was also a significant centre of Jewish cultural and intellectual life. In 1915 during the First World War all the Bauska Jews were deported, with only some of them able to return. By 1935 the city was home to 778 Jews; there was a Jewish elementary school and a number of cultural associations. After the Societ occupation in 1940 all Jewish organizations were closed, and among those deported to Siberia on 14 June 1941 were 9 Bauska Jewish families. In June 1941 after the Nazi occupation many Jews were arrested, tortured and killed. The remaining 600 people were murdered in early August in Likvertenu forest. In 1971 a monument in dolomite “Human Figures” (sculptor Imants Murovskis) was erected on the site of massacre. In 1971 a monument “Human Figures” was erected on the site of massacre.
The Grand Synagogue of Bauska was built in 1844. It hosted a unique artefact – aron kodesh – the synagogue Torah Ark, created by a local woodcarver; it was recognized in 1931 as a state-protected cultural monument. The outstanding religious Philosopher rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, later the First Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, served here.
Ancestors of Bauska Jews in Israel, USA and other countries came up with an initiative to erect a monument at the site of the burnt synagogue. They turned to Bauska Municipality which adopted a decision to support this idea in 2001, but later placed various obstacles for the implementation of this project. It took six years to achieve signing of the agreement between Bauska Municipality and the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia regarding the rent of the land plot where the synagogue was located with a right to erect a monument there. Once the project documentation was drafted, the Construction Board refused to approve it. A new stage of negotiations was initiated, but failed to give a positive result.
In December 2016, the Council of Jewish Communities of Latvia signed an agreement on designing of the memorial project in cooperation with the famous sculptor Ģirts Burvis. The proposed project “Synagogue Garden” was approved in the meeting of Bauska County Municipality.
The memorial includes conventional walls of a synagogue and five figures of people, as if coming out after a service. Menorah has been placed at the site where aron kodesh was located, while a symbolic bimah is standing in the centre of the memorial, containing an inscription: “Dedicated to the Jews of Bauska, who for centuries lived here and built this city, and who in 1941 were murdered by the Nazis and their local accomplices. In memoriam – descendants of Bauska Jews and Bauska citizens”.
The bimah also contains a brief history of Bauska Jews and the surnames of the families who perished in the Holocaust.
Special structures – gabions filled with dolomite stones and original stones of synagogue dug out from the ground during the works for erection of the monument were used for construction of a memorial for the first time in Latvia.