Sunday, August 14, 2011

Salaspils concentration camp in Latvia

Mrs. Marathon Pundit and Little Marathon Pundit traveled to Latvia last month. Last week I wrote about their visit to a German World War I cemetery in her hometown of Sece. Today we move on to the Second World War.

The largest civilian German concentration camp in the Baltic States was Salaspils, although Nazi officials classified it as a work camp. Estimates of the number of people who died here vary widely--as few as 2,000 or as high as 100,000. Since the retreating Germans felt compelled to burn down the camp in 1944, I feel comfortable in dismissing the lower figure. Adjacent to the concentration camp was a Nazi prisoner of war camp where Soviet officials said 43,000 Red Army soldiers died of disease or starvation.

Salaspils was built by Jewish slave laborers in 1941, but no Jews were held there. The inmates consisted mostly of political prisoners from the Baltic States. Some Soviet POWs also toiled in the construction of the camp.

At the entrance of the camp. The caption reads, "Behind this gate the Earth groans"

"Here human is punished because he committed no crime. Here he is punished because he loved his country."

The Salaspils memorial opened in 1967, the statues are of the Socialist Realism style.

The fist represents defiance. Expressionless faces, a characteristic of Social Realism, fits the somberness of the site.

Many children were sent to Salaspils without their parents. This statue portrays a mother protecting her children.

These toys honor the memory of the children who perished at the camp.

This figure represents the shame endured by the incarcerated. That's a birch tree to the left, of which there are many in Latvia.

Mrs. Marathon Pundit had visited Salaspils just once before--when she was a schoolgirl. She said the sound of a beating heart emanated from this wall, but apparently the sound system wasn't operating that day, she told me.

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