30 November marks the anniversary of the biggest mass murder of civilians in the history of Latvia –25,000 Latvian Jews were killed in the Rumbula forest near Rīga in a two-day-long Holocaust atrocity in 1941.
A Latvian civic initiative ‘Rumbula – 81. We Remember. It Hurts’ called on Rīgans and others to commemorated the tragic events by laying candles at the foot of the Freedom Monument in Rīga.
The candlelit commemoration, initiated by a group of civic activists and first held in 2016, has grown each year and is now attended by hundreds of people.
President Egils Levits and Riga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis have lit commemorative candles, as have members of the Latvian Parliament.
Marģeris Vestermanis, a Holocaust survivor and the founder of the Jews in Latvia Museum, said in an interview: “I am happy that I have lived to see this moment when candles are lit at the most sacred place in Latvia, the Freedom Monument, to commemorate the great sorrow, the great grief of the Jewish people.”
Participants of the commemorative event brought durable candles, able to withstand the elements. Candles were placed on the foil-covered paths prepared by the volunteers.
“We lay the candlelit paths, in silence, to remember the 25,000 lives lost and to prevent such tragedies repeating in the future. This is a story of the whole Latvia, not just of the Jewish community,” says Lolita Tomsone, one of the organizers of the commemorative event and director of the Žanis Lipke Memorial.