Latvian synagogues lost in Holocaust get recreated in model form

Wed Mar 4, 2015 11:35am EST
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By Jonathan Saul

RIGA (Reuters) - Decades after their destruction by the Nazis, Latvia's lost synagogues have been recreated in detailed model form as part of efforts to recapture and document the once-rich Jewish life in the Baltic country.

There were 210 synagogues in Latvia before World War Two, with styles ranging from ornate neo-Renaissance and neo-Romanesque buildings to humble wooden structures.

Today, there are only two synagogues operating, one in the capital Riga and another in the southern city of Daugavpils.

Using archive sources, official records, photographs and detective work, 21 of the synagogues have been reconstructed in paper, wood and plastic, according to the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum, which spearheaded the project.

"These were places where people came to worship ... places brimming with life," museum chairman Rabbi Menachem Barkahan said.

"(With this effort), we focus on life and the way of life of Jews ... and to meditate on how grave murder is and how beautiful the gift of life is."

Among the 1:50 scale models is the Great Choral Synagogue, built in the 1800s and burned to the ground by the Nazis in 1941 with at least 300 Jews forced inside.

Latvia's Jewish population numbered almost 100,000 before the war and now totals at most 7,000. Some 70,000 Latvian Jews were murdered along with 25,000 Western European Jews who were deported to the country after the 1941 Nazi invasion.   Continued...

Models of synagogues are displayed in the Ghetto museum in Riga February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins